Hear O Lord: Praying to Jesus – The Textual Issue of John 14:14

This is the first in a series of posts responding to Michael Bugg on the issue of praying to Jesus. My post “To Whom Should We Pray?” sparked a response from Bugg entitled “Should We Pray to Yeshua?.” I retorted with a “Prayerful Push Back” and Bugg’s latest offering is “Prayer to Yeshua, Part Deus.” In this post we’ll be looking at the textual issue of John 14:14. In the next I’ll cover the matter of internal consistency within the Gospel. Subsequent posts will focus on different passages of Scripture that show Jesus as the recipient of prayer.

Theology and Textual Variants

Bugg quotes me and then responds:

But the point from John 14:14 if one accepts the variant with με in it is not that we pray to Jesus and then Jesus carries those prayers to the Father; it’s that we pray to Jesus and then Jesus responds.

“If.”  That’s why we don’t base our theology on disputed passages or minor variants.  If the variant coincides with a theology developed from other passages or the Scripture as a whole, wonderful.  If not, then we’re building a house of cards.

To start, we base our theology on disputed passages with minor (and sometimes major) textual variants all the time. To give one example, Bugg himself affirms the deity of Jesus when he says, “I agree fully that Messiah is Divine in nature,” but as Brian James Wright has shown in his 2007 ETS paper, Jesus as Θεός: Scriptural Fact or Scribal Fantasy?, “textual variants exist in all potential passages where Jesus is explicitly referred to as θεός.” (p. 2) Of course, Jesus being called God is only one strand of data in a much fuller argument, but it’s a strand that those who affirm or deny the deity of Jesus must deal with nonetheless. The same with John 14:14 and the issue of prayer directed to Jesus; it’s a piece of a larger puzzle and no one has depended upon this verse alone for the entire argument. So let’s take a look at the textual evidence both against and for this reading.

The Textual Evidence

The Manuscript Evidence Against με

The Greek text according to the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece 27th edition (NA27) reads:

⸋ἐάν τι αἰτήσητέ °με ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου ⸀ἐγὼ ποιήσω.⸌

14vs X f 1 565 pc b vgms sys (pon. p. ποι. vs 13 1010) | ° A D K L Q Ψ 1241. 1424. l 844 pm it vgmss co | ⸀τουτο P75 A B L Γ Ψ 060. 33 al c r1 vg sa ac2 bo ¦ τ. εγω P66c 1241

A straightforward English translation of this verse as it appears in the NA27 reads:

If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. (ESV, NASB, NET, HCSB, NJB cf. [T]NIV, NRSV, NLT)

There are three variants in this verse but the one that concerns us is με (Eng. me). The NA27 texts includes με but it lists the textual witnesses that omit it in this verse. For those who are not familiar with the critical apparatus of the NA27 allow me to translate the data that appears in red above: με is omitted in the following Uncials (manuscripts [mss] written in capital letters) that contain this verse: A (4th c.); D (5th c.); K (9th c.); L (8th c.); Q (5th c.); Ψ (9/10th c.); 1241 (12th c.); 1424 (9/10th c.); l 844 (9th c. lectionary); as well as a great many Old Latin mss; the Vulgata; and the whole Coptic tradition.

The Manuscript Evidence in Favor of με

The United Bible Societies Greek New Testament 4th edition presents a text nearly identical with the NA27 but with a completely different critical apparatus. Below I present the text with the notes in support of με’s inclusion:

ἐάν τι αἰτήσητέ με7 ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου ἐγὼ ποιήσω.i

7 14 {B} (see footnote 6) με P66, 75vid א B W Δ Θ 060 f13 28 33 579 700 892 1006 1342 Byzpt [E H] l 1841/2 l 514 l 547 l 672 l 6731/2 l 813 l 8901/2 itc, f vg syrp, h

Once again, to translate the apparatus for those unfamiliar with it, this says: The inclusion of με in the text is “almost certain” as we find it in the following Papyri (NT manuscripts written on papyrus; the earliest witnesses of the NT): P66 (ca. AD 200); P75 (3rd c.); as well as the following Uncials: אa(4th c.); B (4th c.); W (4/5th c.); Δ (9th c.); Θ (9th c.); 060 (6th c.); and the following Miniscules (manuscripts written in small cursive letters): f13 (a family of manuscripts dating from the 11th to 15th c.); 28 (11th c.); 33 (9th c.); 579 (13th c.); 700 (11th c.); 892 (9th c.); 1006 (11th c.); 1342 (13/14th c.); part of the Byzantine tradition, notably E (8th c.) and H (9th c.); the following lectionaries (books of Bible readings): l 184 (AD 1319)*; l 514 (10th c.); l 547 (13th c.); l 672 (9th c.); l 673 (12th c.)*; l 813 (AD 1069); l 890 (AD 1420)*; the Old Latin mss. C (12/13th c.) and F (6th c.); the Vulgate version; and the Syriac mss. P (5th c.) and H (7th c.)

[*In each of these lectionaries the passage appears twice while the reading with με is attested once.]

The textual evidence in support of με’s inclusion is fairly comprehensive in terms of its attestation in the earliest manuscripts and across various text types; its transmission throughout time and throughout various geographical locales; and its appearance in a number of lectionaries and versions; etc. Bruce Metzger explains the decision to include με in the UBS4 text saying:

14.14 με {B}

Either the unusual collocation, “ask me in my name,” or a desire to avoid contradiction with 16.23 seems to have prompted (a) the omission of με in a variety of witnesses (A D K L Π Ψ Byz al) or (b) its replacement with τὸν πατέρα (249 397). The word με is adequately supported (P66 א B W Δ Θ f13 28 33 700 al) and seems to be appropriate in view of its correlation with ἐγώ, later in the verse. (A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed., 208)

Philip Comfort says:

The WH NU reading has the support of the earliest manuscripts. The word με (“me”) was probably omitted to bring 14:14 into conformity with 14:13. Some witnesses (X f1 565 itb syrs,pal arm geo) omit this verse entirely. The cause of the omission could have been accidental—the eye of the scribe may have passed over the word εαν in 14:14 to εαν in 14:15. Or the omission could have been intentional inasmuch as 14:14 repeats 14:13. It would have been especially tempting in ancient versions to omit a repetitive statement. The verse must be considered part of the original work because of its excellent testimony (P66 P75 א A B D L W it cop). (New Testament Text and Translation Commentary, 309)

Conclusion

So based on the textual evidence there is good reason to be confident that John 14:14 originally recorded Jesus’ words as “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” Of the Johannine commentators I surveyed on this passage who note text critical issues, the only one in recent history (i.e., the past 30 years) to argue for με’s omission is F. F. Bruce (The Gospel of John: Introduction, Exposition, and Notes, 301). D. A. Carson and J. Ramsey Michaels all accept it as original. Craig S. Keener; Urban von Wahlde; Andreas J. Köstenberger; and Merrill C. Tenney all accept that Jesus receives and answers prayer in this passage, but they do so without noting the textual issues. More on this in a later post.

B”H

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3 thoughts on “Hear O Lord: Praying to Jesus – The Textual Issue of John 14:14

  1. Nick, an excellent reply. I do want to bring to your attention the following typo:

    “The WH NU reading has the support of the earliest manuscripts. The word με (“me”) was probably omitted to bring 14:14 INFO conformity with 14:13…”

    INFO should be into. Keep up the great work by Christ’s sovereign grace.

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