Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Textual Variants in Preaching

What do you do with Textual Variants in preaching?

Last week I was preaching Mark 9:14-29, and there is a significant variant in v29, whether 'and fasting' is original or not. The UBS 4th I use marks it with an [A] for the certainty that 'and fasting' is an addition, presumably based on (1) the superior mss that omit it, (2) the likelihood that 'and fasting' preserves an addition reflecting early church practices, (3) possibly the influence of 1 Cor 7:5, where 'and fasting' is almost certainly an addition.

RT France's commentary makes a telling point though, that there are good arguments both that 'and fasting' was added, and that it was subtracted. He convinced me that the [A] confidence rating was probably not that warranted, and threw the issue open. So, I'm someone agnostic on whether 'and fasting' is original or not.

What do you do with that in a sermon though? I made the calculated decision to ignore it. I try and avoid mentioning greek, mentioning textual details, etc., in sermons because most people don't really need to hear it. I will bring things up if I think they're significant; for example, I think it's important to read the end of Mark 9:18 not as 'they were not able' but 'they were not strong (enough)'.

This week's text is Mark 9:30-50, which has whole verse-numbers that should be omitted (v44, v46), as well as a collection of sayings that probably existed as independent logia! Not to mention teaching on hell.

Preaching is a joyous labour...

4 comments:

byron smith said...

Do you think that giving Christians an idea that there are these variants and they don't phase you and ought not to phase them is a good idea, given the experience (and now anti-proselytizing) of people like Bart Ehrman? In my experience, often evangelicals can have a somewhat brittle view of Scripture, where the discovery of the smallest 'problem' threatens the integrity of the whole. Thus, once some people realise that there are thousands upon thousands of variants, their faith is rocked and they give up on the Bible.

However, in general, I agree that Greek ought to be kept out of sermons. Latin, however...

byron smith said...

(I'm loving Lingua Latina!)

Seumas Macdonald said...

I think there is a real value in dealing with difficulties, textual and otherwise, to show that it's not a whole tower of cards that could crash down on the slightest problem. I think it just calls for some wise balancing. At the moment we've been doing Daniel in bible study, a book with all sorts of historical, textual, critical issues, and the same kinds of questions come up: exposing people to real problems in the Bible in such a way that doesn't either overshadow or undermine.

Lingua Latina is great. Glad you're enjoying it.

byron smith said...

Yep - I agree. It's not a history lesson, but it's important to cover as much history (including textual history) as necessary for the building up of faith and the understanding and application of the gospel.