On the authenticity (or not) of 1 Corinthians 14.34-35: A solution in Codex Fuldensis?


June 4, 2013 by jmar198013


People know 1 Cor. 14.34-35 as the passage where Paul tells women to shut up in worship assemblies. It’s a passage that’s caused much grief. But what if Paul didn’t write it after all? This post discusses the work of E. Earle Ellis and Bruce Metzger on the interpolation problem in light of a sixth-century manuscript, the Codex Fuldensis.

A Solution in Codex Fuldensis?

We have observed that, in the first place, it cannot be shown that the transposition of vv 34-35 to a spot immediately following v 40 is as weighty a textual variant as some would have us to believe, and second, even if it were, transposition is not sufficient evidence to prove interpolation. However, as also noted above, some scholars have pointed out the difficulty of trying to place Paul’s words about the silenced women into the surrounding context. They seem to intrude into a clear line of argumentation flowing from v 33 to v 36: “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. What! Did the word of God originate with you, or are you the only ones it has reached?” (RSV, slightly modified). However, E. Earle Ellis believes he has found a solution to this problem in the text of the sixth-century Latin Codex Fuldensis.

According to Ellis (“Silenced Wives” 219-220), Fuldensis contains our verses both after v 40 and in the margin of v 33. The scribe responsible for the Fuldensis had two textual traditions before him—one which placed the verses after v 40, and another which placed them in the margin after v 33. Rather than sacrifice either tradition, the scribe reverently decided to retain the deuterograph. A marginal reading of vv 34-35, then, was already present before the sixth century, when Fuldensis was produced. Ellis conjectures that the marginal reading of our passage originated with Paul himself, in the autograph of 1 Corinthians. 1 Corinthians, like many ancient letters, was transcribed by way of an amanuensis (1 Cor 16.21). It was customary that when the body of the letter was finished by the amanuensis, its author would add personal greetings and make any corrections he deemed necessary. This is the point at which Paul himself wrote in vv 34-35 at the margin. Over time, some scribes slipped it into the text after v 33; others, noticing that the text didn’t fit there “displaced” it after v 40; and still others retained the marginal reading.

Ellis’ conjecture is reasonable, so long as he has properly interpreted the evidence provided by the Fuldensis’ witness to our passage. At this point, then, it is appropriate that we should examine the evidence of the Fuldensis more carefully.

Metzger on the Codex Fuldensis

The fourth edition of the UBS Greek New Testament classifies vv 34-35 as “B,” which rates the text as “almost certain.” The third edition also gave these verses a “B” reading, but in that edition, a “B” reading indicated “some degree of doubt” about the text’s authenticity (Thiselton First Epistle to the Corinthians 1148). Strangely enough, as our passage has moved closer to the status of a certain reading, Bruce M. Metzger, in his Textual Commentary, has raised the question of its authenticity in a proportion inversely related to the assigned certainty of the reading. In the 1971 edition of his Textual Commentary, prepared for the third edition of the UBS critical text, Metzger simply states:

Several witnesses, chiefly Western, transpose verses 34-35 to follow ver. 40 (D F G 88* itd.g Ambrosiaster Sedulius Scotus); in codex Fuldensis they were inserted by Victor of Capua in the margin after ver. 33, without, however, removing them from their place farther down. Such scribal alterations represent attempts to find a more appropriate location in the context for Paul’s directive concerning women. (565)

Thus, all that Metzger will assert here is that there is a discrepancy in the ordering of the verses in some textual traditions. It is also important to note that the Fuldensis codex does witness to an arrangement whereby the verses are found in two different locations: the typical Western reading is seen with the section placed as an addendum after v 40, but we also see a marginal reading for it at v 33. However, by the time Metzger had prepared the second edition of his Textual Commentary for the fourth edition of the UBS text, he had much more to say about Fuldensis:

The evidence of the sixth-century Codex Fuldensis is ambiguous. The Latin text of 1 Cor 14 runs onward throughout the chapter to ver. 40. Following ver. 33 is a scribal siglum that directs the reader to a note standing in the lower margin of the page. This note provides the text of verses 36 through 40. Does the scribe, without actually deleting verses 34-35 from the text, intend the liturgist to omit them when reading the lesson? (499-500)

So Metzger, at this point, leaves to us the question concerning the authenticity of these verses. For if the scribe did indeed mean for the verses to be omitted when the lesson was read aloud, there is a tacit judgment on the part of that scribe that the verses are not original to the text. This is how Hays (First Corinthians 246) construes the evidence, saying “at least one ancient manuscript includes markings suggesting that the scribe considered these words to be a gloss inserted into the text.” Perhaps, however, Hays has overstated his case. Although Metzger has said that, overall, the text of the Fuldensis is “very good” (Text of the NT 77), it is worth paying more attention to the matter of the scribal sigla in it, and how these may relate to our verses. It is to this task that we shall turn attention next. Our attention will fall primarily upon a discussion between two scholars, Philip Payne and Curt Niccum.

Works Cited

Ellis, E. Earle. “The Silenced Wives of Corinth (1 Cor 14:34-35)” New Testament Textual Criticism: Essays in Honour of Bruce M. Metzger. Eldon J. Epp and Gordon D. Fee, eds. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981. 213-220.

Hays, Richard B. First Corinthians. Interpretation. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1997.

Metzger, Bruce M. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament, Third Edition. New York: American Bible Society, 1971.

—. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (Fourth Revised Edition). 2nd ed. New York: American Bible Society, 1994.

The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Thiselton, Anthony. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans; Carlisle: Paternoster, 2000.


2 thoughts on “On the authenticity (or not) of 1 Corinthians 14.34-35: A solution in Codex Fuldensis?

  1. […] first place, Payne (“Fuldensis, Vaticanus, and 1 Cor 14.34-35,” 241-42) corrects Metzger. We noted earlier that in his Textual Commentary for the third edition UBS text, Metzger had said that “in Codex […]

  2. ‘They seem to intrude into a clear line of argumentation flowing from v 33 to v 36: “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. What! Did the word of God originate with you, or are you the only ones it has reached?” (RSV, slightly modified).’

    35 εἰ δέ τι μαθεῖν θέλουσιν, ἐν οἴκῳ τοὺς ἰδίους ἄνδρας ἐπερωτάτωσαν· αἰσχρὸν γάρ ἐστιν γυναικὶ λαλεῖν ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ.

    36 ἢ ἀφ’ ὑμῶν ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ ἐξῆλθεν, ἢ εἰς ὑμᾶς μόνους κατήντησεν;[NA28]

    I don’t yet understand why people translate the disjunctive particle ἢ as ‘What!’. It just means ‘or’, does it not? So:

    ‘If they want to learn anything, let them ask their own men/husbands at home; for it is shameful for a woman to speak in an assembly. Or did the word of God come out from you; or did it reach you only?’

    D A Carson has a long section (Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 149ff) on Paul’s use of ἤ, quoting Thayer, who says at ἤ, §1.c, that the conjunction is used ‘before a sentence contrary to the one just preceding, to indicate that if one be denied or refuted the other must stand’.

    In other words, Paul presents two alternatives: 1) women should keep silent in the assemblies; 2) the word of God came only to the Corinthians.

    We do this sort of thing all the time. ‘Come to the park with us. Or are you going to sit glued to that computer all day?’ As Carson says (p.150), the ‘or’ question is a rhetorical device designed to enforce something that the hearer or reader may want to deny or refute.

    This works if 36 follows 35. But who would want to deny that God is a God of peace?


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