I am about ready to wrap up my discussion of the textual problem of 1 Thessalonians 2:7. When recalling his time with the Thessalonians, when he had worked hard not to be a burden with any of them, did Paul indicate that he and his missionary companions had become “as infants, as a nurse tending her children” or that they had become “gentle, as a nurse tending her children.” It is not an obvious decision, whether you think the change was made accidentally or on purpose. (If you think it *is* obvious, look at the preceding two posts). It seems like it might go either way. I myself have an opinion on the matter (textual scholars tend to have opinions); but I”ll hold off on that for a minute.
First: some of you might be wondering: which of these readings do the best surviving manuscripts actually suggest? Is one of the readings (“infants” or “gentle”) better attested than the other? Which reading do our oldest and best manuscripts have?
Here, as it turns out, the answer is fairly straightforward and clear, and the irony (at least for me) is that the reading with the best manuscript support happens to be the one that I think is less likely to be original. Without a doubt, the reading “infants” (NhPIOI — pronounced nape-ioi) is the better attested reading. We have five manuscripts of this passage that date from around the year 400 or earlier. (These are our five earliest manuscripts. And they include all of our very best manuscripts.) All of them read “infants.” One of these is the only papyrus manuscript we have, P65, from the third century, along with the fourth century manuscripts Vaticanus and Sinaiticus (all in all, our two best complete manuscripts). On the other hand, the first attestation of “gentle” is from the fifth century (codex Alexandrinus).
This is important evidence. Even more interesting, though, is…
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