Thursday, October 20, 2005

More on evangelical distinctives

I mentioned three characteristics of evangelical textual criticism: (1) belief in verbal inspiration; (2) caution; (3) confidence - leaving the latter two undefined enough to hope that people will want to discuss them. I said that none of these were characteristics that an evangelical could not share with a non-evangelical. A fourth characteristic could also be seen as entailed in the first. Evangelicals have historically argued that what was verbally inspired was a Hebrew (and partly Aramaic) text for the OT and a Greek text for the NT. Thus, while the RC position has (at least in the past) emphasised the Vulgate, and the Greek Orthodox position would emphasise a version of the Greek OT, evangelicals have generally not ascribed verbal inspiration to a Greek version of the OT. Now of course some people called evangelicals are wanting to talk of the LXX having equal authority to the Hebrew, but as far as I can tell they are not talking about verbal inspiration of the LXX such that it is entirely true. Rather they are talking about verbal inspiration of neither the Hebrew nor the Greek, but rather of some vaguer 'authority'. The only evangelical I know to ascribe verbal inspiration to both the MT and the LXX was A.W. Pink (sorry no reference to hand), but I rather doubt that he had ever read the LXX or MT. Evangelicals have therefore historically emphasised the original languages and the 'original' text. This is what makes the NT use of translations we now ascribe to the Septuagint so fascinating.

4 Comments:

James Palmer said...

I was thinking about this after my last illiterate post with spelling mistakes and odd line breaks (I was in a rush and the computer was being contrary).

I am not sure how far we can say that there is such a thing as 'evangelical textual criticism' as much as textual criticism done by evangelicals. Are there any unique characteristics which we have in the way we do TC, apart from the theological framework we do it and the role that we then ascribe to the product of our work?
Our bibliology gives TC a high role because we value
the 'original texts' (BTW does anyone know when this phrase stopped referring to mss in Gk and Heb as it appears to in reformed scholasticism was used for autographa as it is in Warfield?)


I know that's a bad thing to say on a blog about evangelical Textual criticism.

P J Williams said...

I think that evangelical textual criticism is a worthwhile category, though you are right that it has no one distinguishing feature. It is more like a recipe with various ingredients. Once you have all the ingredients together within their correct theological framework then you have an evangelical and wholesome dish.

The phrase 'textual criticism done by evangelicals' is inadequate because 'evangelical' does not characterise the criticism but the people. Evangelicals may, alas, perform textual criticism that is thoroughly out of keeping with their principles (I could give provocative examples). Similarly I would want to distinguish 'evangelical preaching' from 'preaching done by evangelicals'--the latter could include some of the 'off days'.

It is important to clarify that it would be hard for any evangelical to claim that valid textual work could only be carried out by evangelicals since it is hard to find manuscripts that have been copied by people whom we could claim as evangelicals.

Someone who engages in 'evangelical textual criticism' may well therefore find that they have more in common in the method of their criticism with a non-evangelical (e.g. Aharon ben Asher - whether we identify him as a Karaite or Rabbanite his reverence for God inspired him to take appropriate care in his task) than with an evangelical who engages in textual criticism without applying their theology to their criticism.

James Palmer said...

OK, if you use it that way, that's fine. It's just a question of semantics. What I want to avoid is that there is a special sort of text criticism with special sorts of methods and only work done in this way is valid. I see that as (theolgically) a denial of general grace and (practically) patent nonsense.

Evangelical TC it is.

P J Williams said...

I agree that there is no question of saying that all 'textual criticism' that is not 'evangelical textual criticism' is not valid. At the same time one can make the case that evangelicals are in a good position to engage in best practice in textual criticism because of their theological convictions. Although our methods may have much in common with the methods of non-evangelicals we should not preclude the possibility that we may have recourse to methods that are not generally in vogue amongst non-evangelicals. We may also find that some methods in vogue amongst non-evangelicals are inconsistent with our theology. To that extent we may have different methods.