Friday, June 22, 2007

Metzger's Textual Commentary goes electronic


David Lang announces on the Accordance Blog that Metzger's Textual Commentary is now available for the Accordance Bible Software for Macintosh. The tool costs $35.

The textual commentary is of course very helpful, and an electronic version opens up new possibilities. Actually, I was thinking the other day of going through the commentary and look at places where the committee refers to "paleographic" explanations behind readings. With an electronic version that becomes easy.

On his blog Lang says, "For those like myself who know just enough about textual criticism to be dangerous, a critical apparatus is helpful, but it can often leave you even more confused. Metzger's textual commentary is like an apparatus 'for the rest of us,' explaining text-critical decisions in the closest thing to layman's terms I've seen."

I understand what Lang means, but it might be very dangerous to use the commentary as an "apparatus." This points to a problem. Perhaps many students (and others?) learn to deal with text-critical problems by going to the "key" in Metzger's commentary without any wrestling of their own. What is your experience?


  1. Tommy,

    It would certainly be dangerous to use Metzger's commentary in place of an apparatus, in the same way that it's dangerous to read a commentary before working through a biblical passage. On the other hand, it's dangerous for non-specialists to dabble in a specialized field of study without really understanding the issues involved. In much the same way that a beginning Greek student might look up a word in a lexicon and pick the definition he "likes" best, without giving much consideration to the usage of that word in context; someone new to textual criticism may be tempted to look at the apparatus and pick the reading he "likes" best. Metzger's Textual Commentary is an important corrective to that impulse, because it exposes the new student to some of the factors weighing in favor of one reading over another.

    All that to say that I didn't mean to imply that Metzger's Textual Commentary should be used in lieu of an apparatus. Since Accordance offers the NA27 apparatus, the CNTTS apparatus, and the Tischendorf apparatus, I'm all for users taking a both-and rather than an either-or approach! ;-)

    Finally, for more on the dangers of Bible study software in general, see this article I wrote some time ago for the Christian Macintosh Users Group.

  2. David,

    Thank you for your balanced response! I introduce Metzger's commentary to my Greek class early on, and now there is also Omanson's textual commentary, even more adapted to the "layman". I agree with you that there is a great benefit for the student to see how the evidence is carefully weighed by the committee.

    The real challenge then is to stimulate the student to take the next step, and not take all for granted in the commentary. It is sometimes disappointing even to read a commentary, when the author does little more than to refer to Metzger's commentary. This is a different "danger."

  3. FYI: Metzger has been available for Bibleworks 7 for some time now. I'm not trying to start a fight b/w the values of Bibleworks and Accordance, just letting people know who might not have.ww

  4. Speaking of laymen and textual criticism maybe someone on this blog would be interested in doing a series of posts on how to make proper use of an apparatus and the other tools available. I suspect that some of the readers of this blog are interested in the topic of textual criticism but have little or no knowledge of how to actually practice it.


  5. Tommy,

    You are probably aware that the Accordance people have perhaps the greatest concern for the potential damage that can be done by laypeople armed with scholarly (digital) resources which they do not fully understand. They might suggest that the use of Metzger's commentary will actually prevent people from making unwarranted conjectures based solely upon a Nestle-Aland critical apparatus and a shallow understanding of textual criticism.

    Is it really such a bad thing that non-specialists defer to the work of specialists? I am thinking in particular of the large majority of the people who will use it within a pastoral vocation.

    Good question.

  6. As mentioned, Bibleworks 7 have Metzger's Commentary in electronic form and this really is a helpful feature.

    To show how helpful this is (and the dubious quality of Metzger's decisions), consider the following data:

    If you do a search of homoeoteleuton you get all the refs to the word throughout Metzger's commentary - very helpful (although you have to scroll through the separate NT books to find the highlighted refs).

    When you analyze the decisions in which HT is mentioned, however, you see a pattern emerging in the commentary.

    For example, in Matthew, Metzger uses the word HT 9 times, BUT in 8 of the 9 references, despite the possibility of HT being a factor, Metzger prefers the SHORTER reading. In other words, despite the fact that the transcriptional evidence (possible HT) should make us suspicious of the shorter reading, Metzger sticks with it.

    Now, of course, I would agree with some of Metzger's decisions (I agree with him in 4 of the 9 cases). Here they are:

    10:23 - D adds a sentence
    21:32 - Delta omits due to HT (this is the one case where Metzger prefers the longer reading)
    27:35 - a number of MSS add a quote from Psalm 22
    28:9 - Byz adds a bridging sentence

    However (and here is real stinker), in all of the other cases a handful of Alexandrian mss have a shorter reading that probably arose due to HT, but Metzger sticks with his preferred mss - even in the face of possible HT:

    12:15 - Aleph and B alone omit (probably due to HT)
    12:47 - Aleph, B, L 579, 597 and L387 omit the verse (prob due to HT)
    19:9 - Aleph, D, L, Z and a few lectionaries omit the phrase
    19:29 - B (on it own) omits 'or wife' (poss due to HT)
    20:16 - Aleph, B, L, Z and half a dozen other mss omit an entire phrase (poss due to HT).

    This highlights two problems, really, with Metzger's commentary:

    1. It prefers the shorter reading (despite the fact that scribes omitted more frequently than they added)

    2. For all the talk of Griesbach's exception clauses that we hear when the subject of lectio brevior comes up, when HT is a factor, Metzger completely ignores the possibility and STILL prefers the shorter reading.

    Lesson: Beware blindly following Metzger's textual decisions

  7. I agree with Andrew. Metzger belonged to the generation of scholars to whom "Aleph B" and lectio brevior ruled the day :) (nothing against him, I often agree with him, but not always).

    What I find very disturbing is the tendency in modern exegetical scholarship writing commentaries to simply refer to Metzger without any attempt to tackle with the textual problems. i.e. exegetes have became laisy to do textual criticism, leaving it almost totally to experts who they then follow almost blindly.

    Take it from someone writing a ThD in textual criticism and finding most of the commentaries useless :)

  8. CA: "You are probably aware that the Accordance people have perhaps the greatest concern for the potential damage that can be done by laypeople armed with scholarly (digital) resources which they do not fully understand."

    Yes, and the article that David referred to at the end of his posting, in which he warns for the dangers of Bible study software was useful. My original post was not meant as being negative, just to take out some aspect for debate. So no one is happier for insightful responses.

    It is definitely good when non-specalists learn from specialists, I fully agree. Nevertheless, as a teacher my aim is to share with the students not only the "truths" but primarily to give them the tools with which they can work out the truths themselves, especially in connection with the pastoral vocation. Metzger's commentary is a good tool, but it is also good if a student can sometimes argue with it...

  9. The problem is there aren't very many easily accessible commentaries on the entire NT. If you don't like Metzger, write and publish your own!

  10. A discussion of the role of apparatuses in exegesis from another Bible software company: Critical Apparatuses-what and why.

  11. Wich font should i use to write the critical apparatus on microsoft word?