The Early Christian’s View of the Integrity of the Greek New Testament Books

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Edward D. Andrews
EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 120 books. Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

Paul was the author of fourteen letters within the Greek New Testament.[1] Paul’s earliest letters were 1 Thessalonians (50 C.E.), 2 Thessalonians (51 C.E.), Galatians (50-52 C.E.), 1&2 Corinthians (55 C.E.), Romans (56 C.E.), Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon (60-61 C.E.), Hebrews (61 C.E.), 1 Timothy, and Titus (61-64 C.E.). 2 Timothy was penned last, about 65 C.E. This means that the apostle Peter could have been aware of at least thirteen out of fourteen Pauline letters at the time of his penning 2 Peter in 64 C.E., in which he writes,

2 Peter 3:15-16 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. [bold is mine]

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Notice that Peter speaks of Paul’s letters, referring to them as a collection. Thus, Peter is our earliest reference to Paul’s letters that were gathered together as a collection. Peter also states that the letters were viewed as being on equal footing with the Hebrew Scriptures when he says that “the untaught and unstable distort” Paul’s letters as they do “the rest of the Scriptures.” Günther Zuntz was certain that there was a full collection of Pauline letters by 100 C.E. (Zuntz 1953, 271-272) In 65 C.E.,[2] Peter could say of Paul, “in all his letters,” and his readers would know who Paul was and of Paul’s many letters. Also, his readers would have accepted the idea that Paul’s letters were equal to the Hebrew Scriptures, which indicates that they were being collected among the churches.

Saints Peter and Paul, from a Catacomb by Anonymous. Paul Joseph De Mola, published on 09 May 2013 under the following license: CC BY-SA

1 Timothy 5:18 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” [bold is mine]

Notice that Paul says, “the Scripture says” (λέγει γὰρ ἡ γραφή), just before he quotes from two different Scriptures. The first half of the quote, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” is from Deuteronomy 25:4. The Second half, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” seems to be from Luke 10:7. Here Paul is doing exactly what Peter did in the above at 2 Peter 3:16, placing the Gospel of Luke on par with the Hebrew Scriptures.

9781949586121 BIBLE DIFFICULTIES THE NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS

Some have tried to dismiss 1 Timothy 5:18 by saying that Paul was just quoting oral tradition, but that can hardly be the case when he says, “the Scripture says,” which requires a written source, and it happens that we have such a source: The Gospel of Luke. Luke was written about 56-58 C.E. in Caesarea, and First Timothy was written about 61-64 C.E. in Macedonia. Then, there is the fact that Luke was a faithful traveling companion and co-worker of the apostle Paul. Luke was one of Paul’s closest traveling companions from about 49 C.E. until Paul’s martyrdom. The Gospel of Luke was written just after the two of them returned from Paul’s third missionary journey. At the same time, Paul was imprisoned for two years at Caesarea, after which Paul was transferred to Rome in about 58 C.E. Other “scholars believe Luke wrote his Gospel and the book of Acts while in Rome with Paul during the apostle’s first Roman imprisonment. Apparently, Luke remained nearby or with Paul also during the apostle’s second Roman imprisonment. Shortly before his martyrdom, Paul wrote that ‘only Luke is with me’ (2 Tim. 4:11).”[3] Either way, Luke was a very close co-worker with Paul for almost twenty years. In fact, Luke’s writing shows evidence of Paul’s influence (Lu 22:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-25). We must remember that Luke was a first-rate historian, as well as being inspired. He says that he “investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out” (Lu 1:3). Regardless, the apostle Paul had access to Luke’s Gospel for many years before penning 1 Timothy, where it appears that he made a direct quote from what we know now as Luke 10:7, referring to it as Scripture.

Slab used to close a child funerary niche (loculus) in a catacombs. Marble. 4th cent. CE. Inv. No. 28596. Rome, Vatican Museums, Pius Christian Museum (Roma, Musei Vaticani, Museo Pio Cristiano). Origin: From the Christian Lapidary. Found in the Catacombs of St. Hippolytus on the road to Tivoli (via Tiburtina) and transferred by Pope Clement XI to the Cabinet of the Albani family. Description: Asellu bene mberenti qui vicxit annu sex mesis octo dies XXVIII [Asello bene merenti qui vixit annos sex menses octo dies XXVIII] “To well-deserving Asellus, who lived six years, eight months, and twenty-eight days.”

The use of the well-known phrase, “it is written,” further confirms the authority of the New Testament books. We understand that when this phrase is used, it is a reference to the Scriptures of God, the inspired Word of God. It should be noted that the gospel writers themselves use the phrase “it is written” some forty times when referring to the inspired Hebrew Scriptures.

The Epistle of Barnabas dates after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E., but it dates before the Bar Kochba Revolt of 132 C.E. At Barn 4:14, we read, “let us be on guard lest we should be found to be, as it is written, ‘many called, but few chosen.’”[4] Immediately after using the phrase “it is written,” Barnabas quotes Jesus’ words found in Matthew 22:14, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

The Letter of Polycarp to the Philippians dates to about 110 C.E. Poly 12:1 reads, “For I am convinced that you are all well trained in the sacred Scriptures and that nothing is hidden from you (something not granted to me). Only, as it is said in these Scriptures, ‘be angry but do not sin,’ and ‘do not let the sun set on your anger.’ Blessed is the one who remembers this, which I believe to be the case with you.”[5] The first phrase, “be angry but do not sin,” is a quotation from Ephesians 4:26, where Paul is quoting Psalm 4:5. However, the latter part of the quote, “do not let the sun set on your anger” is Paul’s words alone. It is clear here that Polycarp is referring to both the Psalm and the book of Ephesians when he writes, “it is said in these Scriptures.”

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Clement of Rome (c. 30-100 C.E.) penned two books: we focus on the second, An Ancient Christian Sermon (2 Clement), which dates to about 98-100 C.E. II Clement 2:4 reads, “And another Scripture says, ‘I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’”[6] Here Clement is quoting Mark 2:17 or Matt. 9:13, which is likely the earliest quotation of a New Testament passage as Scripture. In the Gospel of Mark and Matthew, Jesus is quoted as saying, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” II Clement 14:2 reads, “But if we do not do the will of the Lord, we will belong to those of whom the Scripture says, ‘My house has become a robbers’ den’” which is a quote from Matthew 21:13, Mark 11:17, and Luke 19:46, where Jesus himself is quoting Jeremiah 7:11 after cleansing the temple of greedy merchants.

Indeed, we can garner from this brief look at early Christianity’s view of Scriptures that the New Testament books were placed on the same footing as the Hebrew Scriptures quite early, starting with Peter’s words about the apostle Paul’s letters. Again, Justin Martyr tells us that at the early Christian meetings, “the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs and exhorts to the imitation of these good things” (1 Apology 67).[7] Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35-108 C.E.), Theophilus of Antioch (d. 182 C.E.), and Tertullian (c. 155-240 C.E.) also spoke of the Prophets, the Law, and the Gospels as equally authoritative.

APOSTOLIC FATHERS Lightfoot APOSTOLIC FATHERS

The Early Christian View of the Integrity of the
Greek New Testament Originals

If the early Christians’ view of the New Testament books were on the same footing as the Hebrew Scriptures, then we would see them guarding the New Testament’s integrity in the same way the Old Testament authors and the scribes in ancient Israel guarded the Hebrew Old Testament.

Deuteronomy 4:2 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of Jehovah your God which I command you.

Deuteronomy 12:32 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

32 “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.

There indeed were severe consequences, even death to some, if scribes or copyists were to add to or take away from God’s Word, disregarding these warnings. Eugene H. Merrill observes, “There is a principle of canonization here as well in that nothing is to be added to or subtracted from the word. This testifies to the fact that God himself is the originator of the covenant text and only he is capable of determining its content and extent.”[8]

Proverbs 30:6 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Do not add to his words,
lest he reprove you and you be found a liar.

This is an ongoing command about God’s words that we had just seen above given to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32. There is no need to add to or take away from God’s Word, for it is sufficient. Bible commentator Duane A. Garrett, an expert on the book of Proverbs, tells us that “Verse 6 is an injunction against adding to God’s words similar to the injunctions found in Deut. 12:32 and Rev 22:18. It is noteworthy that this text does not warn the reader not to reject or take away from divine revelation; it is more concerned that no one supplements it. This is, therefore, not a warning to the unbelieving interpreter but rather to the believer. The temptation is to improve on the text if not by actually adding new material then by interpreting it in ways that make more of a passage’s teaching than is really there. It is what Paul called “going beyond what is written” – 1 Corinthians 4:6.[9]

The Jewish people’s attitude and their Hebrew Scriptures can be summed up in the words of Josephus, the first-century (37 – c.100 C.E.) Jewish historian wrote, “We have given practical proof of our reverence for our own Scriptures. For, although such long ages have now passed, no one has ventured either to add, or to remove, or to alter a syllable; and it is an instinct with every Jew, from the day of his birth, to regard them as the decrees of God, to abide by them, and, if need be, cheerfully to die for them.”[10] The longstanding view of the Jews toward the Hebrew Scriptures is fundamental, especially given what the apostle Paul wrote to the Roman Christian congregation. The apostle says, the Jews “were entrusted with the sayings[11] of God.” – Romans 3:1-2.

Mosaic Authorship HOW RELIABLE ARE THE GOSPELS

Galatians 3:15 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

15 Brothers, I speak according to man:[12] even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it.

The letter from Paul to Galatians was penned about 50-52 C.E. Here Paul’s words in dealing with the covenant to Abraham and his descendants echo the words from the Law of Moses at Deuteronomy 4:2, when he says, “no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it,” i.e., “not add to… nor take away.” The covenant word of God was not to be altered.

Revelation 22:18-19 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

18 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and out of the holy city, which are written in this book.

Apostle John’s letter to the seven congregations was penned about 95 C.E. Kistemaker, and Hendriksen wrote, “The solemn warning not to add to or detract from the words of this book is common in ancient literature. For instance, Moses warns the Israelites not to add to or subtract from the decrees and laws God gave them (Deut. 4:2; 12:32). This formula was attached to documents much the same as copyright laws protect modern manuscripts. In addition, curses were added in the form of a conditional sentence, ‘If anyone adds or takes away anything from this book, a curse will rest upon him.’ Paul wrote a similar condemnation when he told the Galatians that if anyone preached a gospel which was not the gospel of Christ, ‘let him be eternally condemned’ (Gal. 1:6–8). Now Jesus pronounces a curse on anyone who distorts his message.”[13]

The Didache (The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles) dates to about 100 C.E. At 4:13, it reads, “You must not forsake the Lord’s commandments, but must guard what you have received, neither adding nor subtracting anything.”[14] This author is drawing on the command in Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32.[15] The point here is that while the author makes use of “the Lord” (i.e., Jehovah, that is, the Father) in Deut. 4:2, 12:32, he is actually referring to Jesus’ teaching found in the Gospels. Therefore, the Gospels and, more specifically, Jesus’ teaching are equal to the Hebrew Scriptures.

Papias of Hierapolis, about 135 C.E., records what he had to tell about the details surrounding the personal life and ministry of each of the apostles. Papias 3:3-4 says, “I will not hesitate to set down … everything I carefully learned then from the elders and carefully remembered, guaranteeing their truth. For unlike most people I did not enjoy those who have a great deal to say, but those who teach the truth. Nor did I enjoy those who recall someone else’s commandments, but those who remember the commandments given by the Lord to the faith and proceeding from the truth itself. And if by chance someone who had been a follower of the elders should come my way, I inquired about the words of the elders—what Andrew or Peter said, or Philip, or Thomas or James, or John or Matthew or any other of the Lord’s disciples.”[16]

DEFENDING OLD TESTAMENT AUTHORSHIP Agabus Cover BIBLICAL CRITICISM

Papias says of Mark’s Gospel: “Mark, having become Peter’s interpreter, wrote down accurately everything he remembered.” Further confirming the Gospel’s accuracy, Papias continues: “Consequently Mark did nothing wrong in writing down some things as he remembered them, for he made it his one concern not to omit anything which he heard or to make any false statement in them.”[17] This is a clear reference to Deuteronomy 4:2 while referencing Mark’s Gospel, again showing that Christians viewed the New Testament books as being equal to the Hebrew Scriptures. Papias offers testimony that Matthew initially penned his Gospel in the Hebrew language. Papias says, “So Matthew composed the oracles in the Hebrew language, and each person interpreted them as best he could.”[18] As the overseer of Hierapolis in Asia Minor, Papias was in a position to enquire and carefully learn from the elders throughout the church at the time, establishing the authenticity and divine inspiration of the New Testament. Sadly, though, only scanty fragments of the writings of Papias survived.

 The Epistle of Barnabas, dated about 130 C.E., declares, “You shall guard what you have received, neither adding nor subtracting anything” (Barn 19:11).[19] Here again, Barnabas is drawing on Deuteronomy 4:2 as he expresses his concern about the Word of God, as he speaks about “the way of light” in chapter 19 of his letter, making multiple references to New Testament teachings and principles.

Dionysius of Corinth wrote in about 170 C.E. about those who had dared to alter his own writings. He writes, “For I wrote letters when the brethren requested me to write. And these letters the apostles of the devil have filled with tares [false information], taking away some things and adding others, for whom a woe is in store. It is not wonderful, then, if some have attempted to adulterate the Lord’s writings when they have formed designs against those which are not such.”[20] Here, Dionysius refers to Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32, noting the curse or a woe that is in store for altering his own writings, and all the more so for daring to alter the Scriptures themselves. The reference to adulterating “the Lord’s writings” is a reference to the New Testament writings – “A probable, though not exclusive, reference to Marcion, for he was by no means the only one of that age that interpolated and mutilated the works of the apostles to fit his theories. Apostolic works—true and false—circulated in great numbers, and were made the basis for the speculations and moral requirements of many of the heretical schools of the second century.”[21]

If there were no big concerns over the New Testament originals’ integrity, we would not see early church leaders showing such concern. The principle of not adding nor taking away found in Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32 can be applied to just one word, or even a single number in the case of Irenaeus in about 180 C.E., who complained about the number 666 found in Revelation 13:18 that had been changed to 616. Irenaeus wrote, “Such, then, being the state of the case, and this number being found in all the most approved and ancient copies [of the Apocalypse], and those men who saw John face to face bearing their testimony [to it]; while reason also leads us to conclude that the number of the name of the beast, [if reckoned] according to the Greek mode of calculation by [the value of] the letters contained in it, will amount to six hundred and sixty and six.”[22] The passage ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς σπουδαίοις καὶ ἀρχαἰοις ἀντιγράφοις (“in all the most approved and ancient copies”) shows that by then the autographs of the New Testament were not available, with various readings creeping into the manuscripts of the canonical books.

Irenaeus went on to let those guilty of willfully adding to or taking away from the Scriptures know that there will be severe punishment. He wrote, “Now, as regards those who have done this in simplicity, and without evil intent, we are at liberty to assume that pardon will be granted them by God. But as for those who, for the sake of vainglory, lay it down for certain that names containing the spurious number are to be accepted, and affirm that this name, hit upon by themselves, is that of him who is to come; such persons shall not come forth without loss, because they have led into error both themselves and those who confided in them. Now, in the first place, it is loss to wander from the truth, and to imagine that as being the case which is not; then again, as there shall be no light punishment [inflicted] upon him who either adds or subtracts anything from the Scripture.”[23] Here Irenaeus is referring to John’s warning in Revelation 22:18.

Young Christians AN ENCOURAGING THOUGHT_01

Again, the Letter of Polycarp to the Philippians, dating to about 110 C.E., reads at 7:1, “For everyone who does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is antichrist [cf. 1 John 4:2-3]; and whoever does not acknowledge the testimony of the cross is of the devil [cf. 1 John 3:8]; and whoever twists the sayings of the Lord to suit his own sinful desires and claims that there is neither resurrection nor judgment—well, that person is the first-born of Satan.”[24] Of course, “the sayings of the Lord” come from the Gospels. Therefore, Polycarp was declaring a warning to anyone who would alter the Gospels. Some would argue that Polycarp was referring to oral traditions when he used the term “the sayings of the Lord” (τὰ λόγια τοῦ κυρίου), but this simply is not the case, since in the next verse he refers to these “sayings” (κυρίου) again and then quotes Matthew 6:13 and 26:41, where we find Matthew recording Jesus’ sayings.

We could cite many more quotations from early church leaders about their concern for the New Testament originals’ integrity. However, we can see from our limited look at early Christianity’s view of the Scriptures that the New Testament books were placed on the same footing as the Hebrew Scriptures from the very beginning. When we look at the first three centuries of Christianity, we find that the manuscripts were prepared for Christians’ reading culture, who placed the highest priority on disseminating a text that was accurate in content and reader-friendly. The Christian texts were prepared in such a way as to place the least demand on the reader in order to bring the Scriptures to a more diverse audience.

Clearly, both Paul and Peter showed concern for their writings and equating NT books other than their own with the Hebrew Scriptures in authority. Early on, the church leaders were very concerned about preserving the integrity of the original, down to the individual words. The papyri of the first three centuries after Christ provides evidence that most scribes (copyists) also cared about preserving their exemplars’ integrity and did not seek to change or alter the wording. On the other hand, we would be misleading others and ourselves if we were to deny that a small minority of the copyists did freely choose to make alterations–as Colwell said for example, that the scribe of P45 worked “without any intention of exactly reproducing his source. He writes with great freedom, harmonizing, smoothing out, substituting almost whimsically.” However, the scribe who worked on P75 was a “disciplined scribe who writes with the intention of being careful and accurate.” Then again, Colwell said that P66 reflects “a scribe working with the intention of making a good copy, falling into careless errors, … but also under the control of some other person, or second standard, … It shows the supervision of a foreman, or a scribe turned proofreader.”[25]

Generally speaking, the early scribes were very concerned about the accuracy of their copying, but while some were more successful than others, every one of them–due to human imperfection–made some transcriptional errors at times which were unintentional (Matt. 27:11; Mark 6:51; 10:40; Rom. 5:1; Eph. 1:15; 1 Thess. 2:7; Heb. 12:15). We can also attribute human imperfection to intentional changes, purposeful scribal alterations, such as conflation (Luke 24:53; John 1:34; Rom. 3:32), interpolation (Mark 9:29; Lu 23:19, 34; Rom. 8:1; 1 Cor. 15:51), and attempts to clarify the meaning of a text (1 Cor. 3:3) or to enhance a doctrinal position (1 John 5:7).

We can say that on the whole, the early church leaders valued the integrity of the original, and the scribes valued the integrity of the exemplars which they were copying. In fact, the high value placed on the integrity of the original ironically led to some erroneous changes because scribes were prone at times to correct what they believed to be mistakes within the sacred text. Many modern textual scholars will tell their readers that the early copying period was “‘free,’ ‘wild,’ ‘in a state of flux,’ ‘chaotic,’ ‘a turbid textual morass.” (Hill and Kruger 2012, 10) The truth was actually the opposite. The church leaders valued the originals above all else, and the scribes saw their exemplars as master copies of those originals and reverentially feared to make any mistakes.

BIBLE DIFFICULTIES

The goal of textual scholarship since the days of Erasmus in the sixteenth century has been to get back to the original, preserving the exact wording of the original twenty-seven New Testament books penned by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, James, Jude, Peter, and Paul. However, this has not always proved to be the case with recent scholarship. Philip W. Comfort has been one of the leading outspoken proponents of the traditional goal of reconstructing the exact wording of the originals, and I quote the following observation by Comfort at length:

The time gap between the autographs and the earliest extant copies is quite close—no more than 100 years for most of the books of the New Testament. Thus, we are in a good position to recover most of the original wording of the Greek New Testament. Such optimism was held by the well-known textual critics of the nineteenth century—most notably, Samuel Tregelles, B. F. Westcott, and F. J. A. Hort, who, although acknowledging that we may never recover all of the original text of the New Testament books with absolute certainty, believed that the careful work of textual criticism could bring us extremely close. In the twentieth century, two eminent textual critics, Bruce Metzger and Kurt Aland, affirmed this same purpose, and were instrumental in the production of the two critical editions of the Greek New Testament that are widely used today.

Tregelles, Hort, Metzger, and Aland, as well as Constantine von Tischendorf, the nineteenth-century scholar who famously discovered Codex Sinaiticus, all provided histories of the transmission of the New Testament text and methodologies for recovering the original wording. Their views of textual criticism were derived from their actual experience of working with manuscripts and doing textual criticism in preparing critical editions of the Greek New Testament. Successive generations of scholars, working with ever-increasing quantities of manuscripts (especially earlier ones) and refining their methodologies, have continued with the task of recovering the original wording of the Greek New Testament.

By contrast, a certain number of textual critics in recent years have abandoned the notion that the original wording of the Greek New Testament can ever be recovered. Let us take, for example, Bart Ehrman (author of The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture) and David Parker (author of The Living Text of the Gospels). Having analyzed their positions, J. K. Elliott writes, “Both [men] emphasize the living and therefore changing text of the New Testament and the needlessness and inappropriateness of trying to establish one immutable original text. The changeable text in all its variety is what we textual critics should be displaying” (1999, 17). Elliott then speaks for himself on the matter: “Despite my own published work in trying to prove the originality of the text in selected areas of textual variation, … I agree that the task of trying to establish the original words of the original authors with 100% certainty is impossible. More dominant in text critics’ thinking now is the need to plot the changes in the history of the text” (1999, 18).

Not one textual critic could or would ever say that any of the critical editions of the Greek New Testament replicates the original wording with 100 percent accuracy. But an accurate reconstruction has to be the goal of those who practice textual criticism as classically defined. To veer from this is to stray from the essential task of textual criticism. It is an illuminating exercise “to plot the changes in the history of the text,” but this assumes a known starting point. And what can that starting point be if not the original text? In analyzing Ehrman’s book, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, Silva notes this same paradox: “Although this book is appealed to in support of blurring the notion of an original text, there is hardly a page in that book that does not in fact mention such a text or assume its accessibility …. Ehrman’s book is unimaginable unless he can identify an initial form of the text that can be differentiated from a later alteration” (2002, 149). In short, one cannot speak about the text being corrupted if there is not an original text to be corrupted.

I am not against reconstructing the history of the text. In fact, I devoted many years to studying all the early Greek New Testament manuscripts (those dated before A.D. 300) and compiling a fresh edition of them in The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts (coedited with David Barrett). This work provides a representative sampling of New Testament books that were actually read by Christians in the earliest centuries of the church. But whatever historical insights we may gain by studying the varying manuscript traditions as texts unto themselves, this is no reason to abandon the goal of producing the best critical edition possible, one that most likely replicates the original wording. Thus, I echo Silva’s comments entirely, when he says: “I would like to affirm—not only with Hort, but with practically all students of ancient documents—that the recovery of the original text (i.e., the text in its initial form, prior to the alterations produced in the copying process) remains the primary task of textual criticism” (2002, 149).[26]

The author of this work would echo the words of Silva and Comfort in that the primary task of a textual scholar is the process of attempting to ascertain the original wording of the original text that was published by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, James, Jude, Peter, and Paul. Even if we acknowledge that we can never say with absolute certainty that we have established the original wording one hundred percent, this should always be the goal. Imagine any other field in life, the certainty of a successful heart transplant by a surgeon, the certainty of astronauts going to the moon and back, or just the certainty that our automobile will get us to our destination, and the like. Do we want a heart surgeon who aims for eighty-percent certainty in a successful operation on us? Most objective textual scholars would agree that between the 1881 Westcott and Hort text and the Nestle-Aland/United Bible Societies Greek text, we are in the very high nineties, if not ninety-nine percent mirror-like reflection of the original wording of the twenty-seven New Testament books. Of course, the ongoing objective is to reach one hundred percent even if it is not achievable.

TEXTUAL CRITICISM is the process of the textual scholar attempting to ascertain the original wording of the original text.

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[1] This author accepts that Paul is the author of the book of Hebrews. For further information see the CPH Blog article, Who Authored the Book of Hebrews: A Defense for Pauline Authorship

https://christianpublishinghouse.co/2016/11/02/who-authored-the-book-of-hebrews-a-defense-for-pauline-authorship/

[2] 2 Peter generally is wrongly dated to about 100-125 C.E. (e.g. J. N. D. Kelly, A Commentary on the Epistles of Peter and of Jude: Introduction and Commentary; J. D. Mayor, the Epistle of St. Jude and the Epistle of Second Peter; D. J. Harrington, Jude and 2 Peter). Other Bible scholars date 2 Peter to 80-90 C.E. (e.g., R. Bauckham Jude, 2 Peter; B. Reicke, The Epistle of James, Peter and Jude). We should begin with a date of about 64 C.E. for 2 Peter. Then, the Greek makes it apparent that the author is a contemporary of the apostle Paul because it suggests that Paul is speaking to the churches at the time of this writing. The Greek ἐν πάσαις ἐπιστολαῖς λαλῶν (“in all letters [he] speaking”) strongly implies such. The author of the document says that he is “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:1, NASB). He refers to this as “the second letter I am writing to you” (2 Pet. 3:1, NASB). The author clearly states that he was an eyewitness to the transfiguration of Jesus Christ, at which only Peter, James, and John were present (Matt. 17:1-13; Mark 9:1-13; Lu 9:28–36; See 2 Pet. 1:16-21). The author mentions that Jesus foretold his death, “knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me” (2 Pet. 1:14; John 21:18, 19.). The argument that the style is different from 1 Peter is moot because the subject and the purpose in writing were different. The implication of the phrases “in all his letters” and “the rest of the Scriptures” is that many of Paul’s letters (thirteen of them) were viewed as “Scripture” by the first-century Christian congregation and should not be “twisted” or “distorted.” In addition, Second Peter was regarded as canonical by a number of authorities prior to the Third Council of Carthage (i.e., Irenaeus of Asia Minor c. 180 C.E., Origen of Alexandria c. 230 C.E., Eusebius of Palestine c. 320 C.E., Cyril of Jerusalem c. 348 C.E., Athanasius of Alexandria c. 367 C.E., Epiphanius of Palestine c. 368 C.E., Gregory Nazianzus of Asia Minor c. 370 C.E., Philaster of Italy c. 383 C.E., Jerome of Italy c. 394 C.E., and Augustine of N. Africa c. 397 C.E.).

[3] T. R. McNeal, “Luke,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 1056–1057.

[4] Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, Third ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 373.

[5] Ibid., 294.

[6] Ibid., 141.

[7] Justin Martyr, “The First Apology of Justin,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 186.

[8] Eugene H. Merrill, Deuteronomy, vol. 4, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 229.

[9] Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, vol. 14, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 237.

[10] Josephus, The Life/Against Apion, vol. 1, LCL, ed. by H. St. J. Thackeray (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976), pp. 177–181.

[11] Sayings: (Gr. logia, on [only in the plural]) A saying or message, usually short, especially divine, gathered into a collection–Acts 7:38; Romans 3:2; Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 4:11.

[12] Or in terms of human relations; or according to a human perspective; or using a human illustration

[13] Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Book of Revelation, vol. 20, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 594.

[14] Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, Third ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 351.

[15] (LXX 13:1.)

[16] Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, Third ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 735.

[17] Ibid, 739-40.

[18] Ibid, 741.

[19] Ibid, 437.

[20] Dionysius of Corinth, “Fragments from a Letter to the Roman Church,” in Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: The Twelve Patriarchs, Excerpts and Epistles, the Clementina, Apocrypha, Decretals, Memoirs of Edessa and Syriac Documents, Remains of the First Ages, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. B. P. Pratten, vol. 8, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 765.

[21] Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., Eusebius: Church History, Life of Constantine the Great, and Oration in Praise of Constantine, vol. 1, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1890).

[22] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus Against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 558.

[23] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus Against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 559.

[24] Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, Third ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 289.

[25] Ernest Colwell, “Method in Evaluating Scribal Habits: A Study of P45, P66, P75,” in Studies in Methodology in Textual Criticism of the New Testament, New Testament Tools and Studies 9 (Leiden: Brill, 1969), 114–21.

[26] Philip Comfort, NEW TESTAMENT TEXT AND TRANSLATUION COMMENTARY: Commentary on the variant readings of the ancient New Testament manuscripts and how they relate to the major English translations (Carol Stream, ILL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008), Page xi.

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