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The Role of the Canon in Shaping the NT Text

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Lesson

Because of the radical nature of Christianity, it took some time for OT-based Jews to accept the NT as canonical. But over time, coinciding with the progressive development of a certain “canon-consciousness,” scribes were compelled to modify texts in various ways, not for malicious reasons, but in efforts to clarify, preserve, and revere the sacred scriptures.

Outline

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE TRANSMISSION OF THE TEXT: THREE FUNDAMENTAL ISSUES

I. THE EARLY COPIES AND THE CAUSES OF CORRUPTION

II. THE EMERGENCE OF CANON CONSCIOUSNESS IN SHAPING THE NT

A. Implications of Jesus’ death and resurrection

Scripture is being written again, even though the writings themselves were always authoritative.

B. As canon consciousness emerged in the 2 century, more carful copying was done

1. Gospels by end of first century

2. Paul

3. By the end of the 2nd century about 21 books recognized as authoritative

4. Canon consciousness took about 3 centuries to develop

C. Errors of piety

1. Harmonizations in the Gospels

2. “Corrections” of supposed discrepancies

3. Explanatory glosses

4. Liturgically-motivated additions to explain the text

a) Mark 6–8

b) John 13

5. Revelation struggled to get into the canon and hence has less mss and hence less variants

D. Gospels

1. Accepted as canonical quickly

a) More mss and more harmonizations

b) Shows the scribe had a high view of the trext

2. Some (e.g., Bergin) argue that these early manuscripts were corrupt and produced by heretics

a) Codex Sinaiticus - Hebrew aleph א (01)

b) Codex Alexandrinus (A)

c) Codex Vaticanus (B)

d) Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (C)

e) Codex Bezae (D)

3. Harmonization actually demonstrates a high view of Scripture (e.g., John 4:17)

a) Woman: οὐκ ἔχω ἄνδρα (“I do not have a husband.”)

b) Jesus: ἄνδρα οὐκ ἔχω (“A husband I do not have.”)

c) Scribes change woman’s words to: ἄνδρα οὐκ ἔχω (א, C, D)

III. The Emergence of Local Text-form