Recents in Beach

Do we need Myrrh confusion in the Bible?

three wise men fruitcake cartoon

The Christian world was shaken today by news of a dramatic mistranslation in the New Testament.

Professor Barti Ehrman, leading American New Testament scholar focusing on textual criticism of the New Testament and the origins and development of early Christianity, told the Badger, "Transliteration issues like this occur all the time in the Bible, where manuscripts have been copied many hundreds of times.  Little errors creep in, sometimes even deliberately as well-meant "corrections" to avoid theological ambiguity.  It's just never happened in such a key passage."

The offending word is Myrrh, the gift of the third wise man.

"On coming to the house, they [the wise men] saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh." - Gospel of Matthew 2:11

"The word myrrh," said Professor Ehrman, "derived from the Greek σμύρνα, meaning a resin extracted tree species of the genus Commiphora, has tremendous symbolic meaning as a perfume used in embalming the dead, a prophetic gift, if you like, of Jesus's later death.  It's quite poetic really."

So what's the issue, we asked?

"The issue," he continued, "is that we have found an older manuscript fragment, Rylands Library Papyrus P59, that has a subtly different word for the wise man's gift: σμαρνα.  It would seem that the word was changed to σμύρνα (myrrh) by later scribes to be more theologically consistent.

So what was the meaning of the original word?

"Fruit cake."