Monday, November 28, 2016

A Precise Science?

I couldn't help but take notice of this sentence in the MacArthur Study Bible this evening:
"Through the centuries, the practitioners of textual criticism, a precise science, have discovered, preserved, catalogued, evaluated, and published an amazing array of biblical manuscripts from both the Old and New Testaments." (NASB edition, xx, emphasis added)
Does that strike anyone else as a bit of an odd thing to say? Precise? Science, yes, but precise? This isn't the same thing as calculating the circumference of a circle or measuring the temperature of a patient in the hospital or checking one's own heart rate. There's some interpretation going on with textual criticism. There is some subjectivity involved. What evidence is stronger evidence––external or internal? Is wider geographical distribution able to overthrow an earlier reading? Things like that. It's hardly precise. I know what John and the team wanted to do by saying what they said. They wanted to make sure everyone knows that they can trust their Bibles. The problem is just telling them "there's nothing to see over here" is not exactly that forthcoming with the evidence and how we think through the evidence. That's unfortunate, if you ask me. I think we need more. I think we need better.

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