God? the Lord? Jesus? Who Does Jesus’ Half-Brother Say Led the Israelites Out of Egypt?

Κύριος or Ἰησοῦς or θεὸς?  God? the Lord? Jesus? Who Does Jesus’ Half-Brother Say Led the Israelites Out of Egypt? •
Jude 1:5

Does Jude say that Jesus led the Hebrews out of Egypt?  Or does he say that the Lord did so?

Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. (ESV)

Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. (NASB)

We Christians are (we hope) generally aware that the Old Testament points to Christ in numerous places.  And we are also generally aware that Christ Jesus and the Lord and God are one, within our fuzzy understanding of the Trinity.

We don’t however usually think of Jesus while reading the Exodus story of God working with Moses to flee from Pharaoh and make his way through the Sinai with unruly Israelites.  Our image of God in Exodus is of our powerful, white-bearded hegemon on his throne, or up in a bright cloud of lightning, or on top of a desert mountain cracking thunder, directing Moses to tell Pharaoh this and that, and using awesome displays of power over Pharaoh and over nature on behalf of the ungrateful Israelites making their escape from Egypt.  This God displays his awesome power.  We do not envision Jesus himself leading the Israelites around in the desert, perhaps holding a cute fuzzy lamb and telling confusing stories to the impatient Hebrews.

In some English Bible translations, but not all, Jesus’ half-brother Jude declares nevertheless that it was “Jesus” himself, not “the Lord” and not “God,” who led the Israelites out of Egypt and into Canaan.  Now as good Christians of sound doctrine, and believers in the Holy Trinity, we know of course that Jesus and the Lord God are one with each other.  We know that Jesus is also Lord, and that Christ plus God plus the Holy Spirit form this tricky-to-explain, unified Trinity package.

We are also well aware that Jesus Christ is found throughout our Old Testament.

But it is striking to see Jude assert this so explicitly:

…that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt… (ESV)

This is our Bible Bit.  Jude spells it out explicitly.  It was Jesus.

Well, actually, the English Standard Version and several other recent translations have Jude spelling it out explicitly.  Other English translations have Jude instead declaring:

The Lord first saved a people out of Egypt… (Holman CSB)

the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt… (NASB)

the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt… (NKJV)

the Lord, who once for all saved a people out of the land of Egypt… (NRSV)

This is in contrast with the ESV, and:

…that Jesus, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt… (Lexham)

…that Jesus, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt… (NET)

Here’s a review of 33 English translations and their decisions inside Jude 1:5:

Who Led the Israelites Out of Egypt? Translations Using this Word
“God” Aramaic Bible in Plain English
“Hashem” (“the Name”) Orthodox Jewish Bible
“The Master” The Message
“the Lord” or
“The Lord”
Amp
1599 Geneva
Darby
ERV
GNT
GWT
HCSB
ISV
JB Phillips
Jubilee
KJV
Living Bible
NASB
New Jerusalem
NIV
NKJV
NRSV
WEB
Webster
Weymouth
Young’s Literal
“Jesus” Berean Literal
Berean Study
Douay-Rheims
ESV
Lexham
NET
NLT
New Heart
Wycliff

Let’s try to flesh this out.  Why do some translators use “Jesus” and others use “the Lord” and other choices?

Let us divert our attention from our Bible Bit as we attempt to provide background into the matter of Bible translations from texts and manuscripts.

Texts

Why do some use “Jesus” and others use “the Lord?”

This is primarily the result of the underlying Greek text chosen by the translation team as the basis of their New Testament translation.  The book of Jude in a given translation, and all other New Testament books in that translation, are based on a specific underlying Greek text chosen by the translation team.  Likewise, a translation into English of the Old Testament is based on the translator’s choice of an underlying Hebrew text.

Over the past 600 years or so of New Testament translation into English, various attempts to assemble and fix a best Greek text have been whittled down into two basic paths:  a Textus Receptus family and a Westcott & Hort family.  The former group began to appear in the 1500’s and became the basis for the King James version, other early English translations, and various successors to the KJV published today, such as the New Revised Standard Version.  The TR path was fixed, more or less, with a publication by Scrivener in 1894.

The latter group, that of Westcott & Hort, was conceived by a combination of 19th century scholarship, newly established translation principles, plus the discovery of new source materials in the dry lands of Egypt and Mesopotamia.  An initial work published by Mr. Westcott and Mr. Hort in 1881 led to the ongoing assembly and publication of further new Greek texts based on these more modern (but better?) ideas and additional sources.

Modern English translators following the Textus Receptus path use Scrivener as a baseline, then consult variations from a 1550 edition by Stephanus, plus other variations from what are called the Byzantine Majority text, an Alexandrian text, and a variety of other sources.  The 1894 Scrivener and 1550 Stephanus are freely available online and in the public domain.

Those following the Westcott-Hort path use what has evolved into a series of editions produced by two teams, one of the United Bible Societies and the other of Nestle-Aland.  Older WH releases are in the public domain and available on line, while UBS and NA releases are commercial products, yet to some extent accessible freely on line.  Both UBS and NA teams use an identical text, but package their products with different add-on material for slightly different scholarly audiences.

The past 600 years of Greek New Testament study, but especially the last 130 years, has witnessed a variety of published attempts at improved fixed texts in both Textus Receptus and Westcott & Hort arenas.   Time has seen dozens of releases, especially on the WH side, or along some alternative path.  As the two schools of thought formed and evolved, scholarly camps of more or less strong  opinion and emotion formed to defend the principles, ideas, methods and primary sources in both TR and WH arenas.  These passions have made their way into rank-and-file Christian believer communities.

We at Bible Bits have no desire to jump into any translation wars.  🙂

On the Hebrew side, the evolution of the quest for a fixed Hebrew text has evolved similarly, but with somewhat less acrimony.

The past 300 years or so has witnessed various attempts to fix a Hebrew text for western English, German and European language scholarly purposes.  All of these have been based on what is called the Masoretic text.  This Hebrew Masoretic text is in turn an assembled and loosely fixed text created by Jewish scholars over 400 years between the AD 500s to near the end of the first millennium.  As you might imagine, the “fixed” Masoretic text has been published in two dozen (and more, depending on how one count’s these things) significant editions over recent centuries.  All of today’s popular English translations use as their baseline Hebrew text, a modern, scholarly edition of the Hebrew text with critical analysis prepared and published by the German Bible Society in concert with United Bible Societies.  This publication goes by the name Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, last updated in 1998.

In both Greek and Hebrew, these original language texts are documented carefully, updated infrequently, and of course published and made available to the scholarly commentary and  translator community.  They are also available to the general public.  Your local Christian bookstore likely carries one or more of them, but they don’t fly off the shelves.  Seminary students purchase them and presumably actually examine them during their courses in Biblical  Hebrew and Greek, and when performing exegetical exercises for class.

Today’s English Bible translators use the Textus Receptus or Nestle-Aland Greek text and the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia Hebrew text as their baseline texts.  They supplement these to greater or lesser extent with older texts, plus a text of the Septuagint (a Greek version of the Old Testament), a so-called Byzantine Majority text, the Vulgate (a Latin version of the Bible), and texts in Syriac, Aramaic, and Coptic (Egyptian) languages.

Having reviewed all this, we want you to understand this basic point about texts:

Texts are the virtual creations of scholars.  Texts are virtual strings of words and punctuation strung together by the choice of scholars based on their best decisions regarding the age, accuracy, and fidelity of our large collection of manuscripts.

Manuscripts

Manuscripts are not virtual things — they are instead tangible physical objects.  They are older than texts, and while they are mostly copies of copies, they are the closest thing we have to the original, physical, source writings of Bible content by the hands of the original human authors and scribes.

Just as translations are built from texts, texts are in turn built from manuscripts.

Manuscripts are physical objects of paper, parchment, papyrus, written or copied by scribes using pen and ink and hand many hundreds of years ago.

Manuscripts are many and typically small and fragmentary. All manuscripts in our possession are copies of even older lost manuscripts.  Most are probably copies of copies.  We have no Greek manuscripts from the first century AD.  While many manuscripts in Hebrew date to Old Testament times, those from OT times tend to be fragmentary.  The best, largest, and most complete physical items of manuscript material in either language date to 500 AD and after, with the best of these dating to 1000 AD and after.

There are in the neighborhood of 5700 handwritten Greek manuscript documents and fragments of portions of the New Testament.  The oldest of these, dating to around 200 AD, are few — less than 100.  Our collection of Greek manuscripts grows into the thousands as their date of creation moves toward the year 1000AD and on to the development of the printing press.

There are perhaps 20,000 Hebrew manuscripts, but again, the vast majority authenticate tiny portions of material found in the much more complete manuscripts dating to 1000 AD and beyond.

The vast majority of manuscripts were not discovered until the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.  And so, of course, they were not available to scholars working on texts or translations when the King James and the earliest English Bibles were prepared.  The discovery of thousands of manuscripts was in part the driver for increased scholarly activity in Bible research and translation in the 1800’s.

Bible translators and scholars are familiar with those manuscripts relevant to the portions of Bible content where they concentrate their scholarly energies.  They know the primary text, they know any alternative texts, and they know the manuscripts.

Those scholars involved with the care and feeding of critical editions of a text do occasionally change the “fixed” text based on the discovery of new manuscript evidence.  This of course is a slowly evolving process, taking place over decades.

Let us now end our diversion.  This is about as far in depth as Bible Bits is able to venture into this background of manuscript-to-text and then text-to-translation.  We are not experts, and we’ve reached our amateur capacity to explain these things and remain confident that we haven’t said too many things which aren’t quite correct.  We are merely amateurs who love the Bible and appreciate that God’s word somehow has been made available for ordinary folks like us to read in modern English.

Here is your take-away:

rough_depiction_of_bible_translation_manuscript_to_text_to_bible

Now, let’s get back to our Bible Bit.  We will endeavor to show you the manuscript-to-text and text-to-translation details for Jude 1:5.

Looking at the Nestle-Aland and UBS, plus the Scrivener Textus Receptus, and several additional public domain Greek texts for Jude 1:5, we observe that, when referring to the guy who helped Moses and the Israelites out of Egypt, the texts use three different options:  Κύριος, Ἰησοῦς and θεὸς.

  • θεὸς = theos = God   This option makes its way into only one English translation we checked, and this translation was not built from a Greek text, but from a Syrian language text called the Peshitta.  (However, the New Testament of the Syriac Pershitta was probably translated from early Greek.  Confused yet?)
  • Κύριος or kύριος = kyrios = Lord (or lord, master, sir)   This option makes its way into most traditional English translations, i.e., those following the Textus Receptus, and then the King James Version and its descendants.  The uppercase “K” is not in source manuscripts.  Scholars instead invent an uppercase Greek “K” for those locations in the Greek text where this word would be capitalized in modern English usage.   Is it “Lord” or is it “lord?”  In Jude 1:5, this is not a difficulty, but in other locations it might be.
  • Ἰησοῦς = Iēsous = Jesus or Joshua   This is the one of interest to Bible Bits.  Translators following the line of Westcott & Hort to the most recent UBS and Nestle-Aland text editions have begun to use “Jesus” in Jude 1:5.  This choice comes in more recent Bible translation releases.  Keep reading below.

You can find several Greek texts online.  The older of these are in the public domain and found in many places online.  The latest Greek text of the United Bible Societies and Nestle-Aland is also freely obtainable. Here’s how they treat Jude 1:5:

Nestle-Aland 28th edition (2012).  Ἰησοῦς = Jesus

Ὑπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι, εἰδότας ὑμᾶς ἅπαξ πάντα ὅτι Ἰησοῦς λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας τὸ δεύτερον τοὺς μὴ πιστεύσαντας ἀπώλεσεν,

UBS 5th edition (2014).  Ἰησοῦς = Jesus

Ὑπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι, εἰδότας ὑμᾶς ἅπαξ πάντα ὅτι Ἰησοῦς λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας τὸ δεύτερον τοὺς μὴ πιστεύσαντας ἀπώλεσεν,

By the way, the UBS and NA texts are identical.  This is because the UBS publication simply uses the NA release as its core text.  The UBS adds scholarly reference material regarding manuscript sources to its publication, and adds/alters punctuation, casing, spelling of words, and formatting (e.g., in poetry).

Now check this out:  Jude’s verse five “the Lord” was changed to “Jesus” when the Nestle-Aland text transitioned from edition 27 to 28:

Nestle-Aland 26th (1979) and 27th ed.  κύριος = the Lord.

Ὑπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι, εἰδότας [ὑμᾶς] πάντα, ὅτι [ὁ] κύριος ἅπαξ λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας τὸ δεύτερον τοὺς μὴ πιστεύσαντας ἀπώλεσεν,

(The bits inside square brackets are suggested variations.)

The NA28 reads “Jesus.”  The previous NA27 reads “the Lord.”  Whoa!

In the mean time, a recent alternative to the NA/UBS text is that of the Society of Biblical Literature.  Its SBL Greek New Testament has Jude using “Jesus,” not “the Lord:”

SBLGNT (2010):  Ὑπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι, εἰδότας ὑμᾶς ἅπαξ πάντα, ὅτι Ἰησοῦς λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας τὸ δεύτερον τοὺς μὴ πιστεύσαντας ἀπώλεσεν,

And so:

Nestle-Aland 28th / UBS 5th  Jesus Ὑπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι, εἰδότας ὑμᾶς ἅπαξ πάντα ὅτι Ἰησοῦς λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας τὸ δεύτερον τοὺς μὴ πιστεύσαντας ἀπώλεσεν,
Nestle Aland 27th & 26th (1979) / UBS 4th & 3rd [the] Lord Ὑπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι, εἰδότας [ὑμᾶς] πάντα, ὅτι [ὁ] κύριος ἅπαξ λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας τὸ δεύτερον τοὺς μὴ πιστεύσαντας ἀπώλεσεν,
Society of Biblical Literature GNT(2010) Jesus Ὑπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι, εἰδότας ὑμᾶς ἅπαξ πάντα, ὅτι Ἰησοῦς λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας τὸ δεύτερον τοὺς μὴ πιστεύσαντας ἀπώλεσεν,
Nestle Greek New Testament (1904) [the] Lord Ὑπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι, εἰδότας ἅπαξ πάντα, ὅτι Κύριος λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας τὸ δεύτερον τοὺς μὴ πιστεύσαντας ἀπώλεσεν,
Westcott and Hort (1881) [the] Lord Ὑπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι, εἰδότας ἅπαξ πάντα, ὅτι Κύριος λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας τὸ δεύτερον τοὺς μὴ πιστεύσαντας ἀπώλεσεν,
RP Byzantine Majority Text (2005) the Lord Ὑπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι, εἰδότας ὑμᾶς ἅπαξ τοῦτο, ὅτι ὁ κύριος, λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας, τὸ δεύτερον τοὺς μὴ πιστεύσαντας ἀπώλεσεν.
Greek Orthodox Church (1904) the Lord Ὑπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι, εἰδότας ὑμᾶς ἅπαξ τοῦτο, ὅτι ὁ Κύριος λαὸν ἐκ τῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας, τὸ δεύτερον τοὺς μὴ πιστεύσαντας ἀπώλεσεν,
Tischendorf 8th Edition (1894)  Lord ὑπομιμνήσκω δέ ὑμεῖς βούλομαι εἴδω ἅπαξ πᾶς ὅτι κύριος λαός ἐκ γῆ Αἴγυπτος σώζω ὁ δεύτερος ὁ μή πιστεύω ἀπόλλυμι
Scrivener’s Textus Receptus (1894) the Lord Ὑπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι, εἰδότας ὑμᾶς ἅπαξ τοῦτο, ὅτι ὁ Κύριος, λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας, τὸ δεύτερον τοὺς μὴ πιστεύσαντας ἀπώλεσεν.
Stephanus Textus Receptus (1550) the Lord Ὑπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι εἰδότας ὑμᾶς ἅπαξ τοῦτο, ὅτι ὁ κύριος λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας τὸ δεύτερον τοὺς μὴ πιστεύσαντας ἀπώλεσεν
Morphological Greek NT (recent) the Lord : ὑπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι εἰδότας ὑμᾶς πάντα ὅτι ὁ κύριος ἅπαξ λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας τὸ δεύτερον τοὺς μὴ πιστεύσαντας ἀπώλεσεν

Now, having looked at the relative handful of historic Greek texts, let us now consider the manuscript sources for these texts.

Briefly put, the thousands of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts have all been given names, and all have been given very short abbreviations.  For our purposes here, we’ll simply say that these thousands of pieces of mostly tiny objects have been given easily recognizable and understandable abbreviations such as “A” and “B” and “p72” and “808” and “665” and “L” and “syrph.”

This is all we’ll say about that.  It is sufficient for our purposes to note that when it comes to manuscripts, there are lots of them.  And it has only been in the last 100 to 200 years that we’ve had our hands on them.  We’ll leave it to you to study up on those manuscript abbreviation conventions. 🙂

We used the wonderful online Greek New Testament site laparola.net to pull a list of manuscript variations for Jude 1:5.  By our count, there are 115 manuscripts carrying Jude 1:5.  These carry eight basic variations in the text, and a few other variations on these variations.  If we counted correctly, 26 of the 115 use the word Ἰησοῦς = Jesus.

These are shown below, with the Greek wording variation on the left and the manuscripts carrying that variation on the right.

Greek Variation Transliteration English List of Manuscripts Which Have This Variation
Ἰησοῦς Iēsous Jesus A B 33 81 (1739mg πάντα ἅπαξ γὰρ Ἰησοῦς) 2344 pc itdem itdiv vg (eth) Jerome ECM
κύριος kyrios Lord Ephraem WH NR CEI ND Riv TILC Nv (NM)
ὁ θεὸς ho Theos the God C2 (5 623mg ἅπαξ τοῦτο, ὅτι) 623text 2805 vgms (slav)
θεὸς Χριστὸς Theos Christos God Christ (p72* πάντας) p72(c)
ὁ κύριος ho kyrios the Lord (‭א Ψ omit ὁ) C* 307 326 431 436 453 630 808 1505 1611 2138 2200 2412 2495 syrh (NA [ὁ])
ὁ θεὸς ho Theos the God 442 621 1243 1845 1846 2492 l596 itp vgmss syrph arm geo Clementvid (Lucifer omit ἅπαξ)
Ἰησοῦς Iēsous Jesus (88 915 ὁ Ἰησοῦς) 6 93 322 323 665 1241 1501 1739text 1881 2298 (itar itc (copsa copbo) Origen according to 1739 Cyril omit ἅπαξ)
ὁ κύριος ho kyrios the Lord (K 056 l593 τοῦτο ἅπαξ) L 049 (0142 τοῦτο ὑμᾶς) 18 35 61 104 181 254 307 326 330 431 436 (468 909 1875 ὁ) 451 453 629 808 945 1067 1175 1292 (1409 omit τοῦτο) 1678 (1735 l591 ὅτι Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς) 1836 1837 1844 1877 2127 2374 Byz Lect Ps-Oecumenius Theophylact ς Dio

This should give you some sense of the detailed and time-consuming job faced by Bible translators. Yes, they have chosen and use a basic text which rolls-up manuscript decisions, but the translators may nevertheless choose to favor a manuscript variation not followed by their otherwise preferred text.

We do not know the particulars of why, in recent decades, scholars have shifted from “the Lord” to “Jesus” in Jude 5.  Can you find this in the scholarly papers and report back to us at Bible Bits?  We do know that recent manuscript discoveries prompted the change to Jude 1:15 in the ESV, NET, and Lexham translations, plus the underlying Nestle-Aland text.  The scholarly decision shifted from ὁ Κύριος to Ἰησοῦς in the Greek.

Did you follow all this?  Bible Bits doesn’t expect it readers to understand or read Greek — we surely do not — but we also want our readers to not be intimidated by the Greek and Hebrew source languages of our beloved Bible.  Please do not let it intimidate you.


 

By the way: Read Jude 1:5 all the way to the end of the verse.  There is a big Bible Bit at the end.

Just what did Jesus do to non-believers?  What does and what will Jesus do to those who didn’t and don’t want to follow the Lord God out of bondage? Jude makes this pretty explicit also.  If you have not yet chosen to accept the Lord and follow Christ, today would be a good day to do so.

Blessings to you!  And read the actual Bible for yourself!

If you choose to respond please cite scripture, published commentary, and scholarly works. Blessings again!