Because I go to the father
In this lesson we will turn our attention to the Gospel of John. This gospel has suffered some of the most vexatious changes. Not of few of these have been at the hand of heretics—some even at the hand of orthodox correctors—and still others have been innocent slips of the pen by well meaning scribes. The verse we will look at today is John 16:16.
The sixteenth chapter of John is part of a lengthy discourse by our Lord. In 16:16 we find the familiar words, “A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.” We are met with a different translation in most of the modern versions. For example, the NIV reads, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” Thus omitting the final phrase of our Lord’s, viz. ‘because I go to the Father’. The NASV also reads, “A little while, and you will no longer see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me.”
I would like to remind my readers that it is a serious matter to tamper with the sacred words of the Holy Bible. It is even more grievous a matter to alter the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. One might wonder on what grounds the modern versions have for removing these words of our Saviour’s. Of the Greek mss. we find p66, N(aleph), B, D, L and one cursive copy (0250) omit the words. The phrase is also omitted in a few of the Old Latin copies; however, just as many copies contain the words.
The evidence in favor of the phrase is overwhelming. All other Greek uncials, including A(4th century), I(4th century), G, D, L, P, U, Q et al., retain the words. Tischendorf lists some 11 uncials then states “unc11 al pler”. The reading is also found in the remaining cursive copies with 33, the ‘Queen of the cursives’, leading the way. Others include—Family 1, Family 13, 068. Again, Tischendorf simply states, “al pler”. We also find nearly all the ancient versions embrace the familiar phrase, e.g. Latin, entire Syriac (Peshitta 150AD), Gothic, Coptic, Bohairic, Ethiopic and Armenian.
The phrase also enjoys the support of many early church writers. Burgon, an expert in this matter, cites Nonnus (400AD), Euthymius and Theophylact as all bearing witness to the words under consideration. Chrysostom and Cyril offer rather lengthy commentaries on these specific words—both testifying to their genuineness. (see ‘Causes of Corruption’, p.105) I now pass on to the internal evidence.
Those in favor of omitting these words have invented a rather ingenious explanation as to why these words have been ‘added’. I will first quote from Bruce Metzger, one of the editors of the Nestle-Aland Greek text. Mr. Metzger writes in his Textual Commentary, “Wishing to prepare for the disciples’ question in ver. 17 about Jesus’ going to the Father (and overlooking Jesus’ statement in ver. 10), after oyesqe me copyists added, with minor variations, oti upagw proV ton patera”. We appeal to this learned gentleman to produce the evidence he has that would indicate any such thing ever took place!
I now quote from Wieland Willker and his “An Online Textual Commentary
on the Greek Gospels”. Mr. Willker writes, “The words are required to explain the second part of the disciples question in verse 17. But the words already appeared in verse 10! So it is probable that the question in verse 17 refers back to verse 10. Thus, according to Weiss the words have been added (from verse 17) as being indispensable here.” Mr. Willker doesn’t break open any new ground here but I wanted my readers to see his comments. Both Metzger and Willker seek to link verse 16 back to verse 10 where we read, “Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;”. This is certainly an interesting appeal of the behalf of these two learned men but one that doesn’t have any substance to it whatsoever. There is simply no real evidence to support their claims and as you can see neither Metzger nor Willker offers any. What I wish to do now is examine their claim and see if it holds up.
It was not at all uncommon for our Lord to repeat Himself in a discourse in order to emphasize a point and/or draw special attention to what he was trying to teach the disciples. Metzger and Willker seem to think it strange that Jesus would repeat the phrase “because I go to the(my) Father” in the span of a few short verses. It would be too trifle with my readers to list the many instances in the gospels demonstrating what we are here talking about. It is my contention that the exact opposite of what Metzger and Willker espouse is actually the case, viz. the words were not ‘added’ to accommodate v.17 but rather omitted in an attempt to harmonize with v.19. In v.19 we read, “Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye inquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me?” It was this that the disciples discussed among themselves and it was this matter of “a little while” that they could not comprehend. Proof of this can be found in v.18 where we read, “They said therefore, What is this that he saith, A little while? we cannot tell what he saith.”
There is little doubt that a conscientious copier, seeking
to eliminate what he thought to be a discrepancy in our Lord’s record, removed
the words “because I go to the Father” from v.16 because it appeared to
conflict with Jesus’ words in v.19. Though seeking to do what he perceived to
be right, the scribe created an unfortunate blunder where none should exist. It
would’ve been at once dismissed had it not been found in the two most venerated
codices extant, viz. Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. Because these mss. omit the words this sorry blunder has been forced upon the
Metzger and Willker (who probably copied from Metzger) make the vain attempt to explain the omission by trying to associate v.16 with v.10. It would truly be a stretch of the imagination to think that the disciples 1) repeated Jesus’ words verbatim from v.16 in v.17 and, what would seem, arbitrarily picked out the words “because I go to (my)the Father” from v.10. 2) would randomly pick out the words “because I go to the Father” when the context clearly shows that their questions revolved around what Jesus meant by “a little while”. Another very interesting proof that the disciples didn’t take their words (i.e. because I go to the Father) from v.10 is the construction of the sentence. In v.10 we read “because I go to MY (Gk.mou) Father” and then in v.17 we find “because I go to THE (Gk. ton) Father”. Again demonstrating that they did not draw their words from v.10.
It has certainly been shown that the overwhelming amount of authority rests on the side of our Authorized Version and the conjecture of Metzger and Willker does not hold up when examined along side the facts. I will conclude with the words of one very competent judge: “I can scarcely realize the feelings of any reader who, setting side by side the Revised Version with our own Authorized Version, can doubt which retains the very words of the Saviour.” (Canon Cook, “First Three Gospels”, p.79) Selah!