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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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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Is a Textual Variant Both Meaningful and Viable?

I've stated repeatedly in previous articles that most textual variants are simple mistakes made by scribes when copying the New Testament, but some changes are intentional. When trying to decide if a variant could be original, textual scholars start by asking two questions:

Is the Variant Meaningful?

Often, mistakes do not create a meaningful text. Spelling errors may produce a series of letters that aren't really a word. Jesus instructed...

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What are Intentional Textual Variants?

Last week I wrote about What are Unintentional Textual Variants?, and this week I want to focus on intentional changes scribes made to the New Testament text.

Intentional changes are often harder to detect than unintentional changes. A spelling mistake should be easy to detect, unless the new word it produces is a legitimate word, and one that make sense in context. The author of an intentional change will try to make the change fit into...

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Do Textual Variants Show Christianity is False?

Some people are extremely critical of textual variants in New Testament manuscripts, claiming God would have prevented variants from occurring in the manuscripts (if He could have), so the existence of variants prove God doesn't exist and the Bible isn't true. My article Why did God Allow Variants in the New Testament Manuscripts? argues God was not only justified in allowing variants in the manuscripts (not that any of God's actions need a...

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How Are Textual Variants and Variation Units Related?

Textual variants are words or phrases in a manuscript that are different from the standard text. There may be several textual variants for a verse in the Bible, such as the last verse of the Lord's Prayer. Variation units are places in the standard text where the original wording is uncertain, and scholars try to determine which textual variant most likely reflects the original wording.

Textual Variants in Colossians 2:2

A single...

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What are Variant Units?

In my article two weeks ago, I wrote there are an estimated 200,000-500,000 textual variants in the Greek New Testament manuscripts. Last week I showed spelling errors are counted, but most aren't significant.

Variant Types

The types of textual variants that exist in New Testament manuscripts are split into two  broad categories:

  • Insignificant Variants are errors that are usually found in only a few manuscripts and that can...

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How are New Testament Manuscripts Dated?

Scholars have found tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts that contain parts of the Bible. Each manuscript had two aspects to it: 1) the physical media it's on; 2) the text that has been written on it.  The media and the text have to exist at the same time, but they don't have to be created at the same time. It is possible for a 2,000 year old text (i.e. the New Testament) to be written on modern media (i.e. paper). It is not possible for modern text...

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