Modern Textual Criticism: A Deathwork (Part 2)

I came across a recent article by a New Testament scholar, Christ Keith, who made the following observations,

“Those of us who cherish biblical texts on some level or another also need to exercise the important and necessary right to disagree with the text.”

Indeed, the freedom to disagree with the text is almost necessary to the modern text-critical enterprise. At one point the story of the woman caught in adultery was considered Scripture but now most modern textual scholars disagree as is their apparent responsibility when faced with “sufficient” manuscript evidence.

The textual apparatus itself speaks to the inherent disagreement regarding the text even among textual scholars. Some readings get an “A” while others get a “B” and still others get a “C” or even a “D”. Not only do textual scholars disagree with the text as it was formulated they also disagree with each other regarding what is the correct reading.

Keith goes on to write,

“I saw a different claim in a social media… It said, ‘Either you believe the Bible or you don’t. Period. You can’t pick and choose which parts are true and which are false for the sake of your moral relativism.’ Nonsense. Believers or not, we recognize the distance between the biblical texts and ourselves all the time.”

Keith observes that some people claim, especially King James advocates, you can’t pick and choose which parts of the Bible are indeed the Bible and which parts are not. For the Standard Sacred Text advocate you either take it all as Scripture or leave it all to some degree of relativism.

Keith’s response is that such an opinion is “nonsense”. He goes on to explain that whether you are a believer or not it is quite obvious that the textual tradition is an ancient tradition and one from the Middle East and not from Middle America or mid-17th century England. It seems inappropriate then that TR/KJV advocates would seek to foist the language and culture of the King James English onto the Bibles of today. The Early Modern English of the KJV is outdated and needs to be changed. Sound familiar?


What if I told you that the above quotes were indeed written by a New Testament scholar, Chris Keith who got his Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh and is currently the Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St Mary’s University, Twickenham (London, UK)?

What if I told you further that Dr. Keith’s comments quoted above were not directed toward textual scholarship and against a standard sacred text?

What if I told you that Dr. Keith’s comments were actually from an article written today entitled, I study the Bible, LGBTQ kids deserve more empathy than Christian Academy provides: Opinion?

I would imagine that up to the ********************* above most textual scholars and for that matter most evangelicals would hardly demur from my observations, but as soon as Dr. Keith’s comments are understood in the context of LGBTQ+ rights then of course most evangelical academics would cry foul, That’s where we draw the line!, they might say.

So you can disagree about the text itself but not about content of what it teaches which was ultimately chosen by textual scholars? The text comes before the content. The fountain can be disagreed with but the streams coming from that fountain are incontrovertible?

You can recognize that the textual tradition is of ancient and foreign origin and therefore the academic pro’s need to do the hard NT text-critical work.


You may not recognize the teaching of the text as of ancient and foreign origin in order to do the hard work of queer theory or critical race theory.

My point is that modern textual criticism occupies the same space and even utilizes the same language and same behavior as queer theory and critical-race theory. Only the object of inquiry is different.

The queer theorist’s work is a deathwork to admire and then destroy traditional sexual roles and norms.

The modern text-critical theorist’s work is a deathwork to admire and then destroy the Traditional Text (i.e., TR/KJV) as rule and norm.

Perhaps one day we will all finally agree that the Modern Text-Critical King has no clothes.

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