Monday, December 26, 2011

Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament ed. by Daniel B. Wallace

This is the inaugural volume of the Text and Canon of the New Testament series. All of the essays by the six authors focus in issues of textual criticism.
The first chapter frames the discussion the rest of the book addresses. The text of the New Testament we have is a result of copies of copies. Can we tell, through rigorous analysis of surviving manuscripts and scribal methods, what the original text essentially looked like? Did the early church get it right in evaluating and designating just the twenty-seven books of our NT as Scripture?
“One the one side,” writes Wallace, “are the King James Only advocates; they are absolutely certain that the KJV, in every place, exactly represents the original text.” (22)
On the other hand are those who say there is no hope of knowing the original texts since we no longer have the originals and there could have been tremendous tampering with the texts. The argument may be carried on to the theology derived from these texts. “According to this line of thinking, the message of whole books has been corrupted in the hands of the scribes; and the church, in later centuries, adopted the doctrine of the winner – those who corrupted the text and conformed it to their own notion of orthodoxy.” (25)
There are lots of manuscripts (more than 5,600), some 2.6 million pages of texts. There are more than a million quotes of the NT by the early church fathers. At least twelve of the manuscripts date from the second century. “Of the hundreds of thousands of textual variants in NT MSS, the great majority are spelling differences that have no bearing on the meaning of the text.” (40) Less than one percent of the textual variants are meaningful.
Wallace takes Bert Ehrman to task. A high proportion of Ehrman's examples could easily be classified as accidental, with no theological motives. Wallace critiques Ehrman's text-critical method, noting that Ehrman prefers the least orthodox reading.
Philip Miller investigates Ehrman's conclusion that the NT text was corrupted at the hands of orthodox scribes, to make the texts say what the scribes already believed them to mean. (58)
Matthew Morgan investigates the legacy and heritage of two eighteenth-century manuscripts and the text of John 1:1.
Adam Messer highlights one example of the attention Ehrman gives to historical evidence and the implications drawn concerning theologically motivated changes.
Tim Ricchuiti concentrates on the Gospel of Thomas, first considered primarily a Gnostic and apocryphal text, but now esteemed by some to be on the same level as the New Testament Gospels.
Brian Wright investigates the relationship of Jesus and Theos (God).

This book will best serve those who have read Bert Ehrman and his views on the transmission of the New Testament texts. That being said, anyone interested in the issues of scribal changes in NT MSS will benefit from this book.
The book is written on the academic level. The average layman will have difficulty following the precise work.

Kregel, 266 pages.  Product information.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kregel Publications for the purpose of this review.
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