Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Text of the New Testament - Lecture 1 Part 1

At the Family Conference 2014, Pastor Jeff Riddle presented three lectures on the text of the New Testament.  His first teaching was on 11/14/2014 and titled "The Text: From the Apostles to the Reformation."  Pastor Riddle opened his talk by reading 2 Timothy 1:13-14.  His teachings on the Traditional Text are highly important for all Christians, so I'm posting my notes from his lectures.
For the New Testament (NT), there are two choices of underlying text: the Traditional Text or the modern Critical Text.  For translating the original language text, there are two choices of philosophy: Formal Equivalence method (word for word) or Dynamic Equivalence method (thought for thought).  Paraphrases like the Message are not translations and should be avoided.  The preface of your Bible will tell you what textual basis and translation philosophy is used.

The Traditional Text of the Greek NT is the text that is generally represented by the majority of the extant, ancient, hand-written manuscripts that we possess of the NT.  With the advent of the technological revolution of the printing press, it is also the Text which came to be the standard Greek text that was used by the Reformation Fathers when they made the classic Reformation translations of the Bible into the vulgar or common languages of the people.

The Traditional Text was the basis for the first English translation by Tyndale in 1525; it is also the basis for Coverdale's Bible in 1535, for Matthew's Bible in 1537, the Great Bible in 1539, the Geneva Bible in 1560, the Bishop's Bible in 1568, and the King James Bible in 1611.  This is true not only for English, but also every other language.  Therefore, this is not just a King James Bible issue.

The modern Critical Text is a scholarly revision of the Traditional Text which was first published in 1831.  In the modern era, the modern Critical Text has almost completely supplanted the Traditional Text as the basis for scholarly study and for modern translations, to the degree that those who hold to the Traditional Text are considered obscure and anti-educational.

The modern Critical Text is found in two major printed editions: the United Bible Society 5th Revised Edition (2012) and the Nestle-Aland 28th Edition (2012).  The text is the same for both; the only difference is the notes.  Since there has been a recent revision in the UBS and Nestle-Aland, the modern translations will need to update their versions to match the changes made in their underlying Greek text.

How is the Traditional Text different from the modern Critical Text?  In general, the Traditional Text is longer because most significantly, it retains words, verses, and whole passages that the modern Critical Text omits.  For example, Mark 6:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11 are placed in double brackets in the modern Critical Text because (according to the scholars) these passages are not part of the original text; and therefore, they should not be part of the text of Scripture.  Other examples include: Luke 23:34, John 5:3-4, Acts 8:37, 1 Tim. 3:6, and 1 John 5:7.  This list is NOT exhaustive. 

The move to the modern Critical Text has come about because the faithful church has largely transferred stewardship of the Bible from the church to the academy.  The academy in general is not interested in conserving or guarding Truth, but in innovation, deconstruction, and novelty.

~~This ends the first half of Pastor Riddle's first lecture~~
So why is the textual basis of the Bible important?  The New Testament of the King James Bible is based on the Traditional Text.  The New Testament of the New King James Bible is also based on the Traditional Text, but major Critical and Majority Text variant readings are indicated in the footnotes (which casts doubt on the truth of the text).  All other New Testaments of the modern translations are based on the modern Critical Text, including the English Standard Version (ESV), the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), the New American Standard Version (NASB), the New International Version (NIV), the New Living Translation (NLT), and the Revised Standard Version (RSV).

Therefore, there are major differences between the current Bible versions based on their underlying text as well as minor differences between the different modern translations based on translation philosophy.  The rise of the modern Critical Text has undermined the authority of the Bible and shaken the confidence of today's Christian in a settled and fixed text of Scripture.  In addition, the unity of a single English translation of the Bible with deep Reformation roots is gone.


In my next post on the Text of the New Testament, I'll share my notes on the second half of Pastor Riddle's first lecture.

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 "Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.  That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us," (2 Tim. 1:13-14).