INTERPOLATIONS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT:
In its rigorous sense, an interpolation is an insertion in a text or document with the object of obtaining backing or authority for the interpolator's opinion or project. This is the ordinary dictionary sense of the group of words, "interpolation, interpolate, interpolator." This is also the meaning resigned to the word by legal usage, according to which an interpolation is an insertion within a will or deed, or a molding of its text to an end distinct from the original end and aim of the text itself. The same sense is assigned to the word by diplomacy, where an interpolation is a tampering with the text of a public document by one party to it, in order to gain an advantage over the other party. Thus "interpolation" seems to imply, first, a fixed text and, secondly, a conscious or deliberate purpose to alter or twist the meaning and intention of a text, the interpolator's aim being to slip his meaning under cover of a mind having greater authority or higher standing than his own, so securing for his own opinion or judgment a market-value above its intrinsic worth. For example, a Christian student of the second century inserted in the text of Josephus (Ant. XVIII., iii. 3) the well-known passage regarding Jesus. His object was to make Josephus a witness to Christ. This is an interpolation in the rigorous sense.
It is doubtful, however, whether the word in this sense can be safely and correctly applied to any part of the field of text-variation in the New Testament. At least, if used at all, it must be used with caution. The conditions of thought have materially altered since the word came into use. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when for the first time Christians began to be seriously disturbed by text-variation (the life and work of Brian Walton and of Johann Albrecht Bengel (q.v.] yield examples), the standing view of the New Testament has regarded it as an inerrant book or collection of books written by inspired individuals. This conception seemed to involve a belief that the text, once for all delivered in apostolic autographs, should have been closed against change. It was this conception which gave rise to the furious controversies in England (nineteenth century) over the "three witnesses" passage (I John v. 7). Both the conservative and the anticonservative forces of Christendom gave the idea of interpolation great vogue. The currency of the idea depended therefore on a body of related ideas. But those ideas have been modified in order to bring them into agreement with widening and deepening knowledge of the apostolic age. Neither of the two conditions presupposed by the rigorous definition of the term interpolation can be placed within the period when the New-Testament literature was coming to the light. The conception of the inspired text as an apostolic autograph, finished, like a modern book, at the time of publication, has broken down under the pressure of historical truth. Regarding the Gospels, it is known (see GOSPELS) that the author of a single Gospel was quite as much corporate as individual. The text remained plastic for a considerable period. The "Gospel" was not thought of as a book, but as a living word, a spiritual climax, a majestic conviction. So long as this conception had sway, the gospel-text lay open to the formative and molding forces of the Christian consciousness. It was not till deep in the second century that this situation altogether passed away. When that happened, when the Gospel came to be thought of as a book, the text became fixed and rigid. The Church's theory of inspiration and the zeal of scholars and theologians endowed the text with powers of resistance sufficient to withstand the ceaseless tendency to mold it by interpretation.
So then the possibility of text-molding continued deep into the second century. The last twelve
The same process goes on in the New-Testament
text outside the Gospels. Harnack and others have
recently affirmed that "things strangled "
(Acts xv. 29)
was never a part of the original Lucan text,
but was read in by later Christians.
This is problematical. But there is
little that is problematical regarding
the present text of
BIBLIOGRAPHY: The subject is generally dealt with in works on the textual criticism of the N. T., and much of the literature named under BIBLE TEXT (ii. 112-113 of this work) contains matter upon it, particularly the works of Copinger and Kenyon named there; works on the general introduction to the N. T. also discuss the subject (see BIBLICAL INTRODUCTION). Special mention may be made of B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, N. T, in the Original Greek, i. 571 sqq., ii. 325 sqq., New York 1882; P. Schaff, Companion to the Greek Testament and the English Versions, pp. 183 sqq., 420 sqq., ib. 1883; F. H. A. Scrivener, Plain introduction to the criticism of the New Testament, i. 7-9, ii. 249, 321 sqq., London, 1894; C. A. Briggs, General Introduction to the Study of Holy Scripture, chap, x. New York, 1899; C. R. Gregory, Canon and Text of the N. T., pp. 508 sqq., ib. 1907.
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