Friday, April 23, 2010

David Parker and the Gospels

I am probably about a year later than everyone else here in that I have only just finished reading David Parker's An Introduction to the New Testament Manuscripts and Their Texts. All in all, a good and informative read, and a good intro to TC for a Master's or Doctoral level course. I still think Aland/Aland or Metzger might be a better text book for undergrads because they just read a bit easier. Several highlights were Parker's discussion of the textual witnesses and versions in relation to each major NT corpora. One or two barbed comments appear that put a smirk on my face, esp. when Parker writes: "Textual criticism both by its nature and by its findings shows fundamentalism to be inadmissible, and has an important role to play in offering an alternative to all world-views which insist on the inerrancy and perfection of texts as a guide through life" (p. 190). I had an instant morbid curiosity as to what would happen if someone were to read that aloud at certain places in the USA. My favourite quote from the book is about the Gospels. Parker writes:

"The Four Gospels, the Tetraevangelium, is the book of Christianity - not four books, but one codex. Such manuscripts comprise more than a half of all continuous-text Greek copies of New Testament writings. In every ancient language of Christianity, copies of the Gospels predominate among what survives. And in case this preoccupation is seen as an ancient phenomenon, be it noted that the Gospels in these ancient languages are traditionally far better served with editions and results of research than is any other part of the New Testament. Moreover, more editions of the Gospel manuscripts have been published, in facsimile or in some other form. Finally, it should be observed that many statements made about the New Testament text in general are really statements about the Gospels which have been extrapolated to the rest. I am thinking particularly about the entire concept of text-types and textual groupings" (p. 311).

One thing I like about the Book of Common Prayer is that every day has a Gospel reading. Though Protestants, esp. those of the evangelical and reformed variety, have a special affection for Paul, that should never interfere with the special and devout attention that Christians have for the story and teaching of Jesus.