Sorry ‘bout that. Elsewhere I happened to touch on the topic of Textual Criticism, and since it had been a bit, decided to “refresh” my memory on the subject. And, just like the times before, I find myself totally immersed, only to emerge back to daylight, discovering a week has gone by with nothing else productively made.
And my inbox informing me Amazon.com has auto-confirmed my order. I swear I don’t remember ordering more books!
It’s funny how we blithely toss out the term: “the Bible” as if it was one cohesive book. I suspect 99% of my readers (a completely made up statistic, and therefore as accurate as any other) when they hear the term “Bible” think of the 66 Books of the Protestant Bible, bound in one flexible cover of semi-synthetic leather. You know—Genesis to Revelation, demarcated by “Old Testament” and “New Testament.”
As Christians we thought of it as “one book” because it had one ultimate moving force behind it—God. Oh, we understood it was written by different authors, with different perspectives, at different times—but in the end it was a cohesive whole. So when we said the Bible self-declared to be “inspired,” even though this term is found in only one sub-book, (2 Timothy), we considered applicable to the entire book. Page 1 to 1120. (Not including the Color Maps in the back, of course.)
As a non-believer, I have lost that concept of an entirety. Each book (and in some books like Isaiah, each portion of a book) rises and falls on its own. As a Christian, I worked to align the doctrines of James and Romans. ‘Cause this was all “one book.” I worked to align the stories of 2 Samuel with 1 Chronicles, or John with Matthew. ‘Cause this was all “one book.” Now, such differences are not even note-worthy. They are shrugged off as anticipated.
It is the difference between an Isaac Asimov anthology and Star Trek. I enjoyed reading Asimov’s collection of short stories from various science fiction writers. But as I read them, I did not expect them to align. I realized one author may have robots with artificial intelligence, and another may write a story about robots never being able to obtain such intelligence. Why? Because it was two different authors.
While Star Trek’s episodes may have different writers, we expected a cohesive “wholeness” about the story. The Prime Directive was not something new each week. The ship did not change shape or designation from show to show. There was “oneness” about Star Trek. In fact, this gives rise to the stereotype of Trekkies arguing over incongruities between certain episodes because of that expected uniformity.
Exactly like the arguments attempting to align the incongruities of doctrines between the Epistles, or the historical claims of the Gospels. In Trekkies is it amusing; in Christians it is in dead seriousness.
When looking at the individual books, I enjoy studying the interplay between the books utilizing each other (Matthew and Luke using Mark; 2 Peter using Jude), I enjoy studying the development of the canon itself, and…obviously…I enjoy studying the variances which crept in when the copies were made. Textual Criticism.
Luckily, we have numerous copies (of copies of copies). Unfortunately, we don’t have much close to the time of the initial writing. And all these copies, when compared, show us the changes, some subtle, some not so subtle over time. What they hint at are the changes which may have entered during the first 100 years copies were made.
We often hear the term, “This is the original” or “We are 99% certain as to the original” but this is really a misnomer. We really are only reaching back to the first copy (of a copy of a copy) from which all other copies sprung. Whether it is “the original” or a mis-handled copy of the original is unknown.
Here is an interesting example. Mark 1:9 is the first Gospel reference to Jesus, referring to him as “Jesus of Nazareth of Galilee.” The early manuscripts have Nazarei while the later manuscripts modify the iota at the end to a theta making it Nazareth. Nothing shocking or surprising here.
However, what becomes more perplexing is the fact Mark refers to Jesus of Nazareth four (4) other times, yet in Mark 1:24, 14:67 and 16:6 it is Nazarenos and in Mark 10:47 is it Nazoraios. (Note, Nazoraios is the same word used in Acts 24:5 when it says “sect of the Nazarenes.”) In other words, all of the other times Mark refers to Jesus, in the Greek it is actually saying, “Jesus the Nazarene.” (I’ll bet your Bible, though, translates it to “Jesus of Nazareth,” doesn’t it?)
Further, Mark never uses a double identification, like “Nathanal of Cana in Galilee” (John 21:2). Mark also implies Jesus was from Capernaum (note the term “the house” in Mark 2:1). And, a person from Nazareth would be a Nazarethite or a Nazarethene. Not a Nazarene. That would be a person from Nazara.
Finally, Matthew, when copying Mark, comes across the term nazoraios, presumes it means Jesus was from Nazareth, creates a prophecy, and introduces Jesus’ home town of Nazareth. Matt. 2:23.
In my opinion, it is more likely Mark referred to Jesus as “Jesus the Nazarene” four times. When Matthew was drawing the story from Mark, uncertain as to the term Nazoraios, and being aware of the town of Nazareth in Galilee, Matthew eagerly creates a prophecy, “He shall be called Nazarene” and just as eagerly creates a fulfillment: “Because he was from Nazareth.”
And later, as some scribe was copying Mark, they came to Mark 1:9 and inserted “of Nazarei” for clarification. Voila—we have “Jesus of Nazareth of Galilee” in our modern English Translations.
Now, that was more an exercise in Higher Criticism than Textual Criticism, but I did it to demonstrate we cannot utilize Textual Criticism to get to the “original.” It would appear “of Nazareth” was not in the original Mark 1:9, yet all our copies of Mark included it.
Simply put, Mark was modified due to interplay with Matthew before numerous copies were made. Yet Textual Criticism only takes us back to this modification—not to the original.
And this is one word in one verse in one book of the entire Bible. Ay Caramba!