Again, with profuse thanks to OUP Academic for the review copy.
I’ve blogged in the past (here, here and here) about Hill & Kruger’s The Early Text of the New Testament (amazon.com). I’ve finally made my way through the book, and it’s time to wrap up the series of posts.
I can’t say it enough: This book really is awesome; I only hope the publisher is able to release a more affordable paperback copy so more folks can use the book. It is that useful if you’re working through the text of a passage and want to take significant variants from early manuscripts (pre 5th century) into account.
I discussed Part I briefly in a previous post.
For this task, Part II, “The Manuscript Tradition” is really the gem within the book (TOC for Part II is given in a previous post). While each article approaches the task differently, what you end up with is basically a focused discussion of the variations found in early manuscripts (mostly papyri) for a given NT book. If you are working with the text of the NT, this really is essential material to consult. If there are significant issues with the early witnesses for a section of text you’re working with, it will likely be discussed in this book.
I have not directly discussed Part III; that is where the rest of this post will focus. I did interact with one essay in Part III already; Porter’s essay on the relationship between Early Apocryphal Gospels and the New Testament. The TOC for this part is as follows:
III. Early Citation and Use of New Testament Writings
14: "’In These Very Words’: Methods and Standards of Literary Borrowing in the Second Century: Charles E. Hill
15: The Text of the New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers: Paul Foster
16: Marcion and the Early New Testament Text: Dieter T. Roth
17: Justin’s Text of the Gospels: Another Look at the Citations in 1Apol. 15.1–8: Joseph Verheyden
18: Tatian’s Diatesseron and the Greek Text of the Gospels: Tjitze Baarda
19: Early Apocryphal Gospels and the New Testament Text: Stanley E. Porter
20: Irenaeus’s Text of the Gospels in Adversus haereses: D. Jeffrey Bingham and Billy R. Todd, Jr.
21: Clement of Alexandria’s Gospel Citations: Carl P. Cosaert
Hill’s essay was excellent, as I’d anticipated. I felt bad for Foster, though, while reading his article. It was as good as it could be, but all he could basically say was “there is no direct textual relationship between the writings of the Apostolic Fathers and the New Testament” because there isn’t. There are a scant few direct citations; tons of allusions (which do not help for the establishing of the text of the NT, only for the verification of ideas), and still more less specific and indirect references to the NT (and the LXX, for that matter). Three cheers to him for writing the essay he had to, but too bad there wasn’t something more interesting there for him to do.
The articles on Maricon, Justin and Tatian were less interesting than the articles in Part II. To me, anyway, they are more interesting for their method than their results. I thought the article by Porter on Early Apocryphal Gospels was the best of the non-canonical lot (again, see the post about it). The article on Irenaeus seemed like more of a data dump than anything. The information is important to have, and if/when I get more into Irenaeus, I’m sure it’ll be awesome. But it was too dense to even approach, really. Too many lists and tables, not enough explanation as to why I’d want to commit the effort to work through it. I had similar thoughts about the article on Clement of Alexandria.
Here’s a hint: If your article/essay is primarily lists, tables, and discussion of percentages of things that you’ve counted … start over. This is all decent information, but the article is a data dump. It is appendix fodder. You need to explain your data to me. Tell me why it is significant. Tell me what old presuppositions you’re shattering. Don’t throw counts at me and say, “see?”. The research is valuable, but scholarship isn’t in spouting counts of things, it is in distilling the hard work of doing all that tabulation, counting, and research into something that communicates new information to the user. This is why I appreciated Foster’s article, dull though the conclusions were: he didn’t data-dump. He showed me that he mastered the material and did the research by distilling it for me, with examples, to illustrate his conclusion. While the articles in this book have some distillation of research, the primary visual portion is overwhelming. I’d appreciate fewer tables (move them to an appendix; it’s still good data and research to have access to) and more distillation.
All of that said, I still think the book is awesome. And I still value even the articles that are heavy with tables, lists, and counting. And I still think you should head to your library and give this book a serious look so you can properly utilize it. And if you have a spare $150 or so, and really dig this stuff: Then yes, you need to buy it. But I can honestly say I wouldn’t spend $150 on this book (or, really, any newly published book from any publisher, I think). So I’m really thankful to OUP Academic for surprising me with a review copy.