Sunday, February 10, 2013

Collecting Confidence Part II

Series:  Profiting From Peter
A Challenge to Joyful Steadfastness


Any good introduction will have at least seven (7) elements that help with interpretation and application. Last week we began with the first of those seven elements, the Authenticity of the epistle.

When we consider the authenticity of any portion of Scripture we have to ask ourselves several key questions:

  • Why was this epistle included in the New Testament Canon?
  • Why did the early church consider this epistle as authentic?
  • What evidence is available that testifies to authenticity?
A.  Authenticity

1.  Traditional Evidence
2.  Internal Evidence
3.  External Attacks

Truth for Today

[There is a second element that needs to be examined when beginning a study of any portion of Scripture. This second element is the...]

B.  Apparatus

Most individuals who study the bible rarely consider this particular element. Most individuals simply do not have the training to include this important element. Rarely and most importantly, most people don't have the access to the appropriate manuscripts.

Most individuals simply use the translation that they grew up with. Some merely use the translation that was used to when they were made to be believers by God through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Of course some utilize the translation that was used by their pastor or the one their pastor recommended. 

[So, let's take a moment and look at this important element. I hope you find it interesting]

There were four (4) centers of Christianity that developed in the first couple of centuries. The first center was...
  • Antioch - Antioch was important in the early spread of Christianity. The fact that the term "Christian" originated there attests well to that fact. Antioch was a safe haven for believers who fled from Jerusalem after the persecution that broke out after the stoning of Stephen who was considered to be the first Christian martyr. After Saul's (Paul) conversion, Antioch was his home base.
  • Alexandria - Alexandria lies north-west of the Nile delta and stretches along a narrow land strip between the Mediterranean Sea and Lake Mareotis, site of the city's fresh water. From the very first, Alexandrian Greeks assumed the leadership citizens, followed by a large Jewish community. This area was heavily influenced by Greek philosophy and subscribed heavily to the allegorization of the Scriptures. Plato, Clement, and Origen was influenced by the philosophy in this area. There was a large school and library in Alexandria.
  • Africa (Carthage) - Carthage also became a center of early Christianity. In the first of a string of rather poorly reported Councils at Carthage a few years later seventy bishops were in attendance. It was in AD 397 at the Council at Carthage the bible canon for the western church was confirmed.
  • Rome - Rome became the pre-eminent city based on the tradition that Peter and Paul were martyred in the first century. The bishop of Rome became known as the "Pope" and he claimed primacy over all Bishops. 
These "centers" became distinct. They developed their own churches, pastors, libraries, scholars, and manuscripts. These manuscript families are collections of the bible in parts. Some contain a few lines or verses, some chapters, and even whole books of the bible. These families developed in these centers with their own similarities and peculiarities. 

There are at least four (4) manuscript families of the New Testament. The first is the...

Byzantine - This is the largest manuscript family, or what is known as a localized text-type which contains about ninety four percent (94%) of all Greek manuscripts. This manuscript "family" originates from the empire of the same name. Greek scholars were driven west with their biblical manuscripts. Biblical translators, especially during the reformation period began using this new text-type. The Byzantine text became the underlying text for Martin Luther, William Tyndale, and Theodore Beza. Its distinctive, slightly longer and editorially polished readings eventually supplanted the Latin Vulgate and became the principal text-type of every major non-Catholic translation until the nineteenth century.

Alexandrian - The second largest group houses about three (3) to four (4) percent of Greek manuscripts and originated in the Christian community of Alexandria Egypt. Metzger writes:  Characteristics...are brevity and austerity. That is, it is generally shorter than the text of other forms, and it does not exhibit the degree of grammatical an stylistic polishing that is characteristic of the Byzantine..."

The differences between these two families, especially the major differences within the Alexandrian family have caused many disagreements since their discovery.

Western - This text group originates from the North African city of Carthage and its sister city, Rome. It took its name from the area that was farther to the west of the earliest missionary activities in the regions of Greece, Turkey, Syria, and Judea. Again, we read from Metzger, The chief characteristics of Western readings is fondness for paraphrase. Words, clauses, and even whole sentences are freely changed, omitted, or inserted."

Cesarean - This is really a sub-group of Alexandrian manuscripts with a garnish of Western influence. It was the text of Eusebius and Cyril of Jerusalem. It was a mixture of Western and Alexandrian readings.

What is the significance of this information? A "text" was produced from these manuscript families. Various pieces and parts were examined and the best were brought together to form a Greek Text. This text represented the manuscript family. 

From these "texts" come our individual translations. First, there is no such thing as "A" Greek text. There are several Greek Texts, each one derived from a particular manuscript family. When you hear a preacher or teacher say, "The Greek text says..." he is really misstating truth. What he is should say, is the Greek text developed from the XYZ manuscript family says...

Second, you need to alert when you hear terms such as original Greek, original Hebrew, "the Greek" or the autographs because none of these exists. Promotional literature that refer to or promotes the Greek text really are referencing or promoting a text from a particular manuscript family.

Third, keep in mind that no one is able to produce a translation from the original Greek manuscripts because they no longer exist. All we have today are copies. Translators do use "a" Greek text. They rarely if ever use the existing manuscripts. They use copies or photocopies of the existing texts. Textual experts over many centuries have examined the various manuscripts - in pieces or entire parts. This constant reviewing, on-going studies, new information, and etc. causes the manuscripts to be in a constant state of revision.

Fourth, as stated earlier, our translations are made from these manuscript families. There are two (2) types of translations:
  • Formal Equivalence  (KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV) This means that the translation is a word for word translation. It is known as a literal-grammatical translation.
  • Dynamic Equivalence  (NIV, NLT) The goal in this type of a translation is to produce the receptor language in the closest natural equivalent of the message expressed by the original language. These translations are known as "thought" translations. The translators attempt to do their best to translate the thought patterns of the ancient writers and to present their ideas. This form of translation is prone to error. We do know have the original writers to verify what their "thought-process" was.
Why is this important or necessary to think about?

You need to think about the translation you are using. What manuscript family and text does it come from? It can affect your translation of the text which in turn affects your application of the text. There is a little more to choice of translation than was is available or what your pastor uses.

Let me say four (4) things as we conclude this second element:

1)  No original autographs (manuscripts) exist today

2)  We have over 5,000 portions of the New Testament text available today, in part or whole. We are able to compare these thousands of copies to compare the various texts of scripture.

3)  The various manuscripts and the Greek texts which were prepared from them agree in at least 85-90%. 
  • there are no contradictions in any major doctrine. Absolute confidence can be placed in the bible of today. 
  • the differences lie in names, locations, spellings and numbers
4)  It is difficult to say that one modern translation is better than another. However, it seems that better reliability can be placed in a "formal equivalence" word for word translation than a "thought for thought" translation.

We need not dwell on this element of an introduction and overview to a particular book of the bible. However, we should have some knowledge of this information to bolster our confidence and our ability to trust the word of God. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is most intriguing to read Gregg. as always a pleasure to read.

Something else intrigued me was I was watching a quiz programme here in the UK and the question was this"Who was Adam's first wife before God made Eve?" They gave the answer as Linith but I was always led to believe that Eve was Adam's first wife. Have you heard that one?