Perfect Chaos

The Blog of Author Steven Colborne

A Brief Look at Textual Criticism

I’m currently doing some research into the issues surrounding the reliability of the Bible. What I mean by this is I’m exploring whether or not it matters that there are different Bible versions with different translations of certain words, phrases, and passages.

I came across an article that I was really tempted to ‘reblog’, but I have an aversion to reblogging because I think it looks really untidy and I suspect most people just skip over articles that have been reblogged for this reason. So instead I decided to write this short post with a link to the piece:

Textual Criticism and Inerrancy by The Clear-Thinking Christian

I feel the article explains in a very lucid and concise way the issues that are at hand when it comes to textual criticism, and the author’s summary serves as a very good introduction to the subject if you don’t want to spend hours (days/weeks!) getting into the depth of the issues.

God bless you all and I’ll be back with my next post on Wednesday, as I release the fourth single from my T.E.N. Project.

12 responses to “A Brief Look at Textual Criticism”

  1. Steven,
    I can recommend a few excellent books. Some of these include:
    “A High View Of Scripture?: The Authority Of The Bible And The Formation Of The New Testament Canon”, Craig Allert, (Evangelical Ressourcement: Ancient Sources For The Church’s Future).
    “Textual Criticism Of The Hebrew Bible”, Emanuel Tov
    “The Biblical Canon: Its Origin, Transmission, and Authority”, Lee Martin McDonald
    “The Canon Debate”, Lee Martin McDonald; James A. Sanders
    “The New Testament Canon: Its Making And Meaning”, Professor Harry Y. Gamble
    Some of the many issues include:
    Differences between the various versions of the LXX as well as with the MT
    Differences between the Textus Receptus, Westcott-Hort, Nestle, etc.
    Differences in Canons between the Roman Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Ethiopian, Syrian, Coptic, etc., etc.
    The canons of the 4th century Codices.
    The methods employed at arriving at the Canons.
    Overall, ask: “Does it matter?”
    As for “Biblical inerrancy”, ask yourself – which one?
    No Bible writer was writing to us. Each writer was addressing their own immediate community, with the intention of influencing and controlling them. It’s exactly the same with us today — we write to our immediate community, not to some unknown group living 2000 years from now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not to mention the internal contradictions in the text itself (the Synoptic/Johanine controversies).


    2. Thanks Doug, I’ll let you know how I got on in about thirty years time when I’ve read them all!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Steven,
        Although you will be reading and studying and researching every day for the next 30 years, I will have to take your promise to let me know at the end of the 30 years as just that, a promise. You will need to visit my grave.
        I have been investigating for almost twice as long. Every day I discover new and fresh information, insights and challenges. The thrill of discovery must never be allowed to wane.
        Keep it up for even longer than 30 years.


        1. Haha, good response Doug! 🙂

          But I’m not making any promises – sorry. There are many areas of theology that interest me, and I don’t believe it would be possible in a lifetime to explore them all (your comment would seem to agree). Therefore I’ll pick my subjects wisely and not try to be a ‘jack of all trades’.

          You know the expression “If you chase two rabbits, both will escape”? I will try not to chase too many rabbits! I do however respect your efforts to go into depth in many theological areas.

          God bless you!


  2. Thanks for offering this. I would take exception to “The Clear-Thinking Christian’s” assertion that textual criticism “refers to the science and the discipline of trying to recover the original text of the ancient autographs. I think that is only part of what textual criticism is about. It would include form criticism, redaction criticism, and studies in provenance, I’d say. Or, in case I’ve not accurately reflected common use of the term “Textual criticism,” I’ll add another vantage point: I think any text scholar worth his salt would realize the futility of pursuing “the original text,” so it is hard to imagine anyone in the T.C. discipline accepting “recovery” as its raison d’etre. It is also hard to imagine that any original autographs — whether of the Hebrew Bible or the currently canonical Christian writings — will ever be found at this point, given what I know of text archaeology. I suspect we will have to be grateful for Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, and the later manuscripts.

    I am not an “inerrantist,” — or, I should say that I cannot imagine anyone’s definition of “inerrantist” that would include me. However, I do stand firmly on the authority and reliability of biblical texts, just as this blogger seems to.

    His resources seem on target: Metzger and Ehrmann would provide a good range, and Dan Wallace is without a doubt a top-shelf, often-sought scholar. I have Wallace’s extensive intermediate grammar book as a reference.

    For those not afraid of challenge to concepts of canon and the definition of scripture, resulting in what I’d call a differently high view of scripture, I heartily recommend this book: Scripture Canon and Inspiration, by Dr. Gary D. Collier. First, peruse here … … and then order from Amazon if desired.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for a helpful and thorough comment, Brian! I’m sure readers will appreciate your insights and advice.


      1. Thanks. In hindsight, I now realize how badly I over-read your use of the word “recovery.” Based on additional information, I would now retract a good deal of the specifics of my first paragraph above. To be a little more clear, I do think it’s an important pursuit — and, as I now better understand it, it is, as you have said, it is the chief pursuit of textual criticism — to “recover” the original text.

        I would append that It’s also important to distinguish between (1) the validity of the pursuit of the original textual matter, on the one hand — and (2) the impossibility of recovery of the actual, physical manuscript on the other hand. I hope this more apt distinction is helpful to some.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for being so inspiring and for sharing your thoughts. I actually prayed for you this morning, Steven. Not for any reason in particular. I just wanted to. Take care 🙂


    1. Ah, thank you so much! I’m always grateful for prayers 🙂 I regularly pray for my blog followers and you can always let me know if you have any specific prayer requests. God bless you! 🙂


  4. What a great post! Thanks for the referral to that other wonderful post. It’s hard to find such rational writing about the Bible that I find in both of your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read both posts! Really appreciate your comment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

Steven Colborne

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Hello, I’m Steven and I’m a philosopher and author based in London. My main purpose as a writer is to encourage discussion about God. I write about a wide variety of subjects related to philosophical theology, including divine sovereignty, the nature of God, suffering, interfaith dialogue and more. My mantra: Truth heals.

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