This blog, by Richard Fellows, discusses historical questions concerning Paul's letters, his co-workers, Acts, and chronology.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

The insertion of 1 Cor 14:34-35 and Rom 15-16 into the western manuscripts

1 Cor 14:34-35 reads,


Women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.


Many consider these verses to be an interpolation, in part because they appear after verse 40 in the western Greek-Latin diglot manuscripts of Paul’s letters, D F G (and in 88*). These diglots had a (now lost) common ancestor, known as Z.


Did Z simply move 14:34-35 from after verse 33 to after verse 40? If so, the variation in the location of the verses provides no evidence that they are inauthentic. Alternatively, perhaps the disputed verses were originally absent and were imported into Z from another manuscript. If so, we have strong evidence that they were interpolated into 1 Corinthians by an early editor. The verses could then have spread until they had infected all surviving manuscripts, because copyists had a tendency to include text when in doubt.


To decide between these two views we must look at the editorial tendencies of Z. Kloha (pages 547-555) has drawn our attention to the textual variants that involve sizable chunks of text in D F G. He finds three transpositions, which are shown in the table. They occur in almost the exact same manuscripts as those that relocate 1 Cor 14:34-35, so plausibly happened at the same time.



The words “and the church in their house” are moved from Rom 16:5 to Rom 16:3, perhaps to connect them more closely with their verb (greet) and their referent, Prisca and Aquila. Perhaps there was a sexist motivation, for the transposition gives Paul’s high praise in Rom 16:4 to the church, rather than to Prisca herself.


Paul sends greetings from “all the churches of Christ” at Rom 16:16b, but the greetings from others do not occur until Rom 16:21-23. Z has Rom 16:16b transposed to 16:21, perhaps just to place all these greetings together.


In Z the benediction of Rom 16:20 occurs instead at the end of the letter, where it obviously fits well.


For Kloha, this transposing tendency means that we have no evidence here that a text lacked 1 Cor 14:34-35, and this convinced me for a while.


However, all three of these transpositions are in Romans 16, which, along with Romans 15, was absent from the ancestral line of D F G before these two chapters were added (together or one at a time). See Gamble pages 15-33. The transposing tendency belonged not to a copyist of the entire text, but to someone who edited the manuscript using text from another manuscript. Clause-length transpositions occurred in Z (or a predecessor) only in text that was added from another manuscript. Therefore 1 Cor 14:34-35 was absent from the manuscript and was added, along with Rom 16, by an editor with a tendency to transpose. Thus he inserted the two verses in the new location, perhaps to avoid disrupting Paul’s smooth discussion of prophecy.


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  2. Mr. Fellows, Thank you for your detailed analysis. It gives substance to the hope that the interpolation does not reflect St. Paul himself, much less a divine inspiration to St. Paul. I wonder whether your analysis has persuaded you, just that doubt still exists whether the text is an un-inspired interpolation, or that a copyist indeed added a cultural interpolation. In the ongoing discernment over the ordination of women, I had resigned myself to accepting the comment as authentic but then putting it in the dust bin of St. Paul's cultural limits apparently amplified by the circumstances in the particular church he addressed. The historic fact still seems to be that Jesus selected twelve men as the initial twelve apostles. That fact is awkward for supporters of women's ordination and equality in the Roman Catholic Church. Much effort has been invested in studying the history. Some work has found evidence of larger roles for women than yet acknowledged. We will see how it is received by the current papal commission. A more important fact, though, is that Jesus has already appeared to modern women in modern times. After the selection of the Twelve original Apostles, Jesus' appeared to St. Paul (a persecutor of Christians,) converted St. Paul, and opened the door to gentiles and others. Similarly, Jesus' modern appearances to at least three women (Saints Maria Faustina, Margaret Mary, and Gertrude) should open the door to the ordination of women. St. John Paul II and the Church even recognized St. Faustina as an Apostle in 2000 and proclaimed Divine Mercy Sunday as a universal observation of the Roman Catholic Church. Change happens slowly, but it has started. Keep up the good work. Tom Rafferty, 8/16/21, 541 PM ET.

  3. Hi Tom, thanks for your thoughtful comments. Concerning the 12 being male, I think it is important to note that women rarely travelling in the ancient world, except in the company of male household members. Presumably it was dangerous and scandalous for women to travel without male relatives. This can go along way to explaining why the 12 are males. Also, women had less access to education, I suppose. These points are generally overlooked, perhaps because people tend to look for theological explanations, rather than practical ones. I am continuing to work on 1 Cor 14:34-35 and am finding further evidence that they were interpolated.

  4. Richard, Occasionally, the Traditionally reservation of ordination for males is supported by the omission of Mary (His mother) from the list of those sent out as Apostles. Of course, that argument neglects, not just the very practical limits on travel by women in that time and place, but two even more prominent realities. The human one is that well-reared 30 year-old sons do not tell their mothers to go anywhere. The Tradition's neglect of God's crowning Mary to be Queen of the Apostles at Pentecost and Queen of Heaven at her Assumption shows the Tradition's incompleteness and its inattentiveness to the rest of God's message about organizing his Church. I look forward to your further research on the original message of Paul.