This Sunday we start a new book series in the Gospel of John.
As is my usual practice, I translate the text of the week early in the week, preferably on Monday. This week’s text is John 1:1-5. I started a new translation method starting with the last series I did on Ephesians; I have been copying the Greek text into a Moleskine and doing my translation and making exegetical notes on the opposite page. There is something about the hands on approach that makes me think about the very words that I am contemplating and studying.
I have also been reviewing textual criticism in the last few weeks, rereading “The Text of the New Testament” by Metzger, “The King James Only Controversy” by James White and “One Bible Only?: Examining Exclusive Claims for the King James Bible” edited by Roy E. Beacham.
Those books go into detail as to the transmission of the text of the New Testament. Since we don’t have any originals we are dependent upon copies. We have lots of copies, and the discipline of textual criticism (lower and higher) help us to determine what the originals said. Scribes and others made copies. This was a tedious and time consuming as well as expensive venture. It was done without the modern luxuries of electricity, paper and nice writing utensils. Often copied in a room with others listening to one person read and laboriously writing what was heard. This led to what we call variations, or copier error.
In my copying this morning, I made a mistake. I didn’t intend to do so. I left out the word “was” in the first phrase. I was at my desk with the heater on. I had my clear copy of the Greek New Testament (UBS), a nice writing surface in my Moleskine, bright lights, adequate reading glasses and good intentions. These are luxuries that scribes in the 4th century didn’t have, yet their work is amazing and our copies have a high level of accuracy.
Errors in the copies are not a problem. They are easily identified and explained. Because we have so many copies we can trace and identify errors that were made. Most of the errors the copyists made were the kind that I made: omissions, misspellings, and other insignificant errors. Very rarely are the mistakes substantive and even when they are they are easily identified as errors.
This blog post was pretty blah…More from John later.