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The Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism


Now we know that Matthew abbreviated Mark wherever possible, and we know that
scribes were always harmonizing one gospel to another (that is, making both gospels
sound alike — usually by grafting the longer reading of one gospel onto the shorter
reading of another). Therefore there is every likelihood that the reading without “to hear”
is original (here and in 11:15, 13:43), and the longer readings are assimilations to Mark.
?
Several Final notes…
First, critical editions use many different formats to present data. The system above is
by no means typical. A good critical edition will explain how it is to be read, but you can
also ?nd information in the article on Critical Editions of the New Testament — which
also brie?y describes the nature and history of several of the major editions.
Second, it should be stressed that textual criticism, unlike any other Biblical discipline,
should not be faith-based. The goal must always be the highest possible degree of
scienti?c objectivity. This is simply a logical necessity. The Bible is one of the basic
pillars of Christian theology (most Protestant sects would say the basic pillar). Therefore
it follows that we want to reconstruct it as accurately as possible. But as soon as one
allows personal preference (whether it be called that or “the voice of the Holy Spirit” or
the like) to determine the text, where does one stop? I will offer myself as an example. I
personally ?nd the doctrine of predestination to be simply abhorrent. It's boring for God
and utterly unfair for humans. If I were to allow my own opinions (which feel just as
much like the voice of the Holy Spirit as the next person's opinion) to control me, I would
always be tempted to delete or soften pro-predestination references. We will all have
such prejudices. The only possible solution is to follow objective rules. Your rules may
differ from mine, and so may produce different results — but at least the result will not
suffer from theological bias. Treat textual criticism as a science (using logic in the
application of internal evidence and text-types and mathematical data in the evaluation
of the external), and you should do well.
Some textual manuals, such as Ellis R. Brotzman's Old Testament Textual Criticism: A
Practical Introduction (p. 129) suggest that every time one makes a textual decision, the
textual critic should explain its importance for exegesis. I would strongly urge textual
critics not to do this, as it muddies the thinking. Readings must be chosen solely on the
basis of the evidence, not the critic's faith. If a textual critic can't perform his or her task
objectively, he or she shouldn't be doing textual criticism; if an exegete can't ?gure out
what the variant readings mean, the exegete should go out and get a real job. It is one
thing to mark which readings are most uncertain, as several editions do; it is another for
the textual critic to do the exegete's job.
The Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism
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