Textual Criticism | what on earth are you saying?
Textual Criticism is concerned with asking what the original texts actually said. As such it’s a bit beyond the casual reader, but an understanding of the issues and the questions involved can add depth to Bible study, or at least explain what some of the footnotes mean!
Our first task is to consult several translations and notice the places where footnotes occur. Most modern translations will note the most important differences between source material. Secondly, figure out what the problem is and find out what the abbreviations mean (this will normally be explained at the front of the Bible). Finally, choose to give up now or consult an expert to dig deeper; But what questions will they be trying to answer?
Our current Bible is based on a blend of several different copies of each book. These books were produced in several different languages (most notably Hebrew, Greek and Latin) and differences occur between same-language copies, between the translations, and between Jewish and early Christian editions. Unfortunately, the earliest surviving manuscript isn’t always the most accurate. Changes were made for both intentional and unintentional reasons:
Unintentional mistakes are unilaterally present in the age of spell-checkers and copy-editors. It stands to reason that, although safeguards were in place, errors were common. Common issues that were problematic include:
Intentional changes were made for stylistic or doctrinal reasons. Some of these include:
Being aware of these issues allows us to clearly see the ‘humanity’ inherent in the Bible and to be aware of the dangers inherent in founding beliefs on single passages.