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

Manuscripts and their world (books, scribes and readers)

Working with manuscripts

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

The earliest Text

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

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

Other NT text-critical “classics” 

General textual criticism


  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.


    1. Hi Elijah! That sounds like a great project! I help Dr. David Alan Black keep up his NT Greek Portal, and there are a number of links on his Textual Criticism page ( Perhaps you might find some helpful resources there. Also, I would love to hear about any that you find as well, as we are always looking to keep the Portal up-to-date.

  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 . (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).

  26. Are you familiar with Dr. Andrew Smith's conclusive work on Codex Alexandrinus? I would think that certainly could be added to the list —

  27. What is there in the way of meta-theory - I guess I might mean stemmatics and so forth? As an outsider, the problem seems remarkably similar to that of trying to trace the origins of genetic mutations: once a mistake is made, it is normally passed on to succeeding generations. But how to work backwards from a later snapshot? Andrew

  28. My Early Christianity article is available as a pre-print at:
    In addition to the chapters on the versions in the Ehrman-Holmes volume, you can now include Falluomini on the Gothic ( and my forthcoming book on the Latin (

  29. Actually, please ignore my last comment: there's no point in adding a 'forthcoming' book to a list of good reads until you've read it!

  30. Thanks, Hugh. Looking forward to the book's release.

  31. QUESTIONS! Please help!

    Can anyone point me to a list of the longest continuous lines shared between Gospels, based on fairly recent textual scholarship? I know there is a very long line of exact words shared between Matthew and Luke here:

    I also read an article that mentioned how the "striking" of Jesus during his interrogation by the priests in Matthew and Luke contains a similarly long line of text that is identical in both Matthew and Luke. Textual critics continue to argue over what that means for the synoptic problem. Did Luke know the Gospel of Matthew and copy that line directly? Or, did a scribe that knew and worked at copying both Gospels add Matthew's line to Luke or even add Luke's line to Matthew? We'll probably never know. But at least we know where the pertinent questions remain when it comes to such word for word shared lines. And I would love to have a more complete list of the longest such shared lines between Gospels.

    Is there a computer program that can ferret them out?

    Also, any other works on "conjectural emendations" besides the ones listed above would be appreciated!

  32. This is a great list. I have been studying Reformed theology and presuppositionalism. So it's great to be able to study textual criticism.

    What is your opinion on the Chicago Statement of Inerrancy? Do you affirm it?

  33. This was the list that alerted me to Parker's review of Ehrman/Metzger 4th edition. Having just finished reading the article this morning, I'm confused: you say that "The third edition is better in many respects; see review by D. C. Parker in JTS."

    In fact, it seems to me that one of Parker's chief criticisms is that the older editions(s) are now out of date, and that the 4th edition has not adequately updated it:

    "Only a few of those [introductions to the field] out of print are still worth reading for lasting value rather than for historical interest... So much has happened and is happening of which this book takes no notice, that I fear students given it will not see the whole picture. It would be pleasant to greet this new edition with renewed enthusiasm. Instead, I fear that we must prepare to bid it farewell."