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Bible Gem 498 - A Paul Original ( (1 Cor 16:20)

April 22, 2019




Did you have any success in sorting out what is going on here? I hope you took some time to try to solve the problem. It is not hard. No it has nothing to do with the Uncial Texts of the Greek New Testament. It really is simply a cross reference to something that Paul says in another letter which the publishers have picked up on and cleverly used in an attempt to add authenticity to the text at this point. The reference is found in Gal 6:11  - NOTICE WHAT LARGE LETTERS I USE AS I WRITE THESE CLOSING WORDS IN MY OWN HANDWRITING. To add some degree of realism or authenticity to the text the publishers of this edition of this edition of the Bible (NLT) have tried to be creative with the printed text and print Paul’s words in capital letters to mirror Paul’s comment about “the large letters he uses”.




The Good News Bible has also tried to be creative by italicising Paul’s greetings.  “With my own hand I write this: Greetings from Paul.” 


Paul  had an "emanuensis" who wrote the epistle for him; but to prevent counterfeits, and that the church to whom he wrote might be assured of the genuineness of the epistle, that it was truly his own, he wrote with his own hand his common salutation. It is likely that Paul wrote this and the following verses with his own hand. The rest, though dictated by him, was written by the emanuensis. We know the name of amanuensis for Romans, because in Romans 16:22 Tertius couldn't resist adding his greetings with all the others whose greetings he was writing. But we don’t know the amanuensis for the Corinthian letters. 


So with this letter to the Corinthians we don’t have “a Paul original”.  There is no such thing. We can’t pick up a copy of any part of the New Testament, let alone the Pauline letters and say we have Paul’s original letter. That is not the case. But as my New Testament Professor, Prof Basil Brown, used to delight to tell us, while we may not have Paul’s original letter we can be certain that we have Paul’s original words. Don’t worry. It is all authentic Paul. How can he say that if we don’t have the original letter?


The way Basil Brown would describe it I thought was helpful. He asked what we would do if we missed the lecture the next day. We told him we would get the notes from a friend. He asked us if there was a better way. We said of course, “Get the lecture notes directly from him (the lecturer).” He said there is a better way. What is it? The answer is to get the notes from everyone in the class. If we had everyone’s notes he told us we could reconstruct the exact words that he had spoken to the class the day before. One person would get the first sentence perfectly but not the second sentence. Another would get the first partially and the second also partially. Someone else would capture the second sentence completely. In such a process we could reconstruct the exact words that were spoken. We could even go one better again if we wanted to and that would be to get the notes from the students who did the class last year. If we did the same with their notes we could not only get the words he said to the same class last year but we could track any changes that he introduced from year to year. Even if we got the lecturers notes directly him from we would not necessarily have the exact words he said. He may well have departed from the notes. Added some more explanation extra to what he had in the notes or skipped some and told the other students this wouldn’t be in the exam. 


That is the kind of power that is available to us with the 29,000+ documents1 we have of the New Testament in existence. By comparing documents of the New Testament we can track accurately what has happened to the text of the New Testament over time. This is the skill or approach of Textual Criticism: Mapping and determining the changes or alterations to the New Testament over time. 


So although we don’t have the original letter of Paul to the Corinthians rest assured we have his original words. You can bank on it.


1. You have an example in this Gemz of what Prof Brown was talking about.  i wrote this Gemz originally on the 10th of March 2011. At that time i wrote 13,000+ documents. With this posting of the same Gemz to my website I changed the record of existent documents of the New Testament to 29,000+. That is what has happened in the intervening time between now and 2011. Another 16,000 ancient Greek Documents of the New testament have been added to the world's library through the work of Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts founded by Daniel Wallace.  



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