Archives For Textual Criticism


From hay-on-wye.co.uk

As we were sitting in evening worship this past Sunday Madelyn handed me a ruffled piece of paper and said this, “Daddy, this is torn from your bible!” I looked and it was a missing page that had torn out of my bible. All of Scripture is important but what was missing as parts of Matthew 5-6 (i.e., the Sermon on the Mount). I am not sure what page I would choose to lose in Scripture but it definitely would not come from those famed chapters in Matthew. I thought about an illustration that I would make in this blog. I thought how important each page of Scripture is and then I thought about the Dead Sea Scrolls and various textual discoveries made.

You see discovering manuscripts is important because it allows us to see if the translation of Scripture has been accurate over a period of centuries. With the advent of technology and discovery, textual critics (fancy term for nerds who forget more than many of us know about Scripture) have determined that much of what we contain now is not incredibly different from the older manuscript evidence that was discovered. There are a few variants but these “missing pages” have been crucial for our understanding of how Scripture was transmitted and translated over the years. I digress at this point but two helpful books before I make an illustration and land this plane:

Now, the illustration. While studying for sermons I often will go to Google Books (highly recommend this) and will try to see if a commentary is available for me to peruse a particular passage. Sometimes I get lucky and all the pages I need are available but more often than not I get this nasty message from Google Books: “Page ________ is not part of this preview.” Ugh! How frustrating. Usually that is the page I needed and it is missing.

Imagine reading a story, getting to the climax and then the page is missing. What a horrible story! What are we to do with that? There is only one page I know of that is missing in Scripture and that is the page God has left blank for us to write on. It is the missing page of Scripture because it is our invitation to place ourselves in the story. You see, Scripture makes no sense to us unless we place ourselves in the midst.

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2)

The Torah was only words until the reader placed themselves at its mercies…at its pleadings…at its yearnings. Consider A. W. Tozer:

For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.

Tozer, A. W. The Pursuit of God (p. 9).

Until we write that page Scripture is no different than other literary classics like The IliadRomeo and Juliet and others. Will you write your page and place yourself in God’s divine narrative? Your page is missing.