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Fundamentals of New Testament Textual Criticism Paperback – December 4, 2015
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"A quite superb introduction to the subject of textual criticism. It is well organized, readable and engaging, and achieves its objective of wanting to be neither too basic nor overly detailed. It is easily the best text book of its kind. . . . An excellent resource."
TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism
"A fresh and unique midlevel student's introduction to the field of New Testament textual criticism."
Craig S. Keener
— Asbury Theological Seminary
"This very readable textbook provides a helpful and balanced introduction to text criticism aimed at just the right level for beginning students. It is clear, introduces multiple views, gives good reasons for the approaches it favors, and — an unexpected bonus — offers in two relevant chapters useful, concise introductions to canon formation and translation theory."
Michael J. Kruger
— Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte
"Because of the complexity of the field of textual criticism, most introductions are either too detailed or too basic. This exceptional volume by Stanley Porter and Andrew Pitts provides a welcome balance between these two extremes, introducing students to all the critical issues without overloading them with unnecessary detail. It also covers topics that most introductions overlook, such as the development of the New Testament canon and modern English translations. For anyone looking for a balanced, thorough, and yet readable introduction to textual criticism, this is it."
J. K. Elliott
— University of Leeds
"Newcomers to the Greek New Testament will find this guide a useful introduction explaining how the establishing of the text is undertaken. It also gives insight into the treasures awaiting a perceptive user concerning textual variants found in the manuscript tradition."
Craig A. Evans
— Acadia Divinity College
"This is no ordinary introduction to textual criticism. In addition to offering explanations of the criteria and the critical apparatus, Porter and Pitts explain in very practical ways what the discipline tries to do and the thinking that lies behind it. As a bonus readers are treated to up-to-date discussion of the formation of the canon of Scripture, the nature of the materials used in the production of ancient books, and a history of the English Bible and the theories of translation on which translations are based. The book is rich with examples and insights."
David Alan Black
— Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
"Fundamentals of New Testament Textual Criticism is an excellent treatise on a vitally important subject. Stanley Porter and Andrew Pitts were seeking to produce a textbook that falls midway between Bruce Metzger's Text of the New Testament and my own New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide, and they have succeeded brilliantly. . . . Their careful research deepens our understanding of the role of textual criticism in exegesis, and I am confident that this book of theirs will be widely used both inside and outside of the classroom."
— Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
"Porter and Pitts have admirably achieved what they set out to do — provide a succinct introduction to the manuscript tradition of the Greek New Testament for first- and second-year students of Koine Greek. . . . This book is ideal both for students in classrooms and for general readers who seek reliable information about the origins and the text of the New Testament."
Thomas J. Kraus
— University of Zurich
"In this book Stanley E. Porter and Andrew W. Pitts take interested students by the hand and introduce them to the essentials of New Testament textual criticism. . . . They provide welcome, concise assessments of external and internal evidence for judging textual variants. . . . A very useful tool for instructing students in New Testament textual criticism."
About the Author
Andrew W. Pitts is assistant professor of biblical studies at Arizona Christian University in Phoenix.
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PP identifies their related objective as follows:
“In this and the following two chapters, we will outline a (not necessarily the) method for working through variant readings in an attempt to recover the original text of the NT based roughly on the reasoned eclecticism method laid out in the previous chapter.”
As a Skeptic understand that the method PP presents is the method for Traditional Textual Criticism (TTC), the historical and currently dominant position, but not the Skeptical method. As PP presents their methodology the implication is usually that what they are presenting is what they consider to be the most common and what they recommend.
In the big picture PP writes:
“External evidence, most textual critics agree, should take priority in making text-critical judgments, because it is the most objective tangible evidence that we have for the textual history of the NT.”
A fair statement for TTC but Skeptical Textual Criticism (STC) would flip priority to Internal evidence.
Specifically, PP lists the following criteria for External evidence:
1) Date combined with Text-type
2) Geographical distribution
3) Genealogical relationship
Another fair description of TTC and this time also a fair description of the current state of STC. But, STC is relatively new and therefore its methodology is relatively undeveloped and informal compared to TTC’s.
A good methodology to compare TTC’s methodology to would be the English legal system. The following criteria should be considered:
1 - Credibility of source
A - General = Considered in TTC for Manuscripts (Age & Text type). Not generally considered for Patristics. Patristics that exhibit Textual Criticism outlook and critical thinking such as Origen, Eusebius and Jerome, should have more credibility (relative to Patristics). Others with more errors per line and more conclusion oriented like Irenaeus should have less.
B - Specific - variation present? = For the Patristic that presents variation in witness, credibility is less for that specific issue.
2 - Explanatory power
A - Direction (of change) = Considered by TTC for Internal evidence but not so much for External evidence even though it is the single most important question of Textual Criticism. When manuscripts/Patristics have extant evidence of editing/related indications this goes beyond "what" to "when", "how" and "why".
B - Coordination/Consistency with other evidence = Again, TTC considers for Internal evidence, not so much for External. Does the specific "what" witness coordinate with the "what", "when", "how" and "why" witness of other categories of evidence.
3 - Applicability (to the Textual Criticism issue)
A - Scope of the evidence. Group versus individual reference. For Patristics, witness with a context of Textual Criticism has exponentially more weight than witness without.
B - Directness. Explicit or implicit. = TTC tends to round up or down with implications. Implications should be weighted in between Explicit and nothing.
Regarding categories of External evidence PP writes:
“Besides the biblical manuscripts, we also have other Greek manuscript evidence that does not play a direct role in textual criticism but that we should at least recognize and take into account as appropriate. The most important of this evidence is some of the quotations found in some of the early church fathers”
By indicating that Patristic evidence is secondary to Manuscript evidence in the external category PP understates the value of Patristic evidence even in TTC as TTC does favor the Manuscript as to quantity but not quality. STC is flipped with Patristic evidence favored over Manuscript when there is a minimum of Patristic evidence.
In summary then, the presentation of External evidence methodology in Fundamentals of New Testament Textual Criticism is a reasonable presentation of Traditional Textual Criticism with the main criticism being that it has improperly identified Patristic evidence as overly secondary to Manuscript evidence. The complaint is that because the scope of the book is only trying to present Traditional Textual Criticism, the Skeptical reader would not know based on the book that
1) In general Skeptical Textual Criticism has a significantly different methodology with a major difference being the priority of Internal evidence.
2) Specifically there are potential good criteria such as Credibility, Explanation and Applicability that are generally not included in Textual Criticism leading to over emphasis of quantity of Manuscripts.
I recommend this to pastors, students, and anyone interested in textual criticism.