The Journey from Texts to Translations: The Origins and Development of the Bible

Article excerpt

The Journey from Texts to Translations: The Origins and Development of the Bible. By Paul D. Wegner. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999 (corrected printing, 2000), 462 pp., $29.99. Paul Wegner has produced a very useful, wonderfully designed textbook in five

parts, on the canon, text, and translation (primarily English) of the Bible.

Part 1 ("Preliminary Matters regarding the Bible") constitutes about 10% of the book and serves as a general introduction to the names and order of books in both the OT and NT, along with comments on the relationship between the two testaments. This section includes an appendix on the "Synoptic Problem," which favors the priority of Mark and very gently seems to support the existence of Q.

Part 2 ("Canonization of the Bible"), about 20% of the book, first presents a good overview of writing and the production of texts in the biblical worlds, and then discusses the canon history of both the OT and NT. It also includes brief accounts of the OT apocryphal and pseudepigraphical writings and the NT apocryphal texts.

Part 3 ("Transmission of the Bible"), also about 20% of the book, ably discusses textual criticism of both the OT and NT. It is a clear and comprehensive guide for students.

Parts 4 ("Early Translations of the Bible") and 5 ("English Translations of the Bible"), the largest section of the book (about 40%), briefly cover the ancient versions of the Bible and the first printed Greek New Testaments, and then give a fairly extensive history of English translations of the Bible from Wycliffe to the New Living Translation (1996). The remaining portion of the book constitutes the notes and indexes.

One of the stunning and excellent features of the book are its 231 (!) illustrations, including pictures of objects and persons, maps, and various charts and tables. These visual aids alone make the book both attractive to the reader and pedagogically helpful to the teacher. Many of the pictures are of manuscripts and of pages from famous Bibles. Many are of prominent scholars such as, for example, B. F. Westcott, F. J. A. Hort, James Moffatt, E. J. Goodspeed, and C. H. Dodd. Many of the charts and tables show comparisons among and between various translations. All of this data is helpful and well presented. Every chapter of the book concludes with a good bibliography for further study, and the index is comprehensive.

In many ways Wegner's book is a current version of the work of Ira Maurice Price, The Ancestry of Our English Bible: An Account of Manuscripts, Texts, and Versions of the Bible, which featured as well more than 60 illustrations and diagrams (interestingly, Wegner mentions Price only once, in a footnote on p. 428). Price's work first appeared in 1906 and was revised in 1934, 1949 and 1956; the last revision was done by William A. Irwin and Allen P. Wikgren. Of course, much new material is available since the last edition of Price in 1956. Price's work, for example, had only a brief appendix on the Dead Sea Scrolls and concluded its English translation survey with the 1952 Revised Standard Version. …