Friday, April 12, 2019

Articles on Textual Criticism

It’s hard to keep up with everything that’s published even in one’s own discipline these days. At any rate, here are a few articles I’ve read recently. Feel free to let us know in the comments what I’ve missed or what you’re reading (or writing).

Jonge, Hank Jan de. “Erasmus’ Novum Testamentum of 1519.” NovT 61, no. 1 (2019): 1–25.

Abstract. Erasmus’ Novum Testamentum of 1519 is an improved and enlarged edition of his Novum Instrumentum of 1516. The chief component remained his new version of the NT in more cultivated Latin than that of the Vulgate. But the 1519 edition also includes several Greek paratexts not yet printed in 1516. This article discusses the Greek witnesses which were used for the new edition and points out Greek and Latin readings in which it differs from 1516. The importance of the 1519 Novum Testamentum is that it constitutes the consolidation of Erasmus’ humanistic programme for promoting the study of the NT as an essentially philological discipline. The work is Erasmus’ self-confident vindication of this programme against advocates of the Vulgate and scholastic theology.
As to be expected from de Jonge, this is a well-informed look at Erasmus’s second edition with plenty of good info on the first edition and how the second differed.

Miller, Jeff. “Breaking the Rules: Lectio Brevior Potior and New Testament Textual Criticism.” BT 70, no. 1 (2019): 82–93.

Abstract. Though the principle regarding a preference for the shorter reading is often still included in descriptions of text-critical method, it has fallen out of use. The maxim lectio brevior potior (“prefer the shorter reading”) should not be, and in fact is not, a factor in the modern practice of New Testament textual criticism. This article briefly states reasons for the maxim’s inapplicability and then surveys a large amount of contemporary text-critical and exegetical literature to demonstrate the maxim’s demise.
I’m not convinced that lectio brevior is actually dead, but I am convinced that it should be.

Johnson, Nathan C. “Living, Active, Elusive: Toward a Theology of Textual Criticism.” Journal of Reformed Theology 12, no. 2 (2018): 83–102.

Abstract. Although the doctrine of scripture is central to systematic theology, one aspect of Christian scripture is rarely engaged, namely, the ongoing presence of textual variants. And although the reconstruction of the earliest form of Christian scripture is the primary object of textual criticism, text critics have rarely given a theological rationale for their discipline. Across the disciplinary divide, this essay attempts a rapprochement. For systematic theology, the essay underscores the challenges of the variable, fluid text that is Christian scripture. For textual criticism, it calls attention to two useful theological concepts and retrieves the bivalent reading strategies of two premodern scholars, Origen and Augustine, who artfully blended theology and nascent textual criticism.
This one isn’t as recent as the others, but, having mentioned my excitement about Dirk’s chapter on theology in his new book, I was reminded of this article from Nathan Johnson that I read last year. In the end, I’m not convinced that “bivalence” is the way forward but it’s refreshing to see serious theological reflection on TC happening at this level. This article probably deserves its own blog post really.


  1. As well as other problems with lectio brevior, there is the obvious issue that it has already been applied to the TR. Once you've got a shorter text you can't keep trimming it ad infinitum.

    1. Amen, sounds like it's high-time to unwind the Critical Text. Imagine a Doctor telling you amputation was/is the wrong method of treatment after a previous team of Doctor's have already performed the procedure.

  2. thanks Peter, did you have a chance to look at that Shaw article I sent you?

    1. That sounds vaguely familiar. What was it on again?