This is the first of a series dealing with text-critical issues in the Pre-Critical era. The purpose of these posts will be to demonstrate that Pre-Critical Exegetes and Theologians were well aware that there were discrepancies in the apographa [i.e., the copies] but that did not mean they abandoned a standard sacred text. Rather they turned around and used their standard sacred Greek and Hebrew text to combat the standard sacred text of Rome identified as the Latin Vulgate. Furthermore, the Reformers did not do there “text-critical” work via recourse to a wholly or largely naturalistic methodology in an attempt to interpret these discrepancies. Oldest, shortest, and hardest are not by default the best. The Reformers had encountered too much old but faulty medieval theology to conclude that oldest is defacto best in any human category.
As a part of writing these posts, I am going to draw on Roger Omanson’s A Textual Guide to the Greek New Testament. Concerning every variant in the UBS text, Omanson’s book offers a brief reason as to why the editors of the UBS text chose the text they chose and, in some cases, why they did not choose the other available options. To sweeten the deal, I am going to draw on Reformers like Francis Turretin and William Whitaker to show that they engaged the very same textual issues we debate about today were debated about during the Reformation. Our first candidate is 1 Corinthians 15:47 and the words “the Lord.”
In the late 1600’s Turretin writes,
“There is no corruption in the Greek text of 1 Cor. 15:47, but only in the Vulgate. The latter omits the word Kyrios (which here refers to Christ to make it evident that the Lord is Jehovah, not a mere man).”Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 1, Second Topic, Q. X, Sec XXI.
In Turretin’s text, Kyrios or the Lord, is present in 1 Corinthians 15:47 and it is the Latin Vulgate that is in error on this point. Why does Turretin believe this is the case? He makes a theological argument centered on clarity for its originality. Turretin writes,
“The antithesis of the first and second Adam becomes much stronger: ‘the first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord (kyrios) from heaven.'”Turretin, Institutes, Second Topic, Q. X, Sec XXI.
For Turretin the presence of Lord is the best reading because it lends clarity to the theological examination of that passage. In this case the longer reading is better because Paul wished to clarify what he meant by this second man. So, in the TR “the Lord” is preserved in the Greek and then in the English, but what of the CT. Do you think that Omanson overserves an agreement here or does the CT diverge from the traditional rendering? Omanson writes 1 Corinthians 15:47,
“The reading in the text best accounts for the original of the other readings, and it has the support of a strong combination of early and good witnesses representing several text-types. The insertion of the article and the noun ὃ κύριος (the Lord) in many witnesses is an obvious addition made in order to explain the nature of ‘the man from heaven.'”Omanson, A Textual Guide, 351.
Here it seems to Omanson that the addition of ὃ κύριος (the Lord) is an “obvious” addition. And on what account does Omanson make this claim? 1.) Shortest is best – the omission of ὃ κύριος makes the reading shorter. 2.) Oldest is best – The omission has “a strong combination of early and good witnesses.” So, on the one hand, the oldest and shortest reading makes it “obvious” to the editors that the ὃ κύριος should be omitted. While Turretin argues on the other hand that the longer reading is the original reading because it lends clarity to the passage. In sum and in this case, the CT advocate says that shorter is better and the TR advocate says longer is better. The CT advocate makes a largely naturalistic assessment of the reading while the TR advocate makes a largely theological assessment of the reading.
In all, as the Preacher tells us in Ecclesiastes, “That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been” [Ecc. 3:15]. There is no new thing under the sun. And this will not be the only time the Reformers had to answer text-critical questions which are the exact same questions brought up by CT advocates today as if there haven’t been sufficient answers already. Indeed, Reformation era TR advocates did a form of textual criticism, and they did indeed use historical evidence to make their claims, but it is clear that their theological precommitments played a substantial role in their text-critical efforts. Sound familiar? For this reason, we here at StandardSacredText.com have said and will continue to say that the text-criticism of the past and that which is practiced now are not the same species and we will continue to advocate for the obvious and substantial role theological precommitments when doing textual criticism.