Evangelical Textual Criticism

Thursday, April 11, 2013

How Many TC Errors in This Statement?

We've played this game before. Someone submits a statement about TC from the BBC or some other news media, and we count how many errors are contained therein. But this time, it comes from a Hendrickson publication entitled, Formation of the Bible: The Story of the Church's Canon  (Lee Martin McDonald). Extra credit points if anyone can help me understand how the statements could possibly be right,

As a result of the more recent discovery of many more ancient biblical manuscripts, all early translations, namely those produced before 1993, are essentially out of date--an unfortunate consequece of reassembling a text closer to the biblical original than was possible earlier. With the publication of the most recent editions of critical scholarly texts of the New Testament--the United Bible Society's 5th Edition of the Greek New Testament  (2013) and the soon to be published Nestle/Aland 28th edition (2012) of the Greek Testament--we draw closer yet to the original text of the New Testament, but it would be a mistake to believe that we have reached that goal. There are some challenging and difficult passages to unravel, to which biblical scholars can offer very tenuous, possible solutions, but certainty is not yet available.
Since almost all modern translations of the New Testament depend on these two modern texts of the Greek New Testament, translations dating before these editions are not as reliable or as accurate and do not accurately reflect the latest understanding of what the biblical writers wrote....  p. 134.

JML

14 comments:

  1. I'll play. :) I spot three classes.

    I. TC method
    1) "original text" = authorial text
    2) task of TC is to reassemble (1)
    3) TC is progressively successful at (2)
    4) more old manuscripts = progress = closer resemblance to (1)

    II. UBS/NA text issues
    5) no methodological change from UBS4/NA27 to UBS5 and NA28
    6) radical change in text from UBS4/NA27 to UBS5 and NA28
    7) certainty everywhere in UBS5/NA28 except for a few difficult edge and corner cases

    III. translation issues
    8) translations not based on most recent TC scholarship are wrong
    9) majority of modern translations have direct dependency on the critical Greek text
    10) changes in critical Greek text are essential changes in the Vorlage that must be accepted and accommodated

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  2. At first I thought the year 1993 was a misprint, meant to refer to WH. But alas, apparently it was a watershed year!

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  3. The idea that each successive GNT edition is newer and better than the one before--with no possibility of regression or reversion--is an example of the fallacious thinking that I wrote about in a 2010 blog post, here.

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  4. Please forgive the new guy..

    but would more manuscripts (older ones) not bring closer resemblance to the authorial text?

    Modern translations dont have direct dependency on critical greek text???

    Unrelated: A question i ask scholarly types- if you could unearth one artefact/item that shed light on any area of history of your choice what would it be? It can be an artefact that you know exists or one the could plausibly exist.

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  5. Space Bishop's wish list: Papias' 5 volumes--for sure!

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  6. I want origin's Hexapla to be found in full!

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  7. to Space Bishop:

    No, older manuscripts do not necessarily bring us any closer to the authorial text. They are prone to the same kind of errors than any manuscript of any age.

    Modern NT textual criticism is more interested in the actual variant readings themselves than their age, which is not discarded, but it is not a deciding vote on most cases, if ever.

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  8. As to modern translations in English, the overwhelming majority of the ones in common use have a stronger dependency on the tradition of English texts, using various reconstructions of the original-language texts to modify them, rather than starting from the original language.

    The NRSV, for example, has deeper roots as a revision of the King James line. This line has had a number of state-of-the-art-for-the-time TC scholars involved in it at various stages—for example, Westcott and Hort were involved in the RV, and Metzger was involved in the NRSV—but it's not really "scratch" translation at any point.

    The claim is probably closer to truth with respect to the UBS text and other, much younger translations developed from it in mission contexts (where there's no such long-standing tradition of Bible translation in the target language).

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  9. And the NIV originally claimed a closer dependency from scratch on the UBS/NA series, but its editors also made their own decisions, with their own interpretive priorities. Further, it isn't as though they track tightly to the UBS/NA text down the line of NIV revisions, either. Even for the Catholic Epistles, I don't anticipate the NIV folk deciding to do major rework, because the existing English text has its own momentum.

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  10. I may, of course, be behind the times, as NET and Logos' Lexham translation are much fresher, but the ESV still belongs to the line of KJV editions.

    CEB is derived from NA27, but there we begin to push into translations with high enough abstraction from the Greek, in order to make lexile in the target language, that fine TC distinctions in NA28 probably wash out. The NLB is in a similar spot. Dynamic equivalence, as a method aiming at thought rather than word correspondence, sets up an independence from many subtle word and syntax changes.

    So I'll accept the weakness in my initial point 9 by way of strengthening point 10. ;)

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  11. 1993 is the date of the NA27, with the thoroughly revised apparatus, though the text was not. The critical text has largely been stable since the 1970s. I really doubt that the improved apparatus would have had a material effect on translators (unfortunately).

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  12. @Mr Frost. Thanks for the answer.

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  13. Not only does this damn esteemed versions such as NIV NRSV NASB, but it also implies that newer versions such as HCSB ESV NLT reflect a more accurate underlying Greek text.

    Seeking a motive for such an egregious error of such magnitude, someone asked, "Is Hendrickson looking to market a new translation?"

    JML

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  14. Re: the second quote: My understanding is that the NA is generally used by exegetes, while the UBS is generally used by translators. Assuming I'm correct, then by conflating the two, we find another error.

    One difference between the two is the number of variants in the apparatuses, with the NA containing more.

    Each translation may differ from other translations based, in part, on the translation committee's acceptance or rejection (i.e., in favor of a variant) of the UBS committee's choice of texts.

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