Thursday, November 25, 2010

Is Textual Criticism Denominationally Affected?

In a recent exchange with Dr. Larry Hurtado (Edinb.U), I was corrected on some points regarding Roman Catholic involvement in textual criticism and potential bias.

Dr. Hurtado said:

"...your comment...contains a number of inaccuracies and could also be taken as gratuituously anti-Catholic in places. (I make no accusation; I only report likely impressions.)
Note for your information the following:
--The UBS/NA text is simply the successor edition to the Nestle text commenced over a century ago by a German Protestant, and still managed by the UBS and the NT text-critical institute in Muenster (a Protestant faculty). Martini was on the committee of an earlier edition but is no longer. When on the committee, he was a respected Catholic NT scholar, and he resigned when be was made a Cardinal. In any case, text-critical decisions are not denomination-based.
--The Lockam(Lockmann) Foundation is neither mysterious nor Catholic. I have no idea whether or why they might have been interested in other NT translations than the one they sponsored."

Of particular interest is Dr. Hurtado's assertion that "text-critical decisions are not denomination-based".

This is an interesting comment, because it appears that for at least a hundred years, active textual criticism, which promoted essentially the ideas of Lachmann, Tregelles, Tischendorf, Hort, Nestle, Aland were indeed driven by ideology in part, and most of the early textual critics who "dethroned the Textus Receptus (Traditional Greek NT text)" were in fact loudly opinionated Unitarians.

Later on the Unitarian/Trinitarian controversy died down, and textual critics became less interested in this doctrine when it became apparent to both sides that the textual evidence could not support a purely Unitarian NT, any more than it could a Trinitarian one.

But critics didn't on the whole move back into Trinitarian churches. The damage was done, and the many new Protestant "denominations" and cults continued along.

In large measure, the next generation of textual critics remained Rationalists and carried on treating the Bible as "any other book", subject to ordinary circumstance of wear, error, and worldly decay. On the whole, the doctrine of Providential Preservation of the Traditional text, (i.e., the 'Reformation Bible') was abandoned. It was granted that the original autographs were "error free" and "inspired" by most, but these of course were lost.

Yet in spite of the coming and going of various theological "fads", the textual data stayed about the same as it was in the turn of the century (c. 1900-1920). The papyri had all been discovered, and the only new items of interest were extra-biblical books like Thomas, Judas, & Nag Hammadi (gnostic and heretical works).

So the text languished in the state that the original Unitarians of the 19th century left it in. Even the latest critical Greek NT (1982) is essentially 80-90% in agreement with the Westcott/Hort text (1882).

We have been saddled with the "Unitarian" NT, and no one has any way of really escaping it, other than return to the traditional Text (TR/Majority text).

What is holding things up now?

Again the answer appears to be ideological, if not "denominational" per se. Of course no particular (Protestant) denomination controls things. But the fact is, there is a strong reason to maintain the text as it is, and not go back to the Traditional text. Its essentially the Roman Catholic text as well.

If modern Protestants have their Westcott/Hort style text taken away, there will be very little to distinguish Protestants and Catholics, other than Biblical interpretation, and some church service practices.

I would say that to put it bluntly, Protestant authorities are afraid to embrace the "Catholic" Bibles of their own Reformer-Fathers, and will not relinquish their claim to being "scientifically superior" in regard to the NT text in comparison to Catholics.



The White Man said...

"the Traditional text. It's essentially the Roman Catholic text as well."

Au contraire. The Vulgate is the historic RC text, but even they don't use it anymore (other than the Rheims/Douay-only fundamentalists).

Nazaroo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nazaroo said...

Your point is interesting...

Is it your opinion that there is a significant difference between the Latin Bible and the Greek Bible?

It seems to me that although the differences were important a century ago, when Unitarians suspected that RCs had corrupted the Bible horribly, that the identifiable differences really aren't that serious.

The only real remaining issues seem to revolve around doctrinal hair-splitting, and the perhaps over-use of obscurantist vocabulary and expression.

What do you see as some examples of a "gap" between the Reformation Bible (e.g. KJV NT) and the RC text (Douay/Rheims say)?

very curious,