Modern Evangelical Textual Criticism is Grounded in Vicious Circularity

Ask any modern textual critic, “Given the current manuscript data, how do you know you have all the pertinent manuscript data?” Be shrewd with them and even pedantic if necessary and they will finally confess, “We know we have all the manuscript data because the current manuscript data has all the manuscript data.” And based on this confession they are able to claim when speaking of the Ethiopian Eunuch like,

“There is every reason to believe that a scribe added this clarification, because without it the story never explicitly indicates that the eunuch has come to believe.”

Craig Blomberg, Can We Believe The Bible, 24.

Or this concerning the long ending in Mark’s Gospel,

“The open end of a scroll was the most vulnerable part of a manuscript for damage perhaps Mark literally got ‘ripped off’! More likely, he intended to end with the fear and failure of the women.”

Craig Blomberg, Can We Believe The Bible, 20.

Blomberg assumes that the manuscript evidence current in hand is all that has been or could be considered. And by assuming the current manuscript evidence is all that has been or could be considered the conclusions which follow can only be all that has been or could be considered.

Put simply, their argument is,

We have the best conclusions about manuscript data because we have the best manuscript data.
We have the best manuscript data because we have the best conclusions about manuscript data.

You see the first proposition [We have the best conclusions about manuscript data ] in CT advocates’ insistence upon abandoning the TR and starting fresh with Alexandrian priority. You see the second proposition [we have the best manuscript data] in CT advocates’ regular appeal to number and age of manuscripts compared to those supposedly had by our Reformation era forefathers and before.

In the end though, if the New Testament manuscript tradition were a tree, historically blind modern evangelical textual critics are wholly unable to tell whether the manuscript tradition they have a hold of is the trunk or a very large branch or even a twig when in the end they are looking for the root and don’t know it.

In sum, while the CT academic is intellectually blind and reasoning in a circle he compels us to join him because all the smart kids are doing it. I simply haven’t the intellectual inner ear to join them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: