As I have indicated, my interest in textual criticism – the scholarly attempt to reconstruct what the authors of the New Testament actually wrote, given the fact we don’t have the originals but only altered copies – did not originate with my going to Princeton Theological Seminary to study with Bruce Metzger. On the contrary, I went to study with him precisely because that had been an area of fascination for me starting in my first year of college, as an eighteen year old.
I mentioned already that I had a course at Moody Bible Institute that dealt with the questions of biblical inspiration (how God had inspired the biblical writers to say what they did), the formation of the canon (how God had ensured that we got the right twenty-seven books), and the problem of the text (the fact we don’t have the copies produced by the authors themselves). I was deeply interested in all three areas, but was especially intrigued by the third, for a couple of reasons.
One reason was theological. I was committed – as was everyone at Moody, so far as I know – to the belief that the very words of the Bible were in some sense inspired by God. We were not crazy fundamentalists – those were the people to the right of us. We were rational fundamentalists. So we didn’t think God had actually dictated the words of the Bible. He inspired the writers about what to write, and they used their own grammar and vocabulary to write it. But he did make sure they didn’t make any mistakes.
If that was true, though, that the very words were inspired by God, what do we do about the fact that…
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