What Did That Angel Say Again?
An examination of Luke 1:28
By Martin A. Shue
(in loyal defense of the inspired King James Bible)
For centuries it has been believed and taught that the angel Gabriel, when announcing the birth of Jesus, saluted Mary with the following words, “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.” Furthermore, these words have been part of nearly every Christmas program for hundreds of years. Children dressed in white have memorized these words and have proudly rehearsed them to the delight of parents and grandparents alike. These words of Luke make up what is called “The Angelic Salutation” and can be found nowhere else in the Bible except Luke chapter 1.
The words “blessed art thou among women” have been believed to flow from the lips of the angel Gabriel until the most recent of times. Now we find these words removed from most of the modern versions. For example:
ESV- And he came to her and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!"
NASV- And he came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord [is] with thee.
New World Translation- And when he went in before her he said: “Good day, highly favored one, Jehovah is with you.”
Now, the ESV attaches an interesting note to this verse that reads, “Some manuscripts add Blessed are you among women!” As we begin to examine the actual evidence for this phrase you will see why I call this note ‘interesting’. We pass on!
The reason for omitting the phrase rests mainly on the fact that the words are wanting in manuscripts (mss.) Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. These two are joined by L W and Psi among the uncials. It is also missing from a few cursives including f1 565 700 and 1241.
The evidence in favor of the reading is simply overwhelming. It baffles both the mind and common reasoning as to how such evidence can be overlooked by so-called modern scholars. The authorities for the reading are remarkable considering they come from every region of ancient Christendom. Among the uncials that testify to the reading we have A C D X Theta Gamma Delta Lambda Pi --- in short, every uncial, except those mentioned above, attests to the phrase “blessed art thou among women”. The matter is no different when we look at the minuscule Greek copies. Metzger comments that the words can be found in “most minuscules”. Indeed the words are found in every cursive copy except those very few listed above.
Aside from the Greek witnesses the phrase also enjoys exceptionally widespread support from ancient versions, Latin mss. and Early Church Writers (ECW). The ancient versions that support the reading are the entire Syriac tradition including the Peshitta (150AD). It is also attested by the Ethiopic, Bohairic, some Coptic and the Gothic versions. In what is perhaps the best support for the reading we find that the entire Latin tradition bears witness to these precious words (Old Latin, Vulgate). The unwavering support of the entire Latin tradition constitutes a staggering amount of ancient manuscripts. Once again we find it astounding that such evidence can be ignored by the modern translators.
Now we turn our attention to the ECW. The phrase is quoted without question by Eusebius, Aphraates, Ambrose and Tertullian makes the following comment:
“Let us now see whether the apostle withal observes the norm of this name in accordance with Genesis, attributing it to the sex; calling the virgin Mary a woman, just as Genesis (does) Eve. For, writing to the Galatians, “God,” he says, “sent His own Son, made of a woman,” who, of course, is admitted to have been a virgin, albeit Hebion resist (that doctrine). I recognize, too, the angel Gabriel as having been sent to “a virgin.” But when he is blessing her, it is “among women,” not among virgins, that he ranks her: “Blessed (be) thou among women.” The angel withal knew that even a virgin is called a woman.” (Tertullian, On the veiling of virgins, 6)
Here we have Tertullian attributing the words to the angel Gabriel more than 100 years before Aleph and B were mutilated.
Bruce Metzger makes the following comments regarding this verse, “It is probable that copyists inserted them here from ver. 42, where they are firmly attested. If the clause had been original in the present verse, there is no adequate reason why it should have been omitted from a wide diversity of early witnesses” (A Textual Commentary, Luke 1:28).
Daniel Wallace remarks, “Most mss (A C D Q Ë 33 Ï latt sy) read here eujloghmevnh suV ejn gunaixivn (euloghmenh su en gunaixin, "blessed are you among women") which also appears in 1:42 (where it is textually certain). This has the earmarks of a scribal addition for balance; the shorter reading, attested by the most important witnesses and several others (ÅÍ B L W Y Ë 565 579 700 1241 pc co), is thus preferred.” (NET footnote)
Clearly both these men believe the words have been added by later “copyists”, who stole the words from v. 42 where Elisabeth speaks these words. This is an interesting theory. However, it is nothing more than a theory! There doesn’t exist one ounce of evidence to prove that any such thing ever occurred. Though both men (Wallace most likely copying from Metzger) insist the words were added from v. 42 neither man offers any proof to back up their claim. If I or any other Bible Believer where to make such ridiculous claims without a shred of proof we would be instantly laughed to scorn. But these two can make such outlandish claims and they will be believed as proven facts by Bible correctors. I challenge Metzger, Wallace and anyone reading this article to prove the words were taken from v. 42 and inserted into v. 28.
Metzger may have a point if the very few Greek mss. had the words added and the whole host were missing the words. It would seem that a few copyists had taken liberty with the text and had indeed added the words. But this is not the case at all. Only a small handful of mss. omit the words while 999 out of 1000 contain the words. Furthermore, are we to believe that “copyists”, both working alone and apart from one another, from all parts of Christendom in nearly every century stole the words from v. 42. A miracle indeed this would be!
Think about Metzger and Wallace’s fanciful theory for a moment. These men do not believe God can preserve His very words for us today but they actually want us to believe that ancient “copyists” working thousands of miles apart, in the remotest of regions, all decided to ‘add’ the words from v. 42. This would truly be a greater miracle than the simple act of God preserving His words in a single book for us today. We read and marvel!
Additionally, Metzger and Wallace have the stubborn fact that the words were present long before Aleph and B saw the light of day to deal with. If Aleph and B contain the ‘original’ reading as Metzger and Wallace purport and the words were later added for “balance” they must explain (or need I say explain away) how Tertullian and the Peshitta (150 AD) recognized the words as flowing from the lips of the angel Gabriel more than 200 years before Aleph and B were written. Yet again we see Metzger and Wallace long on theory and short on facts.
In closing, allow me to say that the modern bible reader is being cheated and doesn’t even know it. This wonderful announcement of our Saviour’s birth cannot be found anywhere else in scripture. The modern bible proponent is famous for running to another book, chapter and verse in his/her bible when words have been omitted and proclaiming that, “See, the words haven’t been taken out of my bible. They are right here in another book.” Well, this is not the case before them today. These words spoken by the angel Gabriel can only be found here in Luke. What a shame that we are raising up a complete generation of Christians that will never know exactly what God dispatched His messenger, Gabriel, to say to Mary in heralding the birth of His son.
The honorable Canon Cook declared that the omission of the phrase in the modern versions is, “One clear case of mutilation”. This is the fact of the matter. The words haven’t been “added” as Metzger hypothesizes; on the contrary, the words have been omitted as I have demonstrated with facts. And these words have been marvelously preserved for us by God in our Authorized King James Bible. Selah!
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