Luke 9:56 variants- Confused


My priest asked me to read and reflect on today’s Gospel as my penance yesterday in confession. I chose to read all of Luke Ch. 9 and ran across something that has perplexed me.

In an effort to be thorough, I pulled out several Study Bibles, because I find reading the various notes help me a great deal to understand the passages I’m reading. By reading the notes from multiple study Bibles, I often find that one will really speak to me.

I was dismayed to find that two of my Study Bibles contained a longer version of Luke 9:56 than the others.

The short version reads (9:55)“Jesus turned and rebuked them. (9:56)and they journeyed to another village.” (NAB-RE)- which reads quite similarly in the NIV and the RSV-2CE. None of these study Bibles made any note of a longer version being present in other texts (which normally they do make note of, if omitted, giving the reason why whether it be textual variant, later scribal addition or other and usually will list the variant text in the footnotes.)

The long version reads (9:55)“And turning, he rebuked them, saying: You know not of what spirit you are. (9:56) The Son of man came not to destroy souls, but to save. And they went to another town.” (Douay-Rheims) - which reads similarly in the Orthodox Study Bible and also the KJV.

Having done some online research, the general argument appears to be that the longer text is a later addition and isn’t included in the more modern translations because it shouldn’t be there. But what bothers me most is that it’s present in the Douay Rheims, which so many people here seem to hold in extremely high esteem. There seems to be either some borrowing from the KJV for the Douay Rheims, or vice-versa (The Douay Rheims was published 2 years before the KJV) or that they both used the same source which would appear to be the Latin Vulgate translated by St. Jerome which has been declared by the Church to be free of doctrinal and moral error…but perhaps not of textual error? Wiki says that the Orthodox Study Bible borrowed the NT from the KJV (which I must admit astounds me just on the basis that it seems lazy and why would the Orthodox faith depend on a translation by the protestants?)

Does anyone have any insight or thoughts about this? I’m perfectly aware that textual variants occur throughout the Bible but am accustomed to the Study Bibles making note of that in the notes with an explanation. In this instance, they all seem to completely ignore it.

And while I’m aware that doctrinally this probably makes no difference, it bothers me when I feel I can’t fully trust the text of a respected Catholic translation. I would have thought that at least among Catholic translations there would be continuity, and it makes me wonder what else is different among them that goes uncommented on.


Ver. 56. But to save souls. It might be translated, to save men’s lives;[4] but is seems better here to stick to the letter, especially since in most Greek copies we read, the souls of men. (Witham)


On the parts in question, A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, 1953, ed. by Dom Bernard Orchard, M.A. et al, page 953, says, “There is very strong [manuscript] authority against the inclusion of 55b-56a.”


For instance, the words are missing from the Codex Sinaiticus ([source](“ Query&book=35&chapter=9&lid=en&side=r&verse=55&zoomSlider=0”)) and the Codex Vaticanus. (source)


The Latin Vulgate has the “long version”. It reads

55 Et conversus increpavit illos, dicens: Nescitis cujus spiritus estis.
56 Filius hominis non venit animas perdere, sed salvare. Et abierunt in aliud castellum.

The Knox Bible also has the “long version”, reading:

55 But he turned and rebuked them, You do not understand, he said, what spirit it is you share.
56 The Son of Man has come to save men’s lives, not to destroy them. And so they passed on to another village.

The Latin Vulgate is the authoritative version of the Bible, and the Douay-Rheims is a strict translation of the Latin Vulgate and is the Catholic Church’s officially approved English Bible. I would say you should stick with the Douay-Rheims & Latin Vulgate.


The Nova Vulgata edition, promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1979, the Latin Bible on the Vatican website, does not have the parts in question:
55 Et conversus increpavit illos.
56 Et ierunt in aliud castellum. (source)


I’d rather go with the original Vulgate since it was approved by the Council of Trent and written by a saint. Why did they make a new Vulgate?


Actually, it is not the Vulgate but rather the Nova Vulgata that is to be used today IF one is having recourse at all to a Latin translation of the Sacred Scripture, the former being superseded.

The Nova Vulgata was needed because the Vulgate, being a translation, was determined by subsequent biblical scholarship to show translation issues that needed to be corrected.

This conforms with the directives in Divino Afflante Spiritu and in the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum.

Biblical scholarship has advanced considerably since the 16th century and the time of the Council of Trent. One thinks of the incredible work done by the new Pontifical Biblical Commission and, of course, the outstanding scholarship of the Pontifical Biblical Institute and the Ecole Biblique. The directives of Vatican II and of Pope Pius XII are cognizant of the advances in biblical scholarship.


I’m going to stick with the old Vulgate.


One may read whatever one wishes as an individual…but one must say, in deference to the truth, that in fact the Church has found it essential to correct the Vulgate and that, rather than the Vulgate, it is the Nova Vulgata that the Church puts forward and is the basis for the Latin Scriptural texts in the liturgy.


To be honest, I don’t trust the new Vulgate. I trusted the Church’s translation of the Novus Ordo into English, but it made blatant errors in translation and that erroneous translation was used for decades.


As other posters have said and as you discovered in your research, the pericope is not considered part of the sacred text – and long has not been – as it was an addition, and is therefore set aside.

Before I went emeritus as a professor, my English language students were forbidden from using the Douay-Rheims version. It is a translation of a translation. If they were not comfortable reading in the original language, the translation HAD to be a direct translation and not through some other language. It had to have been done in the era of modern biblical scholarship and derived from critical editions.

There have been many advances in scholarship that have long overtaken the Douay-Rheims. And, after all, it was Pope Pius XII who directed the bishops throughout the world to favour “the Sacred Scriptures translated, with the approval of the Ecclesiastical authority, into modern languages”.

It would wrong to in any way imply that the Church considers the Douay-Rheims a superior translation into English of the Sacred Scripture. The renderings for the liturgy in English, for example, are most assuredly not from the Douay-Rheims and for reason.

As is read in Dei Verbum in paragraph 22:
But since the word of God should be accessible at all times, the Church by her authority and with maternal concern sees to it that suitable and correct translations are made into different languages, especially from the original texts of the sacred books.


How is it possible not to trust something that one did not know existed a half-hour ago?


I don’t see how it would not be possible, Father. I don’t trust it because in that same decade, the Church messed up the translations of the Holy Mass. If it can mess up something so important as the Mass and leave it uncorrected for decades, why should I trust it’s alterations to the Latin translation of the Bible? It seems that these changes to the Vulgate did not affect the Traditional Latin Mass, why is that so?


But actually there is an analysis concerning the issue of the vetus ordo and the scriptural readings being used therein.

I would hardly say that the Church “messed up” the translations. I have followed the case of the English translation. The vernaculars that I use, on the other hand, are what I have used from the beginning.


Don Ruggero- thank you, that post did help me a lot.


The whole business about adding text to the sacred scriptures, hoping that no one will notice is strange.

For instance, instead of explaining that the Gospel of John mentions three witnesses (the Father, the Son and the Holy spirit) They just ad “For there are three that bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit: and these three are one” (1 John 5:7 KJV 2000)


I understand themology. Do understand that english rights concerning Vatican can approve the right understanding of moral law.


I would say the Church messed it up. It had to fix many mistakes, like translating “et cum spiritu tuo” to “and also with you”. Missals had already correctly translated this to say “and with thy spirit” yet the Church still got it wrong. If the traditional Latin Rite starts to use the new vulgate, then I’ll use it as well. Until then, I will not trust this new vulgate.


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