Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A New Approach to Textual Criticism – A Book that Will Keep You Awake

It is now possible to order my and Peter Gurry’s introduction to the CBGM from the SBL website or from Amazon.

Authors: Tommy Wasserman and Peter J. Gurry
ISBN: 9781628371994
Price: $19.95
Binding: Paperback (hardcover $34.95 here)
Publication Date: November October 2017
Pages: 164

Below is information from the publisher. Note in particular Peter Head’s endorsement, “It kept me awake almost the whole way through.”


An essential introduction for scholars and students of New Testament Greek
With the publication of the widely used twenty-eighth edition of Nestle-Aland’s Novum Testamentum Graece and the fifth edition of the United Bible Society Greek New Testament, a computer-assisted method known as the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (CBGM) was used for the first time to determine the most valuable witnesses and establish the initial text. This book offers the first full-length, student-friendly introduction to this important new method. After setting out the method’s history, separate chapters clarify its key concepts such as genealogical coherence, textual flow diagrams, and the global stemma. Examples from across the New Testament are used to show how the method works in practice. The result is an essential introduction that will be of interest to students, translators, commentators, and anyone else who studies the Greek New Testament.


  • A clear explanation of how and why the text of the Greek New Testament is changing
  • Step-by-step guidance on how to use the CBGM in textual criticism
  • Diagrams, illustrations, and glossary of key terms


Tommy Wasserman is Professor of Biblical Studies at Ansgar Teologiske Høgskole, Kristiansand, Norway. He is secretary of the International Greek New Testament Project, serves on the board of the Centre for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, and has started projects on manuscript transcription and manuscript forgeries for the Museum of the Bible. He is Associate Editor of TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism. Wasserman has authored and edited several books including The Epistle of Jude: Its Text and Transmission (2006) and Studies in Isaiah: History, Theology and Reception (2017).

Peter J. Gurry is Assistant Professor of New Testament at Phoenix Seminary. He has worked with the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts and the Museum of the Bible to both preserve and publish New Testament manuscripts.
This is Resources for Biblical Study 80. Download a printable standing order sheet to see other available volumes in the series and to give to your librarian to set up a standing order.

View the hardcover edition of this title.

Praise for A New Approach to Textual Criticism

“This book is essential reading for everyone who wants to understand how contemporary research is changing our understanding of the text of the New Testament or the significance of this new method for all textual scholarship. It is a clear and perceptive explanation of the methodology behind the new editions of the Nestle-Aland and the United Bible Societies Greek New Testaments, as well as the major edition on which they are based. With a historical overview and suggestions for further reading, it contains a step-by-step guide and examples that shed new light on such difficult passages as the first verse of Mark’s Gospel. The authors, who have practiced the methodology and studied it in detail, are ideally placed to offer this simple but thought-provoking guide.”
David Parker
Professor of Digital Philology and Director of the Institute for the Textual Scholarship and Electronic Editing (ITSEE)
University of Birmingham

“Wasserman and Gurry have together written an extremely useful book. They introduce and explain in detail the history and inner workings of the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method, a method that has become extremely important to the textual criticism of the Greek New Testament through its foundational role in determining the Initial text for the Editio Critica Maior and, in consequence, the printed text in the current (28th) and future (projected) editions of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece. All students of the Greek New Testament … are in their debt for writing such a helpful and informed account. It kept me awake almost the whole way through.”
Peter M. Head
New Testament Tutor
Wycliffe Hall, University of Oxford

A New Approach to Textual Criticism is a clear introduction to a complex method, the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method. It reflects the transition of textual criticism into the digital age, by showing a new path to deal with the multiplicity of the New Testament manuscripts, leaving behind the categorization of text-types.”
Claire Clivaz
Head of Digital Enhanced Learning
SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, Lausanne

“For anybody who cares about the text of the New Testament, there will be few books published in biblical studies over the next decade that will be more important than this one. Tommy Wasserman and Peter Gurry describe some of the tectonic shifts that are currently occurring in the way that New Testament text critics are reconstructing the earliest recoverable form of the Greek text of the New Testament. With great care and clarity, the authors explain the intricacies of the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method in ways that both scholars and nonspecialists can readily understand. For anybody who wishes to know how the text of latest printed scholarly editions of the Greek New Testament has been determined and why it differs from earlier editions, this is the book to read.”
Paul Foster
Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity
School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh

“This book will be of great service in helping scholars and serious students of the New Testament to grasp what the CBGM is. To this point it has largely been a “black box” for many.The explanations are clear, and the examples will be particularly helpful in showing what the CBGM offers and how to make use of the online access to it.”
Larry W. Hurtado, PhD, FRSE
Emeritus Professor of New Testament Language, Literature and Theology
University of Edinburgh
In addition to the endorsements so far published on the SBL website, we have received this one from Dan Wallace:
“Writing an introduction to the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method for the uninitiated must be akin to trying to teach the Amish how to drive a Ferrari. CBGM is a complex method that Wasserman and Gurry have simplified with a rather humane writing style, but this does not mean that those who have minimal exposure to this method will jump at the chance to understand it. They should, and Wasserman and Gurry are the right guides to gently bring them into the realm of 21st century NT textual criticism. This book is a welcome addition to the library of anyone (not just the neophyte) who wants to understand this arcane, yet foundational, discipline that has grown in intricacies and subtleties in recent years.”
Daniel B. Wallace
Executive Director
Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts


  1. Hi! This book sounds very interesting. Will it be available in Kindle format?

  2. Yes:

    1. Thank you. Didn’t see it when I checked the other link. Will definitely get my hands on this one.

  3. Don't forget the vital word 'almost' in Dr Head's commendation. Who wrote the last chapter?

    1. Yes, well spotted Dr Williams.

    2. Which leaves us all guessing as to the point in the book at which sleep set in! (I'm not sure I want to know.)

  4. The last chapter is about the future, Pete stayed in the past.

  5. That sounds like an admission of guilt to me.

  6. I tried to go back to the future though.

  7. To paraphrase Mark Twain --
    It's not the parts of the CBGM that I don't understand that worry me; it's the parts that I do understand."

    I just hope the review-readers perceive that no one who's had a close look at the CBGM is saying that it's a new way to make specific text-critical decisions in specific text-critical contests; for the most part it's a way to map manuscripts' texts in a dependence-showing array. And it will probably need to be re-done to include paratextual features that aren't currently being adequately considered.

  8. The CBGM does not make decisions; people using the CBGM make decisions. We make that pretty clear. And it can already incorporate any knowledge gained by paratextual features (or any other features). But to paraphrase myself: read the book!

    1. You wrote, 'it can already incorporate any knowledge', really? If 'it' means 'people making decisions', surely. If 'it' means 'CBGM', I think this statement is perhaps a bit of a stretch, right?

    2. Right, Dirk. I probably could have been clearer. I meant that any information about textual relationships learned from outside the method can be incorporated manually by the human editors and thereby reflected in the CBGM results.

  9. What is a Høgskole? Is the word etymologically related to Hogwarts?

  10. Peter, in theory CBGM could incorporate all sorts of data, but I'd be interested to know how practically it would be any use in dealing with some issues of spelling data. It seems pretty clear in John that the best early spelling of Pilate is πειλατος, but if you start putting that sort of info into your genealogical database for John, won't it skew the relationships? I suspect ECM will have to stick with πιλατος despite the early mss in order to stick with a workable genealogy.

    1. If the CBGM does have to stick with the more common spelling in order to have a workable genealogy how does this affect the relationship between readings in manuscripts as to which precedes the other?
      I ordered the book and am looking forward to reading it!


    2. Spelling is an interesting case. Most textual genealogists (if I can use that term) argue for excluding spelling differences becasue they are thought to be too idiosyncratic, that is, too specific to the scribe and therefore not indicative of textual relations. This is what Richards found when he included data on the movable ν in his work on 1-3 John. On the other hand, Carlo Martini found that even in matters of spelling, P75 and B show close similarities. So, I argue in my thesis that we should include the data of spelling differences (particularly vowel interchanges) in the CBGM but with an option to turn them on or off. That would let us get some really good data to test if or when spelling matters genealogically. This is basically what Tommy and I say in this book too.

  11. Not having read your text yet I have no criticism, but congratulate you on its reasonable price. (I'm coauthor of a book published this month that costs more than I would wish.)