Textual Evidence

Stanton on Matt. 9:34

Excerpt from: G.N. Stanton,
Matthew's Christology and the Parting of the Ways,
Jews and Christians,
Ed. James Dunn (Eerdmans, 1992)

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Last Updated: Feb 7, 2010

Review: - Stuff:
    Introduction to Matthew 9:34
    Textual Evidence: historical development
    Footnotes: original
    UBS Apparatus: inaccuracies caught


Stanton on Matt. 9:34

Excerpt from: G.N. Stanton,
Matthew's Christology and the Parting of the Ways,
Jews and Christians,
Ed. James Dunn (Eerdmans, 1992)

Headings have been added for clarity and navigation purposes.

Matthew's Christology and
the Parting of the Ways

(a) Matthew 9:34

Introduction to 9:34

Matthew's first reference to the charge that Jesus performed his exorcisms by the prince of demons comes at the climax of the cycle of miracle stories in chapters 8 and 9. It is followed by the second of Matthew's important summary accounts of the teaching, preaching and healing ministry of Jesus (4:23 and 9:35).

Immediately before this summary, which marks a major structural division in the gospel, the evangelist includes the first versions of two stories he will repeat later (cf. 9.27-31 and 20:29-34; 9:32-34 and 12:22-23). Commentators usually note that both pericopae are included here in order to prepare for the list of miracles recorded in 11:5, but most fail to observe the important role 9:34 plays in Matthew's overall presentation of the story of Jesus.

The reaction of the crowds to the healing of the two blind men and the exorcism of the demon from the dumb man is almost estatic: "Never was anything like this seen in Israel" (9:33). It is balanced antithetically in good Matthean fashion by the sharp comment of the Pharisees: "He casts out demons by the prince of demons" (9:34).

Here, as also in the 'second edition' of this tradition (12:24), the evangelist changes 'the scribes who came down from Jerusalem' (Mark 3:22) to "the Pharisees". As in two other pericopae in this cycle of miracle stories, Matthew has singled out redactionally the Pharisees as the arch-opponents of Jesus. 10

The hostile reaction of the Pharisees to Jesus in 9:34 comesa as the first climax in Matthew's careful presentation of the developing conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees. 11

Not until 12:14 is the reader informed of the Pharisee's conspiracy to destroy Jesus 12 , 9:32-34 function as a literary foreshadowing of the conflict which will dominate chapter 12. 13

The Omission of Matthew 9:34

Many recent writers have simply accepted without discussion the decision of the editors of the 26th Edition of the Nestle-Aland text (NA-26) to include Matt. 9:34. But the absence of the whole verse in a handful of manuscripts is striking and should not pass without comment. 14

Although 9:34 is omitted in the New English Bible (NEB, 1970) 15 and in the Revised English Bible (REB, 1989), I am convinced that the cumulative arguments for its inclusion as the first part of a carefully constructed three-fold criticism of Jesus (and corresponding set of responses) are strong.

(i) According to the apparatus of the NA-26 text, with the exception of Codex Bezae, two Old Latin manuscripts (a and k), the Sinaitic Syriac Palimpsest, and Hilary of Poitiers, the verse is found in all the ancient witnesses to the text. 16

(ii) The NEB and the REB seem to have omitted it on the basis of a misguided preference for the shorter reading and a lingering commitment (here, and in other passages) to Westcott and Hort's theory of 'western non-interpolations'.  However several textual critics have recently argued that the lectio brevior potior rule of thumb ('prefer the shorter reading') is misleading. 17

(iii) The wording of 9:34 differs from the parallel passages within Matthew (10:25 and 12:24-27) and [also] from Mark 3:22, the only parallel passage in Mark. Hence 9:34 is unlikely to have originated as an addition by a 'harmonizing' scribe. [i.e., harmonization to a parallel passage].

(iv) If 9:34 is accepted as part of the original text, why is it omitted in some witnesses? In this case it is not difficult to account for later abbreviation of the text: a few scribes were reluctant to allow the Pharisees to have the last word about Jesus at the climax of this section of the Gospel; they preferred to conclude the pericope (and the preceding cycle of miracle traditions) with the positive response of the crowds:
"Never was anything like this seen in Israel" (9:33b). Surely it is most unlikely that a later scribe would have added a hostile criticism of Jesus on the lips of the Pharisees as the climax of the cycle of miracle traditions in chapters 8 and 9.

Taken cumulatively, then, there are good reasons for accepting 9:34 as part of the original text; the longer reading is more difficult than the shorter reading, and should be retained.

- Graham N. Stanton, 1992

Original Footnotes:

10. Compare Matt. 9:11 and 9:14 with Mark 2:15 and 2:18.

11. See J.D. Kingsbury, "The Developing Conflict between Jesus and the Jewish Leaders in Matthew's Gospel: A Literary-Critical Study", CBQ 49 (1987) 57-83.

12. In Mark matters are different. The first reference to a plot against the life of Jesus comes much earlier in the story at 3:6 where the Pharisees are joined by 'the Herodians'.

13. See B.J. Malina and J.H. Neyrey, Calling Jesus Names: the Social Value of Labels in Matthew, Sonoma, Calif. 1988, 59.

14. U. Luz is an exception. In his commentary (II, 1990, 62 n.2) he includes this brief comment: 'Er ist nicht nur gut bezeugt, sondern auch kompositionell als Fortsetzung von 9, 1b-17 und als Vorbereitung auf 10:25 unentbehrlich.' Similarly, B.M. Metzger (A Textual Commentary of the GNT, London & NY, 1971) suggests that 9:34 seems to be needed to prepare the reader for 10:25. This line of argument is plausible, but it can be reversed: an early scribe may have felt that 10:25 was so enigmatic that an explanation at an appropriate earlier point in the gospel was necessary. Neither Luz nor Metzger attempts to account for the omission of the verse in some witnesses.

15. The first edition of the NEB (1961) contains a curious error. 9:33b and 34 are translated as follows:

Filled with amazement the onlookers said, "Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel. He casts out demons by the prince of devils."

Both the positive and the negative assessments of Jesus are placed on the lips of the crowds! THis translation is not supported by a single manuscript and seems to be an error which mysteriously escaped detection until the 2nd edition of the NEB was published in 1970. Prior to the Passion narrative the crowds in Matthew never respond negatively to Jesus.

16. Rather surprisingly, the Huck-Greeven Synopse, Tubingen 1981, fails to note the absence of 9:34 in some witnesses, though the Huck-Lietzmann Synopse which it replaces had noted the absence of the whole verse in D SyrS Hil.

17. See, for example, P.M. Head 'Observations on Early Papri of the Synoptic Gospels, especially on the "Scribal Habits", Biblica 71 (1990) 240-47. Head refers to a thesis by J.M. Royse (which I have not seen) which shows that six important papyri (P-45,46,66,72,75) all demonstrate a tendency to shorten the text. See also J.K. Elliot, 'Why the International Greek NT Project is Necessary', Restoration Quarterly 30 (1988) 203.

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UBS Apparatus

More Inaccuracies Found

UBS-2 Apparatus

The UBS-2 (United Bible Societies 2nd Ed.) Greek text offers the following apparatus for Matthew 9:34:

v.34 {C} include verse 34: א B C K L W X Δ Θ Π f 1 f 13 28 33 565 700 892 1009 1010 1071 1195 1216 1230 1242 1253 1344 1365 1546 1646 2148 2174 Byz Lect Itaur b c f ff1 g1 h l q, vg syrp h pal copsa bo goth arm eth geo
// omit verse 34: D ita d k Syrs Diatessaron Juvencus Hilary

Error Regarding Juvencus

The following was recently posted at TC-Alternate-List on Yahoo Groups, which points to another inaccuracy in the UBS apparatus.

Re: Stanton (1992) on the omission of Matthew 9:34

I have some experience reading Juvencus, and, if I have the passage right, he cannot be said to be a witness for or against the presence of Matt 9:34. My assumption is that Juvencus' Libri evangeliorum quattuor 2.417-29 refer to Matt 9:32-38. If this is correct, then Juvencus mutates Matthew's part about the amazement of the people (Matt 9:33b) into their crowding around Jesus in 2.421; then he jumps immediately to Jesus' beholding and sighing at the so many thousands of people (milia tanta virorum) in 2.422 which corresponds to Matt 9:36. In this case he skips everything from Matt 9:33b to 9:36a to suit his own poetic narrative, which is very lovely, by the way. Perhaps I am missing something or have the passage wrong, but this is my take. Take a look for yourself:

Link to Juvencus <- - - Click Here.

(Karl Marold, C. Vettii Aquilini Iuvenci libri evangeliorum IIII [Lipsiae: B. G. Teubneri, 1886], 42-43):


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