This article will deal with chapters 14 – 17 from the book The Text of the Old Testament by Ernst Wurthwein;
#1. Many generations of scribes and translators have played a role in transmitting the text of the Old Testament. They contain, therefore, a great variety of scribal errors… (pg. 105)
Yes and no. While there are errors, most are not doctrinal or important. Key teachings are not touched unless the translation was done by someone who changed their religious beliefs to an alternative ideology. Textual critics tend to over-state the issue to further their own unbelief in scripture. Dr. Bart Ehrman is the most vocal and well-known critic today and he errs greatly in his arguments about the biblical text.
Then again, as I stated in part one, the manuscripts we have extant may not be the actual finished copy and was lucky enough to survive because so few people handled it over time. We should not assume that every manuscript in our possession is the pristine, finished work.
#2. Textual criticism is the skill by which Old Testament scholarship deals with such problems. It attempts to ferret out all the errors and alterations (variants) that have occurred and to achieve on the basis of scholarly level a Hebrew text providing a solid foundation on which higher criticism, exegesis, etc. can build. (pg. 105)
This is what I meant when I said in part one that textual criticism opens the biblical text to human subjectivity. We do not know if these scholars are doing exactly what they complained the ancient copyists were accused of doing, putting the errors back into the text via their ‘corrections.’ You will note of course, that there is no biblical teaching to do this work in this manner.
The biblical command was to follow the HS to the truth yet in all of the books I have read on this topic and people I have listened to talk about textual criticism not one talks about following the HS. They also do not talk about seeking the truth but only of achieving the original text, which is impossible to do.
#3. First, the canonization of the Old Testament books did not involve or imply a standardized form of their text in our sense of the term. Prior to canonization, which may be dated about 100 AD their text was still fluid. This was because the scribes, who were theologically educated and interested, would often write the texts from memory…and did not regard their work as restricted to mechanical transcription. (pg. 105).
There is so much wrong with those words that it is hard to know where to begin. First, Dr. Wurthwein is saying that the OT is merely a human authored book which was governed by no divine warning or regulation. Second, we really do not know when the OT was canonized. That information, last I heard, was lost to history. Third, the idea of the ancient copyists writing from memory is ludicrous as it implies that the scribes had the authority to change scriptures as they saw fit and that was just not so. Fourth, ‘our sense of the term’ means nothing here. The ancients were not writing to appease modern western scholars who conjured up their own standards and applied them wrongfully to other people’s works.
This quote provides one little reason why I do not accept, use or recommend biblical criticism. The attitude of superiority over God, his word and the ancients is just not biblical nor even close to the right attitude to have when working with God and his word. The cavalier way scholars view the ancients and the excuses they fabricate,and I use the word fabricate because there is no evidence supporting any one of them, say more about the lack in modern scholars than it does the ancient people and their work.
The modern scholars are trying to read long dead minds and import their own ideas into ancient work ethics and thinking. They are not presenting the world with the truth about ancient copying and thinking. Most modern scholars are not believers thus their thinking should not be guiding believers and I should point out that many of the Christian scholars follow the rules of secular modern scholarship not God’s thus their conclusions are suspect as well.
#4. …the Masoretic text as it now exists exhibits corruptions that must have occurred very early, i.e. in the period before canonization; their correction, sometimes possible only by conjecture, is the task of textual criticism. (pg. 106)
The words in bold type are another reason I object to the use of textual criticism by the believer. The supposed corrections are merely the fantasies of the modern scholar. Then the accusation that corruption made it into the text and not caught by the most dedicated families of copyists is without merit and demonstrates the subjective nature of this field. If the modern scholar doesn’t like a verse or a text then it must be the result of an early corruption or error.
There is nothing concrete to judge what is truly an error or corruption in this field.
#5. Textual criticism,like any other science, cannot achieve convincing results without a methodology which is appropriate to its subject matter and defined by it. (pg. 113)
First, science has no place in judging scripture. That field, no matter its division are ruled by scripture and not an authority over it. Second, who makes this methodology? Fallible humans who are subject to the corruption that entered the world at Adam’s sin? If so, then this field is lacking in many areas including judgment. The field as it stands today and is defined by its members certainly doe snot take its lead from divine rules, guidelines or regulations and warnings.
We know this as the author continues in the next paragraph:
There is no precisely defined method for Old Testament textual criticism. Further it is questionable whether one is possible…
In other words textual criticism is at the whim of the scholar and is subject to nothing.
#6. The starting point for any textual study must be the textual tradition itself. Therefore, it must first be decided which text is to be regarded as the traditional text. (pg. 114)
Again we see the subjective nature of this field of research. Any scholar can choose whatever text he wants and declare it to be the ‘traditional’ text. Then the author goes on to say:
After deciding which text is to be the traditional text…the real examination of the tradition can begin. (pg. 115)
How so? If the scholar chooses a text that is truly non-traditional then all of their work is moot and meaningless. They will come to the wrong conclusions because they are using the wrong text as their starting point or guide.
#7. In examining the subject matter we are concerned with determining whether or not a topic, an idea, or an expression is an original part of the text in the light of what is known from other parts of the Old Testament world. (pg. 117)
In other words, if the scholar doesn’t like a piece of biblical history because it is not recorded in an ancient extra-biblical resource then they can, and do, object to its presence in scriptures and advocate its removal.
#8. Finally, in examining the subject matter we should remember how fragmentary our knowledge of the Old Testament world remains. (pg. 117)
This is another problem with textual criticism. Its focus is on the Old Testament world and not God who authored the text. Their starting point should be God not the ancient works of humans who wrote outside of the biblical context. We do not know anything about most of the people who copied the biblical texts, their intent, their beliefs and so on, thus it is a mistake to use their fragmentary work as a guide to understanding biblical content and God.
#9. No book in the literature of the world has been so often copied, printed, translated, read, and studied as the Bible. it stands uniquely as the object of so much effort devoted to preserving it faithfully, to understanding it, and to making it understandable to others… Literatures as old or older than the Old or New testaments have disappeared, leaving only scant allusions and an occasional fortunate discovery of fragmentary remains to remind us that they once existed. It is something else that has made people devote themselves to the Bible… because God himself speaks in it. (pg. 121)
And yet the textual critical scholar still ignores God in his structuring of the guidelines that govern this field. The words in bold should automatically cause the scholar to pause and look for God first before proceeding in their analyzing of the biblical text and its manuscript record. This is the main reason why I reject the field of textual criticism–they have omitted God form the whole process and said his words are human, error filled and useless and only they, the modern human scholar, can fix the Bible.
#10. We are concerned primarily with the original form of the Old Testament record, as we are the concerned with the original message of the Bible as a whole… (pg. 121)
No they are not. if they were concerned with the original message of the bible they would not be seeking it in the manner that they do and simply turn to a good translation and read it. The only way we can know the original message of the Bible is to have faith in God and trust that he preserved his word and has led us to the right translation to read.
We can have a very good idea of what those translations are just by knowing the beliefs behind whomever translated the Bible and we need to lean upon the HS to lead us to the right version. If you want success in your christian life , you need to follow the teachings of scripture and follow the HS to the truth and the right message from God.
#11. Without textual criticism there can be no real understanding of Old Testament religion, no real Old Testament theology. (pg. 122)
That is just arrogant and wrong.
#12. No one can understand even one iota of the scriptures unless he has the Spirit of God. (pg. 122)
The author is quoting Luther and the quote is humble and very correct. The Bible tells us this is so as well in John 14 & 16.
No, textual criticism is not the means by which we understand the OT, its history, religion or theology. That comes with the help of the HS alone.