Friday, March 03, 2006

Peter R. Rodgers joins blog

I am delighted to announce that Peter R. Rodgers has joined the blog. Peter is author of a number of articles on textual criticism in places like the Journal of Theological Studies, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik as well as of many reviews on text-critical matters in Novum Testamentum. One work of his I would highlight is his book The Scribes: A Novel about the Early Church (1stbooks, 2000). Here is what two reviewers from had to say about it:

Mary Sorens
'How do you know that your Bible is accurate? This has always been a spiritual or philosophical question for me, and the answer usually revolved around God's sovereignty in working through humans. This novel doesn't discard that idea, but it shows us through ordinary characters what the actual transcription process was like.

Here our eyes are opened to the fact that the accuracy of Scripture depended on the decisions of many Christians over many years. We see the dilemmas that they faced when the true text did not say what they wished that it did. We read of the struggles that they endured as Christians in a hostile environment. We understand the challenges that they dealt with when they discovered two different versions of the same text. Finally, we see that many scribes were faithful Christians who were determined to maintain the accuracy of the Scriptures, even if it was harmful to their cause at the time.

This novel will give you a deeper understanding of your Christian heritage. It will make you proud to be a part of this great movement of God and God's people in the world. Its romantic elements will keep you interested and involved in the story. But the value of this novel is in educating us about the Scriptures that we hold today.'

Jeffrey Boyd
'This novel about the love life of Justin and Juliana brings the Christian church of AD 179-180 alive, and gives us a sense of what it felt like to live in the Roman Empire as a minority religion that was generally viewed with contempt. But, even more important, this book makes us dramatically aware of issues of New Testament textual criticism, such as why the end of the Gospel of Mark is missing in many manuscripts. The study of how the documents evolved that later became the "New Testament" is an esoteric scholarly arena into which few lay people would venture. But this novel makes it simple amidst the love life of Justin and Juliana, two scribes involved in copying Scripture, how the Gospels of Mark and John came to have exactly the wording they now have. Rodgers' novel might have the title, "How the Orthodox Text of the New Testament Was Defended Against Corruption." There is continual debate inside the hero's mind as to the necessity of preserving (i.e. copying onto a new scroll or parchment) the text of the Gospels exactly as it was originally written by the Evangelists, even though modification of the text would have made the Gospels more marketable to the audience of AD 179. This novel covers the same years as the movie "Gladiator."

"The Scribes," although written for lay people, is a response to a controversial but esoteric and dry scholarly book by Bart Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. Ehrman claimed that scribes who copied the Gospels century after century altered the text so as to make it more "orthodox," thereby corrupting it. Rodgers' novel takes the opposite view: that many scribes were scrupulously accurate, and that every scribe in the Roman Empire read everyone else's work, with the end result that the Gospels as we now have them are precisely what was originally written by the Evangelists.'

It is of course a layman’s introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism somewhat prior to Ehrman’s, Misquoting Jesus, of which Peter will shortly be bringing out a corker review (publication details to be announced in due time). Peter is working on a sequel to The Scribes.

Peter also publishes hymns and poems and has written a book entitled Knowing Jesus (a good topic).


  1. The sequel would be what? The Printers?

  2. The second in the series will feature "a missionary journey to
    Gaul and Britain, undertaken by the scribes in response to a request sent to Bishop Eleutherus". The third vol. is on the N. African church. The fourth focuses on the Syriac domain.

  3. Um ... Misinformation Alert!

    I couldn't help noticing Jeffrey Boyd's statement that "The Scribes" helps us become dramatically aware of issues of New Testament textual criticism "such as why the end of the Gospel of Mark is missing in many manuscripts."

    What "many" manuscripts is he talking about? Is "many manuscripts" a fair way to describe versional evidence?

  4. I would say that it is. Given the watershed divide pre- and post-Gutenburg, anything consisting of pen on parchment is considered of some value to the textual critic, unless his or her a priori beliefs dictate otherwise.

    The reason why Mark is missing in many of the versional manuscripts could be that it was missing in the vorlage of their exemplar. Or it could be that Georgian and Armenian scribes passed through the entire Byzantine empire, mss tucked in their travel bags, until reaching Alexandria to discover that their text contained an unacceptable interpolation that could encourage the premature rise of a Charasmatic movement back in their home churches, and were able to expunge it on the authority of the Alexandrian Bishop.

    I would think it was the former, but others could have varying opinions.