Vol.X No.II Pg.6
April 1973

Bible Text Trustworthy

Robert F. Turner

"Dr. Ezra Abbot, "the foremost textual scholar in America," and a member of the revision committee, said that about nineteen-twentieths of the various readings have so little weight that, although they are various readings, no one would think of them as rival readings; and nineteen-twentieths of the remainder are of so little importance that their adoption or rejection would make no appreciable difference in the sense of a passage where they occur.

Schaff says that of the 150,000 variations only about 400 affect the sense; and of these 400 only about 50 are of real significance for one reason or another, and again, not one of these 50 "affect an article of faith or a precept of duty which is not abundantly sustained by other and undoubted passages, or by the whole tenor of Scriptural teaching."

Says Dr. Hort, "With regard to the great bulk of the words of the New Testament, as of most other ancient writings, there is no variation or other ground of doubt, and therefore no room for textual criticism. The proportion of words virtually accepted on all hands as raised above doubt is very great; not less, on rough computation, than seven-eights of the whole. The remaining eighth, therefore, formed in great part by changes of order and other trivialities, constitutes the whole area of criticism. ...Setting aside differences in orthography, the words in our opinion still subject to doubt only make up about one-sixtieth of the whole New Testament. In the second estimate the proportion of comparatively trivial variations is beyond measure larger than in the former; so that the amount of what can in any sense be called substantial variation is but a small fraction of the whole residuary variation, and can hardly form more than a thousandth part of the entire text."

And adds A.T. Robertson "The real conflict in the textual criticism of the New Testament is concerning this "thousandth part of the entire text. The great mass of the New Testament, in other words, has been transmitted to us with no, or next to no variations." (this from Warfield, rft)

Many of these variations are of no more importance than the failure to dot an i or to cross a t would be in English, yet so vitally precious is every word of the Bible that the textual critic leaves no stone unturned, and omits no variation, however infinitesimal it may be, in his effort to reproduce the original text. It is then, a cause for rejoicing that our New Testament was considered so important as to be early represented by more than 4000 manuscript copies, the work of a great army of copyists, and by more than 9000 version copies and many thousand patristic quotation copies; and the 200,000 or more variant readings are witnesses to the faithful toil of the textualists who deemed the New Testament worthy of such labor, and they are a guarantee for the integrity of the text."