|There is money to be made in new Biblical paraphrases|
and Lutheran hymnals, all getting worse with each improvement.
The Glory Has Departed
Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence
Bethany Lutheran Worship on
Saturday, February 20, 2016
Part III - Making Disciples Began with Turning the New Testament Text
Into a Wax Nose. God's Word Becomes Man's Opinion.
Money To Be Made in Constantly Changing Versions Packed with Errors
Relatively few pay attention to lower criticism. This field describes the analysis of manuscripts, editions, and early translations - to find the right reading for a given work from the past. The Old Testament is fairly secure from the harm of these swarming pests, because the text has been carefully preserved over many centuries by the extreme and demanding Jewish rules of copying. We also have the Septuagint, the early translation of the Old Testament into Greek, which helps establish what was considered a good translation long before the hot air merchants of Bible merchandising arrive.
The New Testament has been the playground of apostates ever since the days of Wescott and Hort, with special help offered by Count Tischendorf. The New Testament is much smaller and its Greek far easier to master than Old Testament Hebrew and its cognate languages. One could grow blind studying variants in the Old Testament and not be known by more than a handful of experts. I confess to having a passion for this field during seminary, and I enjoyed using a Greek New Testament and checking the readings noted in the footnotes.
“The Westcott Hort text, along with the new translation, dealt the final blow to the old type of text (Received Text) upon which the King James Version is based.”
Neil Lightfoot, How We Got the Bible, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1963, p. 80.
Many a novice text critic has been initiated in the rules of the science. It could be a science. The actual text does not need to be a philosophical issue, but we can see that people refuse to keep their skeptical agendas out of the issue. We should only ask, “What is the purest form of the original text?” Various rules of doubtful value have been promoted to determine whether one reading is better than another:
a. The shorter reading is preferred.
b. The more difficult reading is preferred.
c. When in doubt, favor tradition.
When we examine these rules, we can see that they are infinitely flexible and no more scientific than examining the entrails of sacrificial animals. The rules were first applied during a time when all ancient works were considered a patchwork by many different authors and editors.
One can guess the attitude behind this rule. Some people make their stories longer and longer, the more they tell them. Others abbreviate a story they have heard before, depending on the circumstances. As far as being a reliable guide for one reading or another, determining the better reading by length is no better than walking to the hardware store with arms outstretched and saying, “I need a door this wide.”
We should think over the implications of this single rule. It suggests an arbitrary attitude setting itself against the data. Implied in this rule and others is the notion that the Christian Church suppressed the true text, changing it with additions to express a Trinitarian orthodoxy foreign to Jesus and the apostles. It is more likely that heretics edited their manuscripts to fit their pet doctrines, introducing some variant readings easily detected. For example, one man was trying to prove his case at a church meeting. He read from a document in a loud and outraged tone of voice, but when he came to a section that reflected poorly on him, he skipped it entirely. Later, his friend read a transcript from an audio tape. Once again, when material came up not supporting their cause, it was omitted. In these two cases, the shorter version was the corrupt version.
This rule abandons all pretensions of science, when considered thoughtfully. One question we must ask is, “Difficult for whom?” The answer is, “Difficult for believers.” This rule is a formula for replicating false doctrine. The Christian Church has determined through the study of the Scriptures that dozens of heresies are misinterpretations of God’s Word. One example would be an attack upon the hypostatic union of the two natures (divine and human) of Christ. Some deny the human nature of Christ. Others deny His divine nature. Still others are confused about the union of the two natures, as Zwingli and Calvin were. Applying this rule would mean that a reading denying the divine nature of Christ would be preferred to one affirming it. The arrogance of this rule is amazing. It simply assumes that the very first Biblical texts taught the favorite heresies of the liberals. Then, they think, over a period of time, the copyists inserted a newly minted orthodoxy into the pure text. If we choose to believe this liberal fantasy, this plan must have been a massive and overwhelming conspiracy. Only a few manuscripts preserved the original, mixed up, heretical Christianity. Liberals can pick those few examples out, elevate them to a new status, and create another New Testament based upon them.
That is exactly what Wescott and Hort did in England. They were asked to modernize the King James Version to some extent. They created a different Greek New Testament, a two-volume work so massive that no one could easily supplant it with another. A country raised on Shakespeare, Milton, and the King James Version rejected the new translation based upon their text, but their Greek New Testament persisted. Today, all modern translations of the New Testament reject the Majority Text and follow the trends of Wescott and Hort. All modern translations, not some of them, but all of them, favor the Egyptian manuscripts and reject the Majority Text.
The New King James Version, which is really a modest revision rather than a new translation, does not follow the Egyptian texts and argues against them. The New KJV does provide variations in footnotes, but these actually help the reader see where the RSV and NIV omit verses. The omission of words and entire verses is the issue. The new editions edit out a significant amount of the New Testament. The omissions are seldom noted in the modern translations, so the verses and words are forgotten. In time they seem foreign.
Another consideration, with variations in the King James family, is the potential readership of the target audience. As Martin Jackson said about the New KJV, aimed at conservative Baptists – “They know their market.” Every translation is a commentary (Scaer).
This rule may or may not be applied. The radical scholars generally work against tradition. For instance, they dismiss the reliability of the New Testament, but they anchor the dating of various events by using the Acts of the Apostles. This is a contradiction. However, if a scholar cannot fix a particular date in time, such as the trial of Paul, then he cannot date anything else in New Testament history. So, the apostates argue, the New Testament is unreliable in history except for those points of data we need to write a calendar of events.
What does “in doubt” mean? What does “tradition” mean? Obviously, if all three rules are applied at the discretion of the scholar, the resulting text may become anything he imagines it must have been. Because the Bible is ancient, many contradictory traditions exist about many different subjects.
We have very late traditions (5th century) about the Assumption of Mary. Does that mean that the silence of the New Testament about the death of Mary implies her Assumption? The Church of Rome has read the Assumption of Mary into the “First Gospel” (Genesis 3:15), making Mary’s the foot that will crush Satan. The Church of Rome has used the text of Genesis 3:15 that says, “She will crush his head.” Thus, Catholic art often shows Mary trampling the serpent. The Church of Rome has admitted the error in the translation, but I can go to any major theological library and still find the error in print. The paintings remain and a book was written on the basis of Mary being the ruling theme in South American Catholicism – Under the Foot of Mary.
Liberals will argue correctly that there are almost no complete New Testament manuscripts. Every Greek New Testament published is a composite of the ancient witnesses. However, if the available manuscripts overlap, the complete New Testament is easily assembled. The composite argument works both ways. Every single printed Greek New Testament today is also a composite. It is not simply Vaticanus or Sinaiticus, but some of each, plus Majority Text readings. Various readings are voted upon and graded, introducing even more subjective opinion into the discussion. Please note that all ancient works and many modern works have also been gathered and edited from various manuscripts with gaps, contradictions, and misspellings. The difference is that the Biblical texts are far more numerous, reliable, and precise.
Producing a reliable edition of any work is worthwhile, but the effort is easily subverted by the agenda of the experts entrusted with the editing. The cavalier attitude of the text critics has empowered the translators to do whatever they wanted with their English translations, using their own set of rules to supplant the concept of precision and conjure up what the original authors, mere human beings writing about God, meant.
Let us look at one text in Mark and see what the manuscript evidence is. An ordinary Bible will not help. Footnotes mention some ancient witnesses, as if they were people. The witnesses are manuscripts. Details explaining the changes are missing. No explanations are offered. And yet, this is not a difficult matter to discuss.
In college, I was told by my Harvard trained college professor, a Lutheran Church in America pastor, that the early Church noticed that the ending of the second Gospel was rather abrupt, stopping at Mark 16:8, so they made up another ending, Mark 16:9-20. Liberals said, “Thank God we now have better manuscripts than the King James Version had, so we can get rid of the manufactured ending and stop the Gospel at 16:8.” The liberals could not explain why anyone would end a Gospel with the word “for.” The Greek word gar (“for”) is never found at the end of a sentence, let alone at the end of a book. This adverb gar is post-positive, meaning that it is not used as the first word in a phrase. Like the contemporary question, “And?” it assumes completion.
KJV Mark 16:8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid. (Liberals have the Gospel of Mark ending in “gar” – ephbounto gar, for they were afraid.
One theory held that the Gospel was mysteriously broken off at Mark 16:8, letting people imagine death or persecution. Given the value of written texts in the early Church, the abrupt ending is difficult to explain adequately. According to Bruce Metzger, the best known textual expert in America, one 12th century manuscript of Mark broke off at Mark 16:8 with the Greek letter tau indicating the end of a lection and more text following. For this reason he rejects that particular manuscript as evidence for the abrupt ending. Nevertheless, Metzger argues very strongly for excluding the traditional ending of Mark, giving little evidence against his view, but he offers three alternative explanations for the ending at Mark 16:8 –
· The author intended to end his work with “they were afraid.”
· The Gospel was not finished.
· The Gospel lost its last leaf before it was copied. (The most probable in Metzger’s opinion.)
Justin Martyr used vocabulary from the traditional ending in his Apology, written about 155 AD. Although we do not know exact dates for the New Testament Gospels, it is likely that the entire New Testament was completed before 100 AD. That makes the possible allusion to the traditional ending extremely early. A website about Justin Martyr and other saints made the observation that the early Roman emperors persecuted the Christian Church because they were trying to preserve the old Roman ways. The active persecution of an impoverished and illegal religion might explain the problem with the ending. Justin Martyr was beheaded with six of his students, one of them a woman.
My United Bible Society Greek New Testament (Aland third edition) has notes for the variant readings. Similar decisions about which words or sections to include or exclude are made about Shakespeare and all important authors, but most people are not aware of it. The Shakespeare Variorum is an enormous work with variant readings of the dramas. The Yale Shakespeare, in one volume, is the result of many different editorial decisions. Although Shakespeare belongs to the modern age, scholars still argue about the authorship of the plays. Did he write some or all of them? Or did the Earl of Oxford? Or Bacon? If a Shakespeare play began with as much uncertainty as many sermons, no one would pay attention to Shakespeare either. The actor would begin, “Scholars are not sure whether William Shakespeare wrote this play. We chose which lines we would use in performing the play, but no one agrees which words are actually his, or Oxford’s, or Bacon’s, depending on which book you read.”13
The Aland edition of the New Testament omits the traditional ending of Mark, supporting this reading with Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, and a few additional witnesses. The traditional ending is supported by Alexandrinus, Epraemi Rescriptus, Bezae Cantabrigiensis, and many others. The position of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus looks very lonely, but aha, do not they agree with each other? Are they not better and earlier? Can we not find it in our hearts to forgive that forgotten scribe who added a few verses to Mark, just to improve the Gospel?
Vaticanus does not include the traditional ending of Mark, but the copyist left more than a column of space blank. That was long before the days of “this page intentionally left blank.” At the very least we can assume that the scribe knew of the traditional ending. That leaves Sinaiticus stranded. It is one thing to say that Mark’s Gospel ended abruptly, for no known reason, and that an ending was added. But, if two major witnesses against the traditional ending do not even agree completely with each other, then snipping off verses nine through twenty seems arbitrary, arrogant, and deceitful. St. Jerome knew about manuscripts omitting Mark 16:9-20, but he was convinced of the authenticity of the traditional ending. W. R. Farmer concluded: “In fact, external evidence from the second century for Mark 16:9-20 is stronger than for most other parts of that Gospel.”
Now we have a great dividing line on this subject. Most of the conservatives have surrendered to Westcott and Hort, abandoning the Majority Text. And yet, an author who accepted the modern theories about the New Testament text, said this about the ending of Mark:
“In favor of Mark 16:9-20 there are a host of witnesses: the Alexandrian Manuscript, the Ephraem Manuscript, Codex Bezae, other early uncials, all late uncials and cursives, a number of old Latin authorities plus the Vulgate, one Old Syriac manuscript, the Syriac Peshitta version, and many other versions. Besides, there is a plain statement from Irenaeus (early Christian writer) which clearly shows the existence of Mark 16:9-20 in the second century and the belief that Mark was its author. In brief this is the negative and positive data on the question. On one hand is the unparalleled reliability of the Vatican and Sinaitic Manuscripts; on the other hand is almost all of the other evidence. J. W. McGarvey wrote a capable defense of Mark 16:9-20 in his Commentary on Matthew and Mark. It was first published, however, in 1875, before the great work of Westcott and Hort on the Greek text was completed. Yet McGarvey’s, with a few minor modifications, can stand with credit today.”
Neil Lightfoot, How We Got the Bible, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1963, pp. 74f.
Vaticanus and Sinaiticus have “unparalleled reliability,” except in one of the most important passages of the New Testament—the ending of Mark. If the claim does not match up with the data, then the claim is wrong. In light of the concessions made by Lightfoot above, the treatment of the traditional ending of Mark in the New International Version is worth noting. After Mark 16:8, a line appears in the text, indicating a break. The following heading appears above Mark 16:9-20: “[The most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20.]”
Someone who has not read the research on the ending of Mark—and this material is fairly difficult to find—would conclude from the NIV that Mark 16:9-20 does not belong in the Bible. He would not know that the only major manuscript unambiguously omitting the ending is Sinaiticus and that this “most reliable manuscript” suddenly appeared without a so-called family of copies to back it up. Since Missouri Synod and Wisconsin Synod professors participated with the liberals and tongue-speakers of the NIV translation team, a conservative Lutheran would assume that the bracketed information is in harmony with orthodox Lutheran doctrine. In fact, no other Bible translation is so brassy in disdaining the traditional ending of Mark.
If a modern scholar’s training goes against the traditional ending of the Second Gospel, and he still supports the Majority Text conclusion of Mark, then the untrained person can see that the case against Mark 16:9-20 is very weak indeed. For the sake of comparison, consider what Westcott and Hort have done to millions of Christians. The Beck Bible published by Christian News has also omitted the traditional ending of Mark with a footnote, following Westcott and Hort. When a faithful Lutheran reads this Bible, after being exposed to the King James Version, he is led to believe that the Christian Church was deceived for centuries. Luther was wrong. Tyndale was wrong. All the Reformers were wrong.
How can the average Christian check the facts? In front of him is the latest Bible printed by a conservative Lutheran. He has no way of discovering, apart from a theological library, that the manuscripts favored in the new edition have no history at all. If a farmer bred cattle or pigs without knowing their genetic heritage, he would be considered lazy or foolish. The ultimate result of Westcott and Hort enthusiasm has planted doubt about the entire New Testament text. Ironically, the Majority Text is rejected by liberals today because of its heritage, its careful preservation in the Christian Church, its thousands of manuscript witnesses, its consistency, its harmony in many different forms. Even the mysterious Vaticanus tips its hat to the Majority Text, by making room for the traditional ending of Mark. “We must conclude that fidelity to the New Testament text has been abandoned since the publication of the Revised Version in 1881.”
 Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, German Bible Society, 1971, p. 122. This work was used in the textual criticism class at Bethany Lutheran Seminary. Metzger has been extremely influential through his teaching position at Princeton Seminary, his publications, and his work with the United Bible Societies.
 W. R. Farmer, The Last Twelve Verses of Mark, Society for New Testament Studies, Cambridge: University Press, 1974, p. 31. Cited in Jakob Van Bruggen, The Future of the Bible, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1978, p. 131.
 Jakob Van Bruggen, The Future of the Bible, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1978, p. 132.
Posted by Gregory Jackson at 11:19 AM