A Text-Critical Note To Ezekiel 1: Are Shorter Readings Really Preferable To Longer? -- By: Werner Allan Lind

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 27:2 (Jun 1984)
Article: A Text-Critical Note To Ezekiel 1: Are Shorter Readings Really Preferable To Longer?
Author: Werner Allan Lind


A Text-Critical Note To Ezekiel 1: Are Shorter
Readings Really Preferable To Longer?

Werner Allan Lind*

A convention of modern Biblical textual criticism is that a short reading of a given text is normally to be preferred over a longer variant. This convention was given classic expression by its originator, Johann Jakob Griesbach (1745–1812), as follows:1

The shorter reading (unless it lacks entirely the authority of the ancient and weighty witnesses) is to be preferred to the more verbose, for scribes were much more prone to add than to omit. They scarcely ever deliberately omitted anything, but they added many things… through errors of the eye, ear, memory, imagination, and judgment.

These views are repeated by virtually all modern authorities, including Bruce Metzger,2 Everett F. Harrison,3 W. G. Kümmel,4 David F. Payne,5 and by Ralph W. Klein, who states:6

Unless there is clear evidence for homoeoteleuton or some other form of haplo-graphy, a shorter text is probably better. The people who copied manuscripts expanded the text in several ways: they made subjects and objects of sentences explicit whereas they were often only implicit in the original text; they added glosses or comments to explain difficult words or ideas; and when faced with alternate readings in two or more manuscripts they were copying, they would include both of them (confiation) in a serious attempt to preserve the original.

Given the axiomatic, conventional character that this preference for shorter readings has acquired, it is understandable that it has seldom if ever been subjected to inductive testing during the last two hundred years. However, it may be even more worthwhile to test universally accepted axioms than to test controversial theories, for the former are generally much more foundational to scholarly work and therefore their truth or falsity makes much more of a difference for the

*Werner Lind is an instructor in history and Bible at Indiana Christian University in Indianapolis.

validity of established scholarly conclusions. The present study is intended as a modest beginning at the task of inductively testing the preference for the short reading.

The basis for this study is the even more primary convention of modern textual criticism: “Choose the reading which best explains the origin of the oth...

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