Luke 22:31-62

Mar 24, 2018

Luke 22.31-62 Chiasm without Textual Variant.pdf

There has been some recent discussion over at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog on textual variants found in the Passion narratives. The series discusses the rationale behind the text adopted in the Greek New Testament as Produced at Tyndale House in (1) Mt 27:16,17, (2) Mt 27:49, (3) Mk 14:30, 49, 72a, 72b, (4) Lk 22:31, (5) Lk 22:43-44, (6) Lk 23:34.

I realize that internal evidence alone does not make a complete case for including or excluding a textual variant.  However, I do think, when external witnesses are divided and/or less decisive, that the literary structure of a pericope can and should be considered as part of the internal evidence.

The textual variant in this case is often bracketed in English versions.  Verses 43-44 read:

    “43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 

    44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly;

         and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” 

In this case, the particulars may be viewed at the Evangelical Textual Criticism site.  I just wanted to illustrate that the most balanced/concise version of a chiastic structure results when the textual variant of Luke 22:43-44 is omitted. It may sound “snooty” at first, but the more theoretically “correct” structure would be the one without the variant.

(As an aside, I can testify that “balance,” in terms of number of words in parallel terms, is generally not to be regarded as a “sine qua non” characteristic of chiastic structure. In this case though, at the center of the structure, there may be case for the more focused and concise reading.)  Now, I am “pro-choice” when it comes to textual criticism and have advocated elsewhere for both Byzantine and Alexandrian readings. If the textual variant is not omitted, then one might propose a structure such as posted on the Biblical Chiasm Exchange website (credited above). Someone might say that “including” or “omitting” the variant makes no difference to the structure because often there are non-structural elements included within any rhetorically designed pericopes. Yes, that is “a given.”  So it could be proposed that vs 43-44 is just part of the extraneous material in the existing structure. However, in this pericope, please note that Luke includes specific structural details within his longer/more wordy terms. These details can be viewed in the form of chiastic sub-structures. Thus, since Luke is being more dense in his rhetoric, I think this mitigates against such a contrarian hypothesis. Observe, for example that, in both of the “B” sections, there is a 1.2.2’1’ chiasm that uses “sword” in the outer terms. Luke is making structural use of his words and I would say this especially would be the case, if any where, at the center. BTW - Mike Heiser has an interesting podcast on the meaning and significance of the use of the “swords” in this text. (Do a Google search for Episode 205.)  In the podcast he interviews David Burnett, who advocates for the overall chiastic structure reflected in this post & passage (Luke 22:31-62). While defending and explaining the chiastic structure, Burnett evidently feels the need to also defend himself and seemingly apologize for making use of this sort of...What? Often-abused? Yes. Over-used? Not really...literary structure. Burnett doesn’t say. Despite the fact that chiastic structure is pervasive in Luke and generally in all of Scripture, he actually “hates” chiastic structures - he mentions this at least twice (so I guess he will not be subscribing;>). I will let the reader listen to the podcast and assess whether or not they agree with Burnett’s interpretation of the passage. My point is that Jesus’ prayer, being central to this structure, is much more balanced and concise without the (yes, much beloved) text in question. This amounts to one more legitimate and important consideration in determining the Lucan text.