Thursday, September 07, 2006

Help a Masters student

I've had an enquiry from a student doing a ThM at an evangelical seminary asking which books would be most helpful to students beginning to think about textual criticism of the NT.

My recommended starter book would be: Kurt Aland and Barbara Aland, The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism (tr. E.F. Rhodes; 2nd edn; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989).

If a student were only to be allowed to read one book, which should it be?


  1. I would recommend Metzger's Text of the New Testament prior to Aland. Not only does Metzger provide a simpler introduction, he also brings a student up to speed on all the basics of TC just as well as Aland, and he avoids the (IMO) circular approach to categorizing mss that the Alands use. I haven't read the 4th edition yet. But based on things previously posted here on ETC, the student may be better off just sticking with the 3rd.

    After Metzger I would recommend Rethinking Textual Criticism, edited by Black. It will introduce the student to arguments favoring ecclecticism and byzantine priority beyond what Metzger will provide (although I think another advantage of Metzger over Aland is how fair Metzger is to these alternative positions).

    I think after those two books the student might want to read Aland. But he will probably have gotten enough tips from the references in those first two books that he will already have decided what to read next (Silva's reply at the end of Rethinking includes a hearty endorsement of Ehrman's Orthodox Corruption, which also wouldn't be a bad choice to read at this point).

  2. I think in general I would go for Metzger first: certainly easier to read than the Alands; but the new 4th edition is good and much more up-to-date than the Alands.

    But no one is stuck with only one book. I usually say read them both, Metzger first then the Alands.

  3. I'm sorry, I missed the one thing I always tell students to read - the introduction to their NA27.

  4. Metzger's 3rd edition, definitely. (Ehrman does a bit too much polemicizing in his changes to the 4th edition). Metzger lays out the basic issues much more understandably than Aland, IMO.

  5. If one is really speaking of what would be helpful to students who are only "beginning to think about textual criticism of the NT," I would add Keith Elliott and Ian Moir, Manuscripts and the Text of the New Testament: An Introduction for English Readers (T&T Clark, 1995).

    As regards Metzger's 3rd versus 4th edition: beyond what I had stated some time earlier regarding certain factual errors in the new revision, one also should consider the 4th edition's excision of a good bit of material relating to certain minority approaches to Greek and Latin textual criticsm. These should have been retained in order to provide a more thorough conspectus of information for the beginning student.

  6. I really liked...
    A Student's Guide to Textual Criticism of the Bible
    By: Paul D. Wegner
    ISBN: 0830827315

    It covers both NT and OT issues, and goes over how to read NA/UBS aparatus.

  7. What is this 'polemicising'?
    Remember that the fourth edition is a jointly authored work.

  8. I haven't read any of the above mentioned books yet, and I first set out to study textual criticism nine years ago, while a master's student.

    The books I have read include:

    The Revision Revised by Burgon
    The Identity of the New Testament Text by Pickering
    The King James Version Defended by Hill
    Introduction to the Byzantine Textform by Robinson
    New Testament Textual Criticism - Science, Art or Religion? by Wilson

    One I'm presently working on is:
    A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament by Scrivener

  9. I know this is not the subject matter... But I was wondering if I could get everyone's advice/opinions on schools. The plan is to learn and then teach accademically with a focus around Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern history, literature, and languages.

    I hope to start my Masters in a year or so then go on to get my PhD. I'd like to know which schools/faculty/curriculum you recommend that cater well to this kind of study.

    I don't need to go to the best of the best reputation-wise. And I'd much rather go to schools that are more secular and less "evangelical" than something like Dallas TS.

    Currently, I live and work in SoCal. Actually just a hop and a skip away from Fuller. So I was thinking of going there to get a Masters of Theology in OT and ANE, but wasn't sure if that would be a good decision since I don't know what else is out there and the only good OT professior at Fuller I know of is John Goldengay (read his stuff on patriarchal narratives/history)


  10. PM Head wrote:
    "Remember that the fourth edition is a jointly authored work."

    Well on the paper, yes.
    It is basically that a lot of stuff has been left untouched and Ehrman added some paragraphs/chapters.
    I have pointed out several things where Ehrman misrepresented the evidence on the tc-list already.
    What I hear is that many are not happy with the situation. Professors in Germany recommend the THIRD edition to their students. I agree with this.
    Let Metzger be Metzger and Ehrman Ehrman. The update was only about 50% in the better direction. The other 50% are misrepresentations. I think Ehrman was not the best choice for this job.

    BTW, a very good recource is also Bob Waltz' TC encyclopedia:

  11. for slavophone:
    since you asked, let me recommend that you spend one to two years in Israel becoming fluent in Hebrew. Schools outside Israel do not currently demand this, but none who have done this regret it. Afterwards, any school is fine that otherwise meets your needs.

  12. Eric,

    you do not need to apologetically use the bracketed abbreviation (IMO) when arguing that Aland's manuscript categorization method is circular.

    Ehrman argued the case in an article somewhere at some time and the view is shared by others.

    The Alands classify most mss (but with some notable exceptions), by (a) counting which mss agree the most with THEIR resultant text, which (b) was itself based on an a priori preference for the very same narrowly defined set of manuscripts, not to mention (c) using transcriptional 'rules' derived, not from any research-base, but rather from an a priori preference for mss which make the text shorter, harsher and more discordant (surprise, surprise, the very same set of narrowly-defined mss). This is the stuff of wheels within wheels.

    BTW, Metzger promotes exactly the same methodology in his book, but without letting its logical absurdity become so obvious.

  13. I'd definitely recommend Wegner's Student Guide (ISBN: 0830827315) as a beginning point. An exceptional introduction, it also contains an excursus on how to read the textual critical notes in both the OT and the NT. A wonderful glossary of TC terms is its best asset.

  14. I would second Mark Goodacre's suggestion that David Parker's "Living Text" serves as a good intro not only to the how but the why.

  15. I agree that Metzger's 3rd is tops. In addition the Intro to either NA26th or 27th is highly informative. But I would also add Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: An Introduction to Palaeography.

  16. I HIGHLY recommend that everyone, student and professional, visit this website for a better grounding in THE TRUTH: This site exposes the Satanic influence of even the New King James Version revisors. The connection between non-KJVs and Satanic power is clearly demonstrated. There are also books that will show how the KJV manuscripts have the TRUE WORD OF GOD preserved and how God has protected the transmission process. If you do not read this, you also will be guilty of Satanism. God protect your souls.

  17. 'Slaveofone' asked about schools where he could focus on OT languages and Ancient Near East.

    If you're really serious about ANE history then you'll have to go somewhere where they teach relevant languages. Dallas Theological Seminary is one of very few seminaries where they teach Akkadian, which is often why their programme is highly regarded in British Universities. I don't know whether Fuller teaches Akkadian, but there are nearby secular places that teach it, e.g. UCLA. There are, of course, other languages that may be relevant: Ugaritic, Middle Egyptian. You really need to work out more specifically what it is that you want to do bearing in mind the cost in terms of time and finance that you will need to pursue certain specialisms.

  18. DB:

    "The books I have read include:..."

    The list of 5 books did not appear to me to be very broad, particularly since 3 of them are polemical. If you really are serious about NT TC—and from the number of comments you leave on this blog I take it that you are—it is essential to read a range of basic texts by the likes of Aland or Hort. It is impossible to judge the degree to which their arguments are cogent if they are only read in digested form or it selective quotation from others.

  19. PJW:
    "It is impossible to judge the degree to which their arguments are cogent if they are only read in digested form or it selective quotation from others. "


    Oops, I thought you were referring to Scrivener and Burgon.

  20. But it's not exactly as if people do not read Burgon or Scrivener. I doubt if there are any major textual critics who have not read large amounts of their work.

    I've read well over 1100 pages of Burgon. There are not many other authors of whom I have read so many words. Unfortunately, though Burgon makes good points (doctrinally, on isolated readings, and in relation to Patristic citations), he fails to engage adequately with the arguments of Westcott and Hort (which are by no means perfect) and seems to derive his textual conviction from his ecclesiology (esp. the Vincentian canon), which evangelicals will find rather hard to subscribe to.

    The discovery of P75 has proven many of Burgon's assertions as to the origin of the text of Vaticanus demonstrably false.

    PS: Burgon's best book is his one on the doctrine of scripture: Inspiration and Interpretation. It's especially good for giving to people who think that Warfield was an innovator in his definitions of inerrancy, or that such views have only been held by evangelicals.

  21. FWIW Gaussen's Theopneustia (published 11 years before Burgon's Inspiration and Interpretation) gives a treatment of inerrancy of the autographa that is practically identical to the Warfieldian view that has dominated evangelicalism for the past 100 years. I also believe that it is reasonably easy to show that this high view of Scripture was the same as that advocated in the Westminster confesion, as well as the writings of the reformers, early church fathers, Jesus, and the authors of Scripture themselves. But still, I agree, it is worthwhile to put a rest to the tired old line that Warfield had to borrow an astronomical term (inerrant) to invent a new doctrine by pointing to earlier authors such as Burgon and Gaussen.

  22. Last year on the TC-list I responded to a similar question by writing:
    "I suggest that you restrict yourself for now to reading the founding fathers of textual criticism: Greisbach, Tregelles, Hort, Burgon, and Scrivener."

    to which another list member disagreed, considering inter alia that "A beginner will have difficulty (both practically and monetarily) getting a hold of
    any of the works recommended (with the exception of Burgon and Scrivener)."

    I've had a hard enough time getting a hold of either. Thanks for making such links available from this site.

  23. These authors wrote with no or almost no knowledge of the papyri and when fewer data from the mss were available. There must therefore be a strong case for not starting with them, even though beginning with authors in chronological order might help one get a better grasp of intellectual history.

  24. This is late in the discussion but in regards to the OT no one has yet mentioned Emmanuel Tov's Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible. It is the standard.

    Brotzman has a great introduction to textual criticism of the Old Testament that would be good to read before delving into Tov.

    Dave Black wrote the NT companion to Brotzman.