What is a Critical Edition of the New Testament?

Spelling of "David" in Greek Matthew 1:1

As I've written before, different scholars have different opinions about which Greek manuscripts most closely resemble the original texts written by the New Testament authors, and they use different sets of rules to determine the most appropriate readings. When scholars put their beliefs into practice, a new critical text of the New Testament is created. The text may be published many times in different editions, just as the text of the King James...

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What are the Approaches to New Testament Textual Criticism?

I've mentioned in my last few articles that textual critics use different sets of rules when trying to select the best readings. Often the rules are compatible with each other, but sometimes the rules by different scholars conflict. This is one of the reasons there are so many versions of the English Bible available.

There are several approaches critics use to evaluate the evidence. On one extreme, critics look only at the internal evidence and...

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Is Textual Criticism an Art or a Science?

My article two weeks ago, How are the Best Textual Readings Determined?, was about the rules textual critics use to decide which reading was most likely original, but performing textual criticism is as much an art as a science.

The word "rules" implies a list of what should and should not be done, with an expected outcome that other people can duplicate. The rules can't take into account every condition that might have occurred when copying...

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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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