Older is Not Always Better: Remembering Wescott and HortExcerpt:
By James D. Tabor
Chair, Dept. of Religious Studies,
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
One of the more fascinating aspects of Westcott and Hort’s work was their upholding of certain readings from the so-called Western textual tradition, based on manuscripts like Codex Bezae (designated D). Generally scholars are agreed that the Western text is heavily interpolated with loose paraphrasing and lots of traditional and even apocryphal material added. However, at the end of Luke in particular, as well as a few other scattered places, the Western text is strangely shorter than the Neutral/Alexandrian text, with some surprising omissions that Wescott and Hort judged to be closer to the original.I like the RSV better too.
Wescott and Hort identified nine of these passages, which they labeled by the rather cumbersome term “Western non-interpolations.” They put them as brackets as secondary additions to the original in their edition of the New Testament. I am a great fan of the original Revised Standard Version and to this day prefer it to the New Revised Standard Version (1989), which seems to be the scholarly preference today. The RSV New Testament was published in 1946–the year of my birth. It was roundly condemned as the “Devil’s Bible” and actual book burnings were reported in some circles. The passion and hatred was fueled by any number of features of this impressive new translation but I think the most widespread charge was that the scholars were trying to destroy God’s revelation by a subtle removal of key passages, including the secondary ending of Mark (16:9-20), which was printed in smaller text to mark it as an addition to the original text. In fact, the protest was so great that eventually subsequent printings of the RSV put the text size back to normal and just added a note indicating that these verses were likely secondary to the original.