In continuing to discuss Black's work, I'll now turn to what he writes about textual analysis. He insists that the most logical starting point for exegesis is making sure what the text originally said, which is the work of textual criticism. As Black points out, the extant GNT manuscripts diverge from one another, but I would contend that textual criticism has made it possible for us to have a high degree of confidence in the GNT: Stanley Porter makes this argument and so did Frederic G. Kenyon.
Black gives his own examples of texts that Bible versions bracket or leave out altogether. I will now supply examples that I've encountered when reading the GNT, but the main point here is not to decide which reading is correct, but to illustrate why textual analysis is important; analyzing texts helps to establish the most probable reading, and it assists the exegete to ascertain which parts of a verse might be original.
Examples of Textual Concerns:
1) Longer Ending of Mark (16:9-20)
Not that this tells us a whole lot about the original text, but NA28 contains Mark 16:1-20. However, to get an overall feel of the issues surrounding the Gospel's ending, one might consult Bruce Metzger's textual commentary and other works that discuss the textual questions about Mark. I will include sources to consult at the end of this blog post. However, Robert H. Stein (Mark, BECNT) takes some time to lay out a number of points regarding the ending of Mark. There is a so-called shorter and longer. Concerning these Stein writes: "If, as scholars generally agree, the 'shorter' and 'longer endings' of Mark are not authentic, the question still remains as to how Mark originally ended. Is Mark 16:8 the intended ending of the Gospel or has the original ending been lost? Here there is far less agreement. This question will be discussed at the end of the comment section."
Stein then offers commentary on Mark 16:1-8 before picking up questions about the Gospel of Mark' ending. What does he conclude?
"I agree with 'the conjecture that the [present] text is incomplete' because I feel 'compelled to do so by the document itself' (Knox 1942: 13). Since the 1990s, a number of major commentaries and works have appeared in support of the view that 16:8 was not the evangelist’s intended ending (Gundry 1993; Evans 2001; Witherington 2001; J. Edwards 2002; France 2002; N. Wright 2003).
So Stein concludes that Mark was never able to finish his Gospel: he reasons that we thus have an incomplete account. To be fair, his view is one of many. One finds those who think the KJV got things right by including the longer ending, which comes through the Erasmian GNT, whereas others argue that Mark 16:1-8 is the correct ending. For instance, William Lane (The Gospel of Mark, NICNT) gives the following view:
"Mark concluded his Gospel at this point. That verse 8 marks the ending to the Gospel in its present form is scarcely debated. The contention that this is the original and intended ending, however, continues to be resisted."
Lane subsequently includes this assessment: "Although the longer ending is found in the vast number of witnesses (A C D K L W X Δ Θ Π Ψ φ 28 33 274 565 700 892 1009 latt syc p h pal coppt), the form, language and style of these verses militate against Marcan authorship."
He ultimately professes that the longer ending of Mark was probably composed in the early second century.
2) 1 John 2:20
A less notable variant might be this verse from John's first letter. One encounters this interesting variant for 1 John 2:20 while reading the KJV: "But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things."
Concerning this epistolary verse, Ralph Earle (Word Meanings in the NT) states:
"If the reading of the bulk of later manuscripts is correct, 'all things' would have to be taken as meaning all things necessary to salvation (v. 27). But it is probably better to accept pantes [rather than the neuter plural accusative panta] as original--'you all know.'"
NA28 reads: καὶ ὑμεῖς χρῖσμα ἔχετε ἀπὸ τοῦ ἁγίου καὶ οἴδατε πάντες.
W. Harris Hall III is informative too: "There is a textual problem in the phrase: should καὶ οἴδατε πάντες ('you all know') or καὶ οἴδατε πάντα ('you know all things') be read here? The nominative plural πάντες (pantes, 'you all know') is read by Í B P Y 398 1838 1852 copsa Jerome Hesychius. On the other hand A C K 049 33 614 1739 Byz latt and several other versional witnesses (mostly secondary) have the accusative πάντα (panta, 'you know all things'). The manuscript evidence favors the nominative reading, but it is not overwhelming. At the same time, the internal evidence supports the nominative, suggesting that it arose as a result of scribal confusion with the accusative used in John 14:26 and 16:30."
3) One more variant to examine for now is from Philippians 3:21.
NA28: ὃς μετασχηματίσει τὸ σῶμα τῆς ταπεινώσεως ἡμῶν σύμμορφον τῷ σώματι τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν τοῦ δύνασθαι αὐτὸν καὶ ὑποτάξαι αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα.
Byzantine Majority Text 2005: ὃς μετασχηματίσει τὸ σῶμα τῆς ταπεινώσεως ἡμῶν, εἰς τὸ γενέσθαι αὐτὸ σύμμορφον τῷ σώματι τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ, κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν τοῦ δύνασθαι αὐτὸν καὶ ὑποτάξαι ἑαυτῷ τὰ πάντα.
But εἰς τὸ γενέσθαι αὐτὸ σύμμορφον does not appear earlier than the seventh century CE (Silva). Haley Goranson Jacob explains that the textual variant of the MT is "clearly an attempt to smooth the difficult syntax caused by σύμμορφον." Jacob gives references and notes that eight "late manuscripts" preserve the lectio; see Conformed to the Image of His Son, page 141.
4) Other examples include: 1 Timothy 3:16 and 1 John 5:7; John 1:3-4, Hebrews 2:9.
Whichever text is in play, I hope the examples above illustrate the work that an exegete has to do before he or she can explicate the biblical text. Keep in mind that all this work known as textual criticism only yields probability, and recall that Bruce Metzger and UBS grade variants from A-D to indicate how likely they are to be original.
While I would not encourage anyone to read NA28, UBS5 or Metzger slavishly or uncritically, the research contained in these works signify many years of arduous textual work. Nevertheless, it's always good to compare numerous variants and editions before deciding which text is the most probable reading (variant or lectio).
The next entry will turn toward the subject of lexical analysis.
Sources for Further Reading on New Testament Textual Criticism: