Re: Textual Criticism.

From: Trevor M Peterson (
Date: Thu Oct 23 1997 - 11:51:31 EDT

On Thu, 23 Oct 1997 10:34:26 -0400 Jonathan Robie
<> writes:
>At 09:20 AM 10/23/97 -0400, Paul F. Evans wrote:
>>I suspect that we will have to look harder at this issue in the
>future with
>>the resurgence of support for the Maj. Text, and suspicions that some
>>its readings are older than the so called better texts.
>Can you tell me more about this, Paul? What evidence is there for

I do look forward to Paul's answer, but as far as I know the issue is not
so much one of new evidence coming to light but old arguments never
having been effectively refuted. Enough discussion has already come
forth on the subjectivity involved in the process of evaluating which
readings are better, but most of the primary arguments that have been
used against the MajT have failed to find support in the past century or
so. We are no closer to hard evidence for a Byzantine recension, the
discovery of the papyri has only revealed that the different "text types"
were around earlier than we originally thought, no one has effectively
constructed valid textual genealogies, and we're still left with
essentially the same situation--that manuscript evidence prior to the 4th
c. is for the most part isolated to Egypt, which leaves us wondering what
the rest of Christendom had (or for that matter whether the small number
of mss from that time are an effective representation of what the
Alexandrian churches used).
>I'm quite ignorant of textual criticism, but if I recall, one of the
>significant arguments for the Alexandrian text type is that when the
>Fathers quote the New Testament, their quotes seem to come from the
>Alexandrian text type. Is there any evidence that the Byzantine text
>was used and quoted in the early history of the church? (This is a
>not an assertion, since I have no knowledge of these things.)

Actually, patristics is a tough area to work with. It's not as though
we're working with Scriptural citations that we might find today. One
must determine whether the father intended to quote or merely paraphrase
from memory. If he had a good memory, it may seem like he's citing a
text, when the variations are really coming from his own head. Also,
their writings have undergone the same corrupting factors that the
Scriptures have experienced (for the most part); thus, it's difficult to
tell whether some scribe further down the line didn't adjust the
Scripture citations. Critics put weight on "better" editions of the
fathers, but what do we mean by better? To some, that may mean that we
assume Byzantine readings from early fathers were added later; thus, the
editing process will be directed against such readings. If the same
principles that are being used in ms criticism are also applied in the
edition of the fathers, what have we really gained? But I don't claim to
be an authority on patristics. These are things I've read, though, and
they make sense. I might also mention that Burgon, who is generally
recognized as the primary defender of the MajT, studied the patristics
extensively. The only problem is that we don't have much access to a lot
of his work. Nevertheless, it is evident from what we do have that his
study of the patristics only reinforced his convictions.

Well, take all that for what it's worth. I'm still trying to figure this
out, but hopefully this will help someone.

Trevor Peterson
M.Div. Candidate
Capital Bible Seminary
Lanham, MD

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