Are the New Testament Manuscripts Reliable? (II)

One of the things most New Testament scholars are convinced of is that we do not have to come up with conjectural emendation anywhere in the New Testament, or if we do, it is only for one or two places. Conjectural emendation means “I think this is what the original wording of that text said even though I do not have any manuscript testimony for it.” Yet when you look at virtually all other ancient literature, except for the Hebrew Bible, you have to come up with conjectures all over the place.One scholar talked about textual criticism for classical texts where it looks like you have

One scholar talked about textual criticism for classical texts where it looks like you have a drunken sailor standing up against a lamp post. To the outside observer, he might think that sailor is holding the lamp post up, when in fact it is just the opposite case. The point is that the manuscripts look like they are holding up the data so we can see it, when the reality for classical texts is that scholars have to guess all the time as to what is there. For doing textual criticism in classical works, the primary task of the scholar is to guess what went there when there are no manuscripts to give us any evidence because this stuff is so incoherent. They are constantly guessing. That is a task that New Testament textual critics simply do not need to do. If you take a look at all the known variants we have, and compare them to each other; we can say with a pretty strong sense of certainty that we have the text of the original either in the text of the New Testament or in the footnotes of the Greek New Testament. It is one of those two places. Therefore we can test the theory whether those manuscripts are reliable.So do you have a reading „A‟ in the text that disagrees so strongly with reading „B‟ in the

So do you have a reading ‘A’ in the text that disagrees so strongly with reading ‘B’ in the text that if I go with ‘B’ then it is completely refuting a major doctrine? We do not have that. The fact is you can test the theory of whether these manuscripts are reliable because we can see what the readings are of all the manuscripts. We never have the choice of it is ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, or ‘D, none of the above’. You do not have to go to ‘D’; you have ‘A’, ‘B’, or ‘C’. Even with that you have things like in Romans 8:1 where Paul says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” This is what the oldest manuscripts say. Later, next-generation manuscripts added on “…who do not walk according to the flesh.” I take it that what they were doing was making a qualification on those who are in Christ, rather than a further requirement to be free of condemnation. Then another generation later decided they must add a positive statement, “…but who do walk according to the Spirit.” As I said, I think the original text stopped at “in Christ.” The other two statements that were added centuries later are making qualifications on this, but in no way restricting this to “you must be in Christ, and not do this, but do this. We look at this example and recognize a major textual problem. It is a major difference between the King James and virtually all modern translations. But what is really at stake here? We have this reliability that is unbelievable, and I would say that when it comes to all of the essentials of the Christian faith, we do not have any problems with textual criticism. That is not where textual criticism is at play. It does not affect the key doctrines of our faith at all.