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Text Criticism

Seek The Truth Blog

Text Criticism:

As with any article, publication, or book that is given supreme authority over all others, it is of vital importance that it be critically examined to both fully understand and to accurately interpret its contents. Most importantly, it should be examined to confirm its authoritative ranking. The critical examination should include the history of the text as well as the history of the people writing the text, how it became established as an authority, and why. For the first several hundred years, the books and letters in the Bible were examined by Christian leaders.

With regards to the examination of the text and its authority, the Bible is no different for many Christians ranging from hardcore hyper-fundamentalists to liberal extremes of traditional Christianity. Because of its complex history, the Bible is arguably more subject to critical examination than other books available to the modern world even by its strongest supporters. Entire communities have been established for "text-criticism", or the process of critically examining and comparing text variances to determine which manuscript is original, and which were the result of errors in reproduction. Other communities have been established to examine those who previously examined the Bible to verify the accuracy of their study.

By 1998, Christian apologists had identified about 200,000 variances in the Bible manuscripts available to us today. The large majority of these variances were misspellings, grammatical errors, or other trivial changes resulting from copyists meticulously transcribing the text by hand, letter-by-letter, for months or even years. Some variances, however, altered the understanding of the passage a great deal and have resulted in centuries of debate. Since there is no single manuscript deemed to be "original", and all manuscripts available to us today are the result of a long trail of copyists reproducing other copies, this is a difficult task. Regardless, many traditional Christians see the value and importance of text criticism as a means to recreate a more accurate version of the original than currently exists today.

Hyper-fundamentalist groups, however, see this process as a threat to their very existence. They have created complex doctrines upon the wording of specific phrases in the Bible and should any words in those phrases be adjusted in any way, doctrine built upon it must be either adjusted or reversed. Though minor corrections further support the context of the scroll, the hyper-fundamentalist doctrine is often outside of or even contrary to its original context and meaning.