One of the classic debates among New Testament scholars pertains to the state of the New Testament text in the earliest centuries (2nd-4th). Was the text transmitted in a “wild” and “uncontrolled” fashion? Or did it exhibit a degree of stability and tenacity (as the Alands would put it)?
My friend Chuck Hill and I engaged this question in 2012 when we edited the volume The Early Text of the New Testament for Oxford University Press. In this volume, we collected together over 20 of the finest textual scholars today to address these important questions. The volume did not answer every issue, nor did all its contributors even agree with each other, but (hopefully) it made some important contributions to the discussion.
Given that the book was quite pricey when it came out in hardback–and even in paper back isn’t cheap ($50!)–and is highly technical, we didn’t expect a slew of reviews. But, I was pleased to see the recent review by Jeff Cate, Professor of Christian Studies at California Baptist University.
Cate provides a helpful overview of the contents of the book, and then offers this conclusion:
The Early Text of the NT is an important and unique contribution to these current debates. The individual NT books are examined separately to prevent homogenizing and blurring textual issues in unfortunate and misleading kinds of ways. The second-century sources are also examined individually to see the evidence they are able to present collectively. While some of the material in the essays has been discussed elsewhere by these and other scholars, still much of the analysis has been approached in a new and fresh manner. Crucial data regarding textual reliability in the second century is especially to be noted in both essays by the two editors (Hill and Kruger). The twenty-one essays in The Early Text of the NT are not the final word about the NT text in the first three centuries, but nonetheless it is an important word that must be considered. Those wishing to engage in this debate must examine closely the detailed data provided in this volume.
Thanks to Jeff for the kind review. You can read the whole thing here.