A Fun Dabbling of Textual Criticism

As I’ve been reading some of Chrysostom’s commentary on the Psalms, I had wondered how long it would take me to notice a difference between his text of the Psalms and mine. It’s quite funny that it took me this long to find one, because there is one right at the beginning of the work! Chrysostom is great for this kind of thing because he loves to make rather detailed points about the text. He’s fond of saying things like, “The prophet didn’t say this (insert slight difference), but this.” The change in the text with Rahlfs is very minor, but it would break his argument at this point (or hinder this particular point any way).

The text in question is the fourth Psalm. Here’s Rahlf’s text:

Εν τῷ ἐπικαλεῖσθαί με εἰσήκουσέν μου ὁ θεὸς τῆς δικαιοσύνης μου

And here’s Chrysostom:

Εν τῷ ἐπικαλεῖσθαί με εἰσήκουσέ με ὁ Θεὸς τῆς δικαιοσύνης μου

Can you spot the difference? It’s very slight, it occurs in the word following εισηκουσεν:

Εν τῷ ἐπικαλεῖσθαί με εἰσήκουσέν μου ὁ θεὸς τῆς δικαιοσύνης μου (Rahlfs)
Εν τῷ ἐπικαλεῖσθαί με εἰσήκουσέ με ὁ Θεὸς τῆς δικαιοσύνης μου (Chrysostom)

Why is this important? Well Chrysostom goes on to make this point:

Πρὸς γοῦν τοὺς ἐν πονηρίᾳ μὲν ζῶντας, προσδοκῶντας δὲ τῷ μήκει τῶν
ῥημάτων δυσωπεῖν αὐτὸν, ὅρα τί φησιν. Ὅταν πληθύνητε τὴν δέησιν, οὐκ εἰσακούσομαι
ὑμῶν. Ἐὰν ἐκτείνητε τὰς χεῖρας, ἀποστρέψω τοὺς ὀφθαλμούς μου ἀφ’ ὑμῶν. Ἄρα πρὸ
τῶν ἄλλων ἁπάντων παῤῥησίαν δεῖ τὸν εὐχόμενον ἔχειν, καὶ πάντως ἕψεται τὰ τῆς
αἰτήσεως. ∆ιά τοι τοῦτο καὶ ὁ Προφήτης οὐκ εἶπεν, Εἰσήκουσεν ἐμοῦ, ἀλλὰ, Τῆς
δικαιοσύνης μου
, τὴν πρὸς τὸν Θεὸν αὐτοῦ παῤῥησίαν δεικνὺς, καὶ ὡς μετὰ ταύτης
αὐτῷ προσῄει διὰ παντός.

And a rather rough translation.

To those that live in evil, who give to Him lofty words, see what is written: Whenever you utter your request, I will not hear you. If you stretch out your hands, I will turn my eyes from you. Before all others your prayer must have boldness, so by all means follow the boldness of this prayer. Because of this the prophet didn’t say, “He heard me,” but “He heard my righteousness.” Having shown God this righteousness, he prayed through all things.

I’m not so sure about the “So before others…” line, so for the Greekers out there please double check that one for me.

First, the difference between the readings. As I understand it, Rahlfs reading would be translated like this:

In my cry to him, God, who is my righteousness, heard me.

Chrysostom’s would go like this:
In my cry to him, God heard my righteousness.

I don’t have easy access to a textual apparatus, though I could find no mention of the variant in Swete’s apparatus (which is online at archive.org). Swete’s LXX followed Chrysostom’s text on this one though.

So what is Chrysostom up to here? As always, he’s extremely concerned with the moral character of his congregation. In teaching them to pray, he is goes out of his way to point out that one prays through good works. The opposite is true too. Sin blocks prayer, and he trots out the famous passage from Isaiah where God castigates Israel for observing religious ceremonies while failing to do justice. Thus, he naturally points out that God hears our actions just as loud as our words. The argument is summed up nicely in a short sentence early in the homily:

Οὐ γὰρ δὴ ῥημάτων πλῆθος πείθειν τὸν Θεὸν εἴωθεν, ἀλλὰ καθαρὰ ψυχὴ καὶ ἔργων ἀγαθῶν ἐπίδειξις.

For it is not the fullness of words that convinces God, but a pure soul and the demonstration of good works. (again, not sure about ειωθεν).

Textual Criticism is normally of no interest to me, but I found this little bit interesting ;-).

4 thoughts on “A Fun Dabbling of Textual Criticism

  1. Firstly, I certainly agree that textual criticism becomes more interesting when it turns up in a text under discussion. There are some fascinating choices that Chrysostom makes in his homilies in John, twice if I recall arguing against certain readings based on their usage by heretics, readings we would now consider to be more likely correct.

    To the text at hand: The problem for me is that in (your rendering of) Chrysostom, the second με in the line is at best redundant, while the rest of the line reads fine. That is, it’s quite natural to read “The God of my righteousness” in the second half of the verse, but it’s a bit odd to omit με and then make ‘my righteousness’ the genitive object of ‘hear’. What do you think on this point?

  2. I actually read it as “the God of my righteousness” until I got to the point where John contrasted εισηκουσεν εμου with της δικαιοσυνης μου. The second με does kind of get redundant then (I didn’t know what else to do with it).

    So my rendering was tailored to what I thought Chrysostom was trying to say with the text, and based on the fact that ακουω takes a genitive object when talking about a person.

    I’m sure I read it as “God of my righteousness” the first go around. Your Greek is much better than mine so take a look at the homily and let me know if you think he’s getting at something different. If you don’t have a PDF, you can nab one here: http://khazarzar.skeptik.net/pgm/PG_Migne/John%20Chrysostom_PG%2047-64/Expositiones%20in%20Psalmos.pdf
    It’s right at the beginning of the file, just a few lines down in his homily on the 4th Psalm.

  3. I’ve had a closer look, but I’m at home and away from easy to use resources. I think you’ve certainly got at what Chrysostom is saying: his contrast is indeed between ‘me’ and ‘my righteousness’ as the objects of what God heeds. I’m just not sure Chrysostom’s own text supports him!

    Of course, one of the odd things grammatically is that ακουω will indeed take a genitive of the person, but normally the accusative of the thing heard. Here ‘my righteousness’ is genitive, but it is in some sense a thing.

  4. It’s an interesting issue. ακουω does normally make the person/object distinction, but it looks like δικαιοσυνης and φωνης get lumped in as genitives. φωνης makes a little more sense than δικαιοσυνης, though I guess both are the extension of a person. Chrysostom likely has other psalms running through his head too. Eusebius loves to quote other Psalms to illustrate the one he’s currently expositing, John probably likes the same thing. He may have Psalm 16 in mind, which starts off:

    Εἰσάκουσον, κύριε, τῆς δικαιοσύνης μου

    At worst it’s one of those right doctrine wrong text moments. Even though, asking God to listen to one’s righteousness needs appropriate “fine-tuning” in a post-reformation setting ;-).

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