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Title: The Achilles' Heel of New Testament Textual Criticism
Author(s): DELOBEL, Joël
Volume: 63 Issue: 1 Date: 2002
In spite of the objections of a few scholars, the common opinion considers the reconstruction of the original text of the New Testament as the primary task of textual criticism. In pursuing this goal, there is a certain antagonism between two methods, radical vs. reasoned eclecticism. These two ways of approaching the problem sharply differ from one another in view of a different emphasis on external and internal criticism. Radical or rigorous eclecticism hardly attributes a meaningful role to external criticism in the decision-making process, whereas reasoned eclecticism, the so-called “local-genealogical method”, runs the risk of over-emphasising the weight of the external evidence. At a closer look, however, the Achilles heel common to both methods is situated on a deeper level, namely, the problem of the text in the second century. The virtual absence of significant direct evidence of the Greek text dating from the second century, opens the door to fantasy as well as to scepticism. What is needed for a balanced approach is a good portion of “historical-critical imagination” which sticks as closely as possible to the available data. A careful analysis of the textual trajectories which are clearly identifiable in the third century and maybe traceable before 200. A.D., allows us to formulate a valuable hypothesis concerning the earliest textual history to overcome undue fatalism concerning the achievement of the primary task of textual criticism.