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.

Ryrie’s Bibles and Manuscripts Auctioned off

On 5 December 2016, Sotheby’s had an auction of one of the world’s largest private collections of Bibles and manuscripts. The collection was Charles Ryrie’s, former professor of Systematic Theology at Dallas Seminary. For many years I would take my students to visit his home and see the treasures in his collection. Every year he would bring out new marvels that astonished me. I never saw the whole collection, but he was always generous in bringing out scores of volumes.

Ryrie died earlier this year. He was just a month shy of his 92nd birthday. I had been keeping a close eye on his collection and had discussed it with him many times over the years. Among other things, he owned three Greek New Testament manuscripts, one of only eleven vellum Luther Bibles in the world, and the finest copy of the 1611 King James Bible anywhere. He also owned several of Erasmus and Stephanus editions of the Greek New Testament, a couple of leaves of the Gutenberg Bible, and virtually every major English Bible from Wycliffe to the KJV. Altogether, nearly 200 items were auctioned.

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Benton Gospels—Codex 669

His Wycliffe Bible sold for $1.4 million, which was way over the anticipated price. The KJV sold way under its expectations—only $320,000. The Greek New Testament manuscripts were auctioned for $140,000 to $250,000. Codex 669, the Benton Gospels manuscript, was the most important (and most expensive) of these.

Sotheby’s does not let one know who the bidders are. We’re all given a paddle number and we bid with that, protecting our identities. But clearly someone was buying up a lot of these treasures, and the desire to get them no matter the cost (or so it seemed) certainly brought the price up. I bid on two small items, which quickly escalated out of my price range.

Ryrie did not own junk. His printed books were in excellent condition. The selling price reflected this. The very first published Greek New Testament, Erasmus’s Novum Testamentum (1516), sold for $24,000. The third edition (1522)—the first one to have the comma Johanneum in it—was a bargain at $5500.

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Erasmus’s Novum Instrumentum (1516)

A second edition of Tyndale’s New Testament (Ryrie owned nearly a dozen of these!) sold for $75,000. There were also several copies of the Matthew’s Bible ($22,000), Coverdale Bible ($11,000–$21,000), Great Bible ($4,000–$28,000), Geneva New Testament ($30,000), Bishops Bible ($48,000), Douay-Rheims Bible ($18,000), a rare copy of the KJV ‘Wicked Bible’ (1631; so-called because the printer left out the ‘not’ in the seventh commandment; thus, “Thou shalt commit adultery”!) for $38,000.

The Luther vellum Bible sold for $260,000. It is probably the most beautiful book I’ve ever seen. This was more than double the expected sale price.

A rare Complutensian Polyglot (only 600 were printed) came in under expectations at $70,000. This included actually the first printed Greek New Testament, though it was not published until six years after Erasmus’s work was out. The Textus Receptus—the Greek that stands behind the KJV—was essentially Erasmus’s Greek New Testament, with some wording from the CP as well as later editions of the Greek New Testament that were largely based on Erasmus.

A very rare certificate of ordination signed by Luther brought $60,000. And the third edition of Pilgrim’s Progress netted $75,000—as much as three times the expected sale price. Finally, the Gutenberg leaves each garnered only $38,000, way under what was anticipated.

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts owns a 10th–11th century Greek copy of Luke’s Gospel that was appraised at a price that is significantly lower than any of these Greek New Testament manuscripts. Now we have more recent comparisons and the value of such a manuscript can be weighed in light of these other manuscripts. I think we need to up the insurance value!

I hope that these books and manuscripts have found decent homes, and that the new owners will take the best possible care of them. And I also hope that the owners will reveal who they are and make known their remarkable volumes to others. I especially would like to see them digitally preserved and the images posted on the Internet—in particular, the Greek NT manuscripts. CSNTM would be more than happy to digitize these manuscripts. It’s a good time of year to express such hopes. This is more than my bucket list—it’s my Christmas list! Owners, please do not hide your light under a bushel, but let the world see these historical items that all of us may be enriched by Ryrie’s collection.

 

 

Medieval Manuscripts and Modern Evangelicals: ETS 2016 in San Antonio

On Wednesday, 16 November 2016, I had the honor of delivering the presidential address at the Evangelical Theological Society’s annual meeting in San Antonio. The title of the lecture was “Medieval Manuscripts and Modern Evangelicals: Lessons from the Past, Guidance for the Future.” Essentially I argued that we can learn many things from the paratextual and codicological features of medieval manuscripts.

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Codex 800 with wrap-around commentary

The lecture will be published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society next year. I would like to thank all of you who helped in the preparation of this message–especially CSNTM staff and interns–as well as all who responded afterward. The staff and interns need to be singled out here:

Staff: Rob Marcello and Andrew Bobo were especially helpful, as well as Stratton Ladewig, Christina Nations, Andy Patton, and Mark Arvé. Kudos to you all!

Interns: Laura Peisker, Micah Geyman, Colleen Doran, Joshua Smith, David Lopez, and Teddy Jestakom. You all helped immensely and responded quickly over the last few months to the myriad of sources I needed post haste for the paper. Thank you all!

I am very grateful for the privilege of having served as president of this Society, and I hope that its future will be bright. Sam Storms is now the president of the Society. He was responsible for selecting the plenary speakers on this year’s topic, the Trinity. I know that he will give an outstanding address at next year’s meeting. David Dockery will be the program chairman for the 2017 conference. I’m quite confident that it will be a terrific meeting. And Michael Thigpen and his staff (especially his wife, Bonnie) are to be thanked for their tireless efforts and timely communication. Without Mike as the Executive Director, ETS could hardly function. He is in charge of running the Society and he always seems to think four steps ahead of anyone else as to what is needed to make ETS both stronger and function smoothly.

Daniel B. Wallace
ex-president, Evangelical Theological Society