Wednesday, September 29, 2010
The original Autographs
I'm currently wondering about the value of the concept of the original "autographs" as the locus for a doctrine of biblical inspiration. A number of issues come to mind:
1. Text-critics debate whether their task is to reconstruct the original autographs or simply an "initial text" (i.e., the earliest recoverable edition of a text).
2. The death of Moses in Deuteronomy 34 is obviously secondary (Moses didn't write about his own death) and was written up after the event and not by Moses.
3. The LXX edition of Jeremiah is significantly shorter that MT Jeremiah. That means that the Hebrew Vorlage underlying LXX Jeremiah was also considerably briefer that MT Jeremiah. MT Jeremiah, though considered by Jews and Christians as the canonical edition, may then constitute an expansion of an earlier Hebrew edition of Jeremiah.
4. The Psalter probably experienced some redaction at the level of the collection as a whole when it was formed into books with phrases added like "people of his pasture" and perhaps the superscriptions added as well.
5. The best witnesses to The Lord's Prayer in Matt 6:13 omit the words, "For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever, amen" and so most modern critical editions omit the words as do most English translations. And yet, the words are still widely used in Christian prayers today despite not being in the autographs.
6. The western text of Acts is 10% longer than other witnesses and some scholars have speculated that Luke produced two editions of Acts, the second one a slightly expanded and embellished version. If so, which one was the autograph?
As a text-critic, I'm not willing to give up on the autographs, even if I cannot guarantee 100% that we have them fully reflected in modern editions (but I think we must be pretty darn near close if not on target for the most part). Yet there are instances where the text that we consider canonical, inspired, infallible, and authoritative is probably not identical to what the authors themselves probably wrote. Thus, I'm starting to think that the theologically significant text for a doctrine of inspiration is not the autographs, but the Bible as it has been received in the church.