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The following, developed in
conjunction with a colleague,
is an addendum to Part 2a: Materials of Value of the series of articles entitled
The Bible Versions Debate
by Dusty Peterson
The article is short on examples. There are legitimate reasons for this though. The article is already sizeable, and the bulk of the target audience would find Greek examples difficult to read. Further, no scholar on either side of the debate would dispute the primary features that the article ascribes to families A and B (e.g. that family A has the simpler, longer readings.) Examples, albeit in English, in support of Part 2a's assertions are given in Part 2b.
There are a couple of theoretically possible scenarios in which an excellent MS might get preserved for a very long time. The article lacked the space to go into this matter in detail.
The article offers three reasons why extreme age of a MS is a cause for suspicion. To decide whether extreme age is, overall, a cause for more suspicion than trust, we need to think about the probability of an excellent MS being preserved as against the probability of a deliberately corrupt MS being preserved.
The key question is, how would genuine Christians be likely to act...
It is helpful to imagine being alive at the time that MSS like Aleph and B were being generated, and what we - or indeed any true Christian - would do if asked to make a copy of the Scriptures.
Let's put you, the reader, in the driving seat. You have been given the task of producing a copy of God's word in Greek for your fellowship.
You fear God, and are mindful of the fact that false brothers corrupt MSS and that Scripture gives blood-curdling warnings against adding to, or taking away from, God's word. This would lead you to want to use the best sources. But to produce the most accurate possible text, you would seek out as many sound-looking sources as you could realistically get your hands on (of all four types of evidence listed in the article), so that you could compare these sources and carefully - and prayerfully - determine the best reading for every passage.
What would you then do with the resulting document? You are godly, so you would want to make your text available to your whole fellowship - and to any other nearby brethren in need of copies - so you would arrange for as many extremely careful copies of your document to be made as your fellowship could sensibly afford.
Now we come to the crux of the matter. What would you do with the document you had first created? You could store it away, but:
(a) Some of the
brethren might start to idolize it,
In spite of these three drawbacks, you might conceivably decide to store it away for a time; even though you had already effectively 'preserved' it by making extremely careful copies of it. But eventually the time would come when:
-- False brothers or other enemies of Christ hunted it down and destroyed it, or
-- Access to further textual evidence previously unavailable to you - e.g. a Greek MS, or a translation, or a writing from a godly Church 'father' - rendered your copy obsolete (in which case you would repeat aspects of your original process to create a new master), or
-- One or more physical pages of your copy started to deteriorate, as a result of natural ageing processes, in an irreparable way such that the document was no longer safe to use as a master because parts of it could be mis-read (in which case you would replace it). [Please note: Surely any sound Christian group with the very substantial finances necessary to create a long-lasting, vellum [i.e. lambskin] MS like Aleph would instead want to bless the world with the far larger number of MSS that could be made from papyrus for the same cost? This seems particularly true when one realises that these Christians would not have known whether that single, incredibly expensive vellum MS might, at any moment, get superseded, or destroyed by fire or flood, or stolen by false brothers - or confiscated and burned by the authorities who had done precisely this with so many believers and their bibles in the past.]
The big question now is,
what do you do with your original master document once it has
been superseded or has deteriorated dangerously? As the article
notes, godly believers would not make an idol out of mere physical
bits of paper - especially not dangerous ones - but would destroy
them rather than run the unnecessary risk of their flaws causing
problems. Thus, your document would almost certainly only be
preserved if - before you got a chance to destroy it - it managed to
fall into the hands of unsound people who somehow had the
wherewithal to keep it safe and, for some reason, wanted to do so.
If Aleph was a sound MS to start with, then it would have had to
remain safe from true brothers (who would want to destroy it because
it had become unsafe due to all the efforts of 'correctors') *and*
also remain safe from false brothers (who would presumably want to
destroy it because its underlying text was so sound) for many
hundreds of years. This all seems a very remote possibility. (And
when it comes to Aleph, its other features - e.g. the ones cited in
footnote 90 - confirm
that its age is indeed a cause for suspicion).
(3) The 'Johannine Comma'
1 John 5:7-8, also known as the Johannine Comma, is the most unambiguously Trinitarian passage in the whole Bible and is identified with family A - but it is absent from early Greek MSS surviving today. HOWEVER...
-- The passage appears in the Greek Codex Montfortianus (dated by scholars like Adam Clarke to the middle of the 13th century). It is also to be found in the margins of the Greek MSS 88 (twelfth century), 635 (eleventh century), and 221 (tenth century). And as noted earlier, it is, overall, a cause for suspicion for a Greek MS to have survived much beyond this sort of date.
-- We must try to avoid the mistake Hort fell into of focusing solely on the *Greek* MSS and not keeping a close eye on other types of evidence (e.g. translations and the writings of Church 'Fathers'). The Johannine Comma is to be found in translations dating back to AD 170 and in the writings of 'Fathers' dating back to AD 250 or before.
-- The following article raises some important further points in defence of the passage - including grammatical and historical ones - that often get overlooked: http://www.studytoanswer.net/bibleversions/1john5n7.html#controv
[End of Addendum]
The Articles in this Series: