Ad Gloriam Dei

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corintians 10:31

"Let us pursue the things which make for peace and those by which one may edify another"- Romans 14:19

"As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." - Proverbs 27:17

Monday, April 23, 2007

Discussion about Majority/ Byzantine Priority Text

Following on from Mark's comment on my previous post, this discussion on Yahoo is worth reading.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

John Wenham's Changed View of the Byzantine N.T. Text

"This is a shocking book — at least it delivered a shock to my system. It is not often that one reads a book which reorientates one's whole approach to a subject, but that is what this one has done for me. It is a frontal attack upon the Westcott and Hort theory of the NT text, the general soundness of which I had accepted without question for forty years. Two or three years ago I had the first tricklings of doubt about it; then I chanced to read George Salmon's Some Thoughts on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (1897), which increased the trickle to a stream: now with this book it has become a flood." — John Wenham on Pickering's "The Identity of the NT Text".

Many will know John Wenham from his "Elements of New Testament Greek" (now revised by other authors), but how many will be aware of his changed views about the Byzantine (a.k.a. Traditional or Ecclesiastical) Text of the NT? The following is a copy of his review of Wilbur Pickering's "The Identity of the NT Text", which I urge all believers with a good intellect (and an open mind) to read.

I am putting this in to show that it is not just fundamentalists, those inclined to right-wing views or easily-led-astray, young zealots, who have concerns about the N.T. text being used in the likes of the ESV. Please may I state that we should not overemphasise the differences, but neither should we ignore them. (See here for a list of the differences, although your Bible's margins will usually show this, and here for an explanation of terminology.)

I have read Pickering's rebuttal of Gordon Fee's Critique, but I still have to get my hands on Fee's article. I would add that there is a critique that is popularly available: D.A. Carson has an appendix on Pickering's book in "The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism". There is a lot that I agree with in Carson's critique, but I would note that Carson also sees the value in Pickering's collation of material and that I would read Carson in the light of Robinson.

(Please note that I view Robinson's thesis as the most reasonable explanation of textual history that I have seen so far, although I diverge with him in his insistence on a neutralist/ naturalist presupposition. One's theology cannot be wholly excluded, even if some push the consequences of the theology of preservation too far, i.e. TR'ists and esp. Ruckmanites.)

It appears to me that for some plausible, but flawed reasons we have rejected the Majority Text of the Church for a localised (Egyptian) textual tradition that is highly variable within itself. (I acknowledge that the modern UBS/NA text is supposedly eclectic, but it treats the Majority Text as inferior and unworthy of any serious consideration, and is basically Alexandrian.)

A Review of Wilbur N. Pickering's The Identity of the New Testament Text by John Wenham

This is a shocking book-at least it delivered a shock to my system. It is not often that one reads a book which reorientates one's whole approach to a subject, but that is what this one has done for me. It is a frontal attack upon the Westcott and Hort theory of the NT text, the general soundness of which I had accepted without question for forty years. Two or three years ago I had the first tricklings of doubt about it; then I chanced to read George Salmon's Some Thoughts on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (1897), which increased the trickle to a stream: now with this book it has become a flood. The author is not outstandingly erudite, nor outstandingly skilful in presentation, nor always convincing in detail, but he has gone to the experts and he has assembled an impressive array of facts and arguments.

He reminds us that Fenton J. A. Hort was a man with a brilliant mind and forceful character, who at age twenty-three conceived an animosity against what he called "that vile Textus Receptus leaning entirely on late MSS." As E. C. Colwell says, "Hort organized his entire argument to depose the Textus Receptus." His main positions were: (1) There are no signs of deliberate falsification of the text for dogmatic purposes. (2) Witnesses are not to be counted individually, but grouped by the genealogical method. (3) This method gives three (main) ancestral types: Syrian, Western and Neutral. (4) The Syrian text, though represented by the majority of MSS, is inferior because: (a) it is a late text, the result of authoritative revisions completed about A.D. 350; (b) its characteristic readings are not found in texts or quotations before that date; and (c) it was "conflated" from the other two. (5) Judged by internal criteria, then, the Western text however early, is an edited text and inferior to the Neutral tradition. (6) The Neutral text, headed by B and Aleph, is close to the original.

Hort's advocacy convinced the learned world and as K. W. Clark said: "the Westcott-Hort text has become today our textus receptus," on which practically all Greek texts and modern translations are now based.

But Pickering argues that on almost all counts Hort was wrong:
(1) Deliberate change was the principal cause of early variants.
(2) The genealogical method is totally unworkable in New Testament texts and was not used by Hort. Among all the five thousand Greek MSS, we have only one known parent-child relationship and only two (not well-knit) families (fam. 1 and fam. 13). Readings in the various MSS occur in endless different combinations which cannot be reduced to genealogical trees.
(3) The so-called text-types have no cohesion and therefore no one common ancestor: "the Caesarean text is disintegrating" (B. M. Metzger); the Western text has "an infinitely complicated and intricate parentage" (F. G. Kenyon); "any attempt to reconstruct an archetype of the (Neutral) Beta Text-type ... is doomed to failure" (E. C. Colwell); "the great bulk of Byzantine (Syrian) manuscripts defies all attempts to group them" (G. Zuntz).
(4) It is now acknowledged that both the Neutral and the Western texts are edited.
(5) Aleph and B differ from one another in three thousand places in the gospels alone-not including differences of spelling. B is "disfigured by many blunders in transcription" (F. G. Kenyon); Aleph is far worse. They are not good witnesses. Furthermore, Hort's faith in B depended partly on the dubious theory "the shorter reading is preferable." G. D. Kilpatrick suggests that a substitute canon, "the longer reading is preferable," would be no worse. K. W. Clark sums up the position: "our failure suggests that we have lost the way, that we have reached a dead end, and that only a new and different insight will enable us to break through."

In looking for a breakthrough, Pickering poses the crucial question: How are we to account for the Byzantine stream of MSS — a stream which is enormously varied, yet relatively homogeneous? His answer is simply that it had a common source, not in a fourth century revision, but in the autographs. The Western and Neutral texts are the aberrations, while the Syrian text represents the best tradition. (Because of the accident of climate we happen to be better informed about early texts in Egypt than elsewhere, but Egypt was not necessarily the home of the best text. It is quite doubtful whether we should look to Alexandria as the safest guide to the New Testament: Antioch's tradition of scholarship might serve us better. Certainly antiquity alone is no criterion of dependability.)

In his assault on the Textus Receptus, Hort convinced the world that the witness of the majority of MSS was unimportant. But he could only sustain this if he could plausibly argue for his fourth century-revision. If that theory collapses, we have to reckon with many independent witnesses. In a church with no centralized censorship and with copyists working away independently all over the Near East and Mediterranean world, new errors would constantly occur, but their influence would be local. The true reading at any particular point in a text would almost invariably be preserved by the majority of MSS. This means that the recently despised symbol Byz, representing the majority of MSS, should in fact be treated with the utmost respect. The Institut fur neutestamentliche Textforschung at Munster has done much research on Greek minuscules to identify those which most frequently exhibit independence from the Byzantine tradition. Perhaps it would be even more valuable to identify those which most frequently give the majority readings. Hort had every right to be dissatisfied with a text based on an arbitrary selection of late MSS, but he had less right to be dissatisfied with the basic tradition. The breakthrough in textual criticism may come through tracing this tradition back to its most primitive forms and dropping our reverence for Aleph and B.

This is not an academic matter, for it affects the wording of the hundreds of millions of scriptures which we are distributing across the globe. It is shocking to think that we may have been giving the world a bad text.

Reproduced from "The Majority Text: Essays and Reviews in the Continuing Debate", edited by Theodore P. Letis, and originally printed in the Evangelical Quarterly, Vol. 51, no. 1 (January - March 1979).


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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Faith Schools Petition

The following is a petition being presented to the Prime Minister:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to continue the support for faith schools and to ensure that in all schools the teaching of traditional ‘faith’ views of origins is included alongside the more recent scientific ‘theories’ which many scientists ‘believe’.

Faith schools help to ensure that children develop mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually and morally. As such faith schools ensure children are well placed to choose their own religious, philosophical and ethical beliefs. Schools should be places where children are given a full education, not centres where the spiritual and moral is excluded. Evolution and other scientific theories should not be taught as fact but instead along side other ‘faith’ views of origins. Supporting faith schools will provide children with a fuller education, parents with the choice of such for their children and help to promote a fully multi-cultural and peaceful society.

Access the petition here, although I have a real issue with the way that Islam and Romanism is lumped with Protestant institutions and supported by the state, but such is the way it is stated. Better to support our brethren than not.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

2 out of 3 Indian Children Abused

A report by the Indian Government is discussed here. Such are the effects of paganism.


Sunday, April 08, 2007

A Brief Guide to the Textual History of the Qu'ran

The following notes are taken from 'Jam al'Quran: The Codification of the Qu'ran Text' written by John Gilchrist, which relies on the Hadith, or Traditions, that are second only to the Qu'ran in authority. This is important in the light of most Muslims' claim that the text of the Qu'ran has been miraculously and perfectly preserved.

Mohammed (A.D. 570 - 632) had various visions during which he claimed to receive the text of the Qu'ran from the angel Gabriel (Jibril). These so-called revelations were generally memorised by his companions or written on various materials, including parchment, white stones and palm-leaf stalks.

Mohammed died without producing a definitive collation of these sayings, and no attempt was made to produce a definitive Qu'ran immediately. Shortly after his death, various tribes rebelled, which led to the Battle of Yamana.
In this battle, several of Mohammed's closest companions, who had devoted themselves to memorising his sayings died, taking with them some which are now lost. The 1st Caliph, Abu Bakr, who led the Nation of Islam after Mohammed's death, saw that the Qu'ran could be lost, so he asked Zaid ibn Thabit to search far and wide for the various fragments and compile them as one codex (i.e. a book as opposed to a scroll).

This codex was kept in private possession by Abu Bakr (the 1st Caliph from A.D. 632-634), then Umar (the 2nd Caliph from A.D. 634-644) and then Hafsah, the daughter of Umar and wife of Mohammed. Nineteen years after Mohammed's death, General Hudayfah ibn al-Yaman led a military expedition into northern Syria. Arguments broke out amongst the various nations in his army over the content of the Qu'ran. Some from Iraq used text derived from a codex prepared by a companion of Mohammed called Abdullah ibn Mas'ud; others from Syria used another text derived from a codex prepared by another companion called Ubayy ibn Ka'b.

The General expressed his concerns to the 3rd Caliph, Uthman, (reigned A.D. 644 - 656) about the consequences of this divergent text-base for the unity of Islam. Uthman turned to Zaid and his codex to provide unity. He appointed three men to assist him in editing this codex (technical term: redaction): an Arabic expert and two men who spoke the local dialect of Arabic which Mohammed spoke. Zaid also came across portions of the Qu'ran that he had previously not included in his original codex.

The competing copies of the Qu'ran, which had many variant readings, including significant omissions, were destroyed through Uthman's power, despite the protests of their owners, including Abdullah ibn Mas'ud, who is described in the Hadith as one of the foremost authorities of the Qu'ran and who Mohammed first instructed to memorise it. The other main text was that of Ubbay, who was described by the 2nd Caliph, Umar, as the best reciter of the Qu'ran. These were the versions of the Qu'ran in public use, not the version produced by Zaid from which the modern Qu'ran is descended.

Despite this, other copies existed at this time, which were also later destroyed, both of which were owned by two of Mohammed's wives, Aishah and Hafsah. These ladies got their scribes to correct the Zaidic version because it disagreed with what they themselves had heard from the Prophet.

Despite this recension by Zaid under Abu Bakr and the subsequent redaction under Uthman, further editing took place under the Governor of Iraq, al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, during the Caliphate of Abd al-Malik.

As the Uthamanic recension was distributed throughout the provinces, it came in a consonantal form without vowel points (i.e. not vowels). This led to disputes over what the Qu'ran said. In A.D. 934, the Qu'ranic expert Ibn Mujahid of Baghdad used his political influence to have these variant readings reduced to seven "text-types" (for want of a better word).

Over the centuries, all but two of these readings became unused. Of these two, one has gained the ascendancy: the Hafs, edited by Asim. The other reading is mainly confined to west and north-west Africa and is called the Warsh transmission (Warsh had revised the reading of Nafi).

Can such a preservation be described as "miraculous"? Remember this is all from the Muslim sources, mainly, possibly exclusively from the Hadith.

A good list of various contradictions in the Qu'ran may be found in "The Islamic Invasion: Confronting the World's Fastest Growing Religion" by Robert Morey. There is lots of useful information in it. See also Ron Rhodes' excellent "Reasoning from the Scriptures with Muslims"


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