This short post explains some basics about textual criticism as applied to the New Testament. Of course, before the invention of the printing press, all copies of a document were hand-written. Textual criticsm is the scholarly endeavor of sorting through all the hand-written copies in order to identify as closely as possible what the original text said. This is because, of course, no originals from any ancient texts (not just the New Testament) could have survied this long.
There are two types of textual criticism. Higher criticism, which studies authorship, dating, and historical value of Biblical documents, and lower criticism, which studies “the available evidence to recover the exact words of the author’s original composition.” Lower criticism is the focus of this chapter.