Re-Examining New Testament Textual-Critical Principles And Practices Used To Negate Inerrancy -- By: James A. Borland

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 25:4 (Dec 1982)
Article: Re-Examining New Testament Textual-Critical Principles And Practices Used To Negate Inerrancy
Author: James A. Borland

Re-Examining New Testament Textual-Critical
Principles And Practices Used To Negate Inerrancy

James A. Borland*

Perhaps it is not shocking to assert that Satan uses every means at his disposal to attack the credibility, reliability and authority of God’s Word. He began the assault in the garden with Eve and has not stopped yet. But often his ways are more subtle than the blatant lie succumbed to by Eve. We live in a modern era of sophistication. Even in Biblical and textual studies we hear more and more about the use of computers and other highly technical tools. And Satan is more than willing to accommodate our sophistication in the area of textual criticism. Especially is this so when it occasionally allows men to assert fallibility in the NT autographs based on widely accepted principles and practices of textual criticism.

Historically the period 1830–1880 was one of gathering information, collating more NT manuscripts, and proposing and evaluating textual theories. Griesbach, Lachmann, Tregelles and Tischendorf dominated the field. By 1880, however, B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Holt advanced a new textual theory. With minor changes it was adopted by the scholarly world and has proven to be the guiding force in the field for the past century. In simple terms the Westcott and Hort theory distinguishes between various textual families of MSS commonly known today as Alexandrian, Western, Byzantine, Caesarean, etc. The theory postulates the Alexandrian to be a fairly early text while holding the Byzantine to have originated not earlier than the first quarter of the fourth century A.D. It further advocates the primacy of the two earliest uncial MSS, Aleph (Sinaiticus) and B (Vati-canus), which date from the middle of the fourth century A.D. These two MSS were given the question-begging designation of being the “neutral text.”

In short, the resultant practice of these new sophisticated principles was to completely overturn the textual critical practices of the past. Since the majority Byzantine text was judged to be a later text, the supposedly more ancient, more pure neutral text was substituted at the junctures of innumerable variants. The overwhelming majority of these changes did not materially affect the text, often involving only slight differences in word order or variations in spelling. Frequently, however—and in many cases for good reasons—words, phrases, or even whole sentences and verses were removed from the commonly accepted text. A perusal of the footnotes of some modern translations (RSV, NASB, NEB, NIV) will give an example of how extensively these textual critical principles have been followed in our generation.

In referring to the Westcott and Hort theory George Ladd approvingly writes, “The basic so...

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