Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Textual Criticism in the 1970s and 1980s


Was there an interlude in the discipline of NT textual criticism in the mid-20th century? Eldon Epp thought so. Kurt Aland disagreed. Whichever side you take, I noticed an interest contrast today in an article by Georg Luck published in 1981 on the state of classical textual criticism. 

Writing shortly after Epp made his provocative claim about an interlude, Luck wrote these words introducing an extended review of several books: “Above all, these works show that textual criticism today is as an essential tool of classical scholarship as it has ever been.” 

That’s an interesting contrast. At roughly the same period of time, a NT scholar was suggesting the discipline was in a lull on his side of things while a classicist was saying it was thriving on his. I have no grand conclusion to draw. Just an observation.


  1. Alexander Thomson8/16/2023 7:53 pm

    $84 or so to read the three pieces?

  2. Epp seems to have moderated his view as time went on...

    "2. This may appear to be contradictory to my Hatch Memorial Lecture delivered at the 1973 Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Chicago (“The Twentieth-Century Interlude in New Testament Textual Criticism,” Journal of Biblical Literature 93 [1974]: 386-414 [= STM 83-108)), but a quarter century has passed, and, as the following discussions show, progress has been made in numerous respects. I now find myself in agreement, therefore, with the more optimistic outlook in L. W. Hurtado, “Beyond the Interlude? Developments and Directions in New Testament Textual Criticism,” in Studies in the Early Text of the Gospels and Acts:" Rethinking NT TC p.19

  3. I have my own opinion as to what made it last so long, but as someone who entered that field years before Hurtado foresaw an end to it, I am delighted that we find ourselves now well past it.

  4. Perhaps there was simply an era when you could point to your field of study as somehow negelected as a way to draw attention to it (and to you) and to write another paper on how neglected your field of study is. Cf. Elliott's 'The Rehabilitation of an Exegetical Step-Child: 1 Peter in Recent Research' (1976).

    1. I acknowledge that this point would be stronger if I could remember some more examples.