How Metzger’s “Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament” helps us identify insertions into the Biblical text
The shocking headline above recently featured on a meme alongside a list of verses that the RSV is said to have removed from the Bible. Other such memes exist for other translations like the NIV and with different lists, but the complaint is one that has abounded since well before the existence of the Internet.
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The ancient context of Psalm 29
Through our 21st century, western eyes, Psalm 29 seems to be about how God shows his strength in the natural world. He thunders, he breaks cedar trees, and he sits enthroned on a flood. The psalm also contains language that is not so familiar and gives us the uneasy feeling that we possibly don’t understand it as well we might. For example, God’s voice flashes fire (v7), he makes Lebanon skip like a calf (v6), and he shakes the wilderness of Kadesh (v8) – the significance of these phrases is not obvious. By the end of the psalm we’re not sure exactly what it’s about, but are pretty comfortable that it’s somehow a declaration that God’s power is shown in dramatic weather events like thunder, lightning, and floods.
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How Christ’s audience would have understood his teaching on the eye being the light of the body
Compared to the verses that surround it, Matthew 6:22-23 is hard to understand:
Mt 6:22–23 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”
It is not immediately apparent how the eye is the body’s lamp, or in what sense the eye was said to be healthy/unhealthy, or how a healthy eye results in the body being full of light, or how a body can be full of light at all. Our natural instinct when reading this section of chapter six is to concentrate on the familiar verses that come before (“store up for yourselves treasures in heaven”) or after (“you cannot serve God and wealth”) because they’re more easily understood. The passage in question appears unrelated to its surrounding context; it’s as if Christ began in v. 19 on the topic of the disciple’s relationship with the temporary things of life and then went off on a short tangent before coming back to his original topic. Our aim is to understand what Christ wanted to communicate in these two verses.
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