Empty heavens in P72 at 2 Peter 3:13?

Recently, through the kind provision of Stan Rosenberg and under the guidance of Alison Salvesen, a group of NT graduate students spent a few afternoons in a workshop examining high-quality facsimile reproductions of P72, one of the Bodmer codices that contains, among other things, 1-2 Peter and Jude. I’ll be quick to say that I’m not a textual critic or a manuscript expert by any stretch of the imagination, which is one reason why the sessions were so much fun. The orthography of the scribe is highly various, which may suggest that the manuscript or its text went through an aural process of transmission at some point. Along these lines, there is a fun orthographic variant at 2 Peter 3:13. The NA28 here reads καινοὺς δὲ οὐρανοὺς καὶ γῆν καινὴν κατὰ τὸ ἐπάγγελμα αὐτοῦ προσδοκῶμεν ἐν οἷς δικαιοσύνη κατοικεῖ (we await a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, according to what he promised). But here, P72 reads κενους δε ουρανους και γην καινην: an empty heavens and a new earth. Given the amount of orthographic variation elsewhere in the Petrine epistles, the most probable explanation is that the scribe has simply written ε for αι. But given that he gets it ‘right’ in mentioning the γην καινην, it at least causes one to pause and wonder what the scribe might have understood here, or perhaps better how a reader might have subsequently taken it. Could it be that someone who heard this read out might have thought of righteousness vacating heaven to come down to earth and dwell there, and so an ’empty heaven’ might express a utopian hope for a better future? Against this, of course, one would want to note the ἐν οἷς would suggest that righteousness dwells in both heaven and earth, presumably. It’s wild speculation about what is in all probability a mere orthographic variation (of the sort that could easily be paralleled in the scribe’s activity elsewhere), but also a bit of fun to ponder.


  1. #1 by Vincent S Artale Jr on June 11, 2015 - 10:16 am

    Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.

  1. June 2015 Biblical Studies Carnival | William A. Ross

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