Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism. By Elijah Hixson and Peter J. Gurry, Editors. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2019. 372 pp. Paper, $40.00.
While in seminary, I became very interested in NT textual criticism. Initially I held to the eclectic approach, which is basically a Critical Text (CT) approach. Later I became convinced of the Majority Text (MT) position.
This book, edited by Hixson and Gurry, has a total of fourteen authors.
Here are several things I learned in reading this book.
First, the dating of NT manuscripts is far from an exact science. Many are dated by using paleography, which is comparing the handwriting in a manuscript with the handwriting common in each time period. As one might imagine, this is a subjective practice, which could be off by many years. In reading Chap. 5, I found myself wondering if the dates I’d assumed were accurate were far less precise than I’d assumed.
Second, we probably cannot restore the entire NT from the writings of the Church Fathers. That claim is one that we probably should stop using.
Third, the number of manuscripts we have in other languages (e.g., Latin, Coptic, Boharic, Sahidic) is probably not nearly 10,000. We probably should be content with saying that there are thousands of ancient manuscripts of the NT in various languages.
Fourth, a good number to use for the number of Greek manuscripts of the NT we have today is around 5,100.
Fifth, the NT autographs (original manuscripts written by the author and released for circulation) probably did not last a century or two as some NT scholars today suggest. More likely they lasted under a hundred years, with copying beginning as early as the original production. Paul, for example, might have had a copy of his letters made before he sent them out so that he would have them for his own use. While this is conjecture, it is something I’d not considered.
Sixth, the Byzantine text type (MT) is finding a resurgence in NT textual criticism. No longer do most NT text critics consider the MT to be worth little or nothing. Now the MT is given some weight. While I wished it were given weight equal to its numbers, I’m thrilled that NT scholars are no longer simply overlooking it.
This book, though technical, is not hard to read. Even so, I would not recommend this book for those who lack an introductory course in textual criticism. But I would highly recommend this book for pastors, Christian educators, and missionaries who do translation work.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society