Book Notice: A New Approach to Textual Criticism: An Introduction to the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method

Published by SBL Press, and hot off the presses, is this new work on CBGM. Here’s what the SBL Press website has to say about the book:

An essential introduction for scholars and students of New Testament Greek

With the publication of the widely used twenty-eighth edition of Nestle-Aland’s Novum Testamentum Graece and the fifth edition of the United Bible Society Greek New Testament, a computer-assisted method known as the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (CBGM) was used for the first time to determine the most valuable witnesses and establish the initial text. This book offers the first full-length, student-friendly introduction to this important new method. After setting out the method’s history, separate chapters clarify its key concepts such as genealogical coherence, textual flow diagrams, and the global stemma. Examples from across the New Testament are used to show how the method works in practice. The result is an essential introduction that will be of interest to students, translators, commentators, and anyone else who studies the Greek New Testament.

Features

  • A clear explanation of how and why the text of the Greek New Testament is changing
  • Step-by-step guidance on how to use the CBGM in textual criticism
  • Diagrams, illustrations, and glossary of key terms

And here’s the endorsement by Paul Foster:

For anybody who cares about the text of the New Testament, there will be few books published in biblical studies over the next decade that will be more important than this one. Tommy Wasserman and Peter Gurry describe some of the tectonic shifts that are currently occurring in the way that New Testament text critics are reconstructing the earliest recoverable form of the Greek text of the New Testament. With great care and clarity, the authors explain the intricacies of the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method in ways that both scholars and nonspecialists can readily understand. For anybody who wishes to know how the text of latest printed scholarly editions of the Greek New Testament has been determined and why it differs from earlier editions, this is the book to read.

Paul Foster
Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity
School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh

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Writing an introduction to the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method for the uninitiated must be akin to trying to teach the Amish how to drive a Ferrari. CBGM is a complex method that Wasserman and Gurry have simplified with a rather humane writing style, but this does not mean that those who have minimal exposure to this method will jump at the chance to understand it. They should, and Wasserman and Gurry are the right guides to gently bring them into the realm of 21st century NT textual criticism. This book is a welcome addition to the library of anyone (not just the neophyte) who wants to understand this arcane, yet foundational, discipline that has grown in intricacies and subtleties in recent years. You can get the paperback version on Amazon for less than $20.

 

Some Random Thoughts on the Tyndale House Greek New Testament

I received in the mail from the publisher a couple of weeks ago a copy of The Greek New Testament, which will probably be referred to as the Tyndale House Greek New Testament or THGNT. The official release date is 15 November 2017. Published by Crossway and produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge, under the editorial leadership of Dirk Jongkind (with assistance from Peter Williams, Peter Head, and Patrick James), this is a volume that has been in the works for ten years. It promises to offer many new features that have been overlooked in other Greek New Testaments.

Tyndale House GNT image

Among them, the editors have particularly focused on the spelling of various verbs that may involve an itacism (if that’s even the right word—something the editors challenge). On the Evangelical Textual Criticism blogsite Peter Williams notes that γίνομαι in Luke is always to be spelled γείνομαι, “a prestigious koine spelling by careful scribes to bring out the long vowel which arose when the second gamma of the Classical form γιγνομαι was dropped.” At first I thought that this ETC note showed that Luke’s usage was a higher register of Koine Greek, but when I looked at the Introduction in the THGNT I saw that this spelling is followed in Luke, Mark (!), and Romans through Colossians, as well as a couple of verses in John (THGNT, 509). The editors do express the view that their objective was to represent the wording of the autographs—“This edition aims to present… the best approximation to the words written by the New Testament authors…” (THGNT, 505 [italics added]). But they do not seem to follow this same spelling for the first principal part of γίνομαι for Acts. The reason is presumably due to documentary evidence: we have P75 for Luke, but nothing truly comparable for Acts. But are we to suppose that Luke’s spelling of this verb changed to the shorter form every time it occurs in Acts (Acts 2.43 [bis]; 4.30; 5.12; 8.13; 12.5, 9; 14.3; 19.26; 21.14; 23.10; 24.2; 26.22; 27.33; and 28.6)? This raises the question of how rigid we should be in following the earliest documentary evidence (through the fifth century), a principal explicitly stated several times in the THGNT Introduction. Overall, however, reproducing the earliest documented spellings is a noteworthy contribution of this tome.

Χριστός is not capitalized in spite of the fact that “it may sometimes be a proper noun” (THGNT, 511). That ‘sometimes’ is quite the understatement since in the Epistles this is the normative force.

Another innovation is to follow the actual paragraphing of the manuscripts, especially the early ones. The reader will notice several differences from the Nestle-Aland text in this regard. For example, in Ephesians 5, Nestle-Aland starts the third paragraph with v. 21 which incorporates the following three verses (22–24). THGNT ends the previous paragraph with v. 21, thus implicitly distinguishing the instructions to wives from the concluding adverbial participle, which would make that participle dependent on the command to be filled by the Spirit (πληροῦσθε in v. 18). This is indeed the paragraph break found in Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus. Vaticanus incorporates a much longer section as its paragraph (P46 has no ekthesis or paragraph notation for Ephesians). But the question is raised whether the break at v. 22 is due, in part, to the editorial decision to include υποτασσεσθωσαν in 5.22—in spite of our two earliest witnesses to this text—B and P46—lacking any verb for the verse.

The editors, as a rule, always base their text on at least two Greek manuscripts, and one of these must be from the fifth century or earlier (THGNT, 506; the Apocalypse is the only exception to the rule of having at least one early manuscript). This is in keeping with the strong documentary basis for this edition of the NT. This principle, however, seems to create some inconsistencies, one of which was noted above. It seems in fact that the documentary principle is often pitted against the recovery-of-the-original-wording principle. Many scholars today would question whether such a strong emphasis on the external evidence should be followed religiously. Readings such as Ιησουν and Ιησουν τον in Matt 27.16, 17 respectively, οργισθεις in Mark 1.41, εχομεν in Rom 5.1, and χωρις in Heb 2.9 are rejected by the editors in spite of strong internal support for these variants. Yet they have ηπιοι in 1 Thess 2.7 even though this is poorly attested among the earliest Greek witnesses.

The apparatus is barebones and intentionally so. The editors want this work to focus on the text. They include variants of just three sorts: (1) viable, (2) exegetically important, and (3) those that illustrate scribal practices (THGNT, 515). The textual commentary on the decisions in this Greek New Testament is eagerly anticipated.

I was of course happy to see acknowledgment of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (www.CSNTM.org) as one of the main Internet sites that the editors utilized for reading digitized images of the manuscripts (THGNT, 526).

Criticism is easier than construction, and the editors of the THGNT are to be commended for offering a significant alternative to the Nestle-Aland text—and one which is still based on the principles of reasoned eclecticism. This volume joins the work of Michael Holmes, The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition (2010), as a viable option for students learning New Testament Greek. THGNT depends more on external evidence while GNTSBL leans more toward internal, yet both are well within the broadly consensus method of NT textual criticism as it is practiced today. Of course, nothing can replace the decades of careful research that Münster has poured into their apparatus, but these two editions (Holmes and Tyndale) are important offerings; they help students of the New Testament realize that the Textus Receptus status of the Nestle-Aland text may still be a bit premature.

Book Notice: Communal Reading in the Time of Jesus, by Brian J. Wright

One of my former interns, colleague on some CSNTM expeditions, and a DTS alumnus, Brian Wright, has written a book on ancient book culture that has been labeled ‘groundbreaking,’ ‘seminal,’ and ‘a must read’ by several scholars in the field. It is already getting some serious attention-—even before publication. For example, Larry Hurtado, who wrote the Foreword for the book, noted it in a recent blog post he titled, “Is a Paradigm Shift Now Called for?

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 The book not only is wide ranging in its research, it is also wide ranging in the endorsements from scholars of the New Testament and Early Christianity. The names comprise a Who’s Who in the field: Richard Bauckham, Michael Bird, Craig Blomberg, Darrell Bock, D. A. Carson, James Harrison, Craig Keener, Wayne Meeks Alan Millard, Stanley Porter, Brian Rosner, Tom Schreiner, and Bruce Winter.

Brian has constructed a compelling case that communal reading events were a wide-spread phenomenon in the first century AD. If he is correct, this could overturn or at least seriously alter the consensus of the discipline in several areas, including textual transmission, oral performance, and ancient literacy. It’s an innovative and significant contribution from an up-and-coming New Testament scholar!

Communal Reading in the Time of Jesus is scheduled to be released on December 1. This would make a great Christmas present for all the nerds out there who are serious about historical issues related to the New Testament. You can pre-order a copy of it on Amazon.

Wittenberg at 500

Wittenberg, Tuesday, October 31, 2017: The 500th anniversary of the Reformation in this little hamlet that was once the intellectual hub of Saxony and beyond. Reformation Day was a big event (even Angela Merkel made an appearance), and I was there with my bride. My third visit to Lutherstadt. The crowds swelled, especially close to the Schlosskirche and the town square. The day before and after, the town was virtually empty.

St Mary's church and town square_500th ann copy

How many of the celebrants really knew what the Reformation was all about? Sure, it changed western civilization, gave modern man the Bible in his own language—one that was based on the original tongues, delivered to the Renaissance a swift kick in the derriere, moved toward integrating science and religion and bringing both out of the middle ages (which were, in many ways, still the dark ages), elevated the education levels of children throughout Europe, established biblical scholarship on a new plane, inaugurated critical thinking of the Bible, added to the scientific method, built hospitals, toppled governments, granted individuals their God-ordained dignity, began to produce the wealth of nations, instigated the Protestant work ethic, and increased learning of the arts, science, history, and literature like no other period before or since has ever done.

But what did it ultimately do? It was begun by a lone Augustinian monk, standing up against the world, who articulated that salvation is free, and it comes by faith alone in Christ alone. Simul iustus et peccator (“at the same time, just and a sinner”) was the slogan based on Rom 3.23–24, and it’s still true today. The greatest good that Luther did was to remind us all of God’s grace and the redemption that we find in Christ alone. One lone monk changed the world because he had the courage of his convictions and believed that his God would not deny him. How about we change the world again—just one of us, or more (!)—and remind people of God’s grace, of the sacrifice that his own Son made on our behalf and in our stead, so that by the merit of Christ’s life and death alone—not ours—our eternal life is secured.

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The clarion call of the Reformation is as desperately needed today as it ever was, yet after 500 years it has become muddled once again. And many evangelicals nowadays are denying the very roots of the Reformation—the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to our accounts, our Lord suffering God’s wrath in our place on the cross, salvation as a free gift (not based on our works), Scripture as our final authority, the exaltation of Christ.

Luther statue_500th anniversary copy

Sure, Luther got a lot wrong. His hot-headedness got him in trouble often, and many times unnecessarily so. But that same passion is exactly what was needed at the Diet of Worms. However, he also kept Erasmus from joining the ranks of the Reformers in spite of the priest’s own arguments with Rome. He needed a Melanchthon to temper him, to be the quiet, peaceful, intellectual force behind the Reformation. Luther’s worst offense was what he wrote about the Jews in his later years (On the Jews and Their Lies [1543]). It was ugly, un-Christian, hate speech. The Jüdensau is still in the same spot it has occupied for over 700 years—up high in the southeast corner of St. Mary’s Church—the first Protestant church—where Luther preached hundreds of times.

But let us not use Luther’s very flawed nature as an excuse to turn a deaf ear to his gospel proclamation. After all, we stand on the shoulders of giants today, but those giants more often than not had clay feet. And their very failings remind us that, of all the men and women who have ever lived, Christ alone is worthy of all honor.

Will another lone Christ-follower stand up today? Just think what one person can do if fear is not part of their vocabulary!

A Gift of Charity, Part 2: The Body of Christ at Work

Two months ago I posted a blog called “A Gift of Charity.” It was about my friend, Ed Komoszewski, whose health has been in very bad shape for many years. He is dealing with multiple diseases that have no known cure. And now, he needs to go to the hospital every few weeks for costly treatments that seem to have no end in sight.

Ed Komoszewski

Just last month, I drove Ed down to Houston to the funeral of our dear friend, Nabeel Qureshi. Ed could not drive that far. The funeral was at 10 AM—an hour that is almost impossible for Ed to get up by. But God was gracious and enabled Ed to do that very thing for Nabeel’s funeral. The next day, when we drove back to Dallas, Ed didn’t get up till almost noon.

As I’ve reflected on Nabeel’s death (and written about it on Facebook and this blog site), I can’t help but see some parallels between Nabeel and Ed. Nabeel had an amazing conversion experience through the instrumentality of David Wood. In Nabeel’s short life, he had an incredible impact for the sake of the gospel. His first book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus soon became a New York Times Bestseller.

After Ed came to Christ, he went to a Christian college then earned his Master of Theology degree at Dallas Seminary. He graduated with Highest Honors. Ed worked on apologetics and ecclesial ministry afterward. And although his conversion was not as dramatic as that of a committed Muslim who became a Christ-follower, Ed’s publications, his counseling of many people in need (including me on several occasions), and his crystal clear proclamation of the gospel have shown him to be an unusually gifted servant of the King. But like Nabeel, Ed’s health is holding him back. Nabeel’s cancer came on suddenly—in the last year and a half—while Ed’s has been declining for over fifteen years. The GoFundMe account for Nabeel has already topped out at over $900,000.

Nabeel’s death is a tragic loss. The sting of this loss has hit many of us. We are grateful that Nabeel’s suffering is over, and I am glad that Michelle Qureshi will not have to face medical bills now. The body of Christ has responded in incredible ways to help her and her little girl out! I pray that we can also help out Ed in his time of need.

As a reminder: in spite of his health, Ed has published a couple of very important volumes on the Christian faith—Reinventing Jesus, co-authored with Jim Sawyer and me; and Putting Jesus in His Place, co-authored with Rob Bowman. The latter book is the most accessible, clear, and up-to-date volume on the deity of Christ you can get your hands on. Endorsed by an international cadre of biblical scholars, it’s a work you can trust. Ever since his seminary days, Ed has devoted himself to understanding and articulating all he can learn about his Lord and King, the theanthropic Person.

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But his health continues to pose severe challenges. He continues to work as best he can while the medical bills mount. He cannot do as much as he used to, but what he does is pure gold.

On August 3, a mutual friend, Alex Blagojevic, started a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for Ed’s medical costs. The goal was to raise $50,000. To date, $23,306 has been raised! This is the body of Christ at work, my friends. When I posted my blog about this campaign a few days after Alex made his announcement, I asked people to spread the news—tell your friends, put it in church bulletins, mention Ed’s need and the GoFundMe campaign on Facebook. And give to the cause. Here’s the link: https://www.gofundme.com/ed-komoszewski039s-medical-expenses 

And you responded. To date about half of the initial needs have been met. But Ed needs much more help. The bills will go on for many years. I would like to see the Lord’s people continue to contribute to Ed’s account each month and go well beyond $50,000. Some of you may want to put on your calendar to donate a gift on the first of each month. Scores of small gifts add up quickly. And for Christians to give to this cause will show that we are not just interested in contributing to charities that are tax-deductible.

Ed is a man who will not squander such gifts but will use them for these medical bills. And this will free him from concern about meeting financial obligations, enabling him to concentrate on expounding the great truths revealed in scripture about the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a time for believers to come to the aid of a brother. The eternal rewards for such an investment cannot be overestimated.