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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Bible Translations:Textual Philosophy Analysis

(Continued from here)

A challenge with textual philosophy and English versions is the absence of notification. That is, the translators do not provide a note stating what their textual philosophy is. Thus, in order to determine what the textual philosophy of the translators was, you have to compare your translations with those that are of a known, different translation.

Furthermore, the textual preferences of the translators sometimes is more evident in the notes and markings as much as in the text itself. An example is Mark 16:9-20. Some translations have a footnote. Some have brackets around the text. Some have a horizontal line separating the entire text from the rest of the chapter. The footnotes vary as well. Some say, “The most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have verses 9-20; some say, ” “Verses 9 through 20 are not found in the earliest manuscripts”; some say, “Some of the most ancient authorities bring the book to a close after verse 8” or “some of the earliest manuscripts do not include verses 9-20”, and the KJV does not have a footnote at all.

What is the evidence of Mark 16:9-20? It is presented best in the Inspirational Study Bible (NKJV) “Verses 9-20 are bracketed in NU-Text (the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, essentially the industry standard for Greek New Testament translations) as not original. They are lacking in Codex Siniaticus and Codex Vaticanus, although nearly all other manuscripts of Mark contain them.”

Here lies the danger in textual philosophy. If you are studying your Bible, you wouldn’t know what “some ancient authorities” means. If you read “the earliest and most reliable manuscripts” you would think that the verses likely do not belong in the Bible! However, a review of the textual apparatus of the Nestle-Aland Greek NT shows that the NKJV used in this case is correct – that there are two codices that lack the verses. Furthermore, Codex Vaticanus has the precise amount of space necessary to include the verses – showing that they were known at that time by that scribe!

As I read the different textual philosophies, I would tend to believe that the “Reasoned Conservatism” approach would be the best. However, nearly every translation, except the KJV and the NKJV claims to use a “Reasoned Eclecticism” approach. Furthermore, the Reasoned Eclecticism approach is almost always a preference for the Alexandrian text type, of which Codex Vaticanus and Siniaticus are part. It is almost humorous to see the English versions that call them “the earliest and most reliable” manuscripts, for it is the case that the two differ from each other more often than they agree against the TR.

Most textual philosophies reject the place of church history in the development of the canon. Until 1880, Christians did not consider texts such as Mark 16:9-20, Matthew 6:13, John 7:53-8:11 or 1 John 5:7-8 to be questionable. Those who study most English translations these days will have questions about these texts, all of which are cited by the earliest church fathers.

What effect do the textual philosophies have on selecting your English Bible? Simply put, you must know what the philosophy is. Comparison will be your best method of discerning the textual philosophy and choosing a translation to focus upon for study.

Next: Denominational Influences


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