Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The adulteress and her accusers

Andrew Wilson has produced some detailed material on internal arguments for the authenticity of the Pericope Adulterae here.


  1. From the website referred to:
    "The primary requirement [for comments on the intrinsic probability of a passage] is ... a spiritual affinity with the Author of the passage being studied. This is because NT textual criticism is a religion as well as a science."
    This strikes me as an obscurantist view of (NT)TC.

  2. Only if there is no such thing as Evangelical Textual Criticism.

  3. We've not yet had a discussion as to whether there is a distinctively evangelical approach to internal criteria.

    However, in order to be useful it would be necessary to have some objective criteria of 'spiritual affinity'. The writings of Spurgeon or Tozer might have 'spiritual affinity' with the divine Author of the Bible, without being part of the canon.

  4. Thank you Andrew Wilson for taking the time to present the textual evidence. May God richly bless you and yours.

    I like your conceptualization Science, Art, and Religion re TC matters.

  5. I can't find where this quote comes from. I assume Author is meant to be capitalised and refer to God. But what about a spiritual affinity with the human author, that would strike me as more relevant to judging intrinsic probability.

  6. And also (arguably) more problematic for evangelical textual criticsm - since (some) evangelicals tend to flatten out the (spiritual) individuality of the NT authors.

  7. There may have been too many (brackets) in my (last) comment. (sorry)

  8. The quote comes from the bottom of the page referred to. In the context, the writer seems to mean the human author, inconsistently written with a capital A. He mentions e.g. "the Author's style and theology".
    The great advantage of a term such as "spiritual affinity" is that it can mean anything you like. Does Andrew Wilson intend to give a faith criterion by which he can judge whether a textual critic is acceptable to him? Or it is simply his term for an obvious prerequisite for any internal text-critical reasoning, biblical or otherwise, namely to know the text and to try to understand it to the best of one's ability?
    If evangelicals were to consider TC to be a religion, the worst would have to be feared.

  9. There are those Jan who think that neither the Bible per se nor the biblical textual manuscripts are the proper place to learn about TC. The simple reason is that they view the Bible as a "means of grace" - a sacrament, like prayer, the Bread and the Wine, some even marriage.

    Any view of inspiration (exspiration) that minimizes either the self claims of Scripture itself as to its nature and exalts either the human or divine factor in the writing process has already destined itself to failure.

    The mandatory criteria which should be in possession of the textcritic before he undertakes such a "holy" task is vast. It is not a place for amateurs or the curious or the profane.

    TC begins and ends with a knowledge of the manuscripts (WH) and the superior critical editions.

    It is undergirded by a superior knowlwedge of Church history in general and the primary ecclesiastical documents.

    Biblical textual criticism requires as prerequisites a working knowledge of Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Coptic, Syraic, Latin and perhaps others depending on how independent one wishes to be. In addition English, German, French and perhaps Spanish and Russian will be necessary.

    What Charles Haddon Spurgeon said about the pulpit ministry is applicable to biblical textual criticism. "If you can do something else do it."

    Biblical textual criticism is governed not by strife, vain glory, popularity, men pleasing or party spirit but by prudence and prayer. It is God glorifying and not self grandiosizing.

    It is the realm of the humble and pious. It is the realm of the meek and unworldly.

  10. Oh I forgot. It is the realm of the couragous.

  11. Anonymous, why is a working knowledge of Coptic a prerequisite for biblical textual criticism?

  12. The use of Author was deliberate - referring to God. And as this minor spelling matter demonstrates, a knowledge of what the human author's intention (in this case I claim to know what I was referring to) trumps any other sort of knowledge.

    I suppose that what I mean by referring to a 'spiritual affinity' with the Divine Author of scripture (not that I intended to start this tangential discussion, nor that this is anything more than a musing on a blog) is that, for me as an evangelical ...

    (a) textual criticism, like anything else in life, is only of any significance insofar as it furthers the purpose of life: to know and glorify God. It is not an end in itself. If it is merely an antiquarian hobby, then I suppose it will be burned up at the judgement seat one day as worthless.

    (b) textual criticism cannot be undertaken in isolation - that is, in an entirely objective, disinterested and clinical fashion. It will be undertaken within a certain worldview that will sometimes influence and guide textual decisions. The idea that tc is 'scientific' is philosophically problematic if not naive, because philosophers of science basically agree there is no watertight definition of science. Albert Einstein, for example, wrote that 'All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree'. (Look up 'Einstein quotes' on Google to see some of the other stinging attacks he made on the 'cult' of scientism). Again, the philosopher of science Steven Meyer writes: 'Most philosophers of science now recognize that neither verifiability, nor testability (nor falsifiability), nor the use of lawlike explanation (nor any other criterion) can suffice to define scientific practice. As Laudan puts it, “If we could stand up on the side of reason, we ought to drop terms like ‘pseudo-science’…they do only emotive work for us.”

    (c) I read somewhere on a blog that Moises Silva once wrote that biblical study can be pursued 'scientifically' and that atheists can come to the same correct conclusions as evangelicals simply by employing the right hermeneutical tools. I suppose some evangelical textual critics believe the same thing about tc. However, I not do think this is an evangelical stance to take on scripture. The NT teaches that divine illumination is required to truly understand the Bible. Thus, while some atheistic Bible scholars can often come to correct interpretations of isolated verses or chapters, they have completely failed to see the 'big picture'. Of course, they often mangle smaller hermeneutical problems, too, because they impose their worldview on the text to make it say what it was never meant to mean.

    The same is true (I believe) to a lesser degree, of tc (because it is a lesser sub-field of biblical study). Because we are dealing with Divine Words as well as human words, there will be overlaps between non-sacred tc as well as disimilarities.

    Further, the best interpreter is the Author (with a capital A); the Scripture itself repeatedly teaches that Divine illumination is essential/important(?) for understanding spiritual things (OT - Daniel 1:17, 2:17-23, NT - John 6:45, 1 Cor. 2:7-16, 1 John 2:20, 27).

    I suppose that Paul would condemn any form of tc that is not humbly dependent upon God's help as simply wordly pseudo-sophistication (1 Cor. 1:19-20).

    Therefore, we need to approach tc with a humble and prayerful attitude (as well as employing to the utmost our minds and other 'tools of the trade', of course).

    Any form of tc that employs 'methodological atheism' might not result in us getting every textual decision wrong, of course, but it will be (a) spiritually nothing more than wood, hay and stubble in the day of judgement (b) naive in its boast to be somehow a superior form of knowledge, and (c) prone to lead to calamitous results - not necessarily in one generation, but down the centuries when its full harvest is reaped.

  13. Eric Rowe

    Because I said so and had to learn it. Actually, you can be dependent on others and remain blind and servile if you wish.

    Like I said previously, it all depends on how independent you wish to be.

  14. I'm not so sure about "Syraic".

  15. Anonymous,

    I'm not so sure about 'Syraic' either. In fact, I'm not sure what it is. Could you help? I don't want to be blind and servile, so I would deeply appreciate if you could enlighten us.