Textual Critical Issue: John 1:28 Bethany or Bethabara?

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PhillipLebsack
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Joined: January 17th, 2018, 10:31 am

Textual Critical Issue: John 1:28 Bethany or Bethabara?

Post by PhillipLebsack » January 29th, 2018, 6:29 am

In John 1:28 there is a textual variant. The NA28 has Bethany as the main reading. (In my opinion, I would also have said it was the original reading given the manuscript evidence.)

A few questions for anyone who is into textual criticism:

1. Could Bethabara actually be the original reading in John 1:28, despite it having the lower hand in-terms of internal evidence?

2. If it is the original reading, how would you explain Bethany arising as a variant (or vis versa)?

3. Are Bethany and Bethabara merely two names for the exact same location?

Stephen Carlson
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Re: Textual Critical Issue: John 1:28 Bethany or Bethabara?

Post by Stephen Carlson » January 29th, 2018, 9:12 am

Bethabara is a variant almost certainly created by Origen who conjectured that existing copies of John got the name wrong. From his commentary on John, book 6.204:
We are aware of the reading which is found in almost all the copies, These things were done in Bethany. This appears, moreover, to have been the reading at an earlier time; and in Heracleon we read Bethany. We are convinced, however, that we should not read Bethany, but Bethabara.
So, to answer the questions:
PhillipLebsack wrote:
January 29th, 2018, 6:29 am
1. Could Bethabara actually be the original reading in John 1:28, despite it having the lower hand in-terms of internal evidence?
Highly unlikely, the external evidence for Bethabara is also inferior.
PhillipLebsack wrote:
January 29th, 2018, 6:29 am
2. If it is the original reading, how would you explain Bethany arising as a variant (or vis versa)?
The variant Bethabara arose because there was a village of that name in about where Origen thought John the Baptist was active.
PhillipLebsack wrote:
January 29th, 2018, 6:29 am
3. Are Bethany and Bethabara merely two names for the exact same location?
It does not appear so. There is a Bethany near Jerusalem, but the existence of an otherwise unattested Bethany across the Jordan cannot be ruled out.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

PhillipLebsack
Posts: 54
Joined: January 17th, 2018, 10:31 am

Re: Textual Critical Issue: John 1:28 Bethany or Bethabara?

Post by PhillipLebsack » January 29th, 2018, 9:54 am

Hey Stephen, thanks for your response.

This is rather problematic for me. You see, the text (cf. Matthew, Mark) says that John was baptizing in the wilderness of Judea, and in the Gospel of John it says it was in the Jordan - he's more specific it seems. The only place where these two seem to overlap is near the location where the Jordan meets the Dead Sea. Perhaps just north of Qumran.

That location has been labeled as both names on different maps...

Any thoughts on that?

Stephen Carlson
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Joined: May 11th, 2011, 10:51 am
Location: Melbourne
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Re: Textual Critical Issue: John 1:28 Bethany or Bethabara?

Post by Stephen Carlson » January 29th, 2018, 5:47 pm

I don’t have much to add unfortunately. The geographical issues are beyond my expertise and this forum’s ambit. Sorry.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

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