textual criticism

This tag is associated with 7 posts

Book Review: “Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism” edited by Elijah Hixson and Peter J. Gurry

Sometimes a book comes along that makes you as a reader realize that everything you thought you knew about a certain topic was wrong. Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism is sure to be one of those books for many people. The editors, Elijah Hixson and Peter J. Gurry put together a collection of essays that challenge common assumptions and “knowledge” about New Testament textual criticism to the point of overturning expectations and forcing readers to re-think their research. Make no mistake, if you’re not an expert in this specific field–and perhaps even if you are–this book is going to challenge your preconceptions and even what you thought you knew.

After a foreword by renowned textual critic Daniel Wallace and an introduction that opens up the themes of the book, Timothy N. Mitchell’s chapter on autographs (entitled “Myths about Autographs: What they Were and How Long They May Have Survived”) is the first to set a major challenge to assumptions about the New Testament text. The autographic text is considered to be the original text. Thus, an autograph, in the mind of those interested in Christian apologetics or the transmission of the New Testament, is often what is affirmed as being the copy that was inspired or inerrant or the goal of textual criticism to find. Various apologetists have made claims about the autographs surviving long enough to produce many copies over decades (or even centuries) (27). Yet Mitchell points out that some have argue that the concept of a single original itself is mistaken (28). The way documents were disseminated in the ancient world was very different from the way we spread documents, and the same “original” may have been produced several times, with minor edits or even major ones depending on the audience. Specific examples in the ancient world are cited, which challenge the very concept of a single autographic text. Another difficulty would be the concept of multiple autographs. Copying an original for the author to keep was a common practice, but then which would be the autograph–the one sent to one or another person, or the one kept by the author (39-41)? The claims about longevity of the authographs also meet serious challenges, due to climate, persecution, and many other possible problems with thinking that any supposed original text could have survived centuries.

Note that all of these challenges–which are detailed, of course in the book–are all from the first non-introductory chapter alone. There are more than 10 additional chapters outlining many, many assumptions about NT textual criticism and the errors they make. Chapter three outlines questions about the number of NT manuscripts as well as why having more manuscripts might not be better. If all we had was a multiplicity of error-ridden manuscripts, that would hardly be better than just a few very precise ones. Chapter four notes the common errors in citation of numbers of other ancient literature’s manuscript evidence vs. that of the NT (this will have those involved in apologetics–like me–checking their numbers). The next two chapters deal with dating manuscripts and the immense difficulties with getting at which MSS are earlier than other ones at times. Additionally, earlier manuscripts aren’t always better than later manuscripts, in part because later manuscripts might be based on manuscripts that are even earlier than the earliest extant manuscripts!

Questions about who made copies of the NT are another common myth-making scenario. As is often the case in the book, the issue is much more complex. Many claim that the copies were made by untrained hands just scrawling what they could from the NT on whatever they had at hand, while others claim the opposite is true–trained hands copied them and ensured few errors. The truth is somewhere in between. Myths about how scribes made errors are abundant, and attempts to discern scribal intent are shown to be often impossible, but at other times somewhat easier to demonstrate. The number of variants is wildly huge in the claims about how many there are, and the way they are counted is often misstated. Too often, apologists and others claim that variant counts include misspellings, but this is not the case–the huge number of variants would only increase astronomically were misspellings included in the count! Questions about how much of the NT really could be constructed from the patristics are also addressed, and the answer is a somewhat interesting middle ground once again, in which the question of tradition looms large. Canonicity, translations modern and ancient, and more are addressed as well.

All of this is to say the book is an absolute treasure trove of information for those interested in any way in the textual reliability of the New Testament. It is tempting in any day and age to seek certainty, but Christians–and hopefully others–ought to really be seeking after truth. This book helps get at that, providing ways forward for additional research while also blowing open the doors of understanding both hyper-critical and overly optimistic myths about the possibility of getting at the “original” New Testament.

Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism is an invaluable resource for those interested in textual criticism. It points out many major errors that persist in common knowledge while also opening many avenues for new research. There are few times I think a book comes along that everyone should read, but this is one that anyone with even the slightest interest in the reliability of the New Testament ought to read, mark, and inwardly digest.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Ken Follett’s “Fall of Giants” – Deconversion, Hope, and Strife

fog-follet

Ken Follett’s “The Century Trilogy” is a sweeping series . I just finished the first book, Fall of Giants, and realized there were several themes found therein that begged comment here. Here, I will analyze the book from a worldview perspective. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

I will not go over the plot of the book. A brief summary may be found here.

Deconversion

Billy Williams is a Welsh boy who goes to work in a coal mine. The first day on the job he is left alone in the pitch black–his lamp went out. Rather than wandering lost in the tunnels he keeps working until someone comes to get him. To keep himself from being too frightened, he sings Christian hymns and draws comfort from them. At the end, when the light is restored, he sees a fleeting vision of Christ just at the corner of the light and says “Thank you.”

If that sounds like the start of a storyline that will be an example of a life of faith to you, you would be disappointed. After an explosion in the coal mine, he is distressed by the problem of evil–why does God let bad things happen? As he grows older, Billy is exposed to textural criticism. He is disturbed that we don’t have copies of the original texts from which we get the words of the Bible. His father, who often preaches at their worship services, has insufficient answers. Later in life, Billy’s sister gets pregnant and is judged sharply by his father and their town because she is not married. He is strongly put off by the apparent hypocrisy of the people. He never returns to church.

I admit that “deconversion” may be a bit of a misnomer because it is never specifically said that Billy doesn’t believe in God anymore, but the implications are there. He has a deep distrust of and distaste for Christianity, it seems, after this.

The story illustrates the need for a firm foundation. Textual criticism is not something Christians should fear, as it allows us to recover the text of the Bible more accurately. The problem of evil is not unsolvable. And, unfortunately, Christian hypocrisy is actually something to be expected. Indeed, the Christian worldview would expect hypocrisy at times because we are still sinners in this world and will continue to commit wrongs, despite being people of faith. None of this was hinted at in the novel, but I suspect that this is due in part to the fact that Follett is himself an avowed secular humanist. There seems to be an agenda here (and see below).

Unfortunately, Billy’s story is similar to one we can see repeating in churches and families all over. We have not studied our faith. We have not worked out the hard problems related to Christianity, so when we are confronted by them, we are often found with pat answers rather than the truth. We need to actively seek out answers and be aware of our own limitations. Unable to answer every question, we should commit ourselves to a life of faith seeking understanding.

Hope

There is hope found in the darkness throughout the coming World War and the plights of the individual people. Hope is found largely in the actions of other people–the small kindnesses that are done even in the face of evil. As the world seems to be crashing down all around, it is relationships which keep people going. Some of these are vaguely religious in nature, though the persisting theme seems to be that people need to do for themselves whatever they’d like to accomplish.

Religious Leaders?

One persistent theme throughout the book is that those involved in the church are mean, nasty, and most likely sexual deviants. Any time a priest-whether Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodoxy or Anglican–is mentioned or encountered, it is almost always in context of some offhand remark about how they sexually harassed a child or how someone who is now an adult remembers when they were asked to have sex with the priest, etc. It’s actually quite tiresome. While on the one hand it is important to note that there are those within Christianity who have abused power throughout time, on the other hand, to suggest that everyone in some sort of position in power was a power-hungry sexual predator is uneven, to put it mildly.

Those who are not in established religion–like Billy’s dad–are portrayed as aloof, distant, and largely uncaring. Billy’s dad does get a chance to redeem himself as he accepts Ethel back into the family, but only after he had to consider the possibility of having his whole family fall apart.

Conclusion

Follett has woven an intriguing story with a very strong premise. It is unfortunate that throughout there also seem to be straight polemics against Christianity. A better balance was needed to make it seem realistic and not so much a diatribe against Christianity. Some good takeaways can be had from reading the book, but the worldview it presents is largely bleak and hopeless.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Popular Books– Check out my other posts on popular books, including several other science fiction works. (Scroll down for more.)

Source

Ken Follet, Fall of Giants (Signet, 2012).

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Really Recommended Posts 2/19/16- Textual Criticism, Lent,and Jesus on Evil

postAnother round of Really Recommended Posts for you, dear readers! This week, we have a biblical scholar from the throw out pile, voting in Lent Madness, the problem of evil and Jesus’ response, textual criticism, and women in combat. Be sure to let the authors know what you thought, and let me know your responses as well!

The Biblical Scholar from the Throw-Out Box– “If [Katharine Bushnell] had been a man, every single contemporary Bible scholar writing on gender would have had to reckon with her findings. As it was, she was a woman, and her work was ignored.” Here’s a post on

Lent Madness– Vote for different theologians throughout history in brackets to determine the winner of this year’s Lent Madness. Who will wear the golden halo this year?

Jesus’ Answer to the Problem of Evil & the Unfairness of God– What did Jesus have to say about the problem of evil? Here is a post looking into this topic in ways that might make us uncomfortable.

Debunking Silly Statements in Greg Gilbert’s Debunking Silly Statements About the Bible: An Exercise in Biblical Transmission– Some clarifications about textual criticism are found in this post that addresses some common misunderstandings that Christian scholars hold about the field.

The Bible and Combat Women- Does the Bible forbid women in combat roles? Does this go against gender roles entirely? Check out this commentary on the issue, and see also my post on the subject.

 

Really Recommended Posts 6/20/14- textual criticism, Krauss, and more!

snowl-owl-post-arpingstoneI’ve put together what I think is a pretty diverse array of topics for you, dear reader, to peruse. Check them out, and let me know what you thought of them! If you liked their post, let them know, too! Comments keep we bloggers going!

Gospel Truth? 10 Quick Questions– Here’s an interesting way to approach evaluation of rival Scriptural traditions–how might we determine whether one is true? What do you think of this list of questions about revealed truth? While you’re at it, Saints and Sceptics (they’re British!) is a great site that is well worth your time to follow and read on a regular basis.

Lawrence Krauss debates “A Universe From Nothing” with an Astrophysicist– Check out this review and commentary on a debate in which Lawrence Krauss continues to press his redefined version of “nothing” to try to explain the existence of the universe. This time, he debates an astrophysicist. Hint: it doesn’t go well.

Towards a Deeper Theology of Women: 4 Contributions of Women Scholars– Both men and women were created in the image of God. As such, they are each capable of contributing to theology and teaching. Check out this list of four contributions of women scholars, complete with some reading to pick up along the way!

Free Bible Icons– The title isn’t the catchiest, but these digital icons for every book of the Bible (and groupings therein) are fun, free, and a great thing to just print off and use as book markers in your Bible. Moreover, they’re just fun to look at.

Evangelical Textual Criticism– How might evangelicals engage in textual criticism? Here’s a site that explores that while also providing a number of resources like bibliographies for study, conference reminders, and the like. For an example of how this plays out, check out this post on Codex Bezae.

Really Recommended Posts 9/20/13- Apologetics, Textual Variants, Evil, and more!

One Year Ago, Apologetics Saved My Life– A simply wonderful, raw, existential post on the necessity of apologetics for the life of faith.

The Number of Textual Variants: An Evangelical Miscalculation– Humans are fallible, and as such we often get things wrong. Daniel Wallace has written an excellent article to correct a common miscalculation made in apologetics works regarding the number of textual variants. Thankfully, the response from many authors has been to request changes in their works and strive to correct the error. Even better, it is worth noting Wallace’s conclusion: “All this is to say: a variant is simply the difference in wording found in a single manuscript or a group of manuscripts (either way, it’s still only one variant) that disagrees with a base text.”

Why does God allow so much natural evil from phenomena like earthquakes?– Wintery Knight has gathered together a number of resources to present a sound response to the challenge of “natural” evil like earthquakes, tsunamis, and the like.

Natural Selection is Empty– A short but fairly technical write-up on a work by two atheists which argues that natural selection is incapable of being the lynchpin of the argument for the origin of species.

Book Plunge: There was no Jesus, There is no God– A lengthy critique (with great discussion afterwards) of a recent self-published work arguing that there was no Jesus and is no God.

snowl-owl-post-arpingstone

Jesus’ wife? A survey of responses.

SEE UPDATE: It has become revealed that this fragment is almost certainly a fraud. But, if you’re still bothered by it, check out the links below.

UPDATE 2 (4/17/2014): The case has been reopened as some alleged new evidence has shown that the document might not be a forgery after all, which now makes the links below relevant again! I’ve also added a comedic video I found via Tim McGrew.

There has been a bit of an uproar about a 4th Century Coptic Manuscript which purportedly provides evidence that Jesus had a wife. Apart from the fact that it is 4th century and therefore a few hundred years after the events and during primetime for Gnostics making up facts about Jesus to undergird their own theological leanings, many seem to think this is somehow evidence against Christianity. Well, here are some great responses to the discovery.

Reality Check: The “Jesus’ Wife” Coptic Fragment– Daniel Wallace, an influential NT scholar, comments on the discovery. He really gets into some great textual-critical details here. I would say this is one of the more important responses. I highly recommend this response.

Durham University professor calls the “Jesus had a wife” manuscript fragment a forgery– Yep, folks, we might be cutting this one off pretty quickly. Some analyses are suggesting fragment is actually a hoax, and the arguments seem pretty decisive. See the next post:

The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: How a Fake Gospel-Fragment Was Composed– This is a very interesting post which you can find Francis Watson, a professor of religion and theology at Durham University making a concise argument in a PDF which argues that the fragment is a fake. It’s a fascinating article, and perhaps destroys the whole controversy at the start. (To be fair, the late purported date of the fragment does little for me, anyway.)

New Coptic Fragment Says Jesus Was Married– A summary of skeptics’ attitudes towards historicity. 

The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife?– Glenn Andrew Peoples has a simply fantastic discussion of the implications of this discovery. One of my favorite lines: “Prepare yourself. Suddenly, people are going to read a sensational article about a tiny scrap of parchment and become experts on early church history.”

Did Jesus Have a Wife?– A post which focuses on the authenticity of the document and the implications if it is indeed authentic. Another great response.

SHOCKING New Evidence Reveals 4th-Century Coptic Christians WONDERED If Jesus Was MARRIED!– What is the historical significance of the discovery, assuming it is genuine? A few very good, concise points.

So What if Jesus did Have a Wife?– Definitely an alternative approach. John Byron notes that Christians could grant that Jesus was married without somehow undermining  the core doctrines of Christianity. This one is really interesting and I’m sure will be controversial. While not a response to this article, Aggie Catholics has a very different view of the implications of the discovery, while denying that it has historical import other than as showing the beliefs of Gnosticism: Proof That Jesus Was Married?

The Wife of Christ and the Bride of Christ– This post looks at the discovery from a more presuppositional type approach. We know the Bible is reliable, so what should we make of this discovery?

Stop the presses! Jesus was married! Oh no!– Carl Olson at the Catholic World Report comments on a number of issues with jumping to conclusions about the text. I found this one particularly insightful about how the discovery is being portrayed in the media.

Quick Thoughts on the New Jesus Wife Text– Darrell Bock, a prominent NT scholar, shares his thoughts on the implications of the text. It’s highly informative and concise.

Was Jesus Married?– A reflection on the way the media portrays stories like this along with an examination of the importance of the document and apologetics.

Get Ready for A Wave of Gnostic Looniness Again– James White notes that the discovery was made by a woman who loves to sensationalize gnosticism.

Shock! Horror! Jesus’ Wife! (Video)– a satirical video about the discovery and its alleged implications for Christian faith.

Book Review: “From God to Us” by Norman Geisler and William Nix

From God To Us (hereafter FGU) by Norman Geisler and William Nix provides a general introduction to a number of topics regarding the origins of the Bible. The book explores the inspiration, canonization, transmission, and translation of the Bible from the earliest roots until the modern era.

Inspiration

FGU outlines the nature of inspiration. It is important to note that “it is only the product that is inspired, not the persons” (17). Another misconception is that inerrancy/inspiration applies to copies. The sense in which it does must be limited: “Only the autographic [original] texts themselves (or perfect copies of them) are inerrant… Every other copy is inspired only insofar as it is an accurate reproduction of the original” (18).

The authors then turn to a defense of inspiration through the Biblical teaching of inspiration. By outlining the way the text is treated as inspired in both the Old and New Testaments, the authors make a case for the general inerrancy of the autographic texts. Finally, the authors provide an argument for the Bible as the word of God (68ff). The argument is 12 steps and they provide a basic defense of each premise.

Canonization

One of the most frequent objections brought up offhand to those who hold to a high view of the inspiration of the Bible is that of the canon. Some say that the canon was just arbitrarily chosen by a church council somewhere, and that there is no way to determine how books got into the Bible.

FGU provides a more historically accurate look at the canon. The authors first outline a number of factors that are faulty for determining canonicity. For example, age alone cannot determine canonicty because some books of the Bible drew from contemporary sources.

In direct opposition to the notion that a council alone could determine the canon, FGU underscores the notion that: “the role of the Christian church… is not to determine which books are in the canon but to discover which books God determined should be in the canon, namely, those that He had inspired” (91). The authors then explore a number of factors which play into discovering the canon.

Historically, FGU explores the extent and formation of the Old Testament and New Testament canons. The arguments are concise and direct readers to further areas of exploration, while providing enough information to refute most basic arguments.

Transmission

The Bible had to be transmitted: namely, God’s word had to be communicated to human persons. How was this done? Largely in the form of written languages. FGU explores the importance of written language as a means of communication and provides a brief background in the development thereof (164ff).

Of great importance to the reader is the extensive material on the manuscripts of the Bible. The details of the manuscript tradition are outlined and even several forms of extrabiblical manuscript evidence is brought into the picture. Such evidence is an important part of a believers’ background of Bible knowledge. FGU also does a fantastic job outlining the foundations of textual criticism and the valuable role it can play in determining the accurate reading of the text (221ff).

One of the most enlightening parts of FGU outlines the nature of finding “errors” in the transmission of Scripture. Often, one will hear the claim that there are 100s of thousands of errors in the Bible. Bart Ehrman has, in particular, focused upon this in order to cause some unrest in the notion of the accuracy of the Bible (243). But these are actually variants in manuscripts which are sometimes counted numerous times:

If a single word were misspelled in 3,000 different manuscripts, they are counted as 3,000 variants… Ironically, the way Ehrman counts ‘errors’ (variants), there were 1.6 million errors in the first printing of his book. For there were 16 errors, and the book printed an alleged 100,000 copies… Ehrman himself admits the biblical variants do not affect the central message of the Bible. (243)

The authors then turn to an analysis of variant readings and how they occur, from misspellings and unintentional changes to corrections to try to bring texts into concord (246ff).

Translation

FGU provides an intense look at a number of ways the Bible has been translated and the way that translations happen. The traditions of translation are outlined and traced through history (280ff) and the importance of individual translations are analyzed.

Another extremely valuable part of the book is the analysis of how translations come about as far as the emphasis placed upon form-driven versions, meaning-driven versions, and paraphrases. Readers interested in modern Bible translations will find a wealth of resources for analyzing the varied translations. There are nearly 70 pages of information on these translations, so readers will have a number of points to discuss with those asking questions about translations.

Analysis

FGU is a huge resource for those interested in not just defending but learning about the Bible and how it has arrived in its current state in our pews. The book covers a number of issues and it will have appeal to both lay readers and interested professionals. Christian apologists will find a treasure trove of information about the background of the Bible which is often glossed or ignored in a number of apologetics resources.

The authors come from a decidedly conservative background, but this does not prevent them from a generally fair analysis of a number of topics. For example, though they seem critical of the so-called “gender accurate” language of TNIV, the analysis of the translation is objective and simply outlines how the translation comes to its current form (350-353).

Conclusion

Norman Geisler and William Nix have provided a solid resource with From God to Us. It will appeal to those who want to get a lengthy introduction to a number of relevant apologetical issues related to the Bible. Furthermore, it provides a significant amount of background on various translations of the Bible. What is most surprising about the book is how it manages to provide so much information without becoming too dense or thin. It covers so many issues that the danger would seem to be either to err on the side of being too long or too brief on each issue. The authors admirably do not stray to either side, and in doing so, have provided an invaluable resource for both the interested lay reader and professional.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,566 other followers

Archives

Like me on Facebook: Always Have a Reason