Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Monday, May 27, 2024

A Strange Article and Interesting Variants (Rom 13:9)

Romans 13:9 provides several interesting points of discussion. Here is the verse with its critical apparatus.

⸀τὸ γὰρ οὐ μοιχεύσεις, οὐ φονεύσεις, οὐ κλέψεις, ⸆ οὐκ ἐπιθυμήσεις, καὶ εἴ τις ἑτέρα ἐντολή, ἐν ⸉τῷ λόγῳ τούτῳ⸊ ἀνακεφαλαιοῦται ⸋[ἐν τῷ]⸌· ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς ⸁σεαυτόν.

In the previous verse, Paul said that loving your neighbor fulfills the law (νόμον). In our verse, Paul will essentially repeat himself with specifics. The initial τό is problematic. There is a rare variant γεγραπται that shows a few scribes also struggled with the article. What’s interesting is that it is neuter, not masculine like the preceding νόμον. It is also singular even though it is followed by multiple commandments.

Greek often switches to the neuter when it wants to be vague, not tying the article (and what follows) to anything in particular. It is singular because Paul is looking at the four commandments as being summed up in the command to love. Probably, the missing word is ἐντολή, even though the latter is feminine.

Notice that between the commandment to not steal and not covet, some scribes added the commandment ου ψευδομαρτυρησεις, do not bear false witness. Apparently, some scribes felt that listing the seventh, sixth, eighth, and tenth commandments was incomplete without listing the ninth (Exodus 20:16). It obviously is an addition to what Paul wrote; a scribe would not remove a commandment. This is why you never talk about variants without talking about significance. This variant is so easily explained that it does not raise the issue of the reliability of the text.

⸋[ἐν τῷ]⸌ is omitted in some texts since it seems redundant following ἐν τῷ λόγῳ τούτῳ. Here, the gender has shifted to masculine to align it with the preceding λόγῳ. The brackets mark it as uncertain, but the reading does not affect the statement's meaning.

In terms of meaning, it's always important to understand that the word “neighbor” does not reference people living on either side of your house. The good Samaritan helped a total stranger, and Jesus used it as an example of loving your neighbor (Luke 10:36). Your neighbor is simply whoever you come in contact with and who you can help. BDAG gives the first definition of πλησίον as “marker of a position quite close to another position, nearby, near, close, and the second as “the one who is near or close by, neighbor, fellow human being.”

This makes even the people living on another continent my neighbor if I am able to lend them aid. I wonder what would happen in Missions work if all of us adopted this understanding of who our neighbor is. For me personally, this shows itself and my commitment to and my passion for making sure that anyone in the world has access to world-class teaching.