The New Age of New Testament Text Criticism

Every once in awhile, in the midst of doing Bible study in Logos and looking up anything via Google, I stop and remind myself what an incredible age of information we live in. In the field of biblical studies, the ability to research and make use of original language texts in breathtaking. The types of searches we can do in the Bible now takes seconds. And these types of searches aren't just limited to the Bible - we can do full text searches of whole corpuses of ancient literature through TLG or Perseus.

What continues to excite me is the advance in textual criticism of the New Testament. Textual criticism is the "art and science of of reconstructing the text of a work that no longer exists in its original form" (Draper, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 2003). Not only do there continue to be classic books on this subject, but there are now fantastic websites and resources devoted to educating others about NT textual criticism. See, for example, the wonderful VODcasts by Daniel Wallace at the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts that 1) teach the basics of NT textual criticism, 2) look at some of the disputed passages, and 3) give an insider's look into the important work of the CSNTM.

Important work I think is an understatement. NT scholars from now to eternity will be indebted to Daniel Wallace for his ongoing work in the area of preserving NT manuscripts in high quality digital format. (To learn more about the CSNTM, check out the website or watch this video introduction to the work of CSNTM.) This is a labor of love for Wallace and his team, just this past year they digitized and published new manuscripts from the Chester Beatty Papyrus collection, and they are right now in the midst of digitizing 300 manuscripts at the National Library of Greece. Head on over to the CSNTM manuscripts page to see all that has been digitized and available in high definition picture format - this includes all of the major codices, like Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, Bezae, etc. Although not the NT, this type of high quality digitization is also available for the Dead Sea Scrolls.

There is also the H. Milton Haggard Center For New Testament Textual Studies, part of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. CNTTS has created and published through the three major Bible Software apps (Logos, Accordance, and BibleWorks) an absolutely fantastic critical apparatus for the NT.

But my favorite now has got to be the New Testament Virtual Manuscript Room. This is an awesome site that is very well organized, and updated regularly. In addition to having tons of high quality images, this site also provides a lot of transcriptions, which is very helpful (especially for us amateurs!). I'm still learning to use this site, but find it very useful. And while this site on its own is free and very useful to anyone, its usefulness has greatly increased with Logos's brand new New Testament Manuscripts Explorer resource (available only for Logos Now subscribers). I actually love this resource so much that I'll do a screencast on it at some point on the blog.

What was once reserved for only those who could get to famous libraries and museums in order to examine papyri and codices is now available for the world. Get your Bible-Geek on and dig in to NT text criticism right from your laptop.

More useful resources for NT Text criticism:

Posted by Danny Zacharias.
Posted on July 7, 2015 and filed under Biblical Studies.