What Is the Original Text of the Gospels?

QUESTION:

When it comes to the gospels, how do we define the ‘original text’? Do we define it as the original manuscript that was first penned by the author, or do we define it as the gospels in their most settled canonical form?

 

RESPONSE:

As it turns out, this is a complicated and endlessly fascinating question that, so far as I have been able to work out over the past twenty years of thinking about it, has no clear and obvious answer!

By way ...

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Why Do Translators Include Passages They Know Are Not Original?

Based on what I have said about the textual variant of 666 and 616 in the book of Revelation, several readers have asked a distantly related question.  Here is how one of them phrased it:

 

QUESTION:

If the biblical scholars know with certainty that Mark 16:9-20 and John 7.53-8.11 were added by later scribes, why are they still in the modern bibles, that is, why are they not *completely* removed? I know these verses were removed in the RSV but added back ...

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666 and Scribal Changes of the Text

I have received a number of queries about my post concerning the recently discovered papyrus P115 which indicates that the number of the Beast (the Antichrist) in Revelation 13 was 616 rather than 666.  Some of them I addressed in my post of yesterday.  But some readers have inquired about something slightly different: how do discoveries like this affect our translations of the New Testament?   Here is one of those questions and my respons.

 

QUESTION:

I thought the NIV Bible kept up-to-date ...

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The Text of the New Testament: Are the Textual Traditions of Other Ancient Works Relevant? A Blast From the Past

Funny how some topics keep recurring in my head.  Here is a post from exactly five years ago, on a topic I still get asked about a lot.  The really interesting bit of it starts about four paragraphs down.  Turns out, I still think the same things today!

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I have had three debates with Dan Wallace on the question of whether or not we can know for certain, or with relative reliability, whether we have the “original” text of ...

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The First Textual Variant in the Gospel of Mark

I have been talking about some of the textual variants in Mark, and wanted to address the very first one that can be found in our textual witnesses, one that occurs in the first verse of the Gospel.  I have decided to do so by showing how a relatively hard-core argument is made by textual scholars.  To do that I have copied in my discussion of the passage in my book The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture.  This was ...

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How Variant Readings are Noted in the Greek New Testament

In this post I’m going to try to do something I’ve never done before: actually explain by way of example the extent and kind of variations you find in our surviving Greek manuscripts.  In doing so I hope to show: (a) there are lots of variations and (b) most of them involve nuances of meaning but rarely anything of huge significance (and lots of them don’t affect the meaning at all).

By way of introduction: I have previously indicated that virtually ...

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A Text That Doesn’t Exist! What Do NT Translators Actually Translate?

In my previous post I began to explain that virtually all translators of the New Testament – except fundamentalists who continue to appeal to the Textus Receptus (the inferior form of the Greek text based on the original publication of Erasmus back in 1516, which does not take into account, obviously, discoveries of newer manuscripts) – rely on the form of the Greek text established by an international group of scholars from 1955-1965.  This edition has been revised since then, ...

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The Standard Greek New Testament Today

All of these threads within threads are connected with the question that I started with a long while ago: when translators today produce a version of the Bible in English (or any other modern language) what is it that they are translating?  One of the manuscripts?  Several of the manuscripts?  Something else?

The answer, in virtually every instance, is the same.  They are translating an edition of the Greek New Testament published since 1965 (with revisions since then) produced by a ...

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A Major Controversy in New Testament Textual Criticism

After my post yesterday about the 1707 publication by John Mill of his edition of the Greek New Testament, in which he identified some 30,000 places where the manuscripts known in his day differed from one another, my plan was to talk about Greek editions available now, over three centuries later.  But it occurred to me that some readers might be interested in the controversy that was stirred by Mill’s rather alarming publication.  So that’s what this post will be.  ...

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Better Editions of the Greek New Testament

I have been dealing with a thread within a thread within a thread, and now I want to get back for a few of posts to the thread itself.  My initial question was about what it is translators are translating when they translate the New Testament into English.  I have talked about the fact that there are thousands of manuscripts of the New Testament that are now known; and I have indicated that the King James Version was based on ...

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