Modern Textual Criticism And The Majority Text: A Rejoinder -- By: Gordon D. Fee

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 21:2 (Jun 1978)
Article: Modern Textual Criticism And The Majority Text: A Rejoinder
Author: Gordon D. Fee

Modern Textual Criticism And The Majority Text:
A Rejoinder

Gordon D. Fee*

I want to thank the editor of JETS for this opportunity to make some further comments on this subject in light of Zane Hodges’ article. I do not here intend to write another critique of Hodges’ methodology but simply to point out what I think are some difficulties and deficiencies in his response to my earlier article.

I was glad that Hodges took the opportunity in his response to clarify his own position, but I was considerably disappointed that that was basically all he did. In fact, apart from some initial more trivial items, the substance of Hodges’ paper is a rebuttal of two paragraphs of mine on pages 25–26 and of my historical reconstruction of the reasons for the dominance and general uniformity of the Byzantine text (pp. 29-30). But anyone who reads my article will recognize that those items are scarcely the main thrust of my critique.

It is abundantly clear from Hodges’ latest paper that his entire textual methodology finally rests on two items: (1) his “truism” that an immediate child of a parent will probably produce more offspring than a great-great-great*grandchild, and (2) the alleged inability of modern textual criticism to account for the precise origins of the majority text as a text-type. What Hodges apparently is not hearing is that modern textual criticism considers item one to be an irrelevancy. The second item, on the other hand, is a historical problem to be sure. But it is no more so than is the problem of accounting for the origin of the so-called Western or Egyptian texts, if one argues that neither of these represents the original. Hodges’ answer to this problem is simply too glib and does not take seriously enough the only extant evidence from the second and third centuries.

These two items on which Hodges’ methodology rests call for some further comments.

1. I repeat. The probability that “a great-great-great-grandson of Noah is not likely to have more lineal descendants alive in the world today than one of Noah’s sons” is an irrelevancy to NT textual criticism—for two reasons. First, this is simply a theoretical possibility that has nothing to do with probabilities in terms of manuscript transmission.

Hodges has argued that I have failed to note that Hort, at least, acceded to this point. But this is simply not true of Hort. He calls it a “theoretical presumption” only, and never allows that it is “antecedently more probable than its opposite.” Precisely because we are

*Gordon Fee is associate professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts.

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