I.                   The text of the New Testament


A.                Copies

1.                  Originals no longer in existence.

2.                  Had to be made to spread the Word.

3.                  Problems arose and persist.

a.                   Many of greatest mistakes in Bible’s history since invention of printing.

b.                  First edition of KJV had over 400 errors, corrected two years later.

c.                   RSV of 1946 and 1952 had many misprints.

B.                 Textual Criticism

1.                  As a science, came from errors in the texts.

2.                  This is known as “Lower Criticism”: concerned with only the form of words – the text.

3.                  “Higher Criticism”: devoted to study of authorship, date of composition and historical value of a given Biblical document.

4.                  Textual critic seeks to recover exact words of the original.

C.                 Mistakes of copyists.

1.                  Manuscript faults came about in two ways:

a.                   Unintentional.

b.                  Deliberate.

2.                  Unintentional errors.

a.                   Mistakes of the hand, eye, and ear.

(1)               Frequent.

(2)               Usually pose no problem because easy to pick out.

b.                  Errors of omission and addition.

(1)               Common.

(2)               Eye “might skip”.

(3)               By comparison of many manuscripts, can be detected and explained.

c.                   Those arising out of practice of writing explanatory notes in margin.

(1)               More difficult to solve.

(2)               Somehow became incorporated in the text.

(3)               New Testament manuscripts rarely exhibit this error.

3.                  Intentional errors.

a.                   Present a more serious problem.

b.                  We should not think were due to “dishonesty”.

c.                   Was probably trying to correct an “error”.

d.                  e.g. modify one Gospel’s passage to be as another’s.

e.                   e.g. KJV: Mt. 11:19 and Lk 7:35 were made identical when Mt. now has “works” instead of “children”.

D.                Basic Rules of Textual Criticism

1.                  Over the years, some fundamental “rules” (“canons of criticism”) formulated.

2.                  Are not hard and fast rules.

3.                  Serve to guide and stabilize.

4.                  One rule is that the more difficult reading is to be preferred.

5.                  Second rule is that the quality of witnesses to the text is much more important than the quantity.

6.                  Another rule is that in parallel texts, different readings are usually preferred.

7.                  There are many other similar rules, above are just examples.


II.                Significance of Textual Variations.


A.                Be careful how “numbers/statistics” are used.

1.                  e.g. if one word misspelled in 4000 different manuscripts, equal 4000 “errors”.

2.                  Actually one error copied 4000 times.

3.                  Allows some to speak of, e.g. 200,000 “errors”.

B.                 Remember, the large number of variations exist in exact proportion to the number of manuscripts we possess.

1.                  There are far more copies of New Testament than any other book from ancient world.

2.                  Therefore, more variations.

3.                  Large number of manuscripts also supplies the means of checking them.

C.                 Consequences of variations.

1.                  Three types of textual variations.

2.                  No. 1 is “trivial variations”.

a.                   Of no consequence to the text.

b.                  Great majority of variant readings fall here.

c.                   e.g. omission or addition of words like “for”, “and”, “the”, etc.

d.                  e.g. different forms of the same Greek words.

e.                   Change in spelling of words over the years.

3.                  No. 2 is “substantial variations” which are of no consequence to the text.

a.                   e.g. a whole verse or even several verses.

b.                  But, do not affect text today because they are not supported by the most authoritative textual witnesses.

c.                   e.g. Jn 7:53-8:11.

(1)               Only one early manuscript has this (Codex Bexae).

(2)               Practically none of early versions, include.

(3)               Still, we don’t question the authenticity of the incident itself.

d.                  Others: 1Jn 5:7 and Ac 8:37.

4.                  No. 3 is “substantial variations which have bearing on the text.”

a.                   e.g. Mk 16:9-20:

(1)               Evidence against mostly rests on the Vatican and Sinaitic Manuscripts.

(2)               Evidence against also includes Old Syriac and others.

(3)               Evidence for includes a host of witnesses, including the Alexandrian Manuscript, the Ephraem Manuscript, Codex Bezae, other early uncials, all late uncials and cursives, etc.

b.                  Again, the “truthfulness” of the passage is not in dispute.


III.             Restoring the New Testament


A.                Our primary concern.

1.                  What bearing did the mistakes have on the text?

2.                  Practically all of variations do not affect the present text!

B.                 Modern Greek text.

1.                  May be described as a reconstructed or restored text.

2.                  Results from consulting a number of manuscripts and authorities.

3.                  Therefore, is an “edition” of New Testament text.

4.                  Sources used.

a.                   Manuscripts.

b.                  Versions.

c.                   Early Christian writers.

C.                 The Westcott-Hort text.

1.                  Two Cambridge scholars.

2.                  Published jointly a completely revised edition of New Testament in 1881.

3.                  Very significant.

4.                  Resulted from deliberate, thorough work.

5.                  Acknowledged dependence on the Sinaitic and Vatican Manuscripts (particularly the Vatican).

6.                  Dealt “final blow” on Textus Receptus.

7.                  Discoveries since Westcott-Hart, as a whole, confirm their text.

D.                Nestle-Aland

1.                  At beginning of 20th century, Eberhard Nestle used best edition of Greek New Testament produced in 19th century to compile text representing the majority consensus.

2.                  Then work carried on by Kurt Aland.

3.                  Returned the language of “recovering the original text”.

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