Note: This is the fourth of a five part series offering review and analysis of Dan Wallace’s "Challenges in New Testament Textual Criticism for the Twenty-First Century" (JETS, Vol. 52, No. 1: pp. 79-100).
IV. Desiderata: The Task that Remains
Wallace groups his thoughts under two themes:
1. Knowledge of documents.
Here Wallace stresses the need for:
a. Discovery. We now have 5,760 NT manuscripts and Wallace thinks "there may be as many as 1,000 NT MSS yet to be discovered" (p. 96).
b. Collation. This refers to the comparison of all known manuscripts to a base text. To date this has only been done for one NT book (Revelation by H. Hoskier).
2. Closing the Gap.
He notes three gaps:
a. The gap between liberals and evangelicals.
Wallace encourages evangelicals to take up textual study to be "the voice of reason" in the discipline vis-à-vis liberals, like Ehrman and his ilk (p. 98).
b. The gap between scholar and apologists.
c. The gap between church and academe.
Here Wallace is critical of the fact that modern translations still retain the "longer ending" of Mark and the pericope adulterae in John. This takes place, he says, despite the fact that the scholars who produce these translations "do not subscribe to the authenticity of such texts" because they are not "in the oldest and best manuscripts and their internal evidence is decidedly against authenticity. Why then are they still in these Bibles?" (p. 99).
These are there, he says, largely due to "a tradition of timidity" (p. 99). He coyly states that the NET Bible (for which Wallace serves as an editor) considered placing these disputed passages in the footnotes but, in the end, decided to print them in "smaller font with bracket around them" (p. 99). He jokes: "Smaller type, of course, makes it harder to read from the pulpit" (p. 99). He assures us, however, that they are giving serious consideration to dropping these verses completely in their next edition!
Wallace again raises the specter of Ehrman’s attacks and calls for a preemptive strike: "We have to educate believers. It is far, far better that they hear the facts from us than from someone who is hostile to the faith" (p. 99).
Analysis: I find this section particularly disturbing. Might there be good reason to retain both Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11 as part of the canonical text of Scripture? I would challenge Wallace, and any others who are in such great doubt about these passages, to make good on their intention to proceed with the removal of these passages and then see how the market treats their product. Wallace seems to think that the Christian public needs to be protected by evangelical text critics from the likes of Ehrman. Could it be, however, that the Bible might be protected by the Christian public (who would likely revolt once they knew such precious verses were omitted) from the likes of evangelical text critics?
I'm bothered by what Dr. Wallace says about the text too, particularly regarding Mk. 16:9-20. He seems more confident than the evidence permits, especially considering that in some of his published statements on Mark 16:9-20 (in the NET notes, and in his chapter in "Perspectives on the Ending of Mark"), he gets his facts wrong repeatedly.
At www.curtisvillechristian.org you can find a multi-part presentation about Mark 16:9-20. Read that, read the NET notes, and ask yourself, "Is the NET presenting the evidence in a balanced and objective way, or is the evidence presented selectively so as to induce agreement with Wallace's views?"
Yours in Christ,
James Snapp, Jr.
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