Rationalism and Contemporary New Testament Textual Criticism -- By: Zane C. Hodges

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 128:509 (Jan 1971)
Article: Rationalism and Contemporary New Testament Textual Criticism
Author: Zane C. Hodges

Rationalism and Contemporary New Testament Textual Criticism

Zane C. Hodges

[Zane C. Hodges, Assistant Professor of New Testament Literature and Exegesis, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

In a previous article, it was pointed out that, although the kind of Greek text which underlies our Authorized King James Version is rejected by modern textual critics, this rejection is wholly unconvincing.1 The acceptance of the newer critical editions of the New Testament does not, therefore, rest on factual data which can be objectively verified, but rather upon a prevailing consensus of critical thought. It will be the purpose of this discussion to show that contemporary critical texts are, in fact, the fruit of a rationalistic approach to New Testament textual criticism.

Quite recently Kenneth W. Clark, in an extremely interesting study, has pointed out that in our day the text of Westcott and Hort, produced in 1881, has become the contemporary “textus receptus.”2 No one who is acquainted with this field will deny that Dr. Clark’s credentials as a knowledgeable textual critic are impeccable and, moreover, in this matter at least his data is subject to verification.

To any who might object to the assertion that “the Westcott-Hort text has become our textus receptus,”3 Clark has this to say:

Perhaps someone will remonstrate that there have been many critical texts produced since 1881, which is true. Someone will adduce the Nestle series of twenty-five editions since the beginning of this century. With each new edition we are prone to hasten to

the bookstore to obtain the latest text. Our problem lies here, that few scholars are aware that the latest Nestle is a close copy of the 1881 text, and that edition succeeds edition with little or no textual change. All the critical editions since 1881 are basically the same as Westcott-Hort. All are founded on the same Egyptian recension and generally reflect the same assumptions of transmission.4

To buttress this contention, Clark goes on to discuss the results of a study by eight Duke University students in which a collation was made “of numerous critical texts against Westcott-Hort, in two sample passages (Mark 11 and John 12).”5 Following some detail, he concludes: “Since 1881 twenty-five editors have issued about seventy-five editions of the Gre...

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