Bart D. Ehrman and Michael W. Holmes (eds.). The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis. 2nd ed. NTTSD 42. Leiden: Brill, 2013. xii + 884. Hardcover. $314
I would like to express my utmost appreciation to the kind folks at Brill for sending me a review copy of this book.
This tome of essays represents the second edition of The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research, the first edition appearing in 1995. That first volume, which honored the late Bruce M. Metzger, garnered immediately the attention of New Testament scholars around the globe, and if the citations to it in the scholarly literature suggest anything, it is that the work was received very well among the academic community.
Now, I believe scholars will be pleased to welcome the appearance of this second edition eighteen years later, with twenty-eight contributions from some of the finest New Testament textual scholars in the discipline. A few words about structure and presentation are in place. First, one will notice that most of the chapter titles have been retained in the second edition (e.g., Ch. 1 “The Papyrus Manuscripts of the New Testament,” Ch. 2 “The Majuscule Manuscripts of the New Testament,” etc.), along with their original contributors. Some of the articles have been changed only slightly (e.g., Ch. 3 – Aland and Wachtel; Wallace – Ch. 25; Elliott – Ch. 26; Ehrman – Ch. 28), updating content only in light of recent developments (e.g., the ECM, IGNTP, CBGM, etc.), while others have been completely written by new contributors. The new contributors to the second edition are as follows: Ulrich Schmid (replacing William L. Peterson), Peter J. Williams (replacing Tjitze Baarda), Philip Burton (replacing Jacobus H. Petzer), Christian Askeland (replacing Frederik Wisse), S. Peter Crowe (replacing Joseph M. Alexanian), Jeff W. Childers (replacing J. Neville Birdsall), H.A.G. Houghton (replacing J. Lionel North), Juan Hernández Jr. (replacing Moisés Silva), Carla Falluomini, Kim Haines-Eitzen, Peter M. Head, Tommy Wasserman, and Jan Krans. There are seven new essays not appearing in the first edition that explore various topics, such as the Gothic versions by Falluomini (Ch. 12), non-continuous manuscripts by Head (Ch. 16), the social history of scribes by Haines-Eitzen (Ch. 18), “textual clusters” by Epp (Ch. 20), criteria for evaluating readings by Wasserman (Ch. 21), conjectural emendation by Krans (Ch. 22), and the concept of “original text” by Holmes (Ch. 23). Chapter 17 of the first edition, “The Use of Computers in New Testament Textual Criticism” (Kraft), was cut from the second edition, “in view of the impossibility of any print resource keeping up with the rapid pace of development and change in this field, a task better suited to electronic resources” (Preface, ix). In terms of size, the second edition is considerably larger, coming in at a massive 884 pages, more than twice the size of the first edition (401 pages). There are, as in the first edition, extensive bibliographies at the end of each chapter, as well as extensive indices of persons and subjects.
The most obvious revisions and additions are manifested in the copious references to and discussions of the ECMproject and the CBGM. In the index of subjects, there are twenty-one entries for the CBGM alone, half of which span more than one page. Wasserman gives the most extensive treatment of the CBGM in section four of his chapter (21), which provides a detailed explanation, critique, and ultimate approval of the method. A discussion of the method appears in several other chapters, especially those of Epp (both essays), Aland and Wachtel, Hernández, and Elliott. Discussions of the recent developments on the concepts of contamination/mixture, stemmatics and genealogical relationships are also found, in light of the CBGM, at various places throughout the book. While there are some critiques of the method (see especially Wasserman and Epp), judging from the essays, it appears to be endorsed by the majority of the scholars represented here (at least those who discuss the method expressis verbis). Holmes offers a balanced treatment of the controversial subject of "original text,"discussing the advantages and disadvantages of the term.
I cannot possibly review every essay here, so I will say a few words about two of the new chapters that have been incorporated, which I consider to be the highlight of the book. The first essay I wish to review is that of Epp titled, “Textual Clusters: Their Past and Future in New Testament Textual Criticism” (Ch. 20). In this lengthy, fifty-nine-page chapter, Epp discusses the evolution, development, disadvantages, and advantages of “text-types.” The section on the history of the concept is extensive, well written, and anything but dull. Epp notes that the term “text-type” was apparently not used before Westcott and Hort and even they did not employ it precisely as such, using instead phrases such as “type of text” and “the Western or Alexandrian text.” After giving an overview of the history of the concept of “text-type,” Epp expands on the concept of “textual cluster,” which he proposed as an alternative designation in an article in 1989. Epp defines a “cluster” as “a group of NT MSS whose texts are more closely related to one another than the cluster—as a group, or as individual members—is related to other groups or to other MSS” (571; cf. Colwell’s classic definition of “text-type”). In his previous work, Epp has opted for a slightly revised version of Kenyon’s geographically neutral labels for text-types, in a four-fold system: A-text cluster, B-text cluster, C-text cluster, D-text cluster. Epp admits that this system never has caught on, perhaps because people still seem to associate geography with the clusters. “I do not recall,” according to Epp, “thinking in geographic terms when referring to textual clusters” (556, emphasis original). In any case, I think we can all accept the fact that the traditional theory of local texts as originally devised by Streeter is passé. The last sections of Epp’s article demonstrate the validity of textual clusters by challenging Parker’s view that the theory of two texts in Acts should be abandoned. According to Epp, there is such a thing as a D-cluster, but the CBGM does not allow for the possibility of seeing it clearly because it restricts the data by not taking into account versional or patristic material. The problem here is that the primary and secondary witnesses of the D-cluster consist primarily of versional material, such as Old Latin, Syriac, Coptic, as well as several of the Fathers. Epp ultimately argues that the concept of “text-type,” when redefined on less rigid terms, is still appropriate and that “it may be too early to abandon the idea of a bipolar form of Acts’ textual tradition” (571). Epp, writing in his usual, forceful and clear style, provides an essay that is, in my opinion, the best source of information regarding “text-types” to-date.
The most recent study on the subject of non-continuous textual materials is the essay by Peter M. Head titled, “Additional Greek Witnesses to the New Testament (Ostraca, Amulets, Inscriptions and Other Sources” (Ch. 16). I was most interested in this essay because it is the subject of my doctoral dissertation. Head provides a survey of the New Testament witnesses that fall neither within the four-fold category established by Gregory (i.e., papyri, majuscules, minuscules, lectionaries), nor the category of citations of the Church Fathers. The non-continuous materials, according to Head, cannot be located within the main stream of textual transmission, but they are nevertheless valuable for our understanding of how these texts were used, that is, their Rezeptionsgeschichte. Only those non-continuous witnesses with “extensive” amounts of text are most valuable for New Testament textual criticism (432). Head makes a very interesting observation worth repeating here, which is that the principles of manuscript classification in Septuagintal studies stands in stark contrast with that of New Testament manuscripts: all witnesses of the Septuagint are classified, “including amulets, ostraka, inscriptions, and other types of witnesses” (see, e.g., A. Rahlfs and D. Fraenkel, Verzeichnis der griechischen Handschriften des Alten Testaments, Göttingen, 2004). Indeed, it should be noted that the same is also true of Apocryphal literature, where even the tiniest scraps are classified and used for the purpose of textual and historical reconstruction.
Head claims that the “additional” witnesses can be catalogued under four headings: ostraka, amulets, inscriptions, and other New Testament excerpts. For each category, he provides a general introduction, a treatment of representative texts, and a survey of relevant secondary literature. The purpose of Head’s study is not to be exhaustive, but rather to introduce the data and provide references to the primary literature of each category for future research. Nonetheless, Head’s judicious selection of sample texts and primary literature makes his study the most significant one to date. He argues that several of the non-continuous textual materials should be brought to bear on discussions concerning the earliest recoverable text. For example, regarding the fragments of Luke’s Gospel within the lot of New Testament ostraka represented as O1–20 by von Dobschütz and 0153 by Gregory, Head asserts, “There seems no reason why this collection of texts should not be regarded as a citable witness to the text of Luke at the relevant points” (435). In discussing a recently edited amulet from Oxyrhynchus (P.Oxy. 76.5073) containing Mark 1:1-2, “our earliest manuscript witness to this passage by a century,” Head contends that “[s]uch early texts should clearly play a role in debates about the earliest recoverable text of the relevant passage, especially at points of significant textual variation” (442).
Regrettably, however, Head’s study raises more questions than it answers concerning how to deal methodologically with the problem of non-continuous texts. For one, he maintains that “there is an ongoing need for up-to-date catalogues of the [non-continuous] material” (453). Both Stuart Pickering and Stanley Porter had already lamented this in their respective studies on the non-continuous witnesses, and so restating it does not advance the discussion in any real way. He argues that some of the materials should be cited in the apparatus of the Greek New Testament, but this cannot be done without a proper method of delimitation. As for the question concerning how editors of the Greek New Testament could refer to these materials, Head lists the following five possibilities: 1) a separate list continuing earlier lists (=von Dobschütz); 2) a separate list of selective materials “likely to be cited in a critical apparatus to the New Testament text”; 3) a separate, exhaustive list cataloguing “all possible additional witnesses to the New Testament text” (=Porter’s proposal); 4) a catalogue of relevant papyri and a transcription database (=Pickering’s proposal); 5) “a collection of relevant material compiled on a book-by-book basis through the New Testament” (454). As helpful as Head’s essay is, it ultimately does little in providing a way forward, although one must keep in mind that the essay is more introductory than comprehensive in scope. Nevertheless, Head’s essay prompts several important questions regarding method and thus serves as a useful starting point for my own research on the non-continuous text manuscripts, which will catalogue all extant non-continuous witnesses in four categories, namely, amulets, hermeneiai, non-patristic citations in the non-patristic papyri, and various selections.
This book is one of the most important books on textual criticism that has been published in years. Together with the recently printed volume The Early Text of the New Testament (Oxford, 2012), this book will be the go-to book for myriad issues concerning the text of the New Testament, versions, text-critical methodologies, and much more. The esteemed editors, Michael W. Holmes and Bart D. Ehrman, are to be congratulated once again for putting together a fine volume, in a fine series, published by a leading publisher in the field. Indeed, this book deserves a spot on the shelf of every New Testament scholar.