Re: Textual Criticism.

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Thu Oct 23 1997 - 12:19:04 EDT

At 11:51 AM 10/23/97 EDT, Trevor M Peterson wrote:

>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

I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "failed to find support". As far as I
can tell, virtually all modern translations use texts similar to the
Nestle/Aland, largely based on the Alexandrian text type. The New King
James, of course, is based on the Textus Receptus. But what other
translations are based on the MajT or Textus Receptus? The standard critical
editions seem to be the Nestle Aland and the UBS, which use essentially the
same text, and that text leans largely on the Alexandrian text type. Bruce
Metzger's books seem to have become standards in the field, and they also, I
think, suggest that the Alexandrian text type is superior to the Byzantine
text type. So most of the indications I see do not confirm the notion that
arguments against the MajT have "failed to find support". I may well be
getting my facts wrong, since I know nothing about textual criticism, but I
would like to know what indicators you are looking at when you say this.

>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).
If I read that correctly, you are saying that the Byzantine text type was
around earlier than previously thought, but that manuscript evidence prior
to thte 4th century is still all Alexandrian, right? But you postulate that
the other text types might also have been around at that time, but we have
no evidence for that now.

>>I'm quite ignorant of textual criticism, but if I recall, one of the
>>other significant arguments for the Alexandrian text type is that
>>when the early Fathers quote the New Testament, their quotes seem
>>to come from the Alexandrian text type. Is there any evidence that
>>the Byzantine text type was used and quoted in the early history
>>of the church?

>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.

Perhaps, but if the citations coming from his head match a particular text
type, that tells us something, doesn't it?

>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.

OK, I don't know ANYTHING about patristics. Maybe someone else can comment here.

>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.

What are some of his works? Why do we not have much access to his work?


Jonathan Robie
POET Software, 3207 Gibson Road, Durham, N.C., 27703

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