Monday, November 26, 2007

Welcome to the Text of the Gospels

This is a commentary on textual variants in the Gospels which can have an impact on translation. I will be using an approach called Equitable Eclecticism: "eclectic" in the sense that variants from all text-types are considered, and "equitable" in the sense that Byzantine readings are not handicapped by assumptions about how the Byzantine Text developed. In general, the Equitable Eclectic approach tends to favor the reading that has the broadest support among text-types and geographical areas, unless the internal evidence for a rival reading is particularly strong.

In addition to considering specific textual variants, this blog will include reflections on various aspects of New Testament textual criticism in general. Some of these reflections might take the form of gentle criticisms of how some textual variants have been presented, or misrepresented, by some commentators.

As we begin, let's reflect upon the scope of the task at hand by considering some words from the late Dr. Bruce Metzger: in the critically revised text of the Greek NT, "Every seventh word is a definite article, every fifteenth word an 'and,' and every twenty-fifth word an autos. The ten most frequently used words comprise about 45,000 of the total 137,328 words, and the approximately 170 words that occur more than 100 times each comprise about 100,000 words of the total text (that is, about five-sevenths of the New Testament)." (Bruce Metzger, using statistics compiled by Morgenthaler, in Lexical Aids for Students of NT Greek, page 1.)

That doesn't sound like too much to handle. And I won't even be navigating the whole New Testament here -- just the Gospels. I am not sure how long this will take. At least one textual variant will be considered here each week, God willing.

All Christian readers are welcome to join me on this textual adventure, but please understand from the outset that this blog will resemble a book more than it will resemble a conversation. Regarding comments, my general policy is to allow civil, focused, and brief comments. I do not guarantee any interaction with comments. If you comment here, do not get sentimentally attached to your comments, because I plan to remove comments each month (if any are posted), retaining only whatever seems to me to have exceptional merit.

As members of the Christian church, the body of Christ, we travel on the same journey; we are built on the same foundation; we blossom from the same vine. May we likewise be guided by the same inspired message given in the Gospels.