Monday, July 14, 2008

New Book: Parker and Manuscripts and Texts

I got a copy of David Parker's new book on Saturday: An Introduction to the New Testament Manuscripts and their Texts (Cambridge: CUP, 2008)

I haven't finished reading it yet - just about half way through; but I wanted to say that anyone interested in the subject should drop whatever else they are doing and go and buy it. Then enjoy the wonderfully enriching experience of reading it. He says at the outset: 'I have tried to write a book with as original a shape and as fresh a content as possible.' (p. 2) And he has. Brilliant, lucid, learned, naunced, and able to look at things from lots of different angles. Also provocative, stimulating, informative and interesting. Criticism must wait until appreciation is complete.

Up-date: Now I have finished and I enjoyed it to the end. As I noted in a comment I would say this is a post-basic book - although at the same time it doesn't easily 'fit' above any other more basic undergraduate text-book. On the back it says it is a 'handbook for scholars and students'. For me it is the ideal text for my MPhil course. It is a book for researchers and potential researchers in the field.
For example, it has a chapter on practical skills in studying manuscripts; it has extended treatments of how to get the most out of Tischendorf's 8th, but nothing on how to use NA27 (except for a reminder not to ignore all the appendices). It nowhere addresses how students can approach textual criticism when dealing with variant readings in NA27 (or UBS4). [This is what students need for exams in our place.] But it tells scholars to always check two or three editions, to use more than one Synopsis, how to set out a digital edition etc. etc.

As a book it is nice to read, but it has two problems I've encountered so far:
a) there are no pictures of manuscripts in the book, they are all on a linked web-site (advertised as: www.cambridge.org/parker; but actually at: http://itsee.bham.ac.uk/parker/introduction/). This mixing of technologies I did not find very convenient, I probably would have paid the extra for pictures.
b) the indices are very selective (you probably wouldn't have to be a genius to figure out how I noticed this) - you can't use this to track Birdsall's contributions to the subject, or even every time a particular manuscript is refered to.

Some (admittedly minor) details:
On p.5 Parker concludes his discussion about defining 'variant reading' by saying: 'So I repeat: a variant reading is to be defined as "the entire text as it is present in a particular copy".' This is very confusing. There is a way to make this meaningful, but it would be simpler to regard this as a mistake, since throughout the rest of the book a much more normal definition is assumed (e.g. on p. 159).
On p. 23, discussing differences between Sinaiticus (plate 3) compared with P66 (plate 1), he says: 'Additional us the use of a horizontal stroke to indicate a nu at line ends'. It is wrong to regard this as a difference from P66, since a glance at the plate of P66 shows this phenomenon already at line 5 of the first page.
On p.27, discussing minuscule 461, it is said that while the size is comparable with the papyrus pages of P66, 'on the other hand, it has a quantity of pages - 344 - which would be unsuitable for a manuscript written on papyrus'. "unsuitable" is a strange word to use here, "unusual" would be better and more accurate, since there are papyrus codices with more than 300 pages, even up to 500 pages.

5 Comments:

Peter M. Head said...

Also he plugs our blog! On p. 187.

Anonymous said...

But...

"Will provide an excellent guide for those approaching New Testament textual criticism for the first time."

Is it a book for beginners? I hate to spend money if it is rehashing the same stuff I've been reading for 20 years.

Peter M. Head said...

I would say this is a post-basic book - although at the same time it doesn't easily 'fit' above any other more basic undergraduate text-book. On the back it says it is a 'handbook for scholars and students'. For me it is the ideal text for my MPhil course. It is a book for researchers and potential researchers in the field.

For example, it has a chapter on practical skills in studying manuscripts; it has extended treatments of how to get the most out of Tischendorf's 8th, but nothing on how to use NA27 (except for a reminder not to ignore all the appendices). It nowhere addresses how students can approach textual criticism when dealing with variant readings in NA27 (or UBS4). [This is what students need for exams in our place.] But it tells scholars to always check two or three editions, to use more than one Synopsis, how to set out a digital edition etc. etc.

My inclination at the moment for undergraduates would be to continue to recommend Ehrman-Metzger as a readable basic course, with more history and more (traditional) method. With Parker's review in JTS and this book as a signpost to where things may be heading. And Aland & Aland as better on the use of the hand editions. And Parker's Living Text if the Gospels were a focus - that seems to me to be aimed at a more basic market.

Wieland Willker said...

Uargh!
And the images are Flash sh*t.
You cannot download them.

I HATE THIS!

Please, David, add a link where one can download the images as JPG!

Wieland Willker said...

Have received the book, too!
From a first glance, I like it a lot!
His asking of questions and not answering them, admitting how little we know ...
This will make a great holiday reading.