Reconstructing a text which has no manuscript support
- To anchor this discussion to a synoptic example, I have in mind two related
cases: Mk 14:28 and Mk 16:7. These verses contradict the author¹s attitude
towards Peter revealed elsewhere in the gospel, which includes having Jesus
call him "Satan", having him deny his master three times, and having him
fall asleep three times when his master had asked him to stay awake.
But my concern here is the general case rather than the above example. I
have been aware for many years now that there are scholars who, while
appearing quite liberal regarding NT criticism generally, behave rather like
fundamentalists when it comes to arguments in favour of a text which has no
manuscript support. They regard all such arguments as a waste of time.
I cannot understand such an attitude. We know that extant NT documents and
fragments contain thousands of variations. We know that the earliest extant
fragment of an NT text is generally a hundred years or more later than the
original, so it is almost certain that changes to the NT text took place
during that period. Why do such scholars assume that it is impossible to
reconstruct the original in those circumstances, even where the original is
posited simply to have lacked a specific sentence from the best extant text?
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