Biblical Manuscripts

JT2913

New Member
Greetings all. What should we do about passages like Mark 16:9-20 and John 8? These passages have little manuscript evidence backing them. If ther are to be taken as scribal errors or additions, should we read them as Scripture or even have them in the Bible?
 

Josheb

Member
Bart Ehrman once said something to the effect of not one single core Christian doctrine would be compromised if all the questionable passages were removed from the Bible. Additionally, it has long been understood that one of the most effective measures for discerning what belonged in the canon and what didn't is its compatibility with the whole of scripture (this one of the reasons the apocryphal writings are considered apocryphal ;)). I'm also inclined to believe God is the one ultimately responsible for His word and all the suspected changes, whether they be in the Pentateuch, the prophets, or the gospels may well be there by providence. This is akin to understand the leading of the Spirit: the Spirit never contradicts the written word; rhema never contradicts logos. So if hypothetic logos contradicts established logos then it is neither hypothetical or logos and should be discarded.

The two texts cited work.

So they remain.


Do you find there is some inconsistency with other scripture?
 

Theo1689

Well-known member
Greetings all. What should we do about passages like Mark 16:9-20 and John 8? These passages have little manuscript evidence backing them. If ther are to be taken as scribal errors or additions, should we read them as Scripture or even have them in the Bible?

In an ideal world, they would be removed, as they are not original.
Unfortunately, people are fickle, and when they start comparing translations, and see that there are passages in some but not in others, they get concerned, and sometimes make errant conclusions. So I like the current system where publishers are including the texts in double square brackets, with an explanatory footnote as to why they aren't original. I'm a big fan of transparency and being fully-informed.
 

Theo1689

Well-known member
Bart Ehrman once said something to the effect of not one single core Christian doctrine would be compromised if all the questionable passages were removed from the Bible.

I believe that comment was more along the lines of textual variants, not in passages which have been added to Scripture.

Additionally, it has long been understood that one of the most effective measures for discerning what belonged in the canon and what didn't is its compatibility with the whole of scripture

Pardon me, I've only been studying textual criticism for 5-6 years, and I've never heard of this particular "measure". When studying variants readings in a particular verse, there are a number of factors which are considered, such as:
- age of the manuscript (earlier mss. are stronger evidence);
- reliability of the manuscript (eg. Codex Bezae has many frivolous variants);
- knowledge of the scribe's knowledge of Greek, and how many letters at a time they generally copied;
- whether a variant is meaningful;
- whether a variant is viable (there is a humorous variant in one of Paul's epistles where the text reads, "we were horses among you", not a viable variant).
- etc.

In fact, one of the criteria textual critics use is almost the opposite of what you claim, that being if there are two variant readings in a text, the "harder" reading is more likely to be original. The thinking behind this is that a scribe is more likely to try to "smooth over" a more difficult reading, than to take an easy reading and artificially make it more difficult.

And finally, one rule that Dr. Daniel Wallace emphasizes is that we should take the reading that explains the rest of the variants. There should be some sort of idea of how the other variant readings came into being.

(this one of the reasons the apocryphal writings are considered apocryphal ;)).

Well, we're actually talking about variant readings within a book of the Bible, not whether a particular book is canonical or not. These are really two different issues.

Do you find there is some inconsistency with other scripture?

Irrelevant.
Should we include "Pilgrim's Progress" in the Biblical canon, if we find that there are no inconsistencies with the rest of Scripture?

A study of the manuscript evidence tells us that scribes predominantly added texts to the Scriptures over time, rather than "losing" texts. One of the main reasons is that when they found a marginal note in the manuscript they were copying, they were unsure whether it was a verse that got "omitted" and was written in the margin after the fact, or whether it was simply a textual comment. Most scribes leaned towards not losing texts which MIGHT be Scripture, and so that is how we got verses such as John 5:4 added to the text.

Final question..... Should modern translations include John 5:4?
 

Gary Mac

Well-known member
Greetings all. What should we do about passages like Mark 16:9-20 and John 8? These passages have little manuscript evidence backing them. If ther are to be taken as scribal errors or additions, should we read them as Scripture or even have them in the Bible?
What does Mark 16:9-20 say and John 8?
 

Theo1689

Well-known member
What does Mark 16:9-20 say and John 8?

So you don't own a Bible, and can't look it up?
So you don't have access to Internet, and look them up on a Bible website?

Mark 16:9-20 is called the "longer ending of Mark", and says among other things that Christians can drink poison and not die. Care to test out that hypothesis?

John 8 (really, John 7:53-8:11, IIRC) is called the "Pericope Adulterae", or "the woman caught in adultery", where Jesus tells the woman, "go and sin no more".
 
I've only been studying textual criticism for 5-6 years ...
What one must do to understand the fundamental architecture[1] of the discipline. By the time you have gone to this amount of trouble, you are very likely to have lost interest.[2] You cannot just ask a question here and expect someone to explain all the things you don't understand. Impossible task. Can't be done. There is a whole string of issues which must be addressed in the prolegomena before you can begin to address the particular issue raised.

[1] architecture is probably the wrong word. What you need to know to just navigate the discipline of textual criticism, not all the details but the structure of the big questions, how they relate to one another.

[2] Happened to me roughly 20 years ago. What I discovered is that textual questions were not a threat. No defense needed to be mounted on the textual front against unbelief. I read Orthodox Corruption, Bart Ehrman and understood the argument. No problem. Textual corruption isn't some sort of scandal.Textual Criticism isn't tabloid journalism.
 
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Gary Mac

Well-known member
So you don't own a Bible, and can't look it up?
So you don't have access to Internet, and look them up on a Bible website?

Mark 16:9-20 is called the "longer ending of Mark", and says among other things that Christians can drink poison and not die. Care to test out that hypothesis?

John 8 (really, John 7:53-8:11, IIRC) is called the "Pericope Adulterae", or "the woman caught in adultery", where Jesus tells the woman, "go and sin no more".
Just asking is all. For all seem to have different opinions about it.

Will you drink poison? After all you wont die!
 

Josheb

Member
Pardon me, I've only been studying textual criticism for 5-6 years, and I've never heard of this particular "measure". When studying variants
Therein lies the problem. What I said has little to do with textual criticism. With love, fellowship, and no ill intent I encourage care be taken not to fall prey to "tunnel vision, confirmation bias, and/or the fallacy of false equivalence. When the canon was established textual criticism was at best in infancy and was definitely not the sole means of discern what writings were inspired when deciding the canon. For example, Theo, when were the seemingly added texts added? There have been different "canons" asserted at different points in Christian history but the current canon was formally accepted in the fifth century. Were the Matthew and John texts added afterwards? If not then how and/or why did the rigorous and prayerful investigation and debate of the fifth century accept these passages?

It was not because of questions about textual criticism.

If the basis of the inquiry and skepticism(?) is something learned through the study of textual criticism (facts upon which I can join with you in agreement) then take care not to use the wrong tool for the job. A screwdriver can be used as a hammer, but that is not its intended purpose. Perhaps that's a bad analogy; textual criticism is designed in part to determine authenticity but it is not the sole measure for answering the question of this op.

If the text was added sometime after Matthew and John wrote their gospels but before the 5th century decisions than when, and how, and why? Since the only possible answer we might entertain is scribal addition and absent any evidence that is speculative. I don't want to enter a slippery slope but what is the remedy? We remove the questionable texts? Who gets to decide that? Are we to call for a new council and all abide by its decision? This was easy when everyone was RC, but in today's Christendom finding a consensus just to call for a council is going to be a problem; it is going to, ironically, manifest the problem upon us. Then what? How do we pick the members of that council? By what criteria (I would respectfully suggest tunnel vision is disqualifying) are we to select those arbiters? Are we going to have David Jeremiah, John Piper, the current Pope or the current Patriarch (or one of their selections), Justin Welby, J. D. Geear, Gary Demar, Max King, John Hagee do the selecting for who sits? No, of course not. We'll try to pick experts in the various fields of relevant study. However, unless they also come with the pastoral sensibilities and are not only academics that's still gonna be a problem. Once both a council and the practice of modern councils established then what will prevent further questioning of further canon on other grounds? Are we to believe all of the above has not already been considered by those higher in the food chain than internet forum posters? ;)

The Bibles I use in my daily practice (NIV, NASB, ESV, and on occasion the KJV) all have notes or markers in the text telling me the questionable passages may be additions. I routinely examine the Greek, and often do so looking at the variants. In other words, this isn't a secret. No one's trying hide anything, deceive the readers, or in any way pretend the question doesn't exist.

Until there are better alternatives isn't the current condition (marking the text) the proper response? Isn't that better than removing parts of the Bible? If that is the case then I do hope you're not a KJVOnlyist ;).


The op is a great question but if the answer to "What are we going to do about what remains a matter of speculation?" is "I don't know" then let's make sure we're not creating controversy in our own impotence or for the sake of the controversy itself.





And Theo, I read where you're telling others they are coming across as arrogant and ignorant. Not only is this a violation of the tou but when you appeal to your own studies of textual criticism you come across in the same ways. I will be reporting the post. Do please make a conscious effort to keep the posts about the posts and not the posters. I trust everyone here in the conversation can abide by that simple standard.
 

Josheb

Member
I believe that comment was more along the lines of textual variants, not in passages which have been added to Scripture.
Hmmmmm....

Can you see the problems with that response? A leading textual critic, Bart Ehrman, commenting on all textual concerns of the Bible afforms the Christianity's core doctrines but you, an individual claiming to have studied textual criticism believes the leading textual critic may not have been referring to the matter of critical examination of the texts you, the individual who is basing this entire discussion upon his studies of textual criticism has cited because of the study of textual criticism.

That is a pile of circular reasoning.

This is one of the reasons textual criticism is not the sole basis upon which this conversation should be had.

Furthermore, Ehrman made that statement in several contexts including his inability to grasp a theodicy; not just the problem of misquoting (or in this case misappropriating) Jesus. In addition, the point remains: if the question of addition remains speculative and not definitive but the questionable text is wholly consistent with the whole of scripture then are their other more reasonable and rational alternatives than to start deleting parts of the Bible? I read where you appealed to a perfect world. Great. Big hug. The problem is we live in an imperfect world, it was that imperfection that led to the additions (if that is what they are) and we remain imperfect believers in an imperfect world in which God is in fact the one ultimately responsible for His own word. How do any of us know your flesh or my flesh won't be making the decisions?

Wouldn't that be a great subject for another op?


No, we shouldn't include Pilgrim's Progress and the reason is because we know it was written latter and adding it would in fact be an addition. The absurdity of that rhetoric is disqualifying. We have a lot of reason to suspect the Matthew and John passages cited were added, but we do not know that without doubt. We all know if we found a whole manuscript (or the originals ;)) and they included to those texts this entire matter would be laid to rest. Or would it? Probably not. So it turns out we don't know new evidence would in fact change much.

If you don't want the Matthew and John texts in your Bible then cut those paragraphs out of your Bibles. Worked for Thomas Jefferson.
 
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En Hakkore

Well-known member
A leading textual critic, Bart Ehrman, commenting on all textual concerns of the Bible...
Ehrman's work is confined to the New Testament... textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible (Christian "Old Testament") is another matter entirely.

In addition, the point remains: if the question of addition remains speculative and not definitive...
If particular texts were not added, it means they were deleted so there is still a process of adjudication required and the fact of scribal tampering itself is not speculative. Just want to make sure that is clarified...

Kind regards,
Jonathan
 

Theo1689

Well-known member
No, we shouldn't include Pilgrim's Progress and the reason is because we know it was written latter and adding it would in fact be an addition.

Just as we know that the Pericope Adulterae and the longer ending of Mark were "written latter [sic]" and adding them would in fact be an addition.

Thank you for agreeing with me! ;)

If you don't want the Matthew and John texts in your Bible then cut those paragraphs out of your Bibles. Worked for Thomas Jefferson.

<sigh>
Thank you for the insult.
 

Josheb

Member
Ehrman's work is confined to the New Testament... textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible (Christian "Old Testament") is another matter entirely.
Kind regards,
Jonathan
The two texts specifically and explicitly cited in the op are New Testament.

Kind regards,

Josh
 

En Hakkore

Well-known member
The two texts specifically and explicitly cited in the op are New Testament.

Kind regards,

Josh
I'm well aware of that and a lot of other things, too, which is why I corrected your erroneous claim that Ehrman was "commenting on all textual concerns of the Bible" --- he is a New Testament textual critic so please do choose your words more carefully moving forward if you don't want intervention for the purposes of clarification and/or correction.

Kind regards,
Jonathan
 

Josheb

Member
<sigh>
Thank you for the insult.
Was the op posted for a conversation or a bicker? If the former then please stop reading into what is posted things that aren't actually stated. If the latter then just let me know; I'll move on. Until then I do not see what I have brought to bear on the op taken seriously, given any conversational engagement, or disproven in regards to its validity or veracity.

And, btw, if what is posted is true then it's not an insult; it's a fact (however inconvenient or undesired those facts may be). Best just to keep the posts about the posts, not the posters.

  • A problem likely exists. No problem there.
  • To what significance after the fact? None as far as its integrity with the rest of scripture.
  • What is to be done with the existing condition apart from what has already occurred? That is a matter of debate because no consensus exists and the means for garnering it does not exist.

If the op was posted simply and solely to make an observation about the Mark and John passages cited then that's a short conversation and we're all done (looks like everyone agrees to the existing conditions). If the op is intended as something more then aren't those bullet points clarifying, germane and valid?
 
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En Hakkore

Well-known member
If the op was posted simply and solely to make an observation about the Matthew and John passages cited then that's a short conversation and we're all done (looks like everyone agrees to the existing conditions).
Incidentally, the passages in the OP were from Mark and John, not Matthew and John. Most contemporary Bibles indicate the disputed nature of these and other questionable passages and leave it to the reader to decide. This seems to be a perfectly reasonable approach to the situation. Unless you want to discuss the merits of these or other such passages, what more is there to dialogue about?

Kind regards,
Jonathan
 

Josheb

Member
which is why I corrected your erroneous claim that Ehrman was "commenting on all textual concerns of the Bible" ---
I was not in error. Ehrman's comments did in fact pertain to all textual concerns of the Bible.... and more. Ehrman is a textual critic (of the New Testament) but neither is he not only a textual critic, nor were his statements limited to his abilities as a textual critic. Of his over-arching, largely-encompassing position, the only concern relevant to this op, however, are the two New Testament passages cited in the op.

Please stop reading into the posts things not stated. Start with what is actually posted. The germane point was the suspected additions do not in any way compromise the whole of the Bible. Anyone disputing that?
 
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En Hakkore

Well-known member
I was not in error. Ehrman's comments did in fact pertain to all textual concerns of the Bible....
Please cite the comments to which you refer and I would be glad to shift my correction over to Ehrman who, in that case, would have overstated the case. As I pointed out previously, textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible is another matter entirely...

Ehrman is a textual critic but neither is he only a textual critic...
Ehrman is a biblical scholar whose area of primary focus and expertise is New Testament textual criticism... of course he is not only a textual critic, nor did I make such a claim --- the emphasis was intended to distance him from textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible, which is not an area in which he specializes or publishes.

The germane point was the suspected additions do not in any way compromise the whole of the Bible. Anyone disputing that?
That depends... are you talking about these particular questionable texts or scribal interventions generally? The latter certainly compromises the reconstruction of the so-called original text to a degree significant enough that most textual critics, Ehrman included, have abandoned this as the goal of their work. At best they/we can reconstruct an earliest recoverable form that is at some remove from the putative originals... this window is relatively small for the New Testament books, but quite large for those of the Hebrew Bible.

Kind regards,
Jonathan
 
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