Textual Criticism

I have a confession to make: I don’t understand how text critics stay sane. Don’t get me wrong! I have a great respect for Dr. Black and Dr. Robinson. I also believe that the work of the text critic is necessary. Establishing the text of the New Testament must be done first before we move on to the meaning of the text.

Nevertheless, I have spent the last two days (and by two days I mean 8+ hours a day) sitting at my computer. I have been dividing up all the manuscript witnesses provided by the Center for New Testament Textual Studies for all variants in Matthew 3 (except for spelling discrepancies).

After I finished arranging manuscripts according to their textual families and dating, I came to the realization that not everyone accepts Aland’s fivefold classification system (I Alexandrian, II Egyptian, III Eclectic, IV Western, V Byzantine). Metzger only has three categories (Alexandrian, Western, Byzantine). Black and Robinson hold to 3, possibly 4, categories (Alexandrian, Western, Byzantine, and ~Caesarean/Other important witnesses). Needless to say, I had to reorganize the Egyptian and Eclectic categories to go in the Alexandrian and Caesarean families respectively (with a few exceptions).

I thought that the worst was finally over. All that was left was addressing the variant in Matthew 3:12. It was a bit more complex so I decided to save it for the end. Since the notations in Aland and CNTTS were a bit confusing, I decided to look at the facsimiles of codex Vaticanus and Washingtonensis. Vaticanus was a breeze. Nothing better than the hand of a meticulous scribe with good orthography. Washingtonensis wouldn’t have been so bad if the program I was using hadn’t mislabeled the versifications for the page I was studying. It took me about an hour to realize that Matthew 3:11-4:3 was actually on the page labeled 3:4-11.

At the end of the day, I have learned a number of things.

  1. Woe to the man who treats the text critical apparatus in his BHS or NA27 with low regard or disdain.
  2. Woe to the man who believes that the resources he uses are impeccable and impeachable.
  3. Woe to the man who assumes too much and must re-do his work because he accepted a theory that has long since been questioned.
  4. Finally, blessed be the man who does the tedious and tiresome work of textual criticism. May he ever stay sane, and may the Lord bless him for his never ending toil.
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One Response to Textual Criticism

  1. bowdenblog says:

    And finally, blessed is the man whose instructor for textual criticism is Dr. M. Robinson.

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