What Evidence do Textual Critics Evaluate?

Last week I wrote about the rules that textual scholars Kurt and Barbara Aland used to decide which variant reading was most likely original. Rule two states: Only the readings which best satisfies the requirements of both external and internal criteria can be original. Actually, most of the rules can be categorized as external or internal evidence.

External evidence

The external evidence comes from the group of manuscripts that...

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How are the Best Textual Readings Determined?

Last week I wrote about New Testament Textual Criticism, the practice of studying ancient Greek manuscripts and the textual variants in them, then trying to determine which variant is most likely to be the original text. A starting assumption is that the original text has been preserved somewhere in the existing Greek manuscripts, and early  translations or quotes by the church fathers will be able to confirm those readings. New Testament scholars have...

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What is New Testament Textual Criticism?

I've spent several months researching and writing about Textual Variants (and I spent six months before that researching New Testament manuscripts) to bring me to this point: What is New Testament Textual Criticism? New Testament Textual Criticism (NTTC) is not about criticizing the New Testament, but uses the word criticism in the sense of careful study.

Criticism: the work or activity of making fair, careful judgements...

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Do I Need a Dictionary to Study Textual Criticism?

I started the series What is Textual Criticism? by explaining what a textual variant is, how they get into the text and how they affect the text. The preceding 19 articles are just an introduction to explain why New Testament Textual Criticism (NTTC) is needed. Before getting to NTTC, I thought I'd post a glossary I've been working on. It's helped me keep track of the terms that are used in this field of study. This is not an exhaustive list of...

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What are the Most Important New Testament Manuscripts?

The New Testament was written in the first century, but the  date each book was written is highly debated. Conservative Christians usually date most of the books of the New Testament before A.D. 70, since there is no mention of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army, which occurred that year. Other people claim much of the New Testament was written after A.D. 70, and that any apparent prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem was written after...

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What Text Types are the Variants in Colossians 2:2?

In the article How Are Textual Variants and Variation Units Related? I had a chart showing the reading that textual critics think is most likely to be original for the last variation unit in Colossians 2:2, along with 14 textual variants. The standard text reads:

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the...

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How do New Testament Text Types Compare?

Last week's article, What are New Testament Text Types?, gave a brief overview of what text types are in New Testament Textual Criticism. Below is a list of the differences in text types, and some of the most important manuscripts for each type.

Category I – Alexandrian text type

  • High quality manuscripts that should always be consulted
  • Generally found in Northern Egypt, particularly from the city of Alexandria,...

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What are New Testament Text Types?

I've spent quite a bit of time describing what Textual Variants are, and now I want to write about how they can be used to identify manuscripts. The Gospel (Good News) spread rapidly across the Roman Empire after Jesus' resurrection, but for years it was only spread verbally. Once the books of the New Testament were written, some textual variants became common in certain regions. By looking for common textual variants in manuscripts, textual scholars may...

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Are Textual Variants Motivated By Theology?

While most textual variants in the New Testament were unintentional, some changes were intentional. In many cases, the intentional changes were made to clean up grammar and spelling errors, but in some cases the changes were made to emphasize theological points when a passage was ambiguous.

By about A.D. 400, the New Testament manuscripts had stabilized. Manuscript evidence after this time show that the scribes didn't make many new meaningful and...

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Were the Church Fathers Aware of Variations in the New Testament Manuscripts?

Awareness of textual variants in literature goes back at least a few hundred years before Jesus was born, and scholars have constantly been trying to find the original readings. In the series I've been writing, I've been focused on textual variants in the New Testament, but they also exist in the Old Testament and in secular literature.

Secular Literature

The city of Alexandria, Egypt, was founded by Alexander the Great in 331 B.C., and...

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