Trouble Sorting this out

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by kwob02, Mar 13, 2002.

  1. kwob02

    kwob02
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    I guess I am baffled, and perhaps a little bit confused, as to why there is still a debate over English translations of the Bible.

    At first, I found myself laughing inside at the idea that a translation in English, and particularly the editions and revisions of the King James Version, would even still be considered as "the preserved Word of God in English. My two years at Bible college (even the ultra-right-wing fundamentalist colleges that I attended) taught me that there were now manuscripts available, closer to the actual date of the original New Testament writing, that were not available to the KJV translators. There have also been significant language changes in English and major developments in Greek and Hebrew studies that obviously render any modern English version far more accurate and true to the original text than the King James Version. I more or less dismissed the use of the KJV partly because I have a strong, bitter taste in my mouth from my childhood church pastor, who insisted that any other version was of the devil, and from the professors at the Bible colleges I went to, who also insisted that the KJV was still the best, and whom I rejected as also being ignorant due to the poor quality of the rest of the education there.

    However, I read an article about eight or nine years ago, and can't recall the author, but I am sure it was in a secular publication (I wasn't reading anything Christian back then), who made the claim that Bible translation, especially in English, is nothing more than a matter of what your particular bias is, and that whatever it happens to be, you will give your support to the translation that supports your bias. He claimed that fundamentalists and extreme evangelical conservatives hug to the King James because it supports their bias, and doctrines have been developed around "simplistic" interpretations of verses either because of their antiquated terminology, or because they were in the manuscript used for translation. He claims that the liberal, or left side of Christianity, tends toward the more "thought for thought" translations and paraphrases. Moderates, he says, opt for the NASB or NRSV, depending on their background. All translations, he stated, are the product of bias.

    So, my resolve then (well, not exactly "then", but in the past year or so that I have rededicated my life to Christ) was to refresh the rusty and almost gone Greek, and attempt to discern from the early manuscripts what the writers really meant. Then I find out that some versions use one set of manuscripts related to one kind of "text form" and there are other versions who use a different, variant "text form" and there are even discrepancies among the Greek texts, and there is no really objective way to distinguish between the two (or however many variants there are) text forms as to which one more closely represents the originals.

    Is this true? Is there more than one manuscript form of the New Testament? And if so, is there some kind of standard that can be applied to determine which actually represents the originals? Or, is the conclusion of this writer correct, that there is no way to determine such and what we have in the "Bible" may, or may not, be everything that the original writers intended?

    Now, I am not going to go back down the path to consider that the KJV is either the most accurate English version, since it is clearly outdated just because of the use of language. But if I want to read an accurate representation of the work of the original writers, which English Bible should I be reading? The best arguments I've heard up to this point support the NRSV but it is sometimes hard to read through.

    And, here's another very real question--will I even get accurate information here, or is everyone on this board biased toward their own opinions and thus the scholars that support it?

    [ March 13, 2002, 11:23 PM: Message edited by: kwob02 ]
     
  2. CorpseNoMore

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    CNM: Hi kwob02. I am sorry to read that. KJV-Onlyism is destructive mindset, to be sure, but to turn hostile toward the KJV is simply wrong. The KJV (like any other generally reliable translation) is the the Word of God, insofar as it and they faithfully reflect the originals.

    CNM: It seems to me that this validates the advice given to us by the KJV translators...

    "Therefore as S. Augustine saith, that variety of Translations is profitable for the finding out of the sense of the Scriptures..."
     
  3. Chris Temple

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    THe immense number of mss, forms, types, families, etc does not muddy the waters of biblical accuracy, but rather confirms it. ALL of the mss of all types agree somewhere in the neighborhood of >90%. There are also over 6000 NT mss alone. No other document of antiquity matches either this number of witnesses nor the agreement in accuracy.

    Comparisions between mss readily uncover an clear copying errors that may have occurred. Although particlular words may sometimes be in question, we can rest assured that we have all of the inspired words of God in the extant mss, and represented in faithful translations.
     
  4. kwob02

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    I follow you, sort of. However, wouldn't the key be finding a manuscript that fell within a short time span of the original writing? Suppose a good portion of the 6,000 existing mss were made from a bad text form, or a bad copy (an objection raised in the article I read)? If you have a manuscript, or in the case of the New Testament, dozens of individual books in circulation, all from one copyist in 200 AD who is inserting or deleting things based on his own theology, comparing the manuscripts would not produce an accurate one, it would only produce copies of the inaccurate one, would it not?

    So what kind of time gap are we looking at related to comparing differing text forms? If I recall, the author of the article I read made the claim that the oldest existing mss of the New Testament come from around 300 AD and of the Old Testament from around 1000 AD, except the Isaiah copy in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
     
  5. Pastor Larry

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    This is why the vast majority of biblical scholars adopt the view that the best text is teh eclectic text -- the form of the Greek text that takes into account all textual evidence and weighs the evidence according to date, as well as external and internal evidence.

    One major problem with the Majority text view is that no matter how careful the copyists were, if they perfectly copied a mistake 1000 times, it would still be a perfect copy of a mistake. Therefore in textual criticism, we are not comparing 1000 copies against 5 copies (or whatever the numbers may be for a given reading); we are comparing one reading against one reading and determining the various weight that each reading carries.

    The time gap on NT evidence generally is like this: The oldest manuscripts (called the Alexandrian family) date anywhere from 250ad on. The Majority or Byzantine text type dates generally from the 9th century AD on. For the first 800 years of the church, the texts that are today called the Alexandrian family were the majority family. It was only after 1000 years or more that the Byzantine family become the majority.
     
  6. DocCas

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    kwob02, one of the things you will constantly hear if you enter into this debate will be the same old mischaracterizations of the manuscript evidence. You have articulated one such mischaracterization. The idea that the Byzantine textform is the result of "copy mills" which churned out copy after copy after copy of the same manuscript. This is simply not true. The excellect textual critical work done by Professors Maurice A. Robinson and William G. Pierpont has shown conclusively there is no geneological relationship between the vast majority of the Byzantine textform manuscripts.
     
  7. Pastor Larry

    Pastor Larry
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    I have never seen this characterization of "copy mills" copying the same manuscript. However, your assertion leads me to another question. Is there not, of necessity, a parent text from which all the Byzantine manuscripts descended? In other words, they did not copy the same manuscript (which no one to my knowledge has ever claimed) but they instead copied the same reading from multiple manuscripts.

    It seems at the root of this issue, no matter how we slice it, we are still comparing one reading against another. Those divergent readings must have arisen from somewhere. At some point in history, there was a pure text until such time as it was corrupted. Now we no longer have the pure text (in the sense of free from copyists errors). The parent text of each of the text forms are one, though they may have undergone additional corruption through the centuries.

    Textual criticism is the attempt to find the reading that best accounts for the other readings. If, at some point in history, a copyist made a mistake, it would then account for a divergent reading. If that mistake were copied, it would then account for the divergent copies multiplied by the number of times the copy was copied. In addition, you might have the 2nd copyist make an error the first copyist did not, and the 3rd make an error the 2nd did not, and thus mistakes multiply. In other words, its seems your claim of Robinson/Pierpont really does not solve the problem because at some point the divergent readings, whether authentic or not, arose apart from the original pure text. To say that they have no genealogical relationship seems to ignore the whole idea of a parent text from which all texts, in varying degrees of conformity, descended.

    To my knowledge, Robinson and Pierpont offered no objective and irrefutable evidence that their approach was the best or the most accurate. Furthermore, following the same Byzantine text type, they arrived at a different text than did Erasmus, Stephanus, Scrivener, and most recently Hodges and Farstad. In other words, it seems that even if one buys Robinson/Pierpont approach, they have not objectively arrived at any firmer conclusion that than reached by Metzger or Nestle Aland.

    I am not all that familiar with Robinson/Pierpont though my understanding is that they differed from Hodges/Farstad stemmatic approach. I would be interested if you would care to give an explanation of how Robinson and Pierpont arrived at their conclusion, how Hodges and Farstad arrived at theirs, and how they are substantively different.
     
  8. kwob02

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    Where would I find a comparison of the two text forms, pointing out the differences or discrepancies between them? Is there a reference work on this subject?
     
  9. DocCas

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    "Scrivener's Annotated Greek New Testament" by Dr. Frederick Scrivener, places all the readings which differ between the TR and the Greek text of Westcott and Hort in bold type with a critical apparatus to explain why they differ. As this work was published in 1894 it does not reflect the differences between the text of Westcott and Hort (1881) and the later representitives of the Alexandrian Textform such as UBS4 and NA27.
     
  10. Forever settled in heaven

    Forever settled in heaven
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    a gt complaint quote therein:

    'Certain partisans claiming to affirm a "Majority Text" position have abused that term to promote a sole objective of defending the Textus Receptus and ultimately the exclusive advocacy of the King James Version. To achieve such an end, however, all recognizable principles of textual criticism must be discarded by them; their ultimate struggle becomes purely theological, and that in the extreme. God and the TR/KJV are pitted against Satan and the Alexandrian Text. The Alexandrian manuscripts are thoroughly deprecated. In their eyes Westcott and Hort become "closet Jesuits," bent on destroying the "orthodox Bible" by substituting the readings of "heretical" manuscripts. Those who accept any texts besides the TR and KJV are "liberal," "heretical," and/or dupes of a "Catholic conspiracy." '

     
  11. Chris Temple

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    Very unlikely, considering the providence of God. Both the WCF and the LBCF1689 affirm:

    ***The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which, at the time of the writing of it, was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and, by his singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical;[17] so as, in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal unto them.[18] But, because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them,[19] therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come,[20] that, the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner;[21] and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.[22]

    17. Matt. 5:18; Psa. 119;89
    18. Isa. 8:20; Matt. 15:3, 6; Acts 15:15; Luke 16:31
    19. John 5:39; Acts 17:11; Rev. 1:3; II Tim. 3:14,15
    20. Matt. 28:19-20; I Cor. 14:6; Mark 15:34
    21. Col. 3:16; Exod. 20:4-6; Matt. 15:7-9
    22. Rom. 15:4 ***

    No mss has such a grievous error as to be unreliable.
     
  12. kwob02

    kwob02
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    Thanks for the info. I'll be hunting around the bookstores for both of these works today.
     
  13. Deekay

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    As important as it is to recover the reading of the original manuscripts, it should be reiterated that both of the major text-types present us with exactly the same Jesus. That is a point that often gets lost in these discussions.
     
  14. DocCas

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    The whole concept of the doctrine of preservation tells us that the words of the original autographa have not been lost so do not need to be recovered. They have been preserved for us in the abundance of Hebrew and Greek manuscript evidence, as well as the writings of the patristics, and in the early vernaculars.

    What must be constantly reiterated is that 90-95% of the evidence is exactly the same. The only point of contention is the 5-10% which is at variance and how to best determine which of the variant readings is the preserved text of the original.

    And even that 5-10%, in the majority of cases, does not effect the major doctrines of the Christian faith. And even when a variant does effect a major doctrine, in such cases other verses of the scriptures will correct that error.

    This is not really something that a new Christian ought to be overly concerned about. Reading any bible is better than reading no bible, and living the teachings of any bible is better than knowing all there is to know about versions, translations, texts, manuscripts, variants, patristic quotes, but failing to see the import of the message and live by it. Unfortunately all too many, on both sides of this issue, do exactly that. The bible becomes just another thing to use to assault our brothers and sisters in Christ, and not the glorious revelation of a holy God by which He reveals Himself to us, and instructs us in holy living.

    Grow, glow, and go. Don't sit, soak, and sour! [​IMG]
     
  15. DocCas

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    By the way, Grow, Glow, and Go is a three point outline I like to preach.

    1. Grow: Discipleship

    2. Glow: Fellowship

    3. Go: Evangelism.

    These three should be the goal, and joy, of every Christian.

    [​IMG]
     
  16. Chris Temple

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    Well said, Dr. Cassidy.
     

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