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Patristic Evidence: Why Time and Place Matter

In my previous post I indicated that there are three major kinds of evidence for reconstructing the text of the New Testament: the surviving Greek manuscripts (obviously our best source of evidence), the early versions (ancient translations into such languages as Latin, Coptic, and Syriac), and the quotations of the church fathers. Moreover, I indicated that one advantage of the citations of the church fathers is that this kind of evidence can be dated and located far more easily than can the Greek manuscript evidence. But now in looking back over the post, I realize that I never indicated why that might matter. As with all things dealing with textual criticism (which I use strictly in the technical sense: textual criticism is NOT simply the scholarly study of texts – e.g. as literary critics engage in – it is the *reconstruction* of texts, that is, the attempt to get back to the text as written by an author given manuscripts that have differences in them; textual criticism is used for every literary text of the [...]

Church Fathers Who Quote the New Testament

QUESTION: I am curious about the early patristic evidence for the various Gospels and other New Testament writings. As I understand these are helpful in establishing the dates for many of these works. Related to this is, when early Church Fathers quote passages from NT writings, are they usually verbatim or do they often differ from the canon that was eventually established? Perhaps my question is a bit broad, but feel free to narrow or expand as time allows.   RESPONSE: This is a good set of questions, and I may make two or three posts on it, depending on how it goes. As it turns out, it is an issue I’ve long been interested in. In fact, when I started doing serious research in the textual criticism of the New Testament – back when I was in the last year of my Master’s Program – this was the one topic I was most interested in: the Patristic evidence for the text of the NT. (Patristic = Writings of the Church Fathers.) I told my [...]

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