Jude 22-23: How to deal with problems in the original text

How do you men handle difficult texts of Scripture like Jude 22-23?  What do you do when you have 15-20 hours to finish your Sunday morning sermon and you encounter a text that has a number of diverse readings?  How would you counsel someone who has seminary training but is not a “Dr. Randy linguist”?  How much time should be spent trying to solve the following problems:

 When you come to Jude 22-23 you realize that the conservative Greek scholars don’t agree on the original manuscript.  One scholar notes “The most striking feature of the textual tradition is that some witnesses divide the text into two clauses, while other witnesses divide into three.”  That is a somewhat signficant variant.

 In addition to this one must determine if the main imperative should be “have mercy” (eleeite) or “reprove” (elenchete)?  Also, should diakrino be translated “doubters” or “disputers”?

 Even if i were a Greek scholar, like Dr. Thomas Schreiner, who spent numerous hours trying to sort out these problems for his commentary on Jude; at the end of the day Schreiner writes “certainty on whether the text should be divided into two or two clauses cannot be attained.”  If Schreiner, a wonderful N.T. scholar, who probably sight reads the Greek text comes to this conclusion, where does that leave the seminary trained pastor?

How many hours would you recommend the typical pastor invest trying to sort out P72 and Vaticanus B and Codex Alexandrinus in addition to the numerous journal articles that are written on the subject (S. Kubo, J.M. Ross, etc)?  One could spend his entire twenty hours on this issue and then come to the same conclusion as Dr. Schreiner….

 What say you?

5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Hayden on February 20, 2008 at 8:38 pm


    Study hard! Make a decision. Then preach it with passion. I know that sounds simplistic, but it is the truth. How many times have you looked at old notes on a passage and thought, ‘what was I thinking back then’? If you are faithfully bathing the passage in prayer, and doing your study you are doing what you are called to do.

    As far as looking at journal articles, look at a couple but if they keep falling into 2 categories, ultimately you have to chose a side to fall on.

    Hope that helps my brother!

  2. I couldn’t agree more with what Hayden said above. Be familiar with the issues in the text but avoid getting bogged down in minutia that you can’t solve. If Hort, Shreiner, Metzger, or Hiebert have not solved the issue there is very little hope that any of us normal guys will get to the bottom of it within a day.

    Depending on how you define a “variant” there could be half a million of them which means your preaching could turn into a textual criticism class if your not careful.

    Additionally, there is no doctrine hanging in the balance here and I might point out that the meaning/purpose/message of Jude is not adversely affected one way or the other on this variant.

    Lastly, the Lord in His sovereignty knew we would struggle with such things which might be why he said in the very next verse “now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling . . .”

  3. Instead of spending hours looking though individual variants, I would look at the agreement between text then use what makes the most sense in the context of the Greek text. You can drive yourself nuts looking at each textual variant individually.

  4. I agree w/ Martin. Take a Ockham’s Razor approach: the simplest solution that makes the most sense is probably the correct one, so long as it agrees with other texts.

  5. Posted by Tony on October 20, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    I am a youth pastor in Dallas, Texas and I just stumbled upon your blog. I am actually preaching through Jude and this week its 17-23. I am glad to see that other people have troubles with the same issues I do. Not that I like to see other people with troubles, it is just a comforting reminder to know that I am not the first to tackle this text and had a hard time doing it.

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