Monday, August 23, 2010

Learning about NT research. Wow.

The bad news is - there's a lot of freakin' reading coming up in my world.  Wow, every time I start a new book, I feel terribly overwhelmed by the amount that is yet ahead of me! 

The good news is - every time I open up one of these books, I learn a little bit more. 

I'm reading "Hearing the New Testament: Strategies for Interpretation," edited by Joel B. Green right now.  I figured it was going to be pretty dry.  But, notice that I said it was 'edited' by, not 'written' by Joel Green.  That means that every chapter is written by a different author, so I have the potential for some dry reading and probably some interesting stuff as well.  It's an adventure, right?

I recognize that throughout my life, I've stuck pretty close to non-academic reading as I've learned and studied.  Which means that I have a lot of information to gather into my poor brain if I want to play in the world of academia!  And that's just fine.

So, today I began learning about how New Testament scholars approach the text.  My goodness, but if the only thing you ever read is your Bible, you don't have an inkling of the torment that scholars go through to bring you that book. 

There is nothing available that is older than the second century, which means that these are copies of copies and there are 5,360 Greek manuscripts available.  They don't actually all say the same exact thing.  Scribes made changes.  If they had a certain agenda to push, they might drop out or change a sentence that would end up proving their point. They were 'improving' the text.  And those 5360 manuscripts?  Some are fragments no bigger than your driver's license and others contain the entire New Testament.  They range in age from the second century to the sixteenth century.  No one has a good count on all of the differences in the manuscripts, but they number in the hundreds of thousands!

Scholars apply a lot of tests to the manuscripts in order to bring out the best and closest to the original possibilities.  They rely on so many different things.  THIS is why there are still so many different thoughts and interpretations of the text. 

Now this may scare some of you - to me I see an incredible puzzle with pieces that are out there ready to be drawn together.  It's actually really exciting to me to discover that there are still questions I might have a chance to answer or at least spend time researching.  No ... the basic orthodox doctrines of the church aren't going to change, but it's a fascinating look at what we read!

Oh yah ... you'll keep hearing from me as I learn!

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