Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Helmut Koester on A Century of NT Scholarship

The Centenary edition of the Harvard Theological Review contains an interesting article: H. Koester, 'New Testament Scholarship through One Hundred Years of the Harvard Theological Review' HTR 101.3-4 (2008), 311-322.

It contains a couple of interesting observations about NT textual criticism:

a) between 1908 - 1937 half (51) of all the articles on NT (102) in HTR dealt with textual criticism (in the same period there was nothing on intertestamental literature, or Philo, or Josephus);

b) between 1938-1968 'contributions to the field of New Testament textual criticism have dwindled to a small number' (p. 315; 14 articles) (with many more on Judaism, and the Greco-Roman world);

c) between 1969-2006 'the area of New Testament textual criticism has shrunk to a mere seven contributions' (mostly by E.J. Epp) (while other fields expanded: general NT; Judaism; ancient Christianity).

In reflecting on these he offers some comments on the state of German scholarship, on the study of Judaism in this period, as well as on the importance of Coptic sources; in relation to textual criticism he wrote:

'New discoveries of manuscripts, particularly of New Testament papyri, brought new excitement to the scene of New Testament study, and American scholars, some educated in Europe, such as James Hardy Ropes, or coming from Europe, such as Kirsopp Lake, played an important role in this discussion. Later, the center of these investigations had moved to the text-critical institute in Munster, where it became streamlined without achieving any significant progress, as J. Eldon Epp (sic) has so aptly argued in several publications.' (p. 321)

7 Comments:

Tommy Wasserman said...

"Later, the center of these investigations had moved to the text-critical institute in Munster, where it became streamlined without achieving any significant progress, as J. Eldon Epp (sic) has so aptly argued in several publications.' (p. 321)"

It is true that Epp complained about a decline in the discipline, but that was rather long time ago, I think at this point in 2008 I think he would make a very different evaluation today.

Peter M. Head said...

I think the validity of generalising on the basis of articles published in a single journal is rather limited (to say the least), except to the extent that Koester's perception of the field is of broader interest.

Perhaps we should just take it as an encouragement to submit articles to HTR.

Tommy Wasserman said...

PMH: "Perhaps we should just take it as an encouragement to submit articles to HTR."

Yes, incidentally, I am doing it this week.

Peter M. Head said...

Good for you Tommy,

I'd definitely put HTR in my top ten.

Tommy Wasserman said...

PHM:"I'd definitely put HTR in my top ten."

...just below the Tyndale Bulletin I suppose.

Peter M. Head said...

No, that would be unrealistic/optimistic. I love the Tyndale Bulletin (they have published eight of my articles), but I rate it as borderline top ten (if that means anything).

Peter M. Head said...

NB. I should also have said I am an associate editor of the Tyn Bull.