In this week’s mailbag I take up a very interesting question about whether there are other passages in the New Testament that are found in all of our manuscripts but that appear not to have been originally written by the author. That is, they were (possibly) passages inserted by a later editor, before any of our surviving manuscripts were made, so that they are universally attested, but probably not original. That is what I argued for 2 Corinthians 6:14 (it’s a standard scholarly view). And that prompted the following question:
I hadn’t noticed the oddness of the 2 Corinthians 6:14 passage before, but it does seem out of place. Kind of like the woman-caught-in-adultery story in John 8, where the narrative flows smoother without that insert. Are there any other major examples of significant insertions into the NT books?
It is important to note the difference between 2 Cor. 6:14 and the passage in John 8. The latter is missing in our oldest and best manuscripts; the former is found in all manuscripts. But the question is: are there other passages like that, found in all the witnesses but probably interpolated?
It is a much debated question among New Testament scholars. One key and famous instance involves Paul’s instructions that women NOT speak in church but be completely silent: if they have any questions they are to ask their husbands at home (1 Cor. 14:34-35). Were those verses something Paul himself wrote?
I was going to give a quick answer to the question, but I realized I need to provide some background for my comments to make sense. The general context has to do with Paul’s view of the role of women in the church. Here is what I about that in my textbook on the New Testament. (In the next post I’ll talk directly about 1 Cor 14)
The apostle Paul did not know the man Jesus or, probably, any of his women followers. Moreover, many of the things that Paul proclaimed in light of Jesus’ death and resurrection varied from the original message heard by the disciples in Galilee. For one thing, Paul believed that the end had already commenced with the victory over the forces of evil that had been won at Jesus’ cross and sealed at his resurrection. The victory was not by any means yet complete, but it had at least begun. This victory brought newness of life, the beginning if not the fulfillment of the new age. For this reason, everyone who was baptized into Christ was “a new creation” (2 Cor 5:16). And a new creation at least implied a new social order: “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:27–28).
No male and female in Christ—this was a radical …
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