Before making a final conclusion about Romans 8:1, we must consider the internal evidence. These are sometimes called Transcriptional Probabilities and Intrinsic Probabilities. I will consider four points with respect to internal evidence.
· Prefer the shorter reading. Reading 1 is the shorter reading.
· Prefer the more difficult reading.
· This is obviously a bit subjective but in a passage that emphasizes walking in the Spirit and the abiding presence of the Spirit in the believer as a sign of belonging to Christ, reading one seems to be the more theologically difficult.
· Prefer the reading that best accords with the authors style and vocabulary.
· This could be either reading one or three because the exact same phrase is used in 8:4. Below, this becomes a powerful argument for reading one.
· Prefer the reading that best fits the context and the author’s theology.
· This is a real debate. Is Paul saying that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus or no condemnation for those in good standing in Christ Jesus? This does not give us much help because one could make a theological argument (highly nuanced of course) for either position.
Second preliminary conclusion: The external evidence points to reading one as original. The internal evidence seems to me to be a little ambiguous. Reading one is shorter and more difficult, however, the longer readings could accord with the author’s theology and style. So at this point I am leaning toward reading one, but I am not entirely convinced.
After considering the above evidence there is one more “watershed” principle that needs to be considered. In my experience, this is often the principle that convinces me which reading is original. Prefer the reading that best explains the origin of the other readings.
Reading one seems to best explain the rise of the others. It is easy for me to imagine why a scribe would add the words “who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Without that phrase, it could be understood that Paul is saying that character change is not important with respect to salvation. Of course that is not what he is saying, but, if someone wanted to make it clear that Paul is not talking about “fire insurance”, I could see how adding this phrase would solve the problem. I can also see why a scribe would think himself justified in adding the phrase. The exact same phrase appears in 8:4. In taking the phrase from the near context of verse 4, the scribe could see himself clarifying the meaning without violating the writing style of the apostle. Early scribes tended to clarify the text rather than make them more ambiguous. In the same line of reasoning, if the phrase were part of the original text, it seems hard to imagine why a scribe would remove it. Removing the phrase makes the meaning of the passage more ambiguous. If we accept the premise that scribes tended to clarify texts then it would be highly unlikely that a scribe would remove either phrase two or three if they were original. Therefore, based on the above arguments, I conclude that reading one is original.
Now that I have convinced myself which text is original, I see a more daunting task before me. If I am to teach this in a Russian or Ukrainian context, how do I teach the text without undermining the authority of the people’s Bible? I will offer my musings about this question in part III.