Matthew 16:2b-3

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Gospel of Matthew 16:2b–3 (the signs of the times), the passage describes a confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees and Sadducees over their demand for a sign from heaven. It is one of several passages of the New Testament that are lacking in the earlier and better manuscripts. The authenticity of the passage has been disputed by scholars since the second half of the 19th century.



Ὀψίας γενομένης λέγετε, Εὐδια, πυρράζει γὰρ ὁ οὐρανός καὶ πρωὶ, Σήμερον χειμών, πυρράζει γὰρ στυγνάζων ὁ οὐρανός. τὸ μὲν πρόσωπον τοῦ οὐρανοῦ γινώσκετε διακρίνειν, τὰ δὲ σημεῖα τῶν καιρῶν οὐ δύνασθε.
Translation (RSV)
When it is evening, you say, “It will be fair weather; for the sky is red.” And in the morning, “It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.” You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.

Similar texts

Luke 12:54-56

When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, «A shower is coming»; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, «There will be scorching heat»; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky; but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? (RSV)

The passage in Luke has the following differences:

  1. the questioners are "some of the scribes and Pharisees" instead of "the Pharisees and Sadducees";
  2. the questioners do not demand a "sign from heaven"; and
  3. the "sign of Jonah" of Matt. 16:4 is not mentioned.

Gospel of Thomas, Logion 91:2

"You test the face of heaven and earth, but you have not known what is ahead of you, you do not know how to test this time".

Manuscript evidence

Include passage

C, D, K, L, (N) W, Δ, Θ, Π, f1, 22, 33, 565, 700, 892, 1009, 1010, 1071, 1079, 1195, 1230, 1241, 1242, 1253, 1344, 1365, 1546, 1646, 2148, 2174, 150mg, ( 185, 211, 333, 950 δύνασθε γνῶναι), Byz, it, vg, syrp, syrh, copbomss, eth, geo. Jerome included this passage in his Vulgate Bible, but he was aware that most of the manuscripts known to him did not contain it.

Exclude passage

Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Vaticanus, Codex Monacensis, Codex Macedoniensis, Codex Tischendorfianus IV, Uncial 047, f13, 39, 44, 151, 157, 272, 274, 344, 376, 776, 777, 788, 792, 826, 828, 1216, 2542, syrcur, syrs, copsa, copbomss, arm, Origen.

Question passage

Marked with asterisks (*) or obeli (÷). Codex Basilensis, Codex Athous Dionysiou, 348, 829, 873, 184.[]C. R. Gregory, Textkritik des Neuen Testaments, (Leipzig, 1900), vol. 1, p. 95. </ref>

Relocate passage

Minuscule 579 does not omit the passage but inserts it after verse 9.

Present scholars

Most scholars regard the passage as a later insertion from a source similar to Luke 12:54–56, or from the Lukan passage itself, with an adjustment concerning the particular signs of the weather. Scrivener (and Lagrange) argued that the words were omitted by copyists in climates (for example Egypt) where a red sky in the morning does not annouce rain. Manuscript evidence is strong and textual critics take the omission very seriously. Internal evidence also can be used against authenticity. In passage 16:2b–3 Jesus spoke to his opponents in the second person, but in verse 4 he speaks in the third person. Verse 4 can be treated as a direct answer to the request of verse 1.<ref name = France>R. T. France, "The Gospel of Matthew", (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007), pp. 604-605. </ref> Gundry argues for the originality of passage, because of some differences with parallel passage in Luke 12:54–56. It was not rewritten from Luke ad litteram. According to Weiss these verses cannot be adapted from Luke. Matthew used other, older source. Davies and Allison hesitate. According to Hirunuma, the "textual status of vv. 2b–3 must remain suspect".<ref>T. Hirunuma, in E. J. Epp and G. D. Fee, New Testament Textual Criticism, pp. 35–45. </ref>

According to Weiss and Tregelles the omission was a result of conformation to the preceding Matt. 12:38–39 (and also Mark 8:11-12).

Matthew 12:38–39 Matthew 16:1–4
Ten some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, "Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you." But he answered them,

"An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.

And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them,

"When it is evening, you say, «It will be fair weather; for the sky is red.» And in the morning,

'It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky,

but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.

An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah."

Theodor Zahn: Word γινωσκετε used in unusual for New Testament way, where οιδα is used instead.<ref>Theodor Zahn, Das Evangelium des Matthäus, Leipzig: 1905, p. 528 ff.</ref>

Fleddermann notes that "the form πυρραζει appears only in Byzantine writers, a further sign that the passage is a late interpolation".<ref>Fledderman, "Q - A reconstruction", 2005, p. 652. </ref>

Kurt Aland: "The saying in Matt. 16:2b-3 represents a very early tradition, as does the Pericope Adulterae in John 7:53-8:11. (...) Matt. 16:2b-3 may possibly have been suggested by Luke 12:54-56, but it is not a parallel in the strict sense. In any event both texts must have been admitted in parts of the Greek Gospel tradition at some time in the second century - a period when there was greater freedom with the text. Only then were such extensive insertions possible, ale considering the amount of opposition apparently encountered by the Pericope Adulterae, it must have been quite strongly rooted in the evangelical tradition."<ref name=Aland>Kurt Aland, and Barbara Aland, "The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism", transl. Erroll F. Rhodes, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1995, p. 307. </ref>

According to R. T. France, the passage is probably an early gloss, verse 4. follow directly after 16:2a, and "sign of heaven" was not explained in original text of Matthew, just like "sign of Jonah" from 16:4 which left unexplained.<ref name = France/>

See also

Another disputed passages


Further reading

  • R. T. France, "The Gospel of Matthew", William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan 2007, pp. 604-605.
  • Bruce M. Metzger, "A Textual Commentary on the New Testament", Deutsche Bibelgesselschaft, United Bible Societies, Stuttgart 1994, p. 33.
  • Plisch, Uwe-Karsten (2007). Das Thomasevangelium. Originaltext mit Kommentar. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft. ISBN 3438051281.

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