Vol.IX No.XI Pg.6
January 1973

We Have The Text

Robert F. Turner

Only the uninformed or willfully ignorant make rash statements about the text of the New Testament, and question its integrity. One may refuse to believe its message, but none should excuse their lack of faith by making foolish charges against the evidence. Our text IS truly first century material, faithfully collated and transcribed. We quote from the Notes of the widely recognized Wescott and Hort Greek New Testament, re-published in 1956, by The Macmillan Company, New York.

This brief account of the text of the New Testament would be incomplete without a word of caution against a natural misunderstanding. Since textual criticism has various readings for its subject, and the discrimination of genuine readings from corruptions for its aim, discussions of textual criticism almost inevitably obscure the simple fact that variations are but secondary incidents of a fundamentally single and identical text.

In the New Testament in particular it is difficult to escape an exaggerated impression as to the proportion which the words subject to variation bear to the whole text, and also, in most cases, as to their intrinsic importance. It is not superfluous therefore to state explicitly that the great bulk of the words of the New Testament stand out above all discriminative processes of criticism, because they are free from variation, and need only to be transcribed.

Much too, of the variation which is necessary to record has only an antiquarian interest, except in so far as it supplies evidence as to the history of textual transmission, or as to the characteristics of some document or group of documents. The whole area of variation between readings that have ever been admitted, or are likely to be ever admitted, into any printed texts is comparatively small; and a large part of it is due merely to differences between the early uncritical editions and the texts formed within the last half-century with the help of the priceless documentary evidence brought to light in recent times.

A small fraction of the gross residue of disputed words alone remain after the application of the improve methods of criticism won from the experience of nearly two centuries of investigation and discussion. If comparative trivialities, such as change of order, the insertion or omission of the article with proper names, and the like, are set aside, the words in our opinion still subject to doubt can hardly amount to more than a thousandth part of the whole New Testament. (p. 564-565)

The apparent ease and simplicity with which many ancient texts are edited might be thought, on a hasty view, to imply that the New Testament cannot be restored with equal security. But this ease and simplicity in fact the mark of evidence too scanty to be tested; whereas in the variety and fullness of the evidence on which it rests the text of the New Testament stands absolutely and unapproachably alone among ancient prose Writings. (p. 565)