Where to begin in the textual debate?

Chris Thomas Intro to Textual Criticism Series, Textual Criticism 1 Comment

All Roads Lead To?

When it comes to learning about textual criticism the shear amount of reading necessary to understand just the basics seems monumental.  Who do you read?  Who do you ignore?  Why are there so many different opinions?  Sometimes you feel like screaming.  So I decided to write this series thinking of what I wish someone had recommended to me when I started learning about the field of Textual Criticism. This will be the first in series of posts covering Textual Criticism from beginning to advanced along with Renaissance history, resources for learning Greek & Latin, church history, German philosophical development, and other such fields that are helpful in understanding Textual Criticism.
I’ve always found it easier to break books on a subject down into their categories.  Generally, textual criticism books will fall into one of the following two categories:

  1. Preservationist Textual Criticism (PTC) – Scripture has been providentially preserved by God and kept pure throughout all generations
  2. Restorationist Textual Criticism (RTC) – Scripture has been corrupted over time to the point that the original readings must be restored using naturalistic methods employing the philosophy of Rationalism or Empricism

Whenever you pick up any book on textual criticism or that covers Scripture you need to ask yourself, what is their exegetical argument for their viewpoint?  As you do this you will see a pattern emerge.
Books dealing with PTC in general have a solid exegetical foundation.  The following verses generally play some part in the argumentation:

Isa 59:21  As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.
Psa 12:6-7  The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.  (7)  Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.
Rom 3:1-2  What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?  (2)  Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.
1Ti 3:15  But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

Most books dealing with PTC come from the time of the Reformation and Puritans.  However there are books written after the time of the Puritans that cover the Preservationist view of textual criticism.
Books that cover RTC generally offer no exegetical foundation.  They are typified through their discussion of naturalistic methods applied to the text of Scripture utilizing either the philosophy of Rationalism or Empiricism.  The origin of RTC began with the Roman Catholic priest Richard Simon as part of the counter-reformation.  It was designed as an attack upon the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.  Developing over the centuries, it was primarily influenced by German Rationalism.  It’s fundamental assumption that Scripture has been corrupted and needs restoration is in direct conflict with Scripture’s own testimony about Scripture.
Both PTC & RTC acknowledge there are textual variants among the manuscripts.  The fundamental difference is how both groups approach those variants:  Biblically or autonomously.
Below I’ve provided 5 books each covering PTC & RTC.

These books by no means cover the entirety of the subject of Textual Criticism.  However, they will provide you a solid foundation upon which to build your studies.  I recommend reading Mortimer J. Adler’s How to Read a Book before beginning these books.  It is regrettable and true that many of us where never truly given the skill set necessary for reading non-fiction books for depth and understanding.  Adler’s book is a great way to begin to remedy this problem.  In an upcoming post I will provide an overview of the books that everyone should have and should read to strengthen their intellect.  All of us need this.  Especially if you attended public school any time within the last 60 years.  With the information out there today, all the tools to remedy one’s bad reasoning are freely available.

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4 years ago

Are there seminaries or higher educational paths which hold to Preservational position? I decided not to go to graduate school or seminary in large part due to this issue, though at the time I didn’t have the actual words or knowledge to describe it. It was just a general “unbelief”…ANyways, are there schools?