The textual problem of 1 Thess 2:7, as I have started to outline it, is an unusually interesting one for textual critics, since the arguments for one reading or another seem to cancel each other out so neatly. It is a difference of only one letter. Did Paul remind the Thessalonians that when he and his missionary colleagues were with them they became like “infants” among them rather than great, powerful, and demanding apostles? Or did he say they became “gentle” among them?
Now, you might be saying: Who Cares? Well, it does matter to New Testament interpreters. It may not matter like having a passage that determines a major doctrine (Who was Christ? Was his death an atoning sacrifice? Is there a trinity?). But there are lots of things that matter that are not major doctrines. Any scholar of the New Testament wants to know the basic gist of each book of the New Testament; and its major themes and ideas; and the meaning of each of its passages; and the meaning of each of its verses; and the meaning of each of its words.
And here is a textual variant that affects the meaning of a verse and of an entire passage. What was Paul saying? Was he saying that he and his companions were gentle? Or was he saying they became infants? As we saw in the previous post, it appears to be impossible to decide the issue simply on the question of which text is more likely to be an accidental alteration. So what else might we consider?
Here is one approach to the problem that exegetes have taken, leading again to mixed results. Why not
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