Monday, April 22, 2013

Another review of The Early Text of the New Testament

Over at RBECS Edgar Ebojo has offered a careful review of Charles E. Hill and Michael J. Kruger, eds., The Early Text of the New Testament (Oxford: OUP, 2012).  
Among other things he pinpoints an interesting notion reflected in the work, in that 'scribal habits' tend to be identified with 'singular readings', with insufficient attention to describing the whole notion (let alone the broader range of phenomena which might go in to understanding the habits of a particular scribe). As a contributor I can see how that could have happened, but I think I must have lent my copy to someone, so I couldn't check this out. Further he adds an impressively humungous list of typos and other problems.  


  1. There are a few instances where Edgar has over-played his hand w.r.t. the typos, but in general it would be helpful reading for anyone involved in compiling a bibliography - as to what can go wrong!

  2. I can't say enough how great this book is on understanding the discipline as it stands (at least in evaluating the earliest text). But the volume appears to raise more questions than it answers (at least for myself).
    1) The standard text types are accepted by some authors and are used in their respective chapters. And then others wish to abandon the whole concept of text-types all together. I would love to read more on this issue.
    2) Can early versions be used to evaluate readings? I must have missed something here but I came away with the tentative answer that one cannot in most cases(?). Or at least the methodology in using early versions needs to be re-worked(?).
    3) Does the physical evidence of the papyri (i.e. readers aids, nomina sacra etc.) show some kind of theological commonality or origin? Or do the papyri only show scribal convention with no theological motivation?
    I could bring up more questions like this. I am probably showing my ignorance of the subject more than anything in my above comments, but I would love to read a review which evaluates each chapter and its conclusions. Of course, this would quickly become a book in itself ;). It is fascinating how the same evidence can be used to support different views. I appreciate reviews like Edgar Ebojo's here, Brice Jones' and Rick Brannan's on his Rico Blog, keep them coming!
    Thank you

  3. That list of typos was impressive at first, but quickly grew, in my opinion, excessive.

    And I think I noticed at least one of his own; it seems like a a pronoun and verb are missing in the following line between "as if" and "two different":

    "Also, Fee’s “‰75, ‰66 and Origen: Myth of Early Textual Recension in Alexandria” was entered twice, as if two different articles, simply because only the subtitle of the article was cited in p9-n39 (but correctly quoted in p133-n67)!"

  4. Tim,
    re your first two questions:
    1) Re the debate about “text types”: see E. J. Epp, “Textual Clusters: Their Past and Future in New Testament Textual Criticism,” in The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis, 2nd ed. (ed. Bart D. Ehrman and Michael W. Holmes; NTTSD 46; Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2013 [November 2012]) 519-577.
    2) With regard to the versions, those who study them have become more aware of the importance of studying translational technique and inner-translational variation, and are increasingly reluctant to assume that versional variation implies the use of different Greek exemplars. Perhaps the most spectacular recent example involves the Schøyen Coptic Matthew codex; at first thought to represent a strikingly divergent text of Matthew, it is now increasingly recognized that the apparent differences between the Schøyen Coptic Matthew and the Greek text of Matthew are translational rather than textual in character.
    Mike Holmes

  5. There seems to be a law of nature to the effect that whenever a person points out a typographical error, the chance that the corrector will make a similar error drastically increases.

    When E. Ebojo cites page 18 of the book --

    "two promising avenues not only for the understanding the manuscripts we now have, but also possibly casting light on the earlier period from no manuscript survive" --

    the addition of the second "the" (before "understanding") and the omission of "which" (after "from") occur in Ebojo's online review, but neither error appears in the text being quoted.


    Does anyone think $127 is a high price for the convenience of having these essays bundled together?

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  6. Mr. James Snapp,
    I do think the book is worth the money. I found a very nice used copy on for $85.00, so it can be found for much lower than the prize on Amazon et al.

    Dr. Holmes,
    Thank you very much for your response to my questions. I will definitely read Epp's article. I read some remarks he made about text-types in his "Issues in New Testament Textual Criticism" in the "Rethinking NTTC" book (a great article by the way). It is very interesting how so many assumptions have been made for so long in NTTC studies that only recently have been challenged. Such as; quotations in the fathers, early versions, scribal habits among many other things as well I am sure. "The Early Text of the New Testament" does such a great job at interacting with these issues!
    Thank you