Re: Textual Criticism.

From: John M. Sweigart (
Date: Wed Oct 22 1997 - 21:00:18 EDT

Paul F. Evans wrote:
> Craig, et. at.,
> Early on in my ministry, following college, I read everything I could
> on elementary textual criticism. I began to form a basic
> understanding of the subject and grasped the notion that Westcott and
> Hort's theory seemed to dominate, to some degree or another, even if
> most didn't accept a truly Neutral Text. Recently I read a similar
> piece of literature, though much more basic, by John Wenham, who makes
> a very convincing case for the Byz Text! Now I am not sure.... As
> for the rules of what makes one reading preferred over another,
> Clayton has it right when he says that many times they are circular in
> nature. Add to all of this the evidence of versions and the need to
> translate back into Greek. The whole thing if you're not careful
> becomes very subjective.
> What this illustrates to me is that we are more or less at the mercy
> of the experts in this area because we do not have the access or
> resources to make informed guesses on text critical issues. It seems
> to me that textual criticism is an all or nothing sport, where you are
> devoted to it whole heartedly. If you are not, you are going to find
> it hard to draw meaningful conclusions or to make persuasive claims.
> I think the average student feels that he can only follow the
> arguments and make the truly subjective decision as to which one
> "seems right" to him. In this respect, I think that given the vast
> amount of material in the NT that is attested with great weight, we
> have to be careful not to draw conclusions based upon textual
> variants. I personally am suspicious when anyone makes a case for a
> something based upon a variant reading. (Here is a bold statement if
> you like that kind of thing) I know of nothing of consequence
> doctrinally, theologically, or even of historical or geographical
> accuracy in the NT that depends entirely on the analysis of textual
> variation for it's support. My question is this, is anyone on the list
> aware of any textual issue upon which a matter of critical (no pun
> intended Jonathan!) importance hinges? (And, yes, I am aware that
> assessment of importance is in itself a highly subjective thing!)
> Also, is there anyone on the list who is aware of a textual
> "difficulty" that can be settle by an appeal to textual variation? It
> seems to me that specific examples like this would be a better way to
> proceed (if we should proceed down this road), and would keep us
> within the guidelines for the list.
> Paul F. Evans
> Pastor
> Thunder Swamp Pentecostal Holiness Church
> MT. Olive
> E-mail:
> Web-page:
> ----------
Dear Paul and other list members;
Rev. 5:9; Matthew 20:23; Matthew 24:36; perhaps John 1:18 seem to have
some bearing on major issues. Of course all of the issues in question
can be validated by other verses. But I would like to see someone
comment on the importance of structure in making these decisions. For
example, Matthew 20:23 as I shared with Clayton off list breaks what I
consider to be good Semitic parallelism if we adopt the shorter
reading. Can structural or stylistic understanding help us make textual
decisions? I for one question some of the canons of textual criticism
just as Clayton does. Based on personal copying experience I've always
found it easier to drop out words rather than add to. Yet my mistake
would definitely lead to the shorter reading.


Rev. John M. Sweigart Box 895 Dover, Arkansas 72837 Cumberland Presbyterian Church __________________________________

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