Sunday, 27 April 2008

What Is the Majority Text Type

What is the Majority Text Type?

The question is misleading and needs qualified.

Is it the text reflected in the majority of Coptic manuscripts of the Bible?

Is it the text reflected in the majority of Greek manuscripts dated to the first four hundred years? Or to the first eight hundred years? Or altogether?

Is it the text reflected in the Latin manuscripts New Testament which was favoured by the western Europeans used at the time of Erasmus?

Majority Text advocates and some people aligned with them think that we should use the text type represented in the majority of Greek manuscripts. What they don't want you to know, however, is that their favorite text type does not become the majority until the eighth or ninth century.

Out of the 125 papyri manuscripts (generally dated prior to 4th century), that text which gradually evolved into the Majority Text Type of the late middle ages cannot be found—not even a single representative. The late middle ages Majority Text Type does not seem to have existed until the late fourth century. The earliest manuscript evidence for the late middle ages Majority Text Type are A and C which date to the fifth century, and even these are only 80% toward the evolved state of the late middle ages Majority Text Type.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Deacon Phoebe--Paul's Man for a Tough Job

Important Background Information on Romans

I think it is clear that Phoebe was a high ranking representative of the church of Cenchrae who was sent by Paul as his representative to deliver the highly sensitive document known as the Epistle to the Romans to the many disparate churches in Rome. He cites her rank and title by way of introduction to the churches. If he were guilty of exaggerating her position, it could end up being a big mistake.

Think about how significant this woman Phoebe was. Paul entrusted her with the task of delivering his epistle into the midst of a very explosive situation.

After Claudius kicked out the Jews, the Christian churches lost their entire church leadership, leaving Gentiles to arise to the occasion of taking over leadership of their churches. Thus, overnight, the churches in Rome flipped from being predominantly led by Jews, over to not having any leadership, and then over again to be being led by those less familiar with the Old Testament.

All this was enough turmoil in and of itself. But when Claudius' ban was lifted a few years later, many if not most of those Jewish Christian leaders returned to Rome, expecting to be reintegrated back into church leadership.

Imagine, as pastor of your church, the previous pastor showed up expecting to resume his ministry!

Meanwhile, while the Jews were away, the Gentiles gave up living like Jews, and they ate all meats. Which was fine, until the Jewish Christians showed up again. Thus, you have chapters 13-15 of Romans.

So, Paul wanted to say a positive word to help the Jewish and Gentile Christians to get along with each other, to be altogether united. But his big goal was to solicit sponsorship for his Spanish mission and to see if any of the Christians in Rome had ties to the Roman administration in Spain (or at least, this latter point has been deduced by Robert Jewett in his massive Hermenia commentary on Romans).

At any rate, the whole situation was extremely sensitive. And so Paul sent his best man to handle the job, which, in this case was a woman. She was no ordinary lowly servant-girl of the Lord. Jewett brings us up to date on where scholarship is today in regard to Phoebe the deacon:

Although earlier commentaries interpret the term διάκονος as a subordinate role,
it now appears more likely that she functioned as the leader of the
congregation. That διάκονος was an official title of leadership has been shown
by Borckhaus and Holmberg, and is strongly indicated by earler references in Rom
11:13; 12:7; and 13:4. In the light of its use in 1 Cor 3:5; 2 Cor 3:6; 6:4;
11:15 and 23 to refer to missionaries, including Paul himself, it is no longer
plausible to limit her role to philanthropic [i.e., womanly] activities.
Fiorenza contendst that... '[she] is a missionary entrust with preaching and
tending churches...It can be concluded, therefore that Phoebe is recommended as
an official teacher and missionary in the church of Kenchreia.' However, in the
light of the possessive qualification, 'deacon of the church in Kenchriea,' it
seems more likely that she functioned as a local leader rather than as a
traveling missionary."

As it turns out, the big reason why earlier commentators thought that the term διάκονος meant a lowly servant here and not a church leadership position in 16:1 was simply because Phoebe was a woman! An honest look at comparable usage pushes the conclusion that Phoebe was indeed Deacon of Cenchrae, and that Paul entrusted her with this significant responsibility of organizing a support network for his Spanish mission.Why would Paul entrust such a big job to a woman? Perhaps because so many of the church groups in Rom 16 were headed up by women.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Scholarship, Byzantine Text Type, Majority Text, and the Textus Receptus

Text Scholars who advocate the Byzantine Text Type, the Majority Text, and the Textus Receptus are so few that they could all sit in my living room, more or less comfortably.

Foremost on this list is Maurice Robinson who, with William Pierpont, published The New Testament in the Original Greek. This Greek New Testament represents what Robinson believes is the purest form of the Byzantine Text Type, and therefore, what he thinks is closest to the original Greek. There is much to be admired about this work, if one assumes that the Byzantine Text Type reflects the original texts of the New Testament writers.  Robinson, however, despite his considerable efforts, has not been persuasive. Robinson teaches at Southeastern Baptist Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina and is a member of the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog, and is a most gracious member of the (informal) textual criticism guild.

Hodges and Farstad produced their text essentially by a majority vote, without asking which reading might be older. The title, The New Testament according to the Majority Text conveys that whichever reading is attested by a majority of manuscripts is most likely to be original.

The standard critical edition of the Greek New Testament is the Nestle-Aland/UBS text, or the lately produced SBLGNT (Society of Biblical Literature Greek New Testament). A third option is due out in 2018 from Tyndale House, the evangelical think tank/foundation in Cambridge England. These three will be relatively close to one another. If you don't like one of these, your only other options are the Hodges/Farstand or Robinson/Pierpont editions, unless you resort to out of print editions (which are out of print for good reasons).

If you decide to use one of these alternative editions, you should be aware that few Christian colleges and seminaries use them. You should also be aware that none of them have been used as the basis for a standard Bible translation in any language; certainly this is true for publishers of English versions. And you should also be aware that no Bible commentary series in any language is based on them.

We all should be circumspect about whom we trust to tell us which reading is God's word and which isn't. Indeed, the paramount importance of the text of the Bible is so great as to justify the learning of Greek and the science of textual criticism. Otherwise, we are absolutely dependent upon other people who have.

In the case of Hodges and Farstad, and in the case of Robinson and Pierpont, they are all godly men (Pierpont died a few years ago). On the other side, however, is a full, overwhelming array of evangelical scholars (and others, too) who are the giants in the field of New Testament. These scholars have judged these two critical editions as having failed in their effort to establish a viable edition that contains a more ancient textual tradition.

This reality in itself does not refute Byzantine priority or the Majority Text Type. However, for those who don't have the time or means to weigh the arguments carefully, this reality should make them more circumspect.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Why a Wedding Ceremony?

What is the wedding ceremony?

It is when a couple swear on solemn oath before God and many witnesses that they bind themselves in holy matrimony til death part them.

Ceremonies develop for a reason. You just don't throw it out for the sake of throwing it out.
In the old days, the solemnizing of oaths before God and many witnesses was designed to protect the family, especially in regard to the woman and any product of the civil union (i.e., God's blessing of children) who might otherwise fall into crippling deprivation should the man run off. The man swears that whatever is his is hers, and vice versa, and to be responsible for the welfare of their children.

This solemnizing of oaths was done publicly. It was a matter of public record, so that if someone broke their vows, the greatest shame and reproach was brought down upon the guilty party by the entire community.

We should retain these good things as much as possible. Thus, if you are one of the groomsmen in a wedding, and the man subsequently abandons his family, you should be personally insulted and grieved and should hold the groom accountable, and give every measure of aid and comfort to the bereaved wife and children.

Marriage counseling should include a full explanation of ceremony. Pastors should tell the couple that they are swearing on oath before God and many witnesses, and that they are putting their highest honor on the line in making such vows. If they break such a solemn vow, then their word in regard to anything else is meaningless.

Tough stuff. Right stuff.