Michael Wolter on Jesus’s ἀγωνία in Luke 22.44

After two years of very hard and very rewarding labor, I am particularly pleased that both volumes of my co-translation (with Christoph Heilig) of Michael Wolter’s commentary on the Gospel of Luke are now complete and published as volumes 4 and 5 of the BMSEC series. I have, of course, produced multiple blog posts on these volumes already, but with this post I want to start a new series titled “Wolter Words” (the apparent alliteration is of course illusory), which will focus on one of my favorite aspects of his commentary, namely his tendency to challenge conventional assumptions about the meaning of many words and phrases in the Gospel.

In today’s post, we will look at Wolter’s interpretation of γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ in Luke 22:44.

Before turning to this issue, however, let me briefly comment on two others:

First, it is worth noting that Wolter (II: 483), based on a detailed analysis of the evidence, thinks the arguments for and against the originality of Luke 22:43-44 are quite evenly balanced, so that “we must remain for the time being with a non liquet.

Second, in response to a common misinterpretation of this text, Wolter (II: 479, 485) rightly stresses that when Luke says that Jesus’s “sweat became like drops of blood falling to the earth,” he does NOT intend to communicate that “Jesus sweats blood or that his sweat changed into blood” but rather that “Jesus sweats so profusely that his sweat drops to the ground,” i.e. “The tertium comparationis is … not the ‘consistency of his sweat’ (thus Klostermann 217) but its quantity. There is so much of it that—like when a person bleeds profusely—drops form that fall to the ground. Thus, the thrust of the statement wants to illustrate the intensity of the praying of Jesus and—at least indirectly—the greatness of his ἀγωνίᾳ.”

What then is meant by the phrase γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ? In what follows I will give Wolter’s answer in abbreviated form, alternating between the English translation (II: 483-484) and the German Version (723-724):

ET: That the appearances “strengthen” the recipient of the appearance is also known from many other texts … Elsewhere God also always “strengthens” the mediators sent by him so that they can fulfill their task … Therefore, the fact that Jesus nevertheless  falls into ἀγωνίᾳ, i.e., into inner agitation, need not stand in contradiction to the strengthening by the angel.

GV: Auch dass Erscheinungen den Erscheinungsempfänger “stärken”, ist aus vielen anderen Texten bekannt … Gott “stärkt” auch sonst immer die von ihm gesandten Mittler, damit sie ihren Auftrag erfüllen können … Dass Jesus trotzdem in ἀγωνίᾳ gerät, d.h. in innere Erregung, muss darum nicht in Widerspruch zur Stärkung durch den Engel stehen.

ET: Many interpreters have not been able to reconcile the two with each other. In the wake of Paton 1913 they therefore do not think that ἀγωνίᾳ designates the inner agitation of Jesus but equate it with ἀγών. In this view, the concern is with a “contest” or “struggle” (cf. e.g. Neyrey 1980, 159ff [“victorious struggle”]; 1985, 58ff. [“combat”]; Nolland III: 1084 [“the battle in prayer”]; Brown 1994, I: 189-90; Tuckett 2002, 138-39), which takes place in the “fervent” prayer of Jesus.

GV: Viele Interpreten haben beides nicht miteinander vereinbaren können. Sie sehen darum in Gefolge von. W.R. Paton, Ἀγωνία (Agony), CIR 27 (1913) 194 mit ἀγωνίᾳ nicht die innere Erregung Jesu bezeichnet, sondern setzen es mit ἀγών gleich: Es handele sich um einen “Kampf” (engl. “contest” or “struggle”; cf. z.B. Neyrey*, Absence, 159ff [“victorious struggle”]; Passion, 58ff [“combat”]; Nolland III, 1084 [“the battle in prayer”]; Brown* I, 189f; Tuckett* 138f.), der in dem “inständigeren” Beten Jesu stattfindet.

ET: In doing so, however, they make the error of arguing only with the lexical sense and not paying attention to the syntagmatic connection with γενόμενος; cf. e.g. Vita Aesopi 81 (“They fell into agitation [εἰς ἀγωνίαν γενάμενοι] … and regarded this great misfortune as an important sign”). Elsewhere, too ἀγωνίᾳ designates inner agitation in the face of coming unsalvation … [additional texts are adduced] … Furthermore the talk of Jesus as γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ must be placed in the nexus of all the texts in which there is talk of “coming” or “falling” ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ or εἰς ἀγωνίᾳ (e.g. Diodorus Siculus 14.35.2; 16.42.9; 20.51.1; Josephus, Antiquitates judaicae 6.107; 8.373; 11.326; 13.87 and especially P. Tebt II 423.13-14: “I have commissioned you …; you have not yet given me information about it, so that I have fallen at present into agitation [ὡς εἰς ἀγωνίαν με γενέσθαι ἐν τῷ παρόντι]”).

GV: Dabei machen sie jedoch den Fehler, nur mit der Wortbedeutung zu argumentieren und nicht die syntagmatische Verknüpfung mit γενόμενος zu beachten; vgl. z.B. Vita Aesopi 81 (“sie gerieten in Erregung [εἰς ἀγωνίαν γενάμενοι] … und hielten dieses große missgeschick für ein wichtiges Zeichen”). Auch anderswo bezeichnet die innere Erregung angesichts eines kommenden Unheils … [zusätzliche Texte sind angeführt] … Darüber hinaus ist die Rede von Jesus als γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ in den Zusammenhang all jener Texte zu stellen, in denen von ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ oder  εἰς ἀγωνίᾳ “geraten” oder “kommen” oder “fallen” die Rede ist (z. B. Diodorus Siculus 14,35,2; 16,42,9; 20,51,1; Josephus, Ant. 6,107; 8.373; 11,326; 13,87 und vor allem P. Tebt. II, 423,13f: “Ich habe dir aufgetragen …; du hast mir darüber noch nicht Auskunft gegeben, so dass ich zur Zeit in Erregung geraten bin [ὡς εἰς ἀγωνίαν με γενέσθαι ἐν τῷ παρόντι]”).

ET: It would therefore be a truncation if one wanted to reduce Jesus’s ‘strengthening’ to the empowerment to “fervent” prayer. The aforementioned linguistic contexts do not make the  ἐκτενέστερον προσεύχεσθαι of Jesus an expression of his ἀγωνία but rather let it become the reaction to it (cf. Philo, Legatio ad Gaium 366: “We had the souls no longer in us but they had gone forth ὑπ’ ἀγωνίας in order to implore the true God…”).

GV: Es wäre darum eine Verkürzung, wenn man Jesu ‘Stärkung’ auf die Befähigung zum “inständigeren” Beten reduzieren wollte. Die vorgenannten sprachlichen Zusammenhänge machen das ἐκτενέστερον προσεύχεσθαι Jesu nicht zum Ausdruck seiner ἀγωνία, sondern sie lassen es zur Reaktion auf sie werden (vgl. Philo, Leg. Gai. 366: “Wir hatten die Seelen nicht mehr in uns, sondern sie waren ὑπ’ ἀγωνίας herausgetreten, um den wahren Gott anzuflehen, …”).

In short, for Wolter attention to the syntagmatic connection of ἀγωνία with γενόμενος shows that the phrase means “als er in inneren Aufruhr geriet” (GV: 720) or “when he fell into inner turmoil” (ET: II: 479) rather than signaling that he is engaged in “victorious struggle,” “combat,” or “battle in prayer”.

Addendum: Luke 22:44 in the 2016 ESV Translation:

Not too long ago, there was a minor eruption in the blosphere when Crossway announced that “Beginning in the Summer of 2016, the text of the ESV Bible will remain unchanged in all future editions printed and published by Crossway—in much the same way that the King James Version (KJV) has remained unchanged ever since the final KJV text was established almost 250 years ago (in 1769)” (quoted from Scot McKnight; cf. Christianity Today).

While I did not follow this controversy in detail at the time, my work on Wolter’s commentary did make me sensitive to the change made in Luke 22:44:

2011: And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

2016: “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”

While it is not exactly clear to me how the translators are interpreting this verse in the two cases, it seems to me that the 2016 translation might move a bit closer to Wolter’s understanding. However, if Wolter’s analysis is correct, it would probably be preferable to revise the 2016 ESV translation further and to translate γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ with “having fallen into inner turmoil” or “having come into inner turmoil” or “when he fell into inner turmoil” (Wolter II: 479) or “when he fell into inner agitation.” Moreover, since Crossway wisely ended up reversing its initial decision (see here), it is at least conceivable that they could reconsider their translation of this verse if the ESV translation is revised again in the future.

For a more complete list of changes that have been made to the ESV, see here and here.

For a small sample of the many blog posts on the controversy over the ESV’s initial statement about the finality of the 2016 ESV translation, see e.g. Anderson/Alsup, Kevin Antlitz, Denny BurkJoe CarterAmy GannettSusanna KrizoClaude Mariottini, Scot McKnightRachel MillerCarolyn MoorePorter/Yoon.

For a complete list of my blog posts, please see here.

For interviews with me on my work, see here.

Facebook Page: To receive notifications of future blog posts, please like my facebook page here.

German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! I hope to be able to write at least one Monday blog post each month. Best, Wayne


Wolfgang Grünstäudl, David C. Parker, and the Unity of Acts and the Catholic Epistles

One of the interesting aspects of spending much of one’s time in the work of translation is that one can unexpectedly become somewhat knowledgeable about areas of research about which one had previously been rather poorly informed. For me this has been the case with regard to the topic of “canon,” which I dealt with in great detail when translating the BMSEC volumes of Jens Schröter and Christoph Markschies.

Against this background, I very much enjoyed reading Wolfgang Grünstäudl’s recent article Was Lange währt…: Die Katholischen Briefe und die Formung des neutestamentlichen Kanons, which was published in Early Christianity 7 (2016): 71-94In addition to giving me a much better understanding of the larger topic of the Catholic Epistles and the Formation of the New Testament canon (see esp. the helpful summary on pages 93-94), I found his critical interaction with David C. Parker regarding the grouping of Acts and the Catholic Epistles to be of particular interest, not least because Schröter had discussed this topic at some length in chapter 13 of From Jesus to the New Testament. Accordingly, this post will consist of a series of excerpts from this section of Grünsträudl’s article, beginning with a quotation from David C. Parker’s book An Introduction to the New Testament Manuscripts and their Texts, which Grünstäudl quotes on page 87 of his study. Reversing my usual order, I will alternate between the German original and the English translation of Grünstäudl’s article.

* For more information about Wolfgang Grünstäudl, see his webpage, academia page, and English publications.

Parker 2008, 285-286 (Quoted by Grünstäudl on p. 87): The evidence overall suggests a lack of a fixed practice before the seventh century at the earliest. On the other hand, the order of the seven Catholic letters is very uniform, especially among Greek manuscripts. The stage at which the eight writings were first counted together is, so far as the manuscripts attest, the fourth century. The fact that both 01 and 03, the two great Bible codices, treat them as a unity (manifest by the fact that they they disagree as to the order of the larger blocks) is our earliest example.

Grünstäudl 2016,  88: Während die ersten beiden Punkte gerade aufgrund der von Parker präsentierten Daten evident sind, bedarf der dritte eine Präzisierung. Zuerst ist zu beachten, dass rein rechnerisch sechs Möglichkeiten bestehen, Apostelgeschichte, Corpus Paulinum und Katholische Briefe zwischen dem Tetraevangelium und der Johannesevangelium anzuordnen, wovon nicht weniger als vier Apostelgesichte und Katholische Briefe in unmittelbarer Nachbarschaft sehen. Zwei dieser vier Varianten finden sich in den zwei erhaltenen Unzialhandschriften des 4. Jahrhunderts wieder, was abgesehen vom geringen Umfang des Befundes noch nicht als eine signifikant auffällige Verteilung anzusprechen ist.

Translation (wmc): While the first two points are evident precisely on the basis of the data presented by Parker, the third is in need of clarification. First, one must pay attention to the fact that from a purely statistical perspective there are six possibilities of arranging Acts, Corpus Paulinum, and Catholic Epistles between the tetra-gospel and Revelation, of which not less than four place Acts and Catholic Epistles directly next to each other. Two of these four variants are found in the two uncial manuscripts of the fourth century, which, apart from the small extent of the findings, cannot yet be spoken of as a significantly conspicuous distribution.

Grünstäudl 2016,  87: Im Zusammenhang damit wird man sich auch nicht der Agumentation Parkers anschließen können, die bei unterschiedlicher Anordnung der neutestamentlichen Corpora unterschiedlicher Anordnung der neutestamentlichen Corpora übereinstimmende Abfolge Apostelgeschichte – Katholische Briefe in Sinaiticus und Vaticanus belege “that both 01 and 03 […] treat them as a unity”, da hier zwei methologisch zu trennende Ebenen, die Rekonstruktion redaktioneller Strategien hinter jeweils einem Manuskript und der Vergleich der Manuskripte miteinander, vermengt sind.

Translation (wmc): In connection with this one probably also cannot adopt Parker’s argumentation that the coinciding sequence Acts – Catholic Epistles in Sinaiticus and Vaticanus alongside a different arrangement of the New Testament corpora shows/attests “that both 01 and 03 […] treat them as a unity,” since two levels that must be separated, the reconstruction of redactional strategies behind a manuscript in each case and the comparison of the manuscripts with each other, are mixed together here. [* it is very difficult to translate “bei” in this sentence (as is often the case): “alongside” is not good but it is the best solution I could come up with.]

Grünstäudl 2016, 89: Fragt man auf der ersten dieser beiden Ebenen weiter, so sticht vor allem im Sinaiticus ein interesantes Detail des Layouts ins Auge. Setzen gründsätzlich alle in diesem Codex enthaltenen Texte dergestalt mit einer neuen Spalte ein, dass am Ende des vorangehenden Textes auch nach der zum Teil großzügig gesetzten subscriptio ein mehr oder weniger großer Spaltenabschnitt freibleibt, so fällt an vier Stellen der neutestamentlichen Schriften der nicht beschriebene Raum zwischen dem abgeschlossenen und dem nachfolgenden Text größer als nur der Teil einer Spalte aus. …

Translation (wmc): If one inquires further on the first of these two levels, espeically in Sinaiticus an interesting detail of the layout catches one’s eye. While basically all the texts in this codex begin with a new column in such a way that at the end of the preceding text, also after the sometimes generously placed subscriptio, a more or less large column section remains empty, in four places of the New Testament it is conspicuous that the space that is not written on between the text that is concluded and the following text is larger than only a portion of a column. …

Grünstäudl 2016, 90: … In neutestamentlichen Bereich heben sie das Johannesevangelium besonders hervor, während der Block von Römer- bis Barnabasbrief (Corpus Paulinum, Apg, Katholische Briefe, Offb, Barn) auf den ersten Blick als “ein weitgehend amorphes Gemenge” erscheint.

Translation (wmc): … In the New Testament sphere they especially set off the Gospel of John, while the block from Romans to the Barnabas (Corpus Paulinum, Acts, Catholic Epistles, Revelation, Barnabas), at first glance appears to be “a largely amorphous mixture.”

Grünstäudl 2016, 90: Nichtdestotrotz ist eine Schrift innerhalb dieses Blockes noch einmal durch freigelassenen Raum agbehoben: die Apostelgeschichte. Nach vorne ist dies dadurch realisiert, dass nach dem Ende des Philipperbriefes auf L 85/B 6r (zweite Spalte) sowohl der Reste der Seite als auch L 85/B 6v freigelassen wurde, die Apostelgeschichte somit erst nach zwei freien Spalten und einer freien Seite auf L 85/B 7r (erste Spalte) einsetzt. … Am Ende der Apostelgeschichte (L 88/B 1r [dritte Spalte]) wiederum ist eine ganze Spalte freigelassen, sodass der Jakobusbrief auf L 88/B 1v (erste Spalte) beginnt und die Lücke zwischen Apostelgeschichte und Jakobusbrief somit den Umfang einer ganzen Spalte – wie zwischen Barnabasbrief und Hirt des Hermas – umfasst.

Translation (wmc): Nevertheless, one writing within this block is set off again by space that is left empty: Acts. In the front this is realized by the fact that after the end of Philippians on L 85/b 6r (second column) both the rest of the page and L 85/B 6v was left empty; thus, Acts only begins after two empty columns and an empty page on L 85/B 7r. … At the end of Acts (L 88/B 1r [third column]) a whole column is again left empty, so that James begins on L 88/B 1v (first column) and the gap between Acts and James thus encompasses the scope of a whole column – as between Barnabas and Shepherd of Hermas.

Grünstäudl 2016, 90-91: Ist diese durch Leerräume markierte Stellung der Apostelgeschichte im Sinaiticus als solche bereits bemerkenswert, so sind dadurch überdies die Katholische Briefe von ihr optisch in einer Art und Weise abgehoben, die dem Eindruck einer festgefügten Einheit doch entgegensteht.

Translation (wmc): If this position of Acts in Sinaiticus marked by empty spaces is already noteworthy as such, then, beyond this, the Catholic Epistles are thereby set off from it optically in a way that militates against the impression of a firmly entrenched unity.

Grünstäudl 2016, 91: Kann der Blick auf die Textverteilung im Sinaiticus die These, beide großen Unzialhandschriften des 4. Jahrhunderts behandelten Apostelgeschichte und Katholische Briefe als eine Einheit, gerade nicht stützen, so enthält der wahrscheinlich bereits dem 5. Jahrhundert zuzurechnenden Codex Alexandrinus ein sehr klares Indiz für eine solche Zusammenordnung. Nach dem Judas brief (f. 84v) findet sich als Kolophon nicht nur das zu erwartende ΙΟΥΔΑ ΕΠΙΣΤΟΛΗ, sondern überdies die Ergänzung ΠΡΑΞΕΙΣ ΤΩΝ ΑΓΙΩΝ ΑΠΟΣΤΟΛΩΝ ΚΑΙ ΚΑΘΟΛΙΚΑΙ, was nun tatsächlich ein deutlicher Hinweis darauf ist, dass die Redaktion dieses Codex Apostelgeschichte und Katholische Briefe als eine Einheit verstanden wissen wollte.

Translation (wmc): If the examination of the text-division in Sinaiticus precisely does not support the thesis that the two great uncial manuscripts of the fourth century treated Acts and Catholic Epistles as a unity, then Codex Alexandrinus, which should probably be assigned already to the fifth century, contains a very clear indication of such a grouping together. After the Letter of Jude (f. 84v) there appears as colophon not only the expected ΙΟΥΔΑ ΕΠΙΣΤΟΛΗ but, beyond this, the addition ΠΡΑΞΕΙΣ ΤΩΝ ΑΓΙΩΝ ΑΠΟΣΤΟΛΩΝ ΚΑΙ ΚΑΘΟΛΙΚΑΙ, which is indeed a clear indication that the redaction of this codex wanted Acts and Catholic Epistles to be understood as a unity.

In view of the subject matter of this post, let me conclude by congratulating Darian Locket on the recent publication of his new book Letters from the Pillar Apostles: The Formation of the Catholic Epistles as a Canonical Collection!

For my other Luke-Acts posts, see here.

For my other “canon” posts, see here.

For a complete list of my blog posts, please see here.

For interviews with me on my work, see here.

Facebook Page: To receive notifications of future blog posts, please like my facebook page here.

German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! I hope to be able to write at least one Monday blog post each month. Best, Wayne

Peter Arzt-Grabner on the Interpretation of ΙΟΥΝΙΑΝ in Rom 16.7 (Paulus Handbuch Series)

Paulus Handbuch (ed. Friedrich W. Horn; Mohr Siebeck, 2013; see here and PDF).

My second post in the Paulus Handbuch Series is taken from Peter Arzt-Grabner’s discussion of the text of the Corpus Paulinum. This valuable section includes a discussion of Greek as the Language of the Pauline Letters (1.1), Papyri (1.2), Parchment Manuscripts (1.3), Translations (1.4), Commentaries of the Church Fathers (1.5), and Textual Critical Questions and Examples (1.6).

In his final section Prof. Arzt-Grabner discusses a) the original end of Romans, b) the originality of 1 Cor 14.14-35, and c) the interpretation of the Accusative ΙΟΥΝΙΑΝ in Rom 16.7. Today’s key quotation will be taken from this last interpretive crux.

As usual I will begin with the English translation so that the (selective) grammatical commentary directly follows the German text.

English Translation and German Original

English Translation (wmc): In the meantime it has been recognized to the greatest possible extent that in Rom 16.7 the Greek accusative ΙΟΥΝΙΑΝ must be interpreted with reference to a woman by the name of Junia (and not with reference to the man Junias as postulated since the time of Martin Luther). Greek manuscripts that already have/exhibit the placement of accents contradict the conjecture/hypothesis that the male name Junias, which is not attested in all of antiquity, could be an abbreviation for the well-attested Junianus. The Junia-interpretation is confirmed by Latin, Sahidic, and Syrian manuscripts, which clearly contain a feminine form, thus intending a woman by the name of Junia (Arzt 1993; Epp 2005). The Boharic translation speaks of a woman named Julia, a variant that is found, for example, also in P46.

Paulus Handbuch (p. 11; see PDF): Dass in Röm 16,7 der griechische Akkusativ ΙΟΥΝΙΑΝ auf eine Frau namens Junia (und nicht auf den seit Martin Luther postulierten Mann Junias) zu deuten ist, ist mittlerweile weitestgehend anerkannt. Griechische Handschriften, die bereits Akzentsetzung aufweisen, widersprechen der Vermutung, der in der gesamten Antike nicht bezeugte männliche Name Junias könnte eine Abkürzung für den gut bezeugten Junianus sein. Die Junia-Deutung wird durch lateinische, sahidische und syrische Handschriften bestätigt, die eindeutig eine weibliche Form enthalten, also eine Frau namens Junia meinen (Arzt 1993; Epp 2005). Die bohairische Übersetzung spricht von einer Frau namens Julia, eine Variante, die z.B. auch in P46 begegnet.

Selective grammatical analysis

Since it is awkward to begin with “That…” in English, I have reversed the order of the first German sentence. Because the beginning of the sentence is a subordinate clause (Dass…), the verb moves to the end of the sentence and ist zu deuten becomes zu deuten ist. I usually translate the construction “ist zu + infinitive” as “must be x-ed” or “has to be x-ed”, though the wooden translation “is to be x-ed” is better in some cases. seit is problematic in English: “from” or “from x on” is often best, but it sometimes seems preferable to go with “since” or “since the time of”, despite the problems with this solution. Though it is awkward, I decided to adopt “to the greatest extent possible” for weitestgehend in order convey that a very strong claim is being made. It is unclear to me whether aufweisen would be best translated as “have” or whether a more precise word such as “exhibit” would be better. The force of Vermutung is probably somewhat critical, so that “conjecture” might best capture the intended sense, but it could be more neutral (hypothesis).

Substantive Commentary

What I like about this quotation from Arzt-Grabner is that it highlights well one of the strongest arguments in support of the Junia-interpretation of ΙΟΥΝΙΑΝ in Rom 16:7, namely the testimony of the ancient manuscripts in languages other than Greek that clearly understand Paul to be speaking of a woman rather than a man in this text.

While there are admittedly further debated points concerning the translation and interpretation of this verse, it also seems most likely to me that Paul refers to Junia as an apostle in this text and that Junia was, in turn, an influential person in early Christianity.

Readers of this post may be interested in the Junia Project, which is named after Junia from Rom 16:7.

Facebook Page: To receive notifications of future blog posts, please subscribe to this blog and/or like my facebook page here.