Last week I did a live “TV” interview with Ratio Christi on the topic, “Can We Trust the New Testament?” The interview covered a wide range of topics from textual criticism to bible contradictions to the development of the NT Canon. Here it is:
Tomorrow I head to Atlanta for the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. This is always a great occasion to catch up with old colleagues, meet new ones, and network with scholars from around the country.
In addition to a full slate of meetings, I will be involved in the following three sessions:
1. On 11/18 at 10:40AM I will be giving a paper in the Synoptic Gospels section (Hilton Grand Salon C) where I will review the recent book by Monte Shanks, Papias and the New Testament (Pickwick, 2013). Afterwards there will be a panel discussion on Papias with me, Monte Shanks and Darrell Bock.
2. Also on 11/18 at 4:40PM I will be giving a paper in the NT Canon, Textual Criticism, and Apocryphal Literature section (Hilton 201) on a miniature codex of 2 John (Gregory Aland 0232). The theme for this year’s session is the physical and textual features of early Christian manuscripts, so this seemed to be an appropriate topic.
3. On 11/19 from 1:00-4:10PM (Hilton 304), I will be moderating the open session of NT Canon, Textual Criticism and Apocryphal literature. There is a great line up of papers by Zachary Cole, Peter Gurry, Nick Perrin, and David Yoon.
But, in the midst of all of this, the most important part of ETS should not be missed: books! This is the main time each year to see all the new publications in one place, and often they are being sold at a major discount. And I will be sticking around for a few days at SBL and enjoying the book tables there as well.
If you are coming to either of these conferences, hope to see you there.
Whenever I teach textual criticism to my seminary students, I usually get two very different responses. For some students, their eyes glaze over and they tune out as soon as they hear the word “paleography” for the first time.
For others, they find themselves fascinated by how texts were transmitted and copied in the ancient world. And they are excited by the fact that we can go to museums and see actual NT manuscripts–the earliest artifacts of Christianity. This archaeological component to textual criticism makes it a very tangible enterprise.
One thing that really helps teach students about this complex subject is finding the right text book. But, admittedly, this has been a challenge over the years. While I have great respect for Metzger’s original edition of The Text of the New Testament, it is written at a scholarly level that creates a challenge for most first-year seminary students. And the new Metzger-Ehrman edition has additional sections that I am not convinced are an improvement over the original.
On the other end of the spectrum is probably Greenlee’s Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism. This volume is much more introductory and certainly accessible to first-year seminary students. However, its brevity creates the opposite problem–many issues are not covered at all, or at the level of detail needed.
This conundrum has, in my opinion, been largely solved by the new book by Stan Porter and Andrew Pitts, Fundamentals of New Testament Textual Criticism (Eerdmans, 2015). I received an advance review copy many months ago, but today I received the final version in the mail.
Porter and Pitts aim for (and, I think, hit) the proverbial middle ground between Metzger and Greenlee, thus providing an excellent introduction to seminary students with the appropriate level of detail. It is the essential third bowl of porridge in Goldilocks and the Three Bears!
I also enjoyed this volume because it includes a section on the canon of the New Testament–something most textual criticism volumes do not address. This provides students with a helpful introduction to how the New Testament was formed in the first place.
Here are the endorsements on the back cover, including my own:
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.”
If we learn anything from church history, its that the church fights the same battles over and over again. Until Christ returns and redeems His church, this reality is, to some degree, inevitable. And one of those reoccurring battles is the issue of biblical authority. For a variety of reasons, this topic continues to pop up again and again.
In the last 50 years, one of the key issues related to biblical authority is the issue of inerrancy. Is inerrancy a recent, post-enlightenment, rationalistic (and largely American) invention as so many maintain? While one most always be careful to explain and nuance the meaning of the term, I don’t think it should be kicked to the curb as some suggest. Rather, I have argued elsewhere (see here) that it is one of the most natural words for expressing the core belief that Christian’s have always had about the Bible, namely that it is true.
Because of the importance of inerrancy, I was pleased to participate in the forthcoming volume, The Inerrant Word: Biblical, Historical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspectives, ed. John MacArthur (Crossway, 2016). This volume pulls together a fine collection of pastors and scholars including Ligon Duncan, John Frame, Carl Trueman, Stephen Nichols, Al Mohler, Kevin DeYoung, Sinclair Ferguson, Mark Dever, R.C. Sproul, and others.
My own chapter was entitled, “Inerrancy, Canonicity, Preservation, and Textual Criticism.” As the title suggests, I deal with two major challenges two inerrancy: Do we have the right books? And do we have the right text?
The volume is set for release on March 31, 2016.
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.