Textual Criticism: What Is It And Why It Is Necessary
Textual criticism is the method used to examine the vast number of manuscripts to determine the probably composition of the original autographs.
"Lower" Textual Criticism: the practice of studying the manuscripts of the Bible with the goal of reproducing the original text of the Bible from this vast wealth of manuscripts. This is a necessary task because there exists minor variations among the biblical manuscripts. So, unless one manuscript is arbitrarily chosen as a standard by which to judge all others, then one must employ textual criticism to compare all manuscripts to derive the reading which would most closely reflect the autographs.
"Higher" criticism: "The Jesus Seminar" is a group of liberal Christian higher critics who vote on which of the sayings of Christ they believe to have actually been spoken by Him. This is an example of "higher" criticism. It is highly subjective and is colored by the view points of various "higher" critics.
Textual Variants: Since all Greek manuscripts of the New Testament prior to Erasmus' first printed Greek New Testament were copied by hand scribal errors or variants could have crept into the texts.. When these Greek New Testament manuscripts are compared with each other we find evidence of scribal errors and places where the different manuscripts differ with one another.