Saturday, March 02, 2019

New Book on Textual Criticism and Apologetics

We have had discussions on this blog before about mistakes well-intentioned Christians often make when defending the Bible. There was a lively discussion about three years ago when The Gospel Coalition published an excerpt from Greg Gilbert’s book Why Trust the Bible? titled “Debunking Silly Statements About the Bible“ that had a number of “silly statements” of its own. I seem to remember a lively comments section at TGC as well, but they seem to have removed comments sections at some point. To be clear, I am glad there are popular authors defending the Bible. That is an important work, and I would want to see more of that (and done well), not less.

I recently came across a couple of other posts in the last month that make some of the same mistakes, and I was again reminded of the words of one of our blog editors:

A New Book

I am happy to report that a book several of us have been working on for about three years now is finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Peter Gurry and I co-edited a book that seeks to give a good resource to people who are doing good work but are not manuscript specialists themselves. It is hard to keep up-to-date with everything, and we get that, so we wanted to help where we can by showing where the problems often are and making suggestions for how to improve important discussions like “why trust the Bible?”. The book is Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism, and it is due out in November from IVP Academic. Just in time for ETS and SBL! IVP has a book page here.

Here is a table of contents:

Front matter
Daniel B. Wallace
More front matter
  1. Introduction
    Peter J. Gurry and Elijah Hixson
  2. Myths about Autographs: What They Were and How Long They May Have Survived
    Timothy N. Mitchell
  3. Math Myths: How Many Manuscripts We Have and Why More Isn’t Always Better
    Jacob W. Peterson
  4. Myths about Classical Literature: Responsibly Comparing the New Testament to Ancient Works
    James B. Prothro
  5. Dating Myths 1: How We Determine the Ages of Manuscripts
    Elijah Hixson
  6. Dating Myths 2: How Later Manuscripts Can Be Better Manuscripts
    Gregory R. Lanier
  7. Myths about Copyists: the Scribes Who Copied Our Earliest Manuscripts
    Zachary J. Cole
  8. Myths about Copying: the Mistakes and Corrections Scribes Made
    Peter Malik
  9. Myths about Transmission: The Text of Philemon from Beginning to End
    S. Matthew Solomon
  10. Myths about Variants: Why Most Variants Are Insignificant and Why Some Can’t Be Ignored
    Peter J. Gurry
  11. Myths about Orthodox Corruption: Were Scribes Influenced by Theology and How Can We Tell?
    Robert D. Marcello
  12. Myths about Patristics: What the Church Fathers Thought about Textual Variation
    Andrew Blaski
  13. Myths about Canon: What the Codex Can and Can’t Tell Us
    John D. Meade
  14. Myths about Early Translations: Their Number, Importance, and Limitations
    Jeremiah Coogan
  15. Myths About Modern Translations: Variants, Verdicts, and Versions
    Edgar Battad Ebojo
End matter


  1. Thanks to all the contributors for helping to advance the discussion. Love the Peter Head quote!

  2. Kind of a silly question, but is there any possibility of a sequel, dealing with the OT issues?

    1. That would be great. I think it would have to be a prequel though.

    2. I would say that it will fill a bunch of obvious gaps in Christian apologetics.I noticed that each one of the 14 groups of issues has its own counterpart in the OT studies. Enemies of the faith are starting to direct their fire on the Old Testament,asking questions like "Why is there an eclectic text only of the NT?", "How do you choose between differing readings in the MT and the LXX?", "What makes you think that the longer version of Jeremiah is the legitimate one?", etc.

    3. I don't think only enemies of the faith wonder about such things. After all, if we believe in verbal inspiration, we ought to consider worthwhile to expend effort to seek out the original wording the OT, and to base our search on things other than our impressions, what we're used to, what makes us comfortable, and the like.

    4. I can see you're a rather pallid Star Wars fan.

    5. //Enemies of the faith are starting to direct their fire on the Old Testament,asking questions like "Why is there an eclectic text only of the NT?", "How do you choose between differing readings in the MT and the LXX?", "What makes you think that the longer version of Jeremiah is the legitimate one?", etc.//

      None of those are questions have to do with being an enemy of the faith. Evangelicals ought to be asking them, and evangelical theology doesn't preclude a variety of ways to answer them.

    6. Well, the literary discontinuities suggest a tangled web of redactional layers...

    7. (The above is a reply to Peter Malik.)

    8. My point is not that Christians don't ask such questions. They certainly do. My point is that enemies of the faith are starting to utilize the said questions in their assaults on the Bible. One example is Bart Ehrman. In his 2009 debate with James White he brought up the fact that among the DDS is a version of Jeremiah, 15% shorter than the one in the MT. Another example is the Islamic apologist Ijaz Ahmad, who wrote this article:

      A third example is an atheist who once said in a Youtube video (no longer extant): "You Christians like to boast that there are 24 000+ mss of the NT, but never mention the number mss of the OT. Why is that? Have nobody bothered to count them?"

      I can provide more examples, but these should suffice, I think. God bless.

    9. Thanks for clarifying. I certainly agree that we need to address these things to the best of our ability. As far as the apologetics of Jeremiah, one thing I would say is to look at what specifically is apparently lacking in the Septuagint* or added the MT - it's not very striking; the material in question is almost always found in undisputed passages elsewhere, such that the content of Jeremiah's message is not in doubt, only the rhetorical techniques he uses. As to the second point, I haven't looked at that article, so can't comment at the moment. As to the third point, OT textual criticism is woefully under-appreciated by evangelicals. There are no deep dark secrets in OTTC that fatally undermine the Christian faith, but it deserves more study than it has gotten.

      *The Qumran fragments of Jer are very fragmentary, so none can be said to be 15% shorter because we can't make a full comparison. That said, they certainly do contribute to the discussion. For example, two of them (4QJerb, d) seem to broadly reflect the sort of Hebrew text from which the LXX was translated.

  3. Apologetics should be taught in every Christian school. In addition, the criticisms of leading skeptics should be presented. Christians need to know the evidence for their faith and be able to defend it. I would encourage everyone to read the following books in their investigation of the truth claims of Christianity:

    Christian authors:
    –“The Resurrection of the Son of God” by NT Wright
    –“The Death of the Messiah” by Raymond Brown
    –“Evidence that Demands a Verdict” by Josh and Sean McDowell

    Skeptic authors:
    –“Misquoting Jesus” by Bart Ehrman
    –“The Outsider Test for Faith” by John Loftus
    –“Why I Believed, Reflections of a Former Missionary” by Kenneth W. Daniels