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Meet the Author
Eberhard Nestle (1851-1913) was one of the great linguists of the nineteenth century. While he is best known for editing an edition of the Greek New Testament that became the world standard, he produced important works on the Septuagint, Vulgate, Peshitta, and Masoretic texts as well.
CHAPTER III. THEORY AND PRAXIS OF THE TEXTUAL CRITICISM OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.1 THERE is no special theory of the textual criticism of the New Testament. The task and the method are the same for all literary productions. The task is to exhibit what the original writer intended to communicate to his readers, and the method is simply that of tracing the history of the document in question back to its beginning, if, and in so far as, we have the means to do so at our command. Diversity of treatment can only arise when the fortunes of one written work have been more chequered and complicated than those of another, or when we have more abundant means at our disposal to help us in the one case than in the other. The task is very simple when we have only one completely independent document to deal with, as in the case of several of the recently discovered papyri, but this occurs very seldom with literary texts. In this case all that we have to do is to see that we read the existing text correctly, and then by means of theso-called internal criticism to determine whether the text so Internal received can be correct. Even when several witnesses are at our command, we cannot altogether dispense with this internal criticism in the matter of sifting and weighing their testimony, only it would be unfortunate were we left with such a subjective criterion alone. For not only in such a case would different scholars come to very different conclusions, but even one and the same scholar would not be able to avoid a certain amount of uncertainty and inconsistency in most cases. The principle laid down in the maxim, lectio difficilior placet, or, as Bengel more correctly and more cautiously puts it,proclivi scriptioni praestat ardua, is perfectly sound ; that reading is: correct, is the origina...