Textual Tuesday – Mt 5:44

Christopher ThomasMatthew, The GospelsLeave a Comment


Matthew 5.44
Textus Receptus/Byzantine Text:

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. [This is the universal reading of the Byzantine Text. The emboldened words are omitted in the Alexandrian Text and in the modern versions.]
Nestle Aland 27:

But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44 NASB)
Manuscript/Patristic Support:

The Nestle-Aland text, which deletes the phrases ‘bless them that curse you’ and ‘pray for them that despitefully use you’, is supported by Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Vaticanus, and the early church father Origen. The Byzantine Text, which includes the words, is supported by Athenagoras of Athens[i], who was a 2nd century Church Father; by the Didache of the Twelve Apostles[ii] , which was also written in the 2nd century A. D.; and by Chrysostom[iii] of the 4th century. The inclusion of these words is also found universally in all the manuscripts of the Byzantine Text.


Doctrinal DifferenceAs we see above, the patristic citations of Athenagoras and the Didache, which support the Byzantine Text, well predate Sinaiticus and Vaticanus by nearly two centuries. Doctrinally, the words of our Lord and Saviour in the Byzantine Text greatly strengthen our obligation to do good to them who deal despitefully with us. It is true that the Alexandrian Text itself in the parallel verse in Luke 6.28 does include these words. That said, the deletion of it here in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 weakens the force of this doctrine in this passage, and it gives us an inaccurate picture in this account of what Christ actually said in this sermon. Summarily, the parallel verse in Luke 6.28, plus the very early attestation of this very verse as found in the words of the Byzantine Text by Athenagoras and by the Didache in the second century A.D., and by Chrysostom in the 4th century, give us all reason to accept the Byzantine reading here in Matthew 5.22 as the original and authentic one.


[i] Athenagoras of Athens (trans. by the Reverend Richard Pratten), A PLEA FOR THE CHRISTIANS BY ATHENAGORAS THE ATHENIAN: PHILOSOPHER AND CHRISTIAN, CHAP. XI., “The Moral Teaching of the Christians Repels the Charge Brought against Them,” (http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/athenagoras-plea.html).

[ii] The Didache of the Twelve Apostles, translated by Kirsopp Lake, Chapter 1, (http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-lake.html).

[iii] Chrysostom, NPNF109, Against Marcion and the Manichaeans.

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