Monday, January 5, 2015

When Should A Bible Teacher Talk About Text-Critical Issues? Or Should He (or She)?

I'm really interested in Josiah Grauman's chapter on textual analysis. Really, this is a great resource in this book. I'm thankful that he's written it. He's got a section called "Preaching Textual Criticism" (my translation). This is what he says in the first sentence of that section, again my translation: "Even though textual criticism can be really interesting . . . we have to be careful that we don't kill the congregation with all this information. It's just like a passage's historical context. We study it so much, and it impacts us so much, but we have to be careful in the manner we present what we find" (164).

Then Josiah gives us three principles. They are: (1) We should always help our brothers and sisters trust the translation that they are holding in their hands. (2) We should only mention text-critical issues when it is absolutely necessary. And (3) we should try to explain things in a manner that is short and devoid of any technical lingo.

I would add a number 4, at least. Talking about textual variants doesn't mean you have to use Greek words from the pulpit or podium or wherever you are teaching from. You can talk about a textual issue in Matt. 5:22 without using the Greek word εἰκῇ, for example.

Let's just define "absolutely necessary" as if you cannot explain the meaning of a passage without talking about the variant, then you have to mention it. So I've got some questions for us. There are three total, although the first is framed in two ways.

Does it matter to you, thinking about whether you would mention a textual issue, what translation the majority of people in a setting are using? In other words,
(1a) If the clear majority of people are using the NASB, ESV, or NIV, would you feel more inclined to discuss the originality of εἰκῇ in Matt. 5:22 (that is, if you conclude it is original)? They aren't going to have those words "without cause," although they might see it way down at the bottom of the page in size 8 font. 
(1b) Or say you don't think it is original and you are teaching in a place where the clear majority of people are using the KJV or NKJV, do you touch on it?  
How could you teach Matt. 5:22 and not talk about it if the majority of people are using a translation that doesn't have the words "without cause"? Now those two are a little easier than the next one, in my opinion. Here goes. What say you?
(2) What if the clear majority are using a translation that provides the reading you support? Do you mention the variant for the minority that's there? Do you explain it? Do you touch on it at all? 
Here's a third option.
(3) Do you just teach where your study in the Word has led you, and then answer questions later for those who inquire?
What do you think?

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