27.1 Intrinsic Criteria
When we look at the intrinsic criteria, we move our attention from the document to the author himself. We try to establish what this particular author would most probably have written.
When two or more variations are supported by even possibilities, how could we decide what the most probable words could be that the author would have used? Every person has a specific preference for a way of saying something. We have preferences for certain synonyms, thoughts or emphasis. When we write, there is a certain logical build up. All these aspects can play a role in determining the best choice when confronted with differing manuscripts.
The following intrinsic considerations may be considered:
- Compare the vocabulary and style of the writer with the rest of the document. We all know that Paul accentuate grace and not works. James on the other hand stresses the fact that our faith should be “proven” by deeds, while John is known as the apostle of “love”. In Ephesians 2:5 we find the statement: “… it is by grace you have been saved.” Let us say that we were confronted with a second reading that states: “…it is by your deeds you have been saved.” And a third manuscript reads “…it is by love you have been saved.” Let as assume that all other criteria are equal. Since we know that Paul had written the Epistle to the Ephesians, we should decide on what Paul typically would have said. Of course the decision would be on the first probability.
- Look at the immediate context. In Mat.22:10 some manuscripts say that the wedding (gamos) was filled with guests, (MKJV). Other manuscripts say that the wedding hall (numfōn) was filled with guests, (NIV). Though it might be trivial, the context is that the place where the feast was held, was filled with guests.
- Look at the usage of the author in other documents.
The words in 1Cor. 14:34: “…women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. ” are placed in some manuscripts after 1Cor.14:40. Does the fact that the words are not found in the same place in all manuscripts, indicate that it might be a gloss? Could some monk with a grudge against women have added these words, or could it be authentic to Paul? If all other evidence is equal, we should take into account that Paul gives the same direction in 1Tim2:12. This clause will be handled in more detail later on.
- Take the Aramaic background of the teachings of Jesus into account. In Mat.5:38 Jesus quotes an Old Testament principle: “Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.” If we were to be confronted with an otherwise equal manuscript reading: “hand for hand and tooth for tooth.” our knowledge of the Aramaic background of Jesus would be decisive.
- Take the priority of Mark as source-gospel for Matthew and Luke into account. In depth study of the Synoptic Gospels had proven that Matthew and Luke made use of Mark and not the other way around. In some cases this could help us to choose between otherwise equal renderings.
- The influence of the Christian community upon the formulation and transmission of the passage may be an important criterion. During the ascetic life monks over emphasized fasting. When two equal texts differ only by the inclusion or omission of “fasting” together with “praying”, almost certainly “fasting” would be found a later addition, as is the case in Mark 9:29. Numerous examples prove the influence of the early Christian community on the copy and transportation of texts of the New Testament.
All the criteria are not applicable to every text variant. If one would seriously try to reconstruct the original autograph, all personal preferences need to be crucified and with prayer and objectivity all manuscripts should be evaluated. If a verse or part of a verse had not been part of the original, it should be discarded, though it might be dear or of great influence in one’s life. Even though the Lord might have touched someone’s heart through it, if it had been added to scripture by some pious person or dedicated publisher, one may thank the Lord for its positive influence. Yet it could not be elevated to be declared “word of God”. The Lord sometimes touches people through sermons, or secular books, or the motto of someone, and yet we do not declare that “word of God”. To evaluate the word of God requires sincere objectivity and brutal honesty.
All the known manuscripts as well as antique translations and quotations by Church Fathers are to the avail of the modern translator. The Bible Societies use without exception a standardized text accepted by most denominations. Therefore the text of modern translation can be accepted with great certainty as rendering the original as near as possible.
Do study the differences between versions of the Bible and try to evaluate some of the criteria given above. It is a wonderful challenge.