I have been explaining why “textual criticism,” the discipline that examines the surviving manuscripts of a text and then tries to reconstruct what the author originally wrote, had fallen on hard times by the time I got into the field.   The main reason, I think, is that most New Testament scholars thought that all the serious work in the field had been done, that we pretty well knew what the “original text” said, and that all that was left were a few mopping up exercises.

Moreover, to engage in those exercises required extraordinary expertise in remarkably recondite areas of inquiry.  It was a lot of very hard work to deal with all the evidence, and the yield was so slight (change of a word or phrase here or there throughout the New Testament), that most scholars didn’t see why they should bother.  Why not do more interesting things, like actually *interpret* the text?

I was an exception to that rule.  I was passionate about the field of textual criticism.  Looking back, I think I became passionate about it even before I was a scholar in any sense.

In my first year in college, at Moody Bible Institute, I took a required course that dealt with the principles of textual criticism.   The reason this course was required in such a rigorously conservative evangelical school is fairly interesting.

At Moody we were taught that the very words of the Bible were inspired by God.   There were various theories afloat about *how* God had managed to inspire the Bible: did he dictate the words to the authors?  (Probably not, we thought.).  Did he give the authors the ideas and guide their choices of words?   Did he give them their ideas and simply make sure that whatever words they chose to use they did not use wrong or inappropriate ones?  In some sense, of course, human authors wrote the Bible,  but the ideas, and the very words, expressed God’s Word.

And for that reason…

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