Some of the material connected with New Testament books in modern editions of the Bible was not part of the autographs, or original compositions, by the authors. Instead, these materials are translations of scribal additions and commentary and include titles, postscripts or subscriptions, and glosses.
When the writings of the New Testament began to be gathered and copied in groups-such as a codex of the four Gospels or a collection of Paul’s letters-or when a variety of gospels became available to a single congregation, it became necessary to identify books by titles. These titles were written as superscriptions above the beginning of the text being copied. For the four Gospels, all of which are internally anonymous and never explicitly name their authors in their texts, these titles represented early Christian traditions of who wrote the Gospel. Because they came to be seen as different versions or understandings of the same Gospel, each was entitled simply “according to,” with each individual evangelist writing a Gospel (euangellion) of Jesus Christ and with a later edition adding a designation to distinguish the author. The Joseph Smith Translation has re-titled two of the Gospels, Matthew and John, as “the testimony of.” The titles added to the epistles were originally quite simple, such as “To the Romans” (pros Rōmaious). The addressees, and later the authors, for these titles could usually be derived directly from references in the texts of the letters themselves; however, in some cases, such as Hebrews, the title “To the Hebrews” and the attribution to Paul had to be deduced from the overall content and from tradition.
Although the terms “postscripts” and “subscripts” in common parlance are sometimes used synonymously, a postscript was technically a formal summary of the contents or an addition made by the author himself, used to verify the letter, the body of which had been written by a scribe. An example of this is 2 Thessalonians 3:17, where Paul wrote, “The salutation of Paul with my own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.” A subscription, on the other hand, was added by a copyist after the text had been copied. Early subscriptions sometimes simply indicated the end of the book but increasingly took to recording traditional information about where the book was thought to have been written and who either the scribe or the letter carrier had been. Because the earliest of these appear in the fourth century and were often only the scribes’ opinions, they sometimes appear to be wrong. For instance, the subscription to 1 Thessalonians says, “The first epistle unto the Thessalonians was written from Athens.” 1 Thessalonians 3:1-6, taken together with Acts 18:1-5, makes it clear that Paul wrote the letter from Corinth, after he had left Athens and when Timothy had come to Corinth with news about the church in Thessalonica.
Glosses are brief explanations of words and phrases that copyists wrote in the margins or between the lines of manuscripts. Longer interpretive explanations are called scholia. Examples of glosses include synonyms for difficult words that a copyist did not expect his readers to understand as well as phrases clarifying a particular word. Although the scholia were usually kept separate from the actual text, subsequent copyists sometimes included glosses within the text itself. As a result, some manuscripts of Mark 3:14 follow “And he ordained twelve” with the explanatory phrase “whom also he named apostles,” which is probably a gloss borrowed from Luke 6:13 to clarify exactly who these twelve men were. A longer gloss that made it into many English Bibles is John 5:4 about the angel who troubled the waters of the Pool of Bethesda, which does not appear in many manuscripts and which may be a scribal explanation.
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