Order of Contents
Main Schools of Thought
Collection of Works on Textual Criticism
On the OT
Textual Criticism is the science of trying to reconstruct the original autographs of the Scriptures from the many manuscripts that we have today (which vary about about 1% in the Majority Text and 7-13 % in the Critical Texts).
‘Higher Criticism’, as exercised by liberals, assumes and operates on unbelieving and destructive principles to the Bible. ‘Lower Criticism’ is the legitimate work of the Church, putting oneself under the authority of the text, and seeking to be faithful to God in using our sanctified wisdom in order to preserve and maintain the deposit of his heavenly Revelation to mankind.
Why does textual criticism matter? Because most Bible versions today (besides the KJV & NKJV) are based largely off of the Critical Texts. While no primary doctrine of Christianity is lost in these versions, many secondary and tertiary doctrines are significantly altered. See here for a list of 40 Doctrinally Significant Variants.¹
¹ Mt 5:22,44; 6:1,13; 9:13; 17:21; 18:11; 19:17; 20:16; 20:22; 23:14; Mk 1:2; 6:11; 7:8; 9:29,44,46,49; 10:21,24; 16:9-20; Lk 2:40; 18:28; 22:43-44, 64; 23:34, 42, 45; Jn 1:18; 3:13; 5:4; Acts 2:30; 8:37; 10:30; 24:6-8; 28:29; Rom 8:1; 11:6; 1 Tim. 3:16; James 2:20; 1 Jn 4:3.
The Main Schools of Thought
The Majority Text (recommended)
See here for an introduction as to how the manuscripts of the New Testament have been providentially preserved by God through the ages. The King James’ Textus Receptus comes from this tradition.
Reasoned Eclecticism – The most popular school of thought today
Eclecticism means to pick and choose from various paradigms. ‘Reasoned’ and ‘Equitable’ refers to giving things their proper due weight, as opposed to a consistent and systematic critical text approach. This view is something of a middle view (though in practice it often leans 85% to the critical texts and shares many of their presuppositions).
Snapp gives an excellent introduction to the concept of textual criticism, one of the best overviews of the modern and recent history of textual criticism, and gives many helpful principles of doing textual criticism (much of which the Majority Text school of thought would agree with). Read this, learn and be humbled.
Wilson, Andrew – The Problem with Reasoned Eclecticism n.d. 53 paragraphs
Wilson is a published author in the field. The article is technical and offers 4 problems with Reasoned Eclecticism, though the main one is simply that it follows the Critical Texts nearly all the time and its appearance of neutrality otherwise is a facade.
Wilson, Andrew – Prefer the Shorter Reading? n.d. 8 paragraphs with two charts
One of the most foundational pillars of critical textual criticism since its rise in the late 1800’s has been to (almost always) prefer the shorter reading, which pillar is still widely popular today. The unproven assumption was that scribes would most often have willingly expanded the text (contrary to any fear of God and the testimony of the early Church Fathers).
This pillar of modern textual criticism, unbeknownst to many, has been thoroughly disproved by half a dozen recent textual studies. Consistent with common sense, scribes, insofar as they unintentionally made mistakes, most often simply left a letter or word out (bad eyesight). Wilson provides a table. Modern textual criticism, which underlies the basis of most modern Bible versions, has no clothes on; but rather has been cutting out the Word of God (Rev. 22:18-19).
The Critical Texts (not recommended)
In the mid-late 1800’s 3 or so rather full N.T. manuscripts were uncovered in the sands of Egypt, which appear to be from circa A.D. 250. As these were older than the many Majority Texts we had at the time (many from the 300’s), they were thought by many to be more accurate.
However, while the Majority Text differs in a about 1% with itself, the Critical Texts differ about 8-13% with themselves and with what the Church previously used throughout Church history. Today we have found numerous early paper manuscripts from the 2nd century that have confirmed Majority Text readings.
It is believed by the contributors to this website, with much scholarship, that the Critical Texts are inferior and corrupt manuscripts. To see the very full evidence that points to this conclusion, see some of the numerous articles on the Majority Text page. Most Bible versions today are based off of the Critical Texts.
A Collection of Works on Textual Criticism
This collection by James Snapp, Jr. includes 70 of the major textual critical works available on the internet, both conservative and liberal.
On the Old Testament
Elias Levita – The Massoreth Ha-Massoreth of Elias Levita: being an Exposition of the Massoretic Notes on the Hebrew Bible, or the Ancient Critical apparatus of the Old Testament in Hebrew d. 1549 Translated, and with an 84 page introduction, by Ginsburg, 1867.
Masoreth means ‘to bind’ or ‘fix’, that is, it was the Jewish commentary on the scribal reproduction of the Hebrew scriptures during the first millennium of the Christian era, meant to ‘fix’ and preserve the Hebrew text indefinitely. For a helpful summary of the Masorah and its significance, see the reliable McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia.
Levita’s title connotates something to the effect of ‘a binding commentary on the Masorah’, that is, to shore up and confirm the validity and usefulness of the Masorah. Ginsburg was a leading Hebraicist of the 1800’s. In the very valuable introduction he says:
‘ The work now submitted to the public in the original Hebrew, with an English translation, is an explanation of the origin and import of the Massorah. Those who are acquainted with the fact that our Hebrew Bibles abound with marginal and textual glosses… and who know that there is no guide in our [English] language to these enigmatical notes, will welcome this Treatise, written first, and almost the only, Massoretic exposition.’
Cunningham, William – The General Integrity of the Original Text of Scripture, Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch. 1.8 (1878), p. 525, 25 pp. being chs. 43 & 44 of Theological Lectures
Dabney, Robert – The Doctrinal Various Readings of the New Testament Greek from his Discussions, vol. 1, p. 350 ff.
Gaussen, Louis – On Sacred Criticism, p. 324, 25 pp. being ch. 6 of Theopneustia: The Divine Inspiration of the Bible
Whitley, William Thomas – VIII. ‘A Study in Textual Criticism’ in Princeton Theological Review 1.1 (1903), pp. 93-100
Whitlely demonstrates that the canons used to redact critical editions of the New Testament are simply incorrect.
“A dozen intelligent Christians were desired to copy exactly two passages: eight of these were theological students and knew something of the theories of textual criticism; all were urged to be scrupulously precise, were interested in the subject-matter, and had abundance of time.
The result was to show that additions were absent, omissions frequent, alterations nearly always for the worse. Is it not high time that these canons were subjected to a thorough testing?”
More to Come