"And of an honeycomb"

Luke 24:42

I would like to now turn the attention of my readers to Luke 24:42. Here in verse 42 the Traditional text and that of our Authorized Version (AV) reads, “And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.” The final phrase, “and of an honeycomb”, is missing in most modern versions. The reason this phrase has been omitted is because it is not found in the Greek text that underlies the modern versions. Due to the fact that Westcott and Hort (W-H) rejected the phrase as a spurious interpolation the modern critical texts have likewise rejected it. Allow me to first state the evidence for and against the reading and then I will happily explain the reason for the omission.

As usual the evidence for omitting the phrase is scanty, viz. p75, Aleph, A, B, D, L, W, and Pi. Of the Old Latin e alone omits the phrase. It is also absent in one copy of the Bohairic. On the other hand, the evidence for the phrase is simply overwhelming. Every other Greek AND Latin manuscript contains the phrase (this includes the Lectionaries). The phrase receives absolute universal support. The Vulgate, Bohairic, Syriac, and Coptic all attest to its authenticity. The phrase also enjoys the support of both the Peshitta (150 AD) and Tatian’s Diatessaron (2nd Century).

Of the translations that omit this wonderful phrase we find the NIV, NRSV, New World Translation, NASV, CEV, TEV, NLT, NET etc. Those that defend such versions often tell us that even when a phrase or verse is omitted it is “okay” because you can find the same thing stated elsewhere. Well, as I have demonstrated countless times before this is not always the truth. “Of an honeycomb” is a perfect paradigm of this. No where else in their Bible will the modern version reader find that Jesus enjoyed the sweet taste of an “honeycomb” after His resurrection. This wonderful truth is completely unknown to an individual that has depended solely upon modern scholarship (i.e. modern translations) for the words of God. For only Luke records that our Lord ate fish and an ‘honeycomb’ after His resurrection.

The Patristic support for the reading is equally as impressive as the manuscript and ancient version support.
“And when they were by every kind of proof persuaded that it was Himself, and in the body, they asked Him to eat with them, that they might thus still more accurately ascertain that He had in verity risen bodily; and He did eat honey-comb and fish. (Justin Martyr (2nd Century), On the Resurrection, ch. IX)”

“For it was after the gall He tasted the honeycomb, and He was not greeted as King of Glory in heavenly places till He had been condemned to the cross as King of the Jews, having first been made by the Father for a time a little less than the angels, and so crowned with glory and honor. (Tertullian (2nd Century), De Corona .14)”

“For certainly he who gives food to others, and they who give him, touch hands. For ‘they gave Him,’ Scripture says, ‘a piece of a broiled fish and of an honey-comb, and’ when He had ‘eaten before them, He took the remains and gave to them,’ (Athanasius (356 AD), Against the Arians, IV,)”

I want to briefly address the apparatus of the Nestle/Aland 27th edition. At verse 42 N/A cites Clement of Alexandria (215 AD) in support of their omission. This is an error on their part! Without doubt they are well aware that Clement of Alexandria by no means supports their text but in contrast Clement testifies to the Traditional reading. John W. Burgon demonstrated this very fact in 1896. Their apparent lack of knowledge concerning this early writer is bewildering. As Burgon said, “Let that Father be allowed to speak for himself.”

“For is there not within a temperate simplicity a wholesome variety of eatables? Bulbs, olives, certain herbs, milk, cheese, fruits, all kinds of cooked food without sauces; and if flesh is wanted, let roast rather than boiled be set down. Have you anything to eat here? said the Lord to the disciples after the resurrection; and they, as taught by Him to practice frugality, “gave Him a piece of broiled fish;” and having eaten before them, says Luke, He spoke to them what He spoke. And in addition to these, it is not to be overlooked that those who feed according to the Word are not debarred from dainties in the shape of honey-combs.” (Clement, Paedagogus, 2.2)

Burgon concludes, “At the end of 1700 years, I am as sure that ‘honeycomb’ was found in his copy, as if I had seen it with my eyes”. To this I would say, Amen!

So how is it, one will ask, that these words are wanting in a few copies? It is really quite easy to see how and why these words began to be called into question. By an examination of the evidence one can without difficulty discover why the words were omitted from Luke’s gospel in a few of the Greek manuscripts. The words were without doubt overlooked due to Harmonistic Influence. I shall proceed to demonstrate this fact.

If you have ever attempted to discuss certain passages or events from the Bible then you know how difficult it can be to get everything exactly right. This is especially challenging when discussing the 4 gospel accounts. A particular story is most often recorded by at least two of the gospel writer. Often these two stories contain different details about the very same event. This is where it becomes tricky (in some cases). It is entirely possible to attribute events from one gospel book to another even though that book does not contain those events. Such is the case before us here at Luke 24:42.

In John 21 we find the very familiar account of Jesus inviting His disciples, who were in a boat fishing, to “Come and dine”. On this particular occasion it must be noted that Jesus Himself did not partake of the meal. We must be careful not to add to the text what is not actually written. Jesus prepared the meal and served the disciples but it is not recorded that He ate of the meal Himself. It must also be observed that on this morning the disciples partook of fish and bread. This is in contrast to the account found in Luke 24 where Jesus appeared to the disciples in a chamber in Jerusalem. On this occasion Jesus asks, “Have ye here any meat?”. To this the disciples respond by giving Him a “piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them.”

When the two narratives are compared as above it is quite easy to see that we are talking about two entirely different accounts. But when trying to recall these stories by memory alone it is possible to combine the events and suppose that they were one in the same. This is precisely how “of an honeycomb” came to be left out of some copies. The scribe simply confused the story in John, where fish and bread were eaten, with the story in Luke where Jesus ate broiled fish and an honeycomb. Being careful not to introduce what he thought in his mind to be a contradiction the scribe just left off “of an honeycomb” because it did not correspond to what he remembered from John.

That what I am saying is true can easily be demonstrated by a few quotes from the early church fathers. We will first hear from Jerome:

“And now do you in your turn answer me these questions. How do you explain the fact that Thomas felt the hands of the risen Lord and beheld His side pierced by the spear? And the fact that Peter saw the Lord standing on the shore and eating a piece of a roasted fish and a honeycomb. (Jerome, Letter TO EUSTOCHIUM).”

Notice carefully the confusion Jerome encounters by combining the two stories---Indeed Peter did see the Lord standing on the shore but Jesus was not eating ‘roasted fish and a honeycomb’. Remember on this occasion (i.e. on the shore of the sea of Tiberias (John 21:1)) Jesus did not eat but rather served the disciples fish and bread. Not ‘a honeycomb’ as Jerome imagines!

Epiphanius states:

“Who knows not that our Saviour ate, after His resurrection from the dead? As the holy gospels of truth have it, ‘There was given unto Him bread and part of a broiled fish and he took and ate and gave to his disciples’ (Epiphanius, i, 143)”
Here Epiphanius hopelessly mixes up the two distinct occasions into one narrative.

“There was given unto Him”, this is a reference to Luke. For only in Luke did the disciples give unto Jesus. In John Jesus gave to the disciples.

“bread and part of a broiled fish”, this is a reference in part to John. Only at the sea of Tiberias does it say that the disciples enjoyed fresh bread. ‘Bread and fish’ were never given to our Lord.

“and he took and ate”, this is a reference to Luke. Only in Luke did Jesus actually eat anything. Remember, He did not eat on the seashore.

“and gave to his disciples”, but this is a reference to John. In Luke the disciples gave to Jesus (broiled fish and an honeycomb)---in John Jesus gave to the disciples (fish and bread).

One more example and we shall conclude.

“While Peter is fishing behold in the LORD’S hands bread and honeycomb (Hesychius, Homily of the Resurrection)”
This is a clear reference to the events by the sea of Tiberias (John 21) but yet he declares that Jesus had ‘bread and honeycomb’ in his hands (sic). Now the ‘fish’ has been completely expunged from the text. Where did he find that piece of information?!?!

As you have seen from these examples it is easy to see how these two distinct occasions have been confused by many of the ancients. It is thus through this type of ‘harmonistic influence’ that the words “of an honeycomb” were omitted from a few manuscripts. Without question “of an honeycomb” is precisely what Luke wrote and should not be deleted from any Biblical text. As Dean Burgon declared, “The genuineness of the clause ‘and of an honeycomb’, it is hoped, will never more be seriously called in question. Surely it has been demonstrated to be quite above suspicion.” No amount of reasoning; No amount of rhetoric; can change this fact. With the absence of this phrase from the modern translations how can individuals continue to promote the idea that “ALL Bibles are valid”? As stated before, this is a concept that is completely foreign to the Bible itself. Plainly stated, ALL Bibles cannot be valid! The differences are simply too great to think otherwise. They (i.e. the modern versions) are not only vastly different from our Authorized Version but they are also very different one from another. Once again as we close this study we raise the question: How can ALL Bibles be valid when some ‘add to’ God’s word while others ‘take away’ that which has been written? Selah!