(August 25, 2017) 8:18 AM In his outstanding commentary on Philippians, Gerald Hawthorne calls our attention to the textual variants in the Greek text of Phil. 1:9.
πεπληρωμένοι καρπὸν δικαιοσύνης τὸν διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς δόξαν καὶ ἔπαινον θεοῦ.
Most manuscripts read “to the glory and praise of God.” Some, however, have “to the glory and praise of me,” while one papyrus manuscript (p46) reads “to the glory of God and to the praise of me.” When I first saw these variants years ago, I felt a twinge of sadness in my heart. Self-praise is uniquely unbecoming to the Christian. Yet that’s the same question we face every day in a myriad of ways. It’s so easy for us to “esteem ourselves as better than others” (to paraphrase Paul’s words in Phil. 2:3). But when we drag our pride kicking and screaming into the glorious light of the Gospel, we can see it for what it is. It is possible to bend the universe too sharply toward our own agendas and accomplishments. That’s why in Pauline theology, in New Testament theology, and I dare say in biblical theology in general, there’s little or no place for human pride, human accomplishment, or human achievement, apart from the sheer grace of God. Even when we work “harder than the rest,” we are still what we are “by the grace of God” (1 Cor. 15:10). I suspect we very much underestimate the sin of pride in our evangelical circles. But without humility of mind, says Paul, there can be no unity (Phil. 2:3). I worry sometimes that we consider “success” to be the product of our own diligence more than God’s working in our lives. “Humility” is a slippery concept. It is so tempting to go along with the crowd, to bend, to make believe our accomplishments are really ours. The truth is, “We have this treasure in jars of clay so that the surpassing greatness of the power might be of God, and not of us” (2 Cor. 4:7).
To the scribe of p46: You are so funny, dude. And to my Greek students who think that the art and science of New Testament textual criticism is, well, overkill: Sorry about that. We Greek profs try not to put unreasonable “shoulds” and “should nots” on you guys. But when it comes to textual variants, we have no choice. (You can sort this out with your therapist one day.) Let me pause to acknowledge the fear button I may have just pushed. The last thing I want to do is to terrify my beloved students. But we can’t decide between variants if we don’t know what we’re dealing with. I know this is hard stuff, but it’s not impossible stuff. Just as loving parents tell their kids, “Get out of bed and do your chores,” so loving Greek profs are preparing their docents to accurately handle the word of truth. Better to read a primer on New Testament textual criticism than to be entirely apathetic and blatantly hypocritical.