Archive for the ‘Textual Criticism’ Category

Back in July we did a three part outline series on how “We can know the words of the Old Testament.”  There’s a total of 13 reasons given of why we can know and reconstruct what’s the content of the Old Testament.

The response to these posts have been overwhelming in terms of views and comments and feedback.

Since it is such an important topic I thought I make a post with a table of contents to them.

Here’s the table of contents:



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On April 22nd, 2017 Christian apologist Doctor James White presented on the topic of New Testament Reliability for South Dakota Apologetics at Parkview Church in Rapid City, South Dakota.  The reliability of the New Testament is one of Dr. White’s field of study.

Here are the two lectures:


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This is from James White concerning the topic of Textual Criticism in light of the news that the 28th edition of N-A is out.

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This was from earlier this March this year (2011).

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Purchase: Amazon

Clark himself has admitted that he is not a textual critic (10) , that he himself is not writing to address professional scholars (38). But that does not mean Clark believe he has nothing to say about textual criticism, since textual criticism itself can be criticized on the basis of logical analysis, as Clark himself stated: “much of textual criticism cannot claim immunity from logical analysis” (11). In reviewing this book, I agree with Clark here that logical analysis of textual criticism is a legitimate endeavor, though I don’t know of any textual critic who thinks that somehow textual criticism is immune from logical analysis. This book by Gordon Clark, “Logical Criticism of Textual Criticism” is itself not immune to logical criticism either and to that end I will pursue in this review.

What is the purpose of this book? Reading the opening of this book, Clark never makes it clear. Towards the middle of the book, one wonders what is the direction of this book and the big picture of what Clark is trying to criticize. Sadly, he states this most clearly towards the end, with his conclusion: “..we conclude that the type of criticism underlying the Revised Standard Version, the New American Standard, and other versions is inconsistent with its own stated criteria, inconsistent in its results, and inconsistent with the objective evidence. Its method is that of unsupported aesthetic speculation. If we want to get closer to the very words of God, we must pay attention to Hodges, Farstad, Pickering and The New King James Version” (49). Chiefly, from the stated conclusion, the book’s purpose is one that concern with textual criticism methodology, where the methodology of the NASB, RSV are criticized and the methods of the NKJV and scholars like Hodges and Farstad (the Majority Text school) are upheld to be be closer to the Word of God. That might be his conclusion, but does this follow from the content of the book?

He favors the school of the Majority Text championed by Zane Hodges and Farstad (39), but I wished the book would have defended why he favored this school’s methodology. Rather than an exposition and defense of the Majority Text view, he praises it’s proponents work and simply state them as requiring patience to work through, having over 150 entries on bibliographies (11), that these works refute detractors (11-12) are scholarly and less speculative and too complex to reproduce in the book itself (40). As Gordon Clark’s other works have taught me as a younger Christian, it’s one thing to assert a premise for a conclusion is true and another thing to demonstrate it!

Clark has written in this book that “If the critics are not interested in the validity of their methodology, but nonetheless make use of manuscript evidence, I would like to recommend some studies of their professional resources” (11). Though Clark does make use of manuscript evidence in this book, Clark was himself not consistent in his failure to consider the validity of his preferred method (Majority Text school), which he recommend others to do in his own book.

Readers will see Clark employing a method of counting the number of text to support a reading without consideration of the external history of the text itself. For instance, for Romans 6:16 Clark argues on the basis of 30 verses 2 manuscripts for a particular reading, but found it as an appalling inconsistencies that the adopted reading in 6:11 has a majority of textual support (for another example, see Clark’s comment on Romans 8:23). Clark then takes a jibe against Textual Criticism as an “art” by straw-manning textual criticism saying “If you enjoy Rembrandt, it is Byzantine and bad; if you enjoy cubism, you are a great scholar. Aesthetics is decisive” (44). Among other things, Clark is equivocating “art”. More importantly, Clark fails to understand that textual criticism is not just counting numbers of support but there is a need to weigh the evidence in light of the manuscript’s history, date, family, etc. Curiously, Clark should know better, for he himself acknowledges that the weight of each manuscript testimony must be taken into consideration, when he stated that text D “is almost as bad as some American translations. Acts would do much better without it, and them” (42). For him to weigh the evidential value of text D, but then to somehow forget about evidential weight of manuscripts in other occasion is simply unfortunate.

Though Clark does not give a full explanation for the NKJV method, he does have an interesting method in his criticism of other schools.

A favorite method of Clark’s argumentation throughout the corpus of his work that is evident here as well is his method of dismissing his opponent’s suggestion of a contrary possibility as being nothing more than speculation.  While he does this concerning argument by others, Clark nevertheless engages in the same practice of arguing by suggesting the possibility of the contrary. Readers can see this in his short interaction of the three canon of textual criticism.  Note Clark’s use of the word “might”, when he argues against weighing the manuscript’s evidence versus counting a simple majority of text (that happens to be Byzantine): “That the numerical superiority of the Byzantine text might have been due to its early widespread acceptance of that type as being closest to the autographs does not seem to impress them” (32).  Note also the words “if” in his argument in an earlier part of the book: “If a score or two score manuscripts have a single ancestor, it implies that a score or two score copyists believed that ancestor to be faithful to the autographs.  But if a manuscript has not a numerous progeny, as is the case with B’s ancestor, one may suspect that the early scribes doubted its value.  Possibly the early orthodox Christians knew that B was corrupt, while the later heretics were less interested in wasting time copying their own altered text.” (15). Clark’s method of criticism provides his own self-defeater.  In addition, Clark fails to acknowledge the reason why those he criticizes believes in weighing the manuscript versus a simple count of majority reading. Which explains why Clark would chide Textual critics of non-Majority Text school with the inability to accept a simple majority as a criteria that is good enough.  The majority of the text happens to be later (Byzatine), which acceptance Clark favored because he believed this family enjoy “early widespread acceptance of that type as being closest to the autographs does not seem to impress them” (32).  This assumption is simply not true, the Byzantine was not necessarily widely accepted, as there are other families of text in existence.  A simple counting of manuscripts is also defective in that the Byzantine reading became the majority over the other families not necessarily because everyone adopted them widespreadly, but because of the discontinuation of Greek in the rest of the world where Latin’s translation was adopted in the West and other languages elsewhere.  Hence, it would be expected that the majority of the Greek text would be Byzantine and coming much later (which does happen to be the case).

Clark employs arguments that is base on suggestion of contrary possibilities with his interaction with the other canons of textual criticism.  Concerning the canon of preferring the tougher reading over the simpler reading as the original, Clark objected: “But it is also possible, for a number of reasons—fatigue, brilliance, the mispronunciation of a reader—that he changed an easy reading into something more difficult” (16).  Concerning the principle of preferring shorter reading to the longer, that the rationale is because scribes tend to preserve all the readings in the copy, Clark replied: “But could not some scribe, if he had different manuscripts before him and were not listening, with a room full of copyists, to a reader—could he not have been sufficiently devout to remember the Scriptural injunction neither to add nor to subtract?” (16).  Again, it is important to note Clark’s self-defeater that raising possibilities ought to be simply dismissed because engaging in such a pursuit is “purely speculative”.

His argument by doubtful questioning and skepticism also has its limitation.  Attacking those who have been influenced by Westcott and Hort in their dependence on the manuscript Aleph and B, Clark raises the question: “Why could not Aleph and B have come from an earlier proto-Arian text or a Marcionite deception?” (32).  Yet, Clark accepts Aleph and B as manuscript evidence throughout the book.  This planting of questions of doubt is also counter-productive towards Clark’s goal in the book of giving confidence of the believers in the manuscripts and the Word of God.  The maxim that the end does not justify the means has birthed a similar truism: The means that undermine the end is no means to the end.

Another method to support his conclusion is in criticism of the “ratings” of the critical Greek texts. He himself explained that: “the consideration of this material will go far to enhancing the reputation of the New King James Version in comparison with the Revised Standard Version and others that accept the results of Aland, Metzger and their associates” (43). A closer look reveal that Clark was rather sloppy in his stated task.

There are times when Clark failed to interact with the entirety of the argument of those he criticizes.  Concerning Mark 5:1, he mocked Metzger citation of Alexandrian and Western types of text for reading γερασηνων, by insisting the “superior external evidence” for his reading, and then went off criticizing Metzger’s sole argument is his explanation of how the text might have possibly experienced a scribal assimilation.  He writes that “The critics’ argument is mainly unsupported speculation” (28).  This is rather dishonest on the part of Clark, because reading Metzger’s section on Mark 5:1 in full (rather than just the quote cited by Clark), the evidence Metzger cites was built largely on the manuscript evidence of the earliest Alexandrian and Western text types.  He should have instead gave his argument against the evidential value of the Alexandrian and Western text types if he disagreed with Metzger since this was the core of Metzger’s argument, instead of mocking Metzger’s possible explanation for how the variant reading arise.  On page 20, Clark is again rather reductionistic of Metzger’s reasoning.  Clark stated concerning Metzger’s textual commentary, that “Metzger’s note says that his Committee preferred ιδων  [idon].  Their reason is that seeing is less appropriate than knowing, and that therefore seeing must be original while knowing must be a correction.  Naturally one cannot expect the original author to have used the more appropriate word, can one?  It is the logic of the reasoning that I am contesting, not the genuineness of ιδων.  The defense of ιδων is in its superior textual evidence” (20).  But when one refers to Metzger’s work one find that this is not the only line of evidence cited, where Metzger discusses also the testimony of the και in the combined testimony of the text and it’s relationship with ιδων.  Futhermore, Metzger’s commentary “A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament” has clearly stated in the first edition (which Clark used during the writing of his book) that the text-volume itself has already cited the important manuscript witnesses as evidence for their adopted reading and “the reader of the commentary will be able to supplement the partial citation of evidence by consulting the fuller apparatus in the text volume” Metzger, 1970, page viii).  It is rather disappointing to see Clark failure to recognize that the commentary was to supplement the argument given within the textual apparatus of the UBS Greek Text, which led to his reduction of believing that Metzger’s only argument is found in the commentary, and thus to view Metzger’s argument being absent of interacting with the superior textual evidence.  The two works (the textual critical apparatus in the UBS and the Commentary itself) are complementary of each other and the commentary is not meant to be a stand alone work of providing Metzger’s argument.  Failure to recognize this has not allowed Clark to interact fully of the arguments of those he criticizes.

Actually, it seems the book was in general rather sloppily written and put together. The chapter on Romans has a section on 1 Corinthians 1:13 (45). Commenting on Revelation 13:18’s textual issue he jabs against Scofield interpretation of Romans 2-3 (48-49), which is inconsistent from someone who himself acknowledge the distinction between theological versus textual problem (44-45). Sometimes Clark is sloppy by not being clear of who it is he is interacting with. For instance, concerning Luke 19:25 he mentioned that “they gave it a D rating…” (34). But who are “they” that he is talking about? Metzger in the UBS does not give the verse a D rating but an A, so it’s definitely not Metzger that he’s talking about. Who is the “they” Clark was referring to? Clark doesn’t say, nor does he say who “they” are in the context.

Furthermore, Clark is at times somewhat belittling towards his readers, saying things like how the tough matters in the book are things for the readers to survive through the boredom of (43), or when he writes, “Overcome with fatigue the patient reader will be overjoyed to learn that Revelation now ends this study” (46). Surveying how the chapters focusing on Matthew through Revelation gets generally shorter and shorter, and how the chapter on Matthew began commenting chronologically textual issues even those that are rather minor and what Clark himself admits as trivial (19), it’s probably ironic to say that perhaps Clark was the one who has become fatigued with the task. Clark is not to be blamed that the task is difficult, but given the shortness of time and energy, he could have been a much more wise steward of time and energy if he would have concentrated on the major textual issues instead.

Some of the problems he pointed out is legitimate. It is also fortunate to point out that Textual Critics sometimes do abandon weaker readings for the better reading over time. For instance, Clark makes a good case for “Lord” in Luke 24:3, which the Nestle text put in double-brackets to show doubt until the twenty-sixth edition when they finally are led to the conclusion of the “Lord” reading. The same can be said of Luke 24:9.  Sometimes textual critics over time improves on giving a legitimate higher rating from previous rating. One can see this if they compare Clark’s complaint of bad ratings to updated editions’ ratings. For instance, Clark wanted a higher rating for the inclusion of the entire verse of Luke 24:12, since it was at his time rated D, but now the UBS rates it a B. Among many other examples of the state of improvement of ratings of Clark’s complaint is also 1 Corinthians 1:13 (from C rating to an A in UBS 4th Edition).  Concerning Mark 1:41, Clark writes that “the rating should at least be B instead of only C.  Note also that while the Aland text gives it C, Metzger in his Textual Commentary reduces it to D.  This is indefensible” (27).  Subsequently, Metzger’s second addition did rate it a B.  Still another example: Clark criticizes Aland’s rating of Matthew 7:13 “gate” with a C.  Here I  agree, and fortunately in the UBS Fourth edition it is now rated an A.  I must also caution that there are also readings that Clark argues for that I am in agreement with him and yet those readings are currently not held by the textual critics he criticized.  For instance, Clark argues persuasively concerning Luke 9:59, that the “Lord” there is the original reading in light of the strong attestatation of various families of manuscripts and the papyrus 45 and 75, yet strangely this is not agreed by the critics Clark cited.  In light of the fact that the field of textual criticism does progress in accepting changes for the better, this does lead to questions concerning Clark’s attack on textual criticism: Is Textual Criticism and Textual Critics in general the big boogie man that Clark has portrayed them to be?

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