Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Introduction to Textual Criticism

The Bible, both the Tanakh (Old Testament) and the New Testament, have been carefully given to us from ancient times through scribes. These scribes wrote by hand and errors in the copying process occurred.

Now, the situation is not hopeless. Textual criticism is the fancy name of trying to figure out what the original text was. Wikipedia has a good overview of textual criticism.

The discipline doesn't just apply to the Bible. Shakespeare, Homer, whomever. I knew the head librarian of the Philadelphia Orchestra. He performed textual criticism on the works of classical music. He discovered that there were musical notes being performed that we have become accustomed to that weren't intended by the original composer.

Now, in terms of the Bible we have many things to consider. There are textual families, individual texts, and translations.

I've noticed that in textual discussions of Messianic prophecies that the topic of the Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Tanakh, comes up and is often disparaged. I want to show how it can be used to help us do good textual criticism of the Old Testament and how it sheds light on a controversial Messianic prophecy.

Obviously, a series of blog posts isn't going to give you enough information to do all this. If you want to get smart on this, and I'm no expert, you'll have to do some reading, etc. on your own.

Here is a good mp3 lecture giving an overview of textual criticism. Here's one that concentrates on the transmission of the Old Testament. I can't vouch for the following but here is a lecture series.

I'll try to build up slowly and fill in some gaps as we go along. Again, this is specific in nature to show how and why we would use the Septuagint. Feel free to ask questions in the comments. If I don't know something, I'll tell you.

Update: From the aforementioned lecture series, this mp3 file is a good overview.

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