Textual Criticism in the Reformation

Textual criticism took on special importance when Protestants reasserted the Bible’s magisterial authority during the Reformation. Such work was unavoidable once Reformation theologians argued for the “authenticity” of the Scriptures in Hebrew and Greek against Rome’s arguments for the preeminence of Latin. This paper will survey some of the ways this debate with Rome forced Protestants to engage in both the theory and practice of textual criticism and how they integrated this with Protestant bibliology. While some have argued that the modern discipline of textual criticism and the doctrine of inerrancy arose together in the heat of these sixteenth- and seventeenth-century controversies, this paper will show that the Reformers built on their predecessors even as they developed new arguments and practices. It will conclude with reflection on how we today can both built on and develop the Reformers approach to the problem of different texts of the Bible.

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