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Rethinking New Testament Textual Criticism Paperback – October 1, 2002
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From the Back Cover
New Testament textual criticism is an important but often overlooked field of study. Results drawn from textual studies bear important consequences for interpreting the New Testament and cannot be ignored by serious students of Scripture. This book introduces current issues in New Testament textual criticism and surveys the various methods used to determine the original text among variant readings.
This collection of essays represents the best of current scholarship and provides an excellent introduction to the field of New Testament textual criticism. ìRethinking New Testament Textual Criticism is based on a symposium where E. J. Epp, M. W. Holmes, J. K. Elliott, and M. A. Robinson made presentations of foundational issues that arise from current approaches to New Testament textual transmission. Especially noteworthy is the closing response, in which MoisÈs Silva offers a lively and forthright defense of the traditional task that confronts all textual critics. Readers of this book will be challenged and instructed in the art and science of textual criticism.î óBruce M. Metzger, Princeton Theological Seminary ìAn important ëturn of the centuryí contribution to New Testament textual criticism, this book addresses questions of methodology and allows proponents to speak for themselves and to one another. This book should serve as a useful introduction to the major issue in the field. I am glad to commend it.î óGordon Fee, Regent College David Alan Black (D. Theol., University of Basel) is professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of numerous books, including Itís Still Greek to Me.
About the Author
David Alan Black (D.Theol., University of Basel) is professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of numerous books, including It's Still Greek to Me.
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The book is formatted well, but I wish that Black had required an internal outline to help us follow along while reading. It felt like some of the authors had a great outline planned out, but because I could not see it getting lost in sub-points and off-topic comments became frequent. Epp was notorious for this, and Silva was slightly guilty as well. However, Holmes was easy to read and keep focused with, while Robinson hit a home run with his easy to understand and well formatted essay. The reason why Epp's formatting problems were such an issue was because his essay took up half the book (up to page 77). Holmes took 25 pages, Elliot took 25 pages, Robinson took 15 pages, and in conclusion Silva only took 10 pages. This makes the poor outline problems with Epp a big issue. Apparently none of the other reviewers up to this point have felt the same way as I do, so this is based on my judgment alone (at this point), but I genuinely had a hard time staying focused on the current topic during different parts of Epp's essay.
The essays in the second half of the book were very enjoyable. I am still not sure which view I hold to, but hearing these men (who actively practice the methods they defend) argue for their own methods was intriguing, and I want more!
Overall, this book was certainly a good place to find out about the different viewpoints on how to practice textual criticism. I will probably re-read the main essays in the second half of the book in the future, and I can recommend it to others. 3.5 stars.
[Also, to clarify: If you are not a fan of Ehrman (like myself), you need not feel annoyed when Ehrman is praised in this book. This book was released back when The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture was his big claim to fame (and if I am not mistaken he was still a Christian when writing it). So in other words, his more recent controversial viewpoints were not published yet. Please understand this before feeling annoyed when he is praised by Epp, Elliot, and Silva.]
I found the first essay by Epp to head in a dangerously liberal direction by suggesting that the original wording of the New Testament isn't as important as how it was interpreted throughout church tradition (or as Silva says in the last chapter, "he believes that the original is not quite as useful as what later people do with it"). Although Epp's essay gives a helpful overview of the entire history of NT textual criticism, his suggestions for where it should head in the 21st century are alarming (supporting ideas such as God inspiring the textual adversity, rather than the autographs themselves).
The second essay is a standard treatment of the most popular school (Reasoned Eclecticism) which offers nothing out of the ordinary and tends to attack the Byzantine text whenever opportune. What I do like is Holmes's well-placed criticism of the UBS text and a call to make new version with more consistent methodology.
The third essay is on Thoroughgoing/Rigorous Eclecticism and Elliott does a good job of proving that the method isn't as irrational and liberal as it may seem.
The fourth essay is an abridged form of Robinson's "Case for Byzantine Priority" which points out some weaknesses and biases of the Reasoned Eclectics and gives another alternative, although there are some holes in his theory as well. I'd like to believe that the Byzantine text is the closest to the autographs, but it's hard to prove when no manuscripts with it have been found from before the 4th century.
The last essay is Silva's witty response to all the other essays. He basically gives some sarcastic critiques about all the methods different from his own (Reasoned Eclecticism) and praises Hort and Ehrman.