What is the Critical Text?


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

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Shea S. Michael Houdmann Supporter Got Questions Ministries
The Critical Text is a Greek text of the New Testament that draws from a group of ancient Greek manuscripts and their variants in an attempt to preserve the most accurate wording possible. Other Gr...

July 01 2013 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Data Tom Huntford
The "Critical Text" is based on the assumption that a few ancient manuscripts with a large degree of variability, are better than thousands of later manuscripts that are very similar. The older manuscripts are preserved because they were located in desert-dry conditions, especially Egypt. The "Majority Text" or "Byzantine" manuscripts are literally in the thousands, and are very stable.

Until the days of Westcott and Hort, the Majority Text had been accepted. The "Textus Receptus" that the King James Version was based on, is from a very few manuscripts that were available at the time to the English translators. It is basically Majority Text, but has some unique differences.

Westcott and Hort--especially Hort--developed a very negative attitude toward the Textus Receptus, and came to the opinion that the recently discovered, very old copies from Egypt, were vastly superior. Their arguments carried the day, though the holes in their arguments were pointed out from the time they published until now.

The Majority text is represented by literally thousands of manuscripts. Because they are so similar, they are simply referred to as "M".

The "Critical Text" is called "critical", because the Egyptian manuscripts have so much variability, that you have to sift through all the variations "critically", and guess which one you think is the original. And with the modern translations that are based on the "critical text", you find that each translation committee takes it's own course, sometimes disagreeing with the editors of the current "critical" version (which is up to the 28th edition at the time of this writing). So one version will dispense with one reading and pick another, while another version will make a different call.

The question is: are a few sloppy manuscripts from Egypt really to be depended on, rather than thousands of manuscripts that show such careful copying that they are essentially identical?

I say sloppy because it is obvious that when you have a large variety between manuscripts from an area, it is obvious that they were not too good at carefully copying the original. The obvious fact has not been out in the forefront of the discussion, and many have "uncritically" accepted the "critical" text without really thinking about this aspect of the matter.

The Majority Text has been published by Robinson & Pierpoint, and Hodges & Farstad here in the West recently, as have some book about it, such as by Guiseppe Guarino and Don Minkler, along with older works by Dean Burgon.

The Critical Text is represented by the Nestle Aland and United Bible Society's text. Both have critical apparatus, which show the variants. There are Bible programs, such as BibleWorks (you can still get copies of BW 9 and 10 here and there on eBay), Logos, Olive Tree (have it on my phone), 

The good news however: ALL the manuscripts have the same message. The same books. Same verses. Yes, because the manuscripts were copied by hand, people made mistakes here and there. But it is amazing how IT IS THE SAME BOOK WITH THE SAME MESSAGE IN ALL THE MANUSCRIPTS! They all say "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life". And "perfecting holiness in the fear of God".

So, whichever manuscript "family" you favor, it will tell you that Jesus died for our sins and rose again; that we are to be saved by believing in Him; that we are to live lives of holiness once we are saved; that we have an eternal hope through Him, that we will be resurrected to eternal life at his coming, and be with God forever.

So don't get too caught up in the debate. Don't get too worried about the debate. And for sure, do not lose confidence in God's word because of the debate. The "variations" are like microscopic dents and scratches on a sword made of the finest Damascus steel that has been through many battles, and is still razor sharp.

December 12 2020 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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