‘And the Lord said’ – A Variant in Luke 22:31
A variant is a variant, but not all variants have the same effect on our understanding of the text. Today’s variant has only limited effect; it will not change anything within Luke’s narrative. It concerns the introduction to direct speech that we (do not) find in Luke 22:31:
Εἶπεν δὲ ὁ κύριος· Σίμων Σίμων, ἰδοὺ ὁ σατανᾶς ἐξῃτήσατο ὑμᾶς τοῦ σεινιάσαι ὡς τὸν σῖτον.
Are the word εἶπεν δὲ ὁ κύριος part of the text or not? And to me this is quite a thorny problem that I haven’t been able to resolve yet. Its impact on the text is not big, but if the text adopted in the THGNT is correct, we may have a pattern in a group of early manuscripts that is relevant for the two big variants later in Luke’s passion narrative.
First the Greek external evidence
Omit: P75 B L T 1241 2542c l1231
Text: ℵ A D K N Q W Γ Δ Θ Ψ, all minuscules
Obviously the support for the shorter text is early and, barring any counter-arguments, my first inclination would be to go with it. And this is what almost everyone since Westcott-Hort till NA28 has done. However, the longer reading (in critical editions adopted only by Vogels and in brackets by Tregelles) has early witnesses at its side, from the fourth century onwards.
Before looking at any further arguments, what is the context of our passage? From 22:25 onwards Jesus is talking, first addressing the issue of who is the greatest (22:25-27), then moving to the promise of eating at the table in the Kingdom and judging the twelve tribes, which is introduced with stating that the disciples have stayed with him in his trials. From there it is a relatively small move to addressing Simon Peter and warning him about the trials Peter is about to face.
Our variant provides a separate, explicit, framing of the warning to Simon Peter that starts with the address ‘Simon, Simon’.
For what reasons could the introduction be a secondary development?
• The abrupt change of addressee called for a marker to signal this change, the variant supplied this.
• A new kephalaion starts at 22:31 and expansions such as ‘and the Lord said’ occur frequently at these breaks, especially at the start of a lectionary.
• In light of the synoptic parallels it seems that the whole of Jesus’ speech comes from two occasions, and therefore the variant is introduced to separate these out.
• The reference to Jesus as κυριος betrays it secondary origin; it is the language of the introduction to lections more than how the evangelists describe Jesus in narrative.
What about regarding the words as original?
• The introduction to Jesus’ direct speech is superfluous, he is already speaking, and therefore the words provide an unnecessary disturbance which led to their removal.
• Though it is true that the start of a kephalaion is a strong argument against originality of the longer reading, ℵ-01 has it, and there is no indication that the kephalaia were already part of the textual tradition in the fourth century.
• The reference to Jesus as κυριος within authorial narrative (so, not in quoted speech) is found elsewhere in Luke: 7:13; 10:1, 41; 11:39; 13:15 etc.
For me this is a really tricky variant. If someone could demonstrate to me that kephalaia were around by the time ℵ-01 was produced and could have influenced its text, the case for switching around the text and variant gets stronger. As things stand now, I would not put it past the P75 B-03 cluster to give us a text that is a bit too clean, and therefore the Tyndale House Edition prints the words in the main text, though the variant has the ‘diamond of uncertainty’.