What is textual criticism?


Clarify Share Report Asked July 01 2013 Mini Anonymous (via GotQuestions)

Community answers are sorted based on votes. The higher the vote, the further up an answer is.

Shea S. Michael Houdmann Supporter Got Questions Ministries
Simply stated, textual criticism is a method used to determine what the original manuscripts of the Bible said. The original manuscripts of the Bible are either lost, hidden, or no longer in existe...

July 01 2013 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini John Appelt
When a person compares versions of the Bible, he will notice that some verses read differently. Textual criticism is the science of reconstructing from extant (existing) copies what the original manuscript may have been. The Old Testament is mostly free from much controversy as the transmission was fairly accurate, but the New Testament has many variations. This is where textual criticism steps in. Here are some observations.

In principle, scholars first examine the copies and group them by material, handwriting style, and quality. Then they note the differences or variants (variations) especially those that are likely original but change the meaning of the text. These scholars analyze and, guided by rules they have devised, they assign them a likelihood rating, using letters A, B, C, D, with A being certain, and the others increasing levels of doubt. This subjective choosing of the “best” manuscripts is called the eclectic method. From this was published a Greek New Testament Critical Text, first by Brooke Westcott and Fenton Hort, and later by Eberhard Nestle, Kurt Aland and others, now known as NA/UBS (NU), from which most modern versions are based. 

However, this “reasoned eclectic” method favors the few older manuscripts such as the third century Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, called the Alexandrian manuscripts, preserved by the Egyptian climate. But it is also biased against the more abundant, later manuscripts, known as the Majority Text (M) or Byzantine Text. Produced from these are: “The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text,” by Zane C. Hodges and Arthur L. Farstad, “The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform 2005” by Maurice A. Robinson and William G. Pierpont, and “The Greek New Testament According to Family 35,” by Wilbur N. Pickering.

In his article, “What Difference Does It Make? The Greek Text We Accept Makes a Big Difference,” Wilbur N. Pickering revealed problems with the NU Text. In comparison to the M Text, the NU Text is equivalent to a 600-page book lacking 10 pages of omissions and containing 24 pages of discrepancies due to errors and contradictions. Some examples he gave are listed here: 

Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11 are omitted, whereas they are in many manuscripts. 

Luke 4:44, “Judea” is used instead of “Galilee,” which is clear in the context.

Mark 6:22, the girl is said to be Herod’s daughter named “Herodias,” when it speaks of Herodias’ daughter.

John 7:8, Jesus is said to not have gone to the feast, when He had not yet gone.

John 1:18, reads “only begotten God,” when most have “the only begotten Son.”

I Timothy 3:16 says “who,” when many manuscripts have “God.” 

Luke 23:45 has “being eclipsed,” rather than “darkened,” failing to realize an eclipse cannot occur during a full moon.

These discrepancies undermine the authority of the New Testament. Some wrongly suggest that no passage with variants should be preached. However, textual criticism is a valid science when it utilizes all manuscripts to reconstruct what is likely the original New Testament.

October 20 2023 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Add your Answer

All answers are REVIEWED and MODERATED.
Please ensure your answer MEETS all our guidelines.

What makes a good answer? ▼

A good answer provides new insight and perspective. Here are guidelines to help facilitate a meaningful learning experience for everyone.

  1. Adhere to the eBible Statement of Faith.
  2. Your answer should be complete and stand-alone.
  3. Include supporting arguments, and scripture references if possible. Seek to answer the "why".
  4. Adhere to a proper tone and spirit of love and understanding.
  5. For more info see The Complete Guide to eBible
  1. 4000 characters remaining