“Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)
Romans 5:1 is our next textual problem study. As will be the case most of the time in this series, this verse makes the list because it contains a variant that is both viable (it has a chance of representing the original) and significant (it changes the meaning to some degree).
Romans 5:1 reads in the NA27 (the standard Greek critical text of the New Testament):
Δικαιωθέντες οὖν ἐκ πίστεως εἰρήνην [ἔχομεν] πρὸς τὸν θεὸν διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ
Therefore, having been justified by faith [we have] peace with God through our Lord Jesus Chri
Brackets have been added to show where the variant lies. As you can see, the NA27 has ἔχομεν (echomen) which is the first person plural present active indicative of ἔχώ (echo) meaning “we have”. This reads, “we have peace with God”. But the earliest and most respected manuscripts (Aleph, B, C, D, K, L, 33, 81, 630, 1175, 1739, pm lat bo) have the subjunctive mood ἔχώμεν (echomen) meaning “Let us have”. See the difference? It is only the later manuscripts (Aleph1, B3, F, G, P, Y, 0220vid, 104, 365, 1241, 1505, 1506, 1739c, 1881, 2464, pm) that contain the reading opted for in NA27.
I would give a parallel list of the English translations, but every English translation that I know of opts for the indicative “we have”. There are variations, however, in some Greek translations. While all three eclectic texts (Greek texts that draw from all available manuscript evidence; USB4, NA27, SBL GNT) have the indicative, both Tischendorf NT (8th Ed; 1872) and Wescott and Hort (1881), who primarily used the great Alexandrian manuscripts (Aleph, B), have the subjunctive, “let us have”. As well, if I remember correctly Harold Hohner believed the subjunctive was original.
As I excitedly told some people at the Credo House about this problem I was writing on, they looked at me somewhat confused and said, “So. What difference does that make?” First, there is the obvious issue of doctrine. If the subjunctive is preferred, it may be the case that having peace with God involves our effort that comes subsequent to faith. Therefore, there may be something Christians must do in order to have this peace. This could imply a works based salvation and a type of justification that does not solve the enmity that we have with God. If the indicative is preferred, then peace with God is something that justification by faith produces.
However, as we will see, this is one of those rare cases where the later variant is preferred to the earliest manuscripts. This makes it significant in that it illustrates how internal evidence is sometimes preferred to external. It also illustrates how scholars behind the eclectic text do not always follow the Alexandrian type manuscripts (as is often the charge).
You may be questioning the viability of this variant since none of the English translations choose the subjunctive. This is a valid question, but, remember, I included this primarily because of how it demonstrates the importance of internal evidence.
Since these textual critical studies are new to many of you, let us review. When looking for a solution to these type of problems, we must look at both external and internal evidence. External evidence has to do with the dating and distribution of the manuscripts. Internal evidence has to do with, among other things, the context of the passage, the viability of possible mistakes, and the character of the author.
The external evidence is decidedly in favor of the subjunctive “let us have”. Again, it is represented in the earliest and most respected manuscripts. But the indicative does have its share of support. If you are a careful reader, you notice that listed in support of the indicative, “we have,” were Aleph1 and B3. The subscripts on these indicate that there was a scribe who believed the reading was wrong and corrected it sometime later. As the NET Bible says, “the first set of correctors is sometimes, if not often, of equal importance with the original hand”. As well, the indicative has a wide distribution, being evidenced in Alexandrian, Western, and Byzantine text-types. And geographical distribution is a weighty factor (so long as it is evidenced early enough). Nevertheless, as Metzger says in his Textual Commentary on the New Testament, the subjunctive has “far better external support” (452).
Sometimes (though, certainly not always) the reading that makes better sense is preferred. For example, if you were to read this, “Atheists say God is now here”, you may think it is rather odd. So odd that you would look for a typo or alternate reading. If later copies of this had “Atheists say God is no where”, you would prefer this due to its accuracy. You may attribute the error to a wrong division of words (fusion). The reading GODISNOWHERE could go either way. Which one makes more sense? It is internal evidence that will cast a decisive vote, even when the earlier reading goes the other way.
It is the same here with Paul in Romans 5:1. The indicative is a better option since it makes more sense considering Paul’s argument and Pauline theology. In chapters 1 through 11 of Roman, Paul is not exhorting his readers, but indicating facts (Metzger, 452). Therefore, an exhortation concerning finding peace with God would not make much sense here (Cranfield, Romans [ICC], Vol 1, p. 257). In chapter 12, the subjunctives and imperatives increase as Paul’s argument has changed from what God has done to what we are to do. As well, it is clear in many other places that Paul believes peace with God is something that, for the Christians, is already accomplished (Romans 1:7, 5:1; 2 Cor. 5:8; Col 1:20).
It is difficult to explain this variant as an intentional change. An unintentional error seems likely. The variant may have been produced by something we call a “homophony”. This is where the scribe was copying the passage by voice rather than sight. The letters that distinguish the indicative from the subjunctive are the omicron and omega and they were pronounced alike in ancient Greek.
While Metzger’s commentary opts for the indicative and gives it an “A” as far as certainty, it is probably more like a B.
Hope you enjoyed this post.