The goal of New Testament textual criticism would appear to be simple enough: to restore the original text written by each author of the New Testament books. Upon examination, however, the notion of simplicity vanishes immediately and each of the key terms here—“restore,” “original,” “text,” and “author”—has its problematic aspects, but more importantly the simply stated goal itself turns out to be inadequate. Grist for the text-critical mill consists of textual readings or variants, which for the relatively small collection of writings called the New Testament are not merely in the hundreds or thousands, or even the tens of thousands, but run to perhaps a third of a million. They stem from the nearly 5,500 Greek manuscripts, some 10,000 versional manuscripts, and innumerable patristic citations of New Testament passages.
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