“The Practice of New Testament Textual Criticism” Metzger & Ehrman pp. 300-343
How is textual criticism to be done? How does one reasonably determine what may have been an original reading when presented with multiple variations? Metzger and Ehrman start out the chapter with two important criteria. First, (p. 300) “choose the reading that best explains the origin of the others.” Second, see if there are factors, even undocumented factors, which can account for the rise of a variant. For instance, could an abbreviation have been misconstrued as a word, thus creating something unintelligible in itself?
I’ll abbreviate a list of considerations from pp. 302-304.
1) External evidence
b) geographical distribution
c) genealogical relationship
2) Internal evidence
a) transcriptional probabilities of errors
i. more difficult reading preferred
ii. shorter reading preferred
iii. in parallel passages a reading that differs from the other is preferred
iv. less familiar, less refined usage generally preferred
b) intrinsic probabilities
i. author’s overall style, vocabulary, theology
ii. immediate context
iii. usage of author elsewhere
iv. Aramaic background of Jesus’ teaching
v. Mark as priority
vi. influence of Christian community
The remainder of the book consists of specific applications of the above considerations. Metzger and Ehrman conclude that textual criticism is a difficult business as it requires the critic to take extant information into account to explain a manuscript which we no longer have. We consider information that is visible to us and information which is not visible in attempting to determine the most reliable text.