Challenges in New Testament Textual Criticism for the Twenty-First Century

By Wallace, Daniel B. | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, March 2009 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Challenges in New Testament Textual Criticism for the Twenty-First Century


Wallace, Daniel B., Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


I. PREFACE

Thirty years ago, NT textual criticism on this side of the Atlantic seemed to be on its last legs-so much so that Eldon Epp could write with a straight face an essay entitled "New Testament Textual Criticism in America: Requiem for a Discipline"-an article published in the Journal of Biblical Literature.l Five years earlier, he lamented the fact that there were probably more textual critics working at the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung in Münster than there were in all of North America.2 (The INTF is responsible for producing the Nestle-Aland Greek text; there are about half a dozen fulltime textual critics working there.) What Epp described was a sad state of affairs, but the postmortem reports were nonetheless a bit premature.

In the last decade and a half, the cadaver has come back to life3 and is stronger than ever. Who could have predicted that a book on textual criticism would ever make the New York Times Bestseller list? Yet Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus: The Story behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, published four years ago, did just that. A large part of the reason it did so was because its thesis was that the proto-orthodox radically changed the text to conform to their views. Misquoting Jesus gave the impression that everything was in doubt and nothing was certain. The book was a sensation, creating a Chicken Little effect; countless people abandoned the faith because of it.

When Misquoting Jesus hit the stores, questions were raised that many biblical scholars were not prepared to discuss. That is because most scholars have only gotten a taste of textual criticism, often on the assumption that all the work has already been done. All they needed was their Nestle-Aland text and they have got the original.

Much of what Ehrman said was a simplifying of his Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, a first-rate academic piece published in 1993. But he had also gone through a theological shift in the last decade and a half, and Misquoting Jesus began to reflect that shift. He was more provocative and less cautious than he had been previously. Most importantly, he took his argument to the public square rather than to peers. This was not an oversight; it was part of his strategy. In one of his interviews, Ehrman spoke about a new breed of biblical scholar, stating with approbation that they are bypassing peer review and going straight to the public arena to market their ideas.

Along with two other well-known textual critics, Eldon Epp and David Parker, Bart Ehrman is leading the way toward a new skepticism about recovering the wording of the autographa.

As I said, this discipline has been given new life in recent years, but there are some doubts that what was resurrected is the same thing as that which was buried. To put it bluntly, NT textual criticism has changed in some dramatic and even drastic ways. This article offers an analysis of two aspects of that change, proposes desiderata for the discipline, and concludes with why evangelicals should contribute to the field.

II. POSTMODERN INTRUSIONS INTO NEW TESTAMENT TEXTUAL CRITICISM

The first aspect to investigate is a hybrid of cultural and philosophical shifts, or what may more specifically be labeled as postmodern intrusions into the discipline.

There are three specific ways in which postmodern thought and its cultural milieu have affected NT textual criticism: defining the goal of the discipline; assessing the role of certainty; and promoting the need for collaboration.

1. The goal of NT textual criticism. Until the 1990s, there was little question that the primary objective of NT textual criticism was to examine the copies of the NT for the purpose of determining the exact wording of the original. In 1993, Bart Ehrman's provocative book The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture appeared. He opens the discussion by offering his thesis: "scribes occasionally altered the words of their sacred texts to make them more patently orthodox and to prevent their misuse by Christians who espoused aberrant views.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Challenges in New Testament Textual Criticism for the Twenty-First Century
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.