Evangelical Textual Criticism

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Top Ten Essential Works in New Testament Textual Criticism

What are the most essential works you should read if you want to get acquainted with the field of New Testament textual criticism? I have compiled a general bibliography and marked the top ten with asterisks. What are your proposals?

Introductions and surveys

[Note that these introductions cover several topics which are treated in the specialized reading list below. For example, several of Fee’s essays in Studies in the Theory and Method relate to the use of patristic citations.]

Current trends, views and debates

  • Elliott, J. K. “Recent Trends in the Textual Criticism of the New Testament: A New Millennium, a New Beginning?Babelao 1 (2012): 117–36.
  • Houghton, H.A.G. “Recent Developments in New Testament Textual Criticism.” Early Christianity 2.2 (2011): 245–268. [An excellent and up-to-date overview.]
  • Holmes, Michael W. “What Text is Being Edited? The Editing of the New Testament.” Pages 91-122 in Editing the Bible: Assessing the Task Past and Present. Edited by John S. Kloppenborg and Judith H. Newman. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2012.
  • Hurtado, L. W. “Beyond the Interlude? Developments and Directions in  New Testament Textual Criticism.” Pages 26-48 in Studies in the Early Text of the Gospels and Acts the Papers of the First Birmingham Colloquium on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament,  edited by David G. K. Taylor. Text-Critical Studies 1. Atlanta: Society of  Biblical Literature, 1999.
  • Stewart, Robert B. ed. The Reliability of the New Testament: Bart Ehrman and Daniel B. Wallace in Dialogue. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2011.
  • *Wachtel, Klaus and Michael W. Holmes, eds. The Textual History of the Greek New Testament: Changing Views in Contemporary Research. Text-Critical Studies 9. Atlanta: Society of  Biblical Literature, 2011.
  • Wasserman, Tommy. “The Implications of Textual Criticism for Understanding the ‘Original Text’.” Pages 77-96 in Mark and Matthew I: Comparative Readings: Understanding the Earliest Gospels in their First-Century Settings. Edited by E.-M. Becker and A. Runesson. WUNT 271. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011.

Manuscripts and their world (books, scribes and readers)

  • Gamble, Harry Y. Books and Readers in the Early Church: A History of Early Christian Texts.
  • New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1995.
  • Haines-Eitzen, Kim. Guardians of Letters: Literacy, Power, and the Transmitters of Early Christian  Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
  • *Hurtado, Larry. W., The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006.
  • Johnson William A. “Toward a Sociology of Reading in Classical Antiquity.” In AJP 121 (2000): 593-627.
  • Kraus, Thomas J., and Tobias Nicklas, eds. New Testament Manuscripts: Their Texts and Their World. Texts and Editions for New Testament Study 1. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2006. 
  • Roberts, Colin H. and T. C. Skeat, The Birth of the Codex. London: Oxford University Press, 1983.
  • Schmid, Ulrich, “Scribes and Variants – Sociology and Typology.” Pages 1-23 in Textual Variation: Theological and Social Tendencies? Papers from the Fifth Birmingham Colloquium on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament. Edited by H. A. G. Houghton and D. C. Parker. Texts and Studies. Third Series. Vol. 6. Piscataway: Gorgias Press, 2008.

Working with manuscripts

  • Finegan, J.,  Encountering New Testament Manuscripts: A Working  Introduction to Textual Criticism (London: SPCK, 1975).
  • *Metzger, Bruce M. Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: An Introduction to Greek Palaeography (New York–Oxford: Oxford Univerity Press, 1991 corrected edition; 1981).

Current trends in dating NT papyri

  • Barker, Don. “The Dating of New Testament Papyri.” New Testament Studies 57 (2011): 571-582.
  • Nongbri, Brent. “Grenfell and Hunt on the Dates of Early Christian Codices: Setting the Record Straight.” Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 48 (2011): 149-162.
  • Nongbri, Brent. “The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in Dating of the Fourth Gospel.”Harvard Theological Review 98 (2005): 23-48.

Scribal habits

  • Hernandez, Juan Jr., Scribal Habits and Theological Influences in the Apocalypse: The Singular Readings of Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, and Ephraemi. WUNT II 218. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006.
  • Jongkind, Dirk. Scribal Habits of Codex Sinaiticus. Texts and Studies Third Series 5. Piscataway: Gorgias Press, 2007.
  • *Royse, James R. Scribal Habits in Early Greek New Testament Papyri. New Testament Tools and Studies 36. Leiden: Brill, 2008.  

The earliest Text

  • *Hill, Charles E. and Michael J. Kruger, eds. The Early Text of the New Testament (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).
  • Petersen, William, ed. Gospel Traditions in the Second Century. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1989.

Patristic citations

  • Ehrman, Bart D. “The Use and Significance of Patristic Evidence for NT Textual Criticism.” Pages 118-35 in New Testament Textual Criticism, Exegesis, and Early Church History. A Discussion of Methods. Edited by Barbara Aland and Joël Delobel. CBET 7, Kampen [The Netherlands]: Kok Pharos, 1994.
  • Fee, G. D. [See Epp and Fee,  Studies, 1993 for several of Fee’s works on patristic citations]
  • Osburn, Carroll D. “Methodology in Identifying Patristic Citations in NT Textual Criticism.” In Novum Testamentum 47.4 (2005): 313-343.

Early versions

  • Metzger, Bruce M. The Early Versions of the New Testament. Their Origin, Transmission And Limitations. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977.

Practice of NT textual criticism

  • *Metzger, Bruce M., A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. 2d ed. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1994. [This reference work and companion volume to the UBSGNT reflects the dominant practice of textual criticism (reasoned eclecticism) which takes into account external and internal evidence in passages where there is textual variation.]

Conjectural emendation

  • Krans, Jan. Beyond What is Written: Erasmus and Beza as Conjectural Critics of the New. Testament. New Testament Tools and Studies 35. Leiden: Brill, 2006.
  • Wettlaufer, Ryan. “Unseen Variants: Conjectural Emendation in New Testament Textual Criticism.” Pages 171-194 in Editing the Bible: Assessing the Task Past and Present. Edited by John S. Kloppenborg and Judith H. Newman. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2012.

Other NT text-critical “classics” 

  • Colwell, Ernest C. Colwell. Studies in Methodology in Textual Criticism of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969. [Groundbreaking in methdology at the time, now outdated in some respects.]
  • Zuntz, Günther, The Text of the Epistles: A Disquisition upon the Corpus PaulinumThe Schweich Lectures of the British Academy 1946. London: British Academy, 1953.

General textual criticism

  • Housman, Alfred E., “The Application of Thought to Textual Criticism.” Pages 131-150 in A. E. Housman: Selected Prose. Edited by John Carter. Cambridge, 1961.
  • Maas, Paul. Textual Criticism. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958.
  • Pasquali, Giorgio. Storia della tradizione e critica del testo. 2nd ed. Florence, 1952.
  • Reynolds, L. D. and N. G. Wilson. Scribes and Scholars. 3rd ed. Oxford: OUP, 1991.
  • Timpanaro, Sebastian. The Genesis of Lachmann’s Method. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 2005.


  1. I'm perplexed as to the omission of Dirk Jongkind's Scribal Habits. Yet, as we know (and as Dirk so aptly demonstrated in his study of 01), one is more likely to omit than to add.

    (also, I might note that Fee's essay on Patristic citations should be included)

  2. I would probably include only one introduction in the initial list of ten, just for clarity's sake -- probably Parker's. I would exalt Krans, Beyond what is written to the main list. One not only learns about conjectures here, but also the earliest history of TC. Under early versions, you should also list ANTF 5, Die alten Übersetzungen... (Actually, both this and the Metzger edition are out of date, replaced by articles in the Ehrman/Holmes books and free standing books and articles by various authors.)

  3. PM,
    I think that Tommy has focused on more general works. If he were to expand to specific manuscripts, the list would instantly become enormous.

  4. I have added Dirk's monograph under scribal habits (general). On the other hand, Christian is right, I will probably have to add another area of particular manuscript which will be enormous.

    Fee's works on patristic citations were mentioned in a special note. The volume by Epp and Fee is essential.

  5. I have nevertheless added a clarification on that point too.

  6. I would drop Hull, Epp&Fee, Parker, Living Text and Black from the top ten. That would give you space to include: Metzger, Manuscripts (otherwise your top ten is a bit handschriftlos); Wachtel and Holmes (for contemporary debates); Metzger's Textual Commentary (so you can know the only book most NT scholars ever consult on the subject [with which they only ever agree]); and Royse.

  7. And I'm assuming/hoping that the new Ehrman/Holmes will cover the versions. Otherwise someone should up-date Metzger.

  8. Okay. At first I thought the "essential list" would be made up of various introductions giving a broad picture, but from many perspectives. Now I have reconsidered and revised the blogpost, and added asterisks to ten titles in various subjects instead. And I am sure you will disagree on some of the choices.

  9. Christian, the only reason I mentioned Dirk's monograph was that Hernandez, arguably not 'more general', had already been included.

  10. Peter Rodgers comments> On the last group, "General Textual Criticism" I would definitely recommend Emanuel Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, 3rd Edition 2011. New Testament textual critics have much to learn from Tov and others who work on the textual criticism of the other, older testament. Tov treats Scribal culture, scribal habits, etc. and since all the first NT copyists were Jews, it is essential that we learn how they worked.

  11. It's certainly dated, but I would say Eberhard Nestle’s "Einführung in das Griechische Neue Testament" merits a place in this list -- the 4th revised edition by von Dobschütz.

  12. Thank you for this! I'm putting together a handout covering online resources for NT textual criticism for the NTTC MDiv class at Southern Seminary (I'm the grader). Does anyone have any recommendations for essential online resources? I've got a list already, but I wanted to hear from the experts. I'm including sources for manuscript images, general NTTC resources, and popular-level (non-technical) things--things a pastor could pass along.


  13. Peter Rodgers, I agree. Since many textual problems in the Gospels relate to quotations from the OT, a good grasp of LXX TC is pretty essential to knowing what text was most likely to be in the exemplar from which the OT quotation was lifted by the author of the archetype.

  14. Daniel Buck: Thanks for the encouragement Not just in the gospels. Acts and Paul are very fruitful areas for Biblical textual Criticism (OT in NT)

  15. Tommy,
    Your ten with asterisks is an improvement. But you've lost the historical perspective of Westcott & Hort (all your ten are too contemporary). You've also lost the provocation of Ehrman, Orthodox Corruption and/or Parker, Living Text. Hurtado has better lists, but arguably Gamble wrote a better book. On a long list certainly I would add Elliott's bibliography and the Liste.

  16. Pete, I asked myself what are the essential works to get one going in the field, rather than, what are the most important works in NTTC up to this day? As for WH, note that in a book like The NT in Contemporary Research or any other introduction, the theories and achievements of Westcott and Hort are treated.

  17. We can eventually turn this blogpost into a bibliography. I invite you all ETC-bloggers to add to it (e.g., Peter Rodgers and Christian who made suggestions).

  18. Under current trends, you might include J. K. Elliott, “Recent Trends in the Textual Criticism of the New Testament: A New Millennium, a New Beginning?” Babelao 1 (2012): 117–36. That's got some helpful stuff on the big NTTC projects under way.

  19. Peter Gurry is right. The essay is also remarkably funny, especially to the participants on this blog with an 'off-putting and bizarre' name.

  20. An essential addition to the bibliography on General textual criticism is M. L. West, Textual Criticism and Editorial Technique Applicable to Greek and Latin Texts ( Stuttgart: B.G. Teubner 1973)

    Maas's Textkritik is only for the brave-hearted.

    For Latin, L. Havet, Manuel de critique verbale appliquée aux textes latins (Paris 1911), is still useful.

  21. I almost forgot to mention the important work by Alphonse Dain, Les Manuscrits. His model of scribal performance is applied in Klaus Junack's “Abschreibpraktiken und Schreibergewohnheiten in ihrer Auswirkung auf die Textüberlieferung.” In New Testament Textual Criticism: Its Significance for Exegesis, ed. Eldon Jay Epp and Gordon D. Fee, 277–295.

  22. Well, if we can add to the list at will, I'd like to recommend my own collection of text-critical materials, "Assorted Essays on New Testament Textual Criticism," which includes some introductory materials by pioneering researchers of past generations whose turn at the rudden greatly influenced the course of NTTC. (A couple of essays that I wrote are included too.)

    It's available at Amazon for the Kindle.

    Also see the collection at the Library of NTTC at
    www.curtisvillechristianchurch.org/NTTCLibrary.html . (At least I think that's the address.)

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  23. Can you somehow "pin" this post to the top or side of the main blog page? Thanks!

  24. Is there a comparable list for OT textual criticism? I know I'm late to the party, but I'd love to have a current list of the essentials (with a possible subset of LXX essentials). Thanks!

  25. Is there a comparable list for OT textual criticism? I know I'm late to the party, but I'd love to have a current list of essentials (with a possible subset of LXX essentials, too).