Friday, 10 June 2011

Scribes Didn't Make as Many Mistakes as Some Suggest

I am sometimes surprised at where there is little or no variation in the New Testament Greek manuscript tradition. In preparing the CNTTS exegetical-textual commentary, I came across two such examples in 1 Pet 3.

Continue to read at Evangelical Textual Criticism.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Reliability of the New Testament Text and Pastoral Concerns

We have about 5800 New Testament Greek manuscripts. However, if everyone of these were suddenly obliterated, we could reconstruct the New Testament from the early versions with considerable confidence. For example, we have about 15,000 Latin manuscripts.

I myself specialize in Coptic manuscripts. If I only had access to the New Testament in Coptic, none of my theology would change an iota, and none of the story of Jesus would change either.

I sat in on the Classics and Divinity combined PhD seminar at Cambridge one day. A paper was being presented on the neo-Platonic philosophers. They were discussing the nature of the soul as taught by these philosophers of late antiquity. I could hardly refrain from laughter as the other students made confident assertions about the beliefs held by third century philosophers such as Plotinus and Porphyry, as if the manuscript tradition were indisputable and rock solid. In reality, we have so few manuscript copies of their works (perhaps a handful)--and the few that we have are separated from them by a 1000 years and more, and perhaps only available in a secondary translation. The New Testament manuscript tradition is incredibly rich by comparison.

I don't want to exaggerate the strength of the New Testament manuscript tradition. For example, only about 15% of Matthew's Gospel is attested by manuscripts of the second and third centuries. But even so, we have good evidence of a strict line of transmission from the fourth century to the second century. My own PhD thesis strengthens this conclusion significantly.

There have been some influential works written lately which undermines the reliability of the New Testament textual transmission. These books are being assigned in colleges, and many college students are being led to the conclusion that we can't trust the Bible because we don't have the original manuscripts. Pastors are often woefully inadequate in responding to our college students, and I'd like to do what I can to support pastors and our college students facing such skeptics in the university.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Translation of the Lord's Prayer from an Early Coptic Manuscript

I have just submitted my PhD thesis. The thesis dealt with an early (4th century?) Coptic manuscript. Here is a literal translation of the Lord's Prayer from the manuscript. Note that the long form of the Lord's Prayer (for thine is the kingdom, glory, and power) developed later as a befitting conclusion to the prayer and was not a part of the original text of Matthew's Gospel.

As for you, therefore, it is in this way that you should ask:

Our Father in heaven, may your name be hallowed. May your kingdom come to us. That which you will, may it be; as it is in heaven, may it be done upon the earth. Give us our bread of tomorrow today. Forgive our debts in the way that we, for our part, are forgiving the ones indebted to us. Do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us [lit., you certainly shall deliver us] from evil.