Saturday, 27 October 2007

Textual Criticism

For the next few days, I will be teaching a course on Biblical Interpretation in the First Baptist Church, Petaling Jaya.

One of the greatest challenges is to introduce textual criticism to the students in the course. For the past years that I have been teaching this course, textual criticism is one of the most difficult concepts to grasp. It is also one area that some students find difficulty in accepting the fact that there could be errors in scribal transmission and in different manuscripts.

Let's hope I can do better this time.


pearlie said...

some students find difficulty in accepting the fact that there could be errors in scribal transmission and in different manuscripts
And why do you think they find it difficult? When I was younger (not very MUCH younger I'd have to say) I used to think that the bible is so "HOLY" there are things I do I shan't tell you about! hahaha

Kar Yong said...

Hi Pearlie,

You mean you did...? I used to know someone who put the bible under his pillow - he said it gave me a good night sleep. If not he would have nightmare! Another, instead of laying hands when praying for people, he "laid" the bible on people when praying...

So what did you do? Come on...

pearlie said...

Ah ... didn't want to publicise it ... hahaha ... but no, I ALWAYS frown upon people using it as a talisman. I never did that ... how can i describe it ... i take the bible as so holy that i am very careful of how i handled it, just like the muslim i suppose. the best example is when i print chapters of it onto sheets of paper for Sunday School use, after using it, I don't know what to do with it. I felt i cannot just throw or shred it being the "word of God" per se. So I'd just put it in a pile until the pile grew and grew and grew.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Pearlie,

I once heard George Verwer, the founder of OM, recall his past experience in Russia last time. When the police officers were knocking on their door to check whether are they distributing the bibles, George and his missionary colleagues were in a dilemma whether to flush the printed pages of the bible into the toilet or not. If they didn't, they will b e caught and that will affect the distribution of bible in the location. If they flush, they are flushing God's Word into the toilet!



Sze Zeng said...

Hi KY,

Which textbook do you recommend on textual criticism? Metzger and Erhman?

Alex Tang said...

hi sze seng,

so what di they do? Don't leave us in suspense.

Alex Tang said...

hi pearlie,

I know what you mean when people use the Bible as a talisman. Is a wooden cross better? :)

Interesting about you keeping printed Bible verses. On the other hand, I got into trouble once for Bible reading during church service and reading from my PDA bible instead of a book Bible.

Alex Tang said...

kar yong,

errors in scribal transmission is a sensitive subject in many churches. I think it has something to do witht the inerrancy of the Bible.

Kar Yong said...

Hi Sze Seng,

I refer to Aland and Metzger. I dare not recommend Erhman to the church!

Hey, so what happen to Verwer?

Kar Yong said...

Hi Alex,

I think you are right - it's not only inerrancy, but also the understanding of inspiration of the bible.

Paul said...

For me my difficulty is not so much textual criticism but how NT writers seem to take the OT out of context ... when the meaning in the OT context is so different.

And related to that the dilemma when we teach insist people should not interpret a pssage out of the context, literary genre etc and cannot seem to satsfactorily explain why a NT author seems to be allowed to do so but we cannot.

And then discover that more than half (just a guess) of what we took as God speaking to us via a Bible verse or passage at an important juncture of our life (and indeed it brough much comfort and help in terms of decision making) was technically WRONG... because that was not what the verse or passage meant / means!

pearlie said...

What did they do to you? Why can't you read from the PDA? It is not the "bible"? :)

I did that before with my PDA but during worship leading, so they were none the wiser. I don't use a PDA anymore and I do have the bible in my Sony mobile in Java - except that it is TOO slow, by the time I get to the passage, the reading is over, and by the time I got the search, the sermon is over.

pearlie said...

Sze Zeng,
So what did they do???

Lee Chee Keat said...

Hi, I juz went to the Expository Preaching seminar by DA Carson. It seems there's a need that he emphasised that we should know about biblical theology. Also, a lot of evangelical circles are heavily emphasised on the need of biblical theology discipline esp. DA Carson gang and bible college such as gordon conwell, Moore...are offering too. Although I know there's a criticism on the discipline and so does others disciplines like Systematic theology, Historical Theology and Pastoral theology. I believe it is the matter how we do it properly in the discipline. So, I wonder whether I could plead STM to consider to offer biblical theology as a subject.

Sze Zeng said...

When i heard till that part, I was busy laughing, without paying attention to what happened next!

hmm..if i didnt remember wrongly, they were caught by the police and were imprisoned.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi KY,

Alright, i'll keep Aland and Metzger in view.

The thing is that advertisement is so good in publicizing for Erhman! His upcoming updated introduction to NT is tempting. But like all previous editions, this one costs alot. R.Brown's intro is half his price.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Alex, Pearlie,
I read Bible from my pda phone...all the time. in a brethren church somemore leh. I always got attention when i stand up in our small hall of 30 folks, hand holding my phone ala holding PSP or nokia game console and reading an entire chapter...(i always read one chapter, dunno why). It felt odd really, but got used to it. I dunno how the others will feel.

KY, I really think textual criticism is save us from our dream of inerrancy and of muse-inspiring-prophets fantasy.

I am now struggling to finish Thiselton's massive Two Horizon. I wish hermeneutics is more widely and seriously discussed, i mean it's not practical in church on sunday, but at least in groups like ours - agora, apalah, apa-lu-ada.


Kar Yong said...


Well....about the use of OT by NT this blog...I should begin a series on Paul's use of the OT "soon" in dialogue with my colleage, Anthony Loke (his blog:

In addition, Dr Tony Siew has some good stuff on the use of OT in the NT in his blog:

Kar Yong said...

Sze Seng,

I sometimes wonder whether the high price of the book is a result of the anticipated aggressive advertisement..??

Kar Yong said...

Hi Alex,Pearlie and Jack,

Remember the danger of reading the bible from the mobile. See my earlier post:

Paul said...

Thanks for the links and in advance for the future posts on the OT / NT issue

Sze Zeng said...


I don't know, really. No experience or info in publishing business.

But one thing for sure is that Marketing activities do affects sales of a book, no matter how good it really is. Joseph Prince's books are hotcakes in Singapore, at least among his congregation. If each one of his member buy a copy, he would have sold 15,000 copies! But then, that is not really a strict 'macro-marketing' of those like Erhman. More of a 'rapport-based marketing' since it is congregation that boost the sales.

That said, one thing that i noticed in my work is that if an author wants his book to be widely known, he will have to do a lot of seminar or talks. Can see this example in Lee Strobel's latest launch by Zondervan. Their marketing cost no less, if not more, than Oxford Press, but the cost of the book is not as expensive.

Disclaimer: these are just surface observation. I am not an insider in publishing world :-)