The Impact of Oral Tradition and Scribal Activity on Development of Biblical Text

Speaker: Categories: Jul 11, 2009


[1hr, 9min, 26sec / 51min, 34sec]


At what point in your spiritual journey did you deign to question biblical passages as to their origin and/or their accuracy? Did posing such questions disturb your sense of spiritual commitment, your dedication to being atrueChristian?

Should such questioning be encouraged among SDAs? Should questioning techniques be taught in SDA academies and colleges? If so, how mature ought the students be before being exposed to such?

The SDAF speaker for July 11 labels such astextual criticism--"New TestamentTextual Criticismis predicated on the fact that no autographs of the New Testament are extant and no two copies of the approximately 5,746 extant copies agree 100% of the times. These copies of copies of copies are estimated to contain between 300,000 to 400,000 variant readings -- more variants than there are words in the New Testament. While most of these errors are insignificant, contrary to some voices, a small percentage does affect important doctrines. However, before we consider some of these variants, we should also recognize that prior to the diversity caused by scribal activity, another element, that is,Oral Traditioncaused an initial level of diversity in scripture.

This presentation will briefly address the phenomenon of oral tradition on the creation of scripture and then examine some manuscript variants of importance for Christian practice. It will be noted that oral communication contributed to the fact that what is recorded in scripture is not only objective reality but also interpreted reality or reality that was historically conditioned. In addition the diversity caused by scribal activity affected scripture in such a way that the scripture as we now have it is anevolvedphenomenon and not the product of a static pen at a point in history. Nevertheless, contrary to what some may be tempted to think, these realities do not destroy faith but are a foundation for faith. Unsettling as these points may seem to some, they must be acknowledged and dealt with. There is no viable alternative."


Clinton Baldwin graduated from Andrews University in 2007 with a Ph.D. in Religion with special emphasis in New Testament Textual Criticism. His dissertation, entitled TheSo-Called Mixed Text: An Examination of the Non-Alexandrian and Non-Byzantine Text Type in the Catholic Epistles, dealt with the classification and analysis of New Testament Greek manuscripts. His latest book:,"Methods of Biblical Interpretation: The New Perspective on Prophecy,"will be published this summer (2009) and his other book,"New Testament Textual Criticism: The Journey of the New Testament in Becoming a Book,"will be published toward the end of the year. Clinton currently serves as an Assistant Professor in Religion at Northern Caribbean University in Jamaica. His wife, Andrea (M.B.A., Ph.D, Curriculum and Instruction), works with the same institution as the Acting Dean of the College of Business and Hospitality Management. They have one son, Mendel. Both Andrea and Mendel will be present at the SDAF meeting, July 11.

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