It’s not uncommon for me, using the New American Standard Bible, to run into interesting discrepancies between translations in a church that primarily uses the New International Version. Today in Sunday School was such a time. Today’s teacher read 2 Corinthians 1:12 in the New King James Version:
For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.
It caught my eye, because the NASB translates the underlined as holiness and godly sincerity.
Naturally, I couldn’t let it go. So I checked the different versions:
ESV: simplicity and godly sincerity (footnote: some manuscripts read holiness)
HCSB: God-given sincerity and purity
KJV: simplicity and godly sincerity
NET: pure motives and sincerity which are from God
NIV: integrity and godly sincerity
NLT: God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings (footnote: some manuscripts read honesty)
Pickering: openness and godly sincerity
Simplicity — holiness — simplicity — purity — simplicity — pure motives — integrity — holiness — openness. This, my friends, is hardly unanimity! So to the Greek we turn!
Nestle-Aland 27 — απλοτητι (Side note: if anyone wishes to purchase the 28th edition for me, Christmas *is* around the corner!)
Hodges & Farstad — απλοτητι
Robinson & Pierpont — απλοτητι
Pickering — απλοτητι
Now (well, for now) we have a unified voice in haploteti. As we look in the Greek lexicon BDAG, we have definitions of simplicity, sincerity, uprightness, and frankness. They add: “In our literature, especially of personal integrity expressed in word or action (compare with our colloquialism ‘what you see is what you get’)… Of simple goodness, which gives itself without reserve, ‘without strings attached,’ ‘without hidden agendas'” (p. 104).
At this point, we have two questions:
First, since simplicity is the correct word, what is meant by it?
Second, how did holiness creep in to NASB and NLT?
Tackling the first question, the simplicity here is not how we live life (vis-a-vis free of distractions, appointments, and material possessions). Taking the context into account, it’s a frankness, a purity in Paul’s message.
The word occurs seven other times, three of which are relevant to our current study:
2 Corinthians 11:3 But I fear that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your minds may be seduced from a complete and pure devotion to Christ.
Ephesians 6:5 Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ.
Colossians 3:22 Slaves, obey your human masters in everything. Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.
We get this idea of purity, openness, and earnestness. We need to be asking the Spirit to search our hearts and point out when and where we are teaching the Word of God for our own gain. We need to teach and preach with an attitude of, as the lexicon says, what you see is what you get, without strings attached.
What about the second question? (Prepare to be bored.)
The Byzantine Text is unified in its reading of απλοτητι. It also has the support of a correction in an early Alexandrian manuscript (א), as well as the three big Western Texts (D, F, and G). But, the greater number of Alexandrian manuscripts (P46, A, B, C, 33, 1881, et al) all read αγιοτητι, or holiness. In fact, Nestle-Aland 26 utilized the latter reading, which is why the NASB and the NLT translated the word holiness, and the ESV desperately wanted to. (There was also a real outlier, the 12th century minuscule 88, which read πραοτητι, or gentleness.)
Of the decision for NA27, Metzger writes: “[A] majority of the Committee favored the Western and Byzantine reading because (a) the context seems to require a word meaning ‘simplicity’ rather than ‘holiness;’ (b) the word [for simplicity] occurs a number of times in 2 Corinthians; and (c) [this specific word for holiness] is never used elsewhere by Paul” (p. 507).
And there you have it.