Matthew 27:49 - doctrinal question of the blood of Jesus - why in Sinaiticus?

Steven Avery

New Testament Textual Critcism

Matthew 27:49 spear thrust in the minority mss, including Vat-Sin


John 19:33-34 (AV)

But when they came to Jesus,
and saw that he was dead already,
they brake not his legs:
But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side,
and forthwith came there out blood and water.

Matthew 27:49 (AV)
The rest said, Let be,
let us see whether Elias will come to save him.

Vaticanus / Alexandrian minority addition:

alloV de labwn logchn enuxen autou thn pleuran, kai exhlqen udwr kai aima

"And another took a spear and pierced his side, and out came water and blood" (translation from James Snapp)

"And another [soldier] took a spear and pierced him in the side, and water and blood flowed out.” - NETBible note

One of the most salient variant discussions, involving Hortian theory, the confusion, uncertainty and double-mindedness of the Critical Text application, inclusion-omission, Vaticanus reliability. And infallibility and inerrancy.

e.g. James Snapp has properly used this variant to challenge the Daniel Wallace approach to inerrancy. (Even from the milquetoast James Snapp "inerrancy" postioning.)

[TC-Alternate-list] Textual Variants and a Caution-Light for Inerrantists
James Snapp - March 1, 2010
Why the KJV New Testament Is Among the Best English Translations (Part Two)
8. Do Variants in the Revised Text Affect Doctrine?
James Snapp -

"Dr. Wallace wrote, “In fact, it has been repeatedly affirmed that no doctrine of Scripture has been affected by these textual differences.” Elsewhere he has adjusted this claim by referring to “cardinal” doctrine and “plausible” variants. I wonder if Dr. Wallace included the doctrine of inerrancy among the doctrines to which he refers. In the same manuscripts that he considers the most reliable (Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus), the text of Matthew 27:49 says that Jesus was speared before He died. This textual variant introduces a contradiction with the timing presented in John 19:33-34, where Jesus is speared after His death. I welcome Dr. Wallace to explain how this variant in the “best” manuscripts – a variant which Hort (the most influential compiler of the Revised Text in the 1800’s) regarded as plausibly original – can be embraced without abandoning the doctrine of inerrancy."

Also we could note the humorous certainty of the NETBible, we can see how Wallace dances around the problem:

"undoubtedly lifted from the Fourth Gospel by early, well-meaning scribes ... even though the support for the shorter reading ... is not nearly as impressive, internal considerations on its behalf are compelling."

If UBS-NA had included the verse, Wallace could simply claim "internal considerations" the other way, since he is drawn like a moth to the lectio difficilior fire.

Thus, in modern thinking and tinkering, some of the normal Westcott-Hort factors are simply run over and land upside-down.


APOLOGETIC - infallability and inerrancy

We can note that the apologetic contradiction is pretty blatant, on the level of the daughter of Herod. Which actually was maintained by W-H and by the NETBible. The difference seems to be one of apologetic visibility, which has given the Herod's daughter blunder something of a free pass. Notice that the blatant contradiction in the Herod's daughter text it is not one of the minority readings mentioned by Wallace when he tries to defend CT inerrancy by strained analogies.

And, with the highly visible spear thrust, this has been a major influence on those who would otherwise embrace the Vat-Sin text. To try to find a reason to just say no ... to this one corruption.


To be fair to Hort, he was so enamored with short texts, often as western non-interpolations, that he was not totally inconsistent, for his time and place. Hort actually calls this one of his western non-interps, as we see here:

Hort's Theory of 'Western Non-Interpolations' and its Influence on English Versions of the New Testament
Michael Marlowe

Making this the one western non-interp still standing in the current wave of modern versions from the textus corruptus. Yet another unusual distinction for the Vat-Sin text.
Thus, the problem arises more with those who claim to be following Critical Text theory today, than for Hort.

Marlowe also gives us the Metzger dance, which can be compared to the Wallace shuffle.

Matt. 27:49.
Although attested by א B C L al the words ἄλλος δὲ λαβὼν λόγχην ἔνυξεν αὐτοῦ τὴν πλευράν, καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ὕδωρ καὶ αἷμα must be regarded as an early intrusion derived from a similar account in Jn 19.34. It might be thought that the words were omitted because they represent the piercing as preceding Jesus' death, whereas John makes it follow; but that difference would have only been a reason for moving the passage to a later position (perhaps at the close of ver. 50 or 54 or 56), or else there would have been some tampering with the passage in John, which is not the case. It is probable that the Johannine passage was written by some reader in the margin of Matthew from memory (there are several minor differences, such as the sequence of "water and blood"), and a later copyist awkwardly introduced it into the text.


Now this has come up for some interesting discussion on the sister forum, started by an Italian NT Professor:

Guilio Mbatkol

Mbatkol gives some of the reasons for accepting the ultra-minority Vaticanus variant (from the various hortian influenced CT and pseudo-eclectic positions). Specifically mentioned are Stephen Pennells, Philip W. Comfort, William David Davies and Dale C. Allison (Mathew, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary).

And in 2010 I went over some of the issues and history here:

[TC-Alternate-list] Matthew 27:49 - when a text is too absurd, deep-six the theory .. bracket the phrase out !
Steven Avery - March 2, 2010…/TC-Alt…/conversations/topics/3078

What was missing then, and is unmentioned on the establishment TC forum, was the incredible ECW and textual discussion coming from Severus, which is given in fine detail here (be sure to go to the full text, which could use it own full line-by-line analysis.)

Devreesse on quotations from Eusebius in catenas in John
Roger Pearse blog

Severus text

Note that this was referenced briefly in Scrivener:

Plain Introduction (1881)

And this is building on the fine discussion from Burgon. Notice that this answers the question of cause of inclusion.

The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to S. Mark (1871)
John William Burgon

Burgon's makes some strong arguments that this was due to the influence of Tatian's Diatessaron, arguments that could use careful review. Burgon, as his his style, is also, less convincingly, involving the Eastern lectionary practice. (Note also that Burgon says that he could not find the Cyril of Alexandria inclusion reference extant.) As often happens, the modern writers overlook Burgon to their own scholarly detriment. His related discussion in Revision Revised is given in my TC-Alternate post above.

However all this is not in the excellent Amy Donaldson papers (I am sending her a note) on references to textual issues among the ECW. Even though it is one of the strongest examples of a direct textual claim. Talking about seeing a specific early ms. for checking! And referencing the positions of Origen, Didymus, Eusebius and Chrysostom. (Scrivener and Burgon discuss Cyril of Alexandria, and the Diatessaron is an important consideration, a few others are in our LaParola secton.)



Note that the LaParola apparatus gives for the ECW non-inclusion:

Diatessaron Origen-lat Origen Eusebius Apostolic Canons Hilary Jerome Augustine Hesychius

Matthew 27:49

A bit of this is in the ACCS (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture.)


has the pages better than Google


In fact, it would be a fine paper to coalesce the scholarship, recent and historical, and then try to lay it all out for study. Bibliography, history, analysis, theories, significance.

This may even be in a Top 10 of all New Testament variants (even higher on the apologetics sub-class) due to its highly unusual nature, and the contra-intuitive aspects of the textual support and argumentation that we see from some CT supporters. Also the western non-interp and Alexandrian inclusion aspects contra the Byzantine majority are unusual. And we have the highly charged and doctrinally vital infallibility/inerrancy aspects, interplaying with the textual theories.

Steven Avery
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Steven Avery


How and Why Did Simonides Copy the Alexandrian Reading into Sinaiticus at Matthew 27:49?

‭א B C L (U Γ 48 67 115 127 160 364 782 1392 1448 1555 1780 2117 2139 2283 2328 2437 2586 2680 2787 αἷμα καὶ ὕδωρ) 5 26 175 871 1010 1011 1057 1300 1416 1566 1701 2126 2585 2622 2766* vgmss syrpal(mss) copmae ethro ethms slav Chrysostom according to Severus [[WH]] [[NM]]

Steven Avery

“Water and Blood and Matthew 27:49: A Johannine Reading in the Matthean Passion Narrative?” Pages 134–150 in Studies on the Text of the New Testament and Early Christianity (ed. D. Gurtner, J. Hernández Jr. and P. Foster. NTTSD 50. Leiden: Brill, 2015).

July 1, 2023

Daniel M. Gurtner

Hi Professor Gurtner,


I have a question on Matthew 27:49.

Did you run into the interpretation that the Matthew section is not chronological and the spear was thrust when Jesus was still alive?

This would be harmonious with the Johannine verse, whether the Johannine passage is scripture or not.

Also I wondered about not having more on the early church writers, especially Severus. I did like the way you explained the Diatessaron alternatives! Ephraem or Tatian.

And I also would like to ask a bit about Sinaiticus, especially its sources if it was produced in the 1800s.

Any help appreciated!


Steven Avery
Dutchess County, NY

Steven Avery

Steven Avery
Continuation on the thread on Post #1{tn:R}

James and I were recently, within the last week, discussing whether Matthew 27:49 was such a great case for simply saying "contradiction" in Vaticanus (compared e.g. to the daughter of Herod or the synagogues of Judea).
To show the extra emphasis, the special significance, James has used the phrase:
"nullify the concept of inerrancy"
for this variant in Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, where Hort was equivocal.
And I pointed out that logically, physically and spiritually, Jesus really would be alive at the time of the spear thrust in John, that the soldiers only thought he had expired.
(At the moment I can not find the recent spot, perhaps a different forum? It was a short yet interesting back and forth. Any help finding it appreciated.)
Anyway, I want to point out that we had some earlier discussion (this thread being bumped up now). And to both threads, add that Granville Penn, in the article linked to above, went into this apologetic question in some depth. I'll include one phrase where, apparently, Penn is quoting the analysis of Erasmus.
"... there were some scholastic doctors who thought, that John had related, after the fact, that which had taken place before it...."
Annotations to the Book of the New Covenant (1836)
Granville Penn
The idea here is that verses 31-37 are a distinct section (as shown in the AV) and that the purpose of that section was to demonstrate the fulfillment of the messianic prophecy (v. 36 and v. 37). This required a bit of non-chronology, which is not unusual in Gospel accounts.
In this regard, the soldiers in John 19:33 thought that Jesus was dead, thus they spared his legs from being broken (in fulfillment of prophecy) yet in fact the spear thrust result showed that what they thought was not the reality.

Herman Heinfetter (1804-1888, pseudonym Frederick Parker) is yet a little different still.

Corrections of the copies of the New Testament portion of the Vatican manuscript,
Herman Heinfetter (1866)


Granville Penn was defending authenticity of the text, however the apologetic stands independently, since this matter has multiple potential applications.
a) textual (as per Penn)
b) apologetic (Snapp -> "nullify the concept of inerrancy")
b) physical (medical argument)
c) spiritual (blood on the mercy seat for atonement)
Ironically, Penn did not mention the spiritual imperative of the blood of Jesus landing on the mercy seat. He also did not directly mention the physical aspect (blood and water coming forth from the thrust is a real indication that Jesus was still alive at that moment, this is discussed in other places.)
Note that Burgon (after Matthaei and Scholz) brought the lectionary issue to play on this verse.
Last Twelve Verses
Appendix H
(Burgon changed his view on lectionary causation in Appendix H, switching to an emphasis on the Diatessaron.)

This goes with our discussion of Burgon seeing lectionaries everywhere
. Even theorizing or speculating the possibility of what would be 2nd century corruptions being due to lection sections. However, there is a major distinction between influencing the transmission and weight of evidences (e.g. 300 AD on) and conjecturing a lection section cause c. 150 AD. The church had far more structure as you go to Nicea and after. Before that time, the big need would be to make Gospel accounts available, along with the rest of the NT. And even the existence of a conjectured lection section is still many flying leaps away from that conjectured section actually causing a specific variant, especially when there are simpler apologetic or scribal or moral quandary issues at hand.


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