Years ago, when I was still in seminary, I got in “trouble” for stating, “Textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible isn’t nearly as interesting as textual criticism of the Greek New Testament.” I said this not so much out of bias as out of ignorance. If only I had read Ernst Würthwein’s The Text of the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Biblia Hebraica, I could have understood that the history of the Hebrew Bible’s transmission is just as fascinating as that of the Greek New Testament—if not perhaps even more!
Ernst Würthwein (1909 – 1996) was a German biblical scholar and theologian who taught for years at the University of Marsburg. Numerous editions of The Text of the Old Testament (Der Text des Alten Testaments) appeared in his lifetime and became a standard introductory text on textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible. Although his name is attached to the current updated work we’ve released this week for Accordance, in reality everything in the title has been thorough updated and revised by Alexander A. Fischer, whose own work on the title is now in its third edition. This edition is translated into English by Erroll F. Rhodes, who also translated the pre-Fischer editions.
Fischer has strived to retain the general outline, formatting and even flavor of the original work by Würthwein, so the updated volume will still be recognizable by those who read and valued the original editions. However, this newest revision by Fischer brings the content up to date with the ongoing release of the Biblia Hebraica Quinta and also includes a new chapter on the Qumran texts.
Click/tap the image above for a larger view.
Fischer continues Würthwein’s same basic structure with three primary sections: A. The Hebrew Text of the Bible (covers Masoretic, Qumran, and Samaritan Texts), B. The Ancient Translations (the LXX gets a lot of coverage here, but attention is also given to Aramaic, Latin, and other ancient translations), and C. Textual Critism (serves as an introduction, guide and methodology to the subject). There is also the familiar section of “Plates” with 48 sections that include photos and descriptions of important ancient documents as well as a few helpful charts.
Accordance users might wonder how Würthwein’s The Text of the Old Testament compares to Emanual Tov’s Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible. In my initial comparison, I would consider Tov’s work to be the more advanced and extensive, but that’s not to slight Würthwein. In fact, I would still recommend both works, but perhaps Würthwein is a better starting point for those new to the subject of Hebrew Bible textual criticism. And Würthwein will go into more detail on some subjects, such as the LXX. Neither are what I would call “popular” introductions to the subject, but Würthwein is the more accessible of the two. Both assume some familiarity with Hebrew, but Würthwein offers translation a bit more often (but not always) than Tov.
If you have the journal Bibliotheca Sacra in Accordance, there is an analysis of an older (pre-Fischer) edition of The Text of the Old Testament reviewed by Robert B. Chisholm Jr. in an issue from 1996.
The Text of the Old Testament
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Editors use a variety of brackets in Bibles and Texts to indicate material that is missing, reconstructed, or whose authenticity is in doubt. This podcast surveys the different uses of brackets in Accordance’s most commonly-used texts—and how to adjust for them in searches and statistical analyses.
Check out more episodes of the Lighting the Lamp podcast!
Hebrew text criticism requires working with texts in multiple languages. Fortunately, Accordance Bible Software and its extensive original language resources makes that task easier. Join Dr. J in this episode as he tackles the age-old problem of Deut 32:34-45. Does it prophesy a Day of Judgment, as the Samaritans argue? Or is it a more general promise that God will avenge his people, as found in the Massoretic text? The textual variants in these verses make all the difference.
Check out more episodes of the Lighting the Lamp podcast!
I’ve written before about taking a class in textual criticism under John Polhill, back in the 90s. I knew nothing about the subject beforehand, but the class stands out as one of the favorite of my MDiv studies. One of our textbooks was A Textual Commentary of the Greek New Testament by the late Bruce M. Metzger. This work, a running commentary of the textual variants chosen by the editorial committee of the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament, still remains a standard work to this day.
Twelve years later after the second edition of Metzger’s Textual Commentary, Roger L. Omanson, on behalf of the United Bible Societies, published A Textual Guide to the Greek New Testament: An Adaptation of Bruce M. Metzger’s Textual Commentary for the Needs of Translators. Omanson’s work was made available for the Accordance Bible Software Library earlier this week.
Why was Omanson’s work necessary, and who would benefit from having it in addition to Metzger’s commentary? Many may not realize that Bible translators—especially those engaged in new translations in non-English languages—often do not have formal training in textual criticism. The textual apparatus at the bottom of a print Greek New Testament can sometimes be an intimidating reference for the uninitiated. In fact, although the editors of the United Bible Societies (UBS) and Nestle-Aland (NA) Greek New Testaments long ago standardized the content of the New Testament text itself, the apparatus of the UBS Greek NT was specifically developed as a less-complex resource than its NA counterpart for the needs of translators and beginning NT Greek students.
Interestingly enough, Metzger’s original commentary was “designed to assist translators and students who may not have available an extensive library” (preface to the first edition), but for some, Metzger’s commentary has remained too challenging. Omanson’s Textual Guide attempts to bridge Metzger’s work to any translator or interested party who does not have the time or resources to study textual criticism in depth.
In the preface, Omanson writes, “The notes are not intended to replace Metzger’s original notes, but merely to simplify and expand them.” Perhaps Omanson was being charitable here because I’m certain that many would simply use his Guide to the neglect of Metzger’s earlier work. Ideally, though, Metzger’s Textual Commentary and Omanson’s Textual Guide should be used side by side.
One can easily see in the above example the difference between Metzger (bottom left) and Omanson (bottom right). Note that Omanson always includes a gloss for the Greek phrase in question, the notes are more concise and easier to follow, and Omanson does not refer to the manuscript designations as often as Metzger since they are in the apparatus anyway.
Anyone who reads Omanson’s Textual Guide will still need to have a basic understanding of textual criticism--including basic terminology; an understanding of the UBS ranking system of variants along the A, B, C, D scale; and at least a moderate understanding of NT Greek. Fortunately, there’s a crash course in textual criticism, including terminology, in the introductory materials of the book. And since Omanson is aiming for translators, he also occasionally interacts with major translations of the Bible to offer examples of how a text can be translated or to point to which variant a particular translation may have followed.
Roger Omanson’s Textual Guide to the Greek New Testament is available by itself, but the best value can be found by obtaining it as part of the new Stuttgart Scholarly Add-on from the German Bible Society.
Translators and students will find Omanson’s Guide helpful, but so will anyone interested in textual criticism. If textual criticism is new to you, the explanations at the beginning of Omanson’s book will be extremely helpful. And for the uninitiated, I might also point to Philip Comfort’s New Testament Text & Translation Commentary which interacts more with translations of the Bible than even Omanson does. And if you have never studied biblical languages, I would point to the notes in the New English Translation (NET) of the Bible, which is a great “first stop” for textual issues on a fairly non-technical level.
Two decades later, Bart D. Ehrman’s book, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament continues to create debate and dialogue. Ehrman’s later works have even brought textual criticism, a field once reserved to academia, to the lay level. In response to Ehrman’s work, Daniel B. Wallace has edited Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament: Manuscript, Patristic, and Apocryphal Evidence--released today for the Accordance Bible Software Library.
Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament contains essays by six authors, all dealing with textual criticism and specifically the claim that scribes significantly corrupted the text of the New Testament. Wallace includes an essay of his own, an expansion of a presentation he made in a debate with Bart Ehrman and others in 2008 at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. The other five essays were originally presented the same year at the national meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in the same year.
This volume is also the first installment in what is to be an ongoing series, Text and Canon of the New Testament. This series will present volumes that address questions of whether or not the original text of the New Testament can be recovered based on manuscript evidence as well as questions concerning the 27 New Testament documents in relation to other writings of the early church. Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament contains the following essays that either address Ehrman’s claims or discuss related text-critical issues:
"Lost in Transmission: How Badly Did the Scribes Corrupt the New Testament Text?" by Daniel B. Wallace. Points of agreement are found with Ehrman on some issues, but in this examination of some of the major passages covered in The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, Wallace demonstrates why he believes so-called “orthodox corruptions” are not “as pervasive or as significant” as Ehrman presents.
"The Least Orthodox Reading Is to Be Preferred: A New Canon for New Testament Textual Criticism?" by Philip M. Miller. One conclusion that could be made from Ehrman’s claims about the New Testament is that “the least orthodox reading” is probably to be preferred when looking at variants, resulting in foundational new criteria for textual criticism. Miller offers evidence as to why this conclusion should be challenged.
"The Legacy of a Letter: Sabellianism or Scribal Blunder in John 1.1c?" by Matthew P. Morgan. Looking specifically at two later variants of καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος in John 1:1, Morgan examines the implications of a Sabellian understanding of God if the two manuscripts were correct.
"Patristic Theology and Recension in Matthew 24.36: An Evaluation of Ehrman’s Text-Critical Methodology" by Adam G. Messer. Some ancient manuscripts do not contain the phrase translated “nor the son” in Matt 24:36. Messer examines the evidence in patristic writings to see if this omission in some manuscripts was influenced by orthodox Church Fathers.
"Tracking Thomas: A Text-Critical Look at the Transmission of the Gospel of Thomas"by Tim Ricchuiti. In this only chapter dealing with a text not in the New Testament, Ricchuiti attempts to determine the earliest version of The Gospel of Thomas using the Coptic text and three Greek mss fragments.
"Jesus as θεός: A Textual Examination" by Brian J. Wright. Did any of the New Testament writers specifically claim that Jesus was God? Wright examines 17 passages in the NT to determine the answer.
In addition to the six main essays, Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament: Manuscript, Patristic, and Apocryphal Evidence also includes indexes to Scripture, Ancient Sources, and Persons and Subjects. Page numbers are included for citation purposes.
Most readers will find a knowledge of Koine Greek necessary for following the arguments in this book. For anyone interested in New Testament textual criticism, and especially recent debates on the subject, these essays are a must-read addition to your Accordance Library. Add it to your mobile device for easy reading on the go or quick consultation!
Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament
In the 1990s I took a New Testament textual criticism class under John B. Polhill as an elective in my MDiv studies. Looking back, it remains in my recollection as one of the best classes I experienced during that time. I learned more about the origin and transmission of the New Testament in that course than in any other class I took. I found everything about the subject fascinating and still do.
At that time, although Accordance was newly available, this was still the early days for Bible software. There were biblical texts—both original languages and translations—as well as many of the standard lexicons and other reference works, but not too much beyond that. In my class, we primarily depended on the print works of scholars like Bruce Metzger as well as the immense knowledge of Dr. Polhill on the subject.
Although I trusted both Metzger and Polhill, that dependence I mentioned above was very real. We could ask questions in class and consult related reference works, but there wasn’t much more we were able to do on our own. In the previous Student Strategies blog post, I discussed using Accordance for doing one’s own research (as opposed to depending on the research of others) with the INFER search. In this post I’d like to introduce (or remind) students to the features in Accordance that allows them to do their own text critical work. While perhaps not the same as holding an ancient manuscript in your hand, Accordance’s text-critical resources may just be the next best thing.
I’m going to use the Greek New Testament for the examples that follow, but note that we also have resources for textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible.
Let’s assume you don’t want to reinvent the wheel by traveling all around the world and examining all extant manuscripts for yourself, allowing you to create your own eclectic text. More than likely, you would start with the apparatus for the UBS 5 or Nestle-Aland 28 New Testament. Perhaps then, from what you find in the apparatus, you might want to consult a particular manuscript yourself. Although we obviously can’t give you access to every extant manuscript, we do provide the tools for examining the major witnesses that form the basis of the NA/UBS New Testament.
If you want to see what the image itself looks like, you’ll want to check out the Greek MSS Images from CSNTM, which contains the following manuscripts: Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Sinaiticus, Codex 2882, Codex Vaticanus, and Codex Washingtonianus (note that for study of the Hebrew Bible, we offer images for the Dead Sea Scrolls, Leningrad Codex, and Codex Sinaiticus).
Above: Matt 1:19 - 2:2 from Codex Washingtonianus. This image was exported from Accordance at 2600 x 4000 pixels.
These manuscripts, reproduced at high resolution, allow you to zoom in and look closely at these ancient texts. This is especially helpful for debated readings. Rather than citing a third party, you can write in your class paper, “Having looked at a high-resolution facsimile image of the codex, I conclude… .” And you can also copy or export the images for illustration in your paper or in a presentation using software like PowerPoint or Keynote.
In addition to these images, Accordance also offers a set of fully digitized text, Codex Add-On, corresponding to the physical manuscripts. This set uses an uncial (capital) font designed specifically for the included manuscripts: Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Bezae, Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Vaticanus, Codex Washingtonianus, as well as a Greek New Testament Papyri module based on the 2nd edition of Comfort & Barrett’s The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts. The uncial font can be used in your work as well to represent the text of the ancient manuscripts.
Above: Codex Washingtonianus with spaces (left column) and without spaces (center column) in parallel with the NA28 Greek New Testament. Note Crossover Highlighting between all three texts.
These digitized texts are morphologically tagged and have line breaks corresponding to the end of the line in the original codices. There are even representations of the Nomina Sacra used these manuscripts. Moreover, spaces between words can be turned on and off. Since the earliest manuscripts did not include spaces between words, removing the spaces gives you a better idea of what the original readers viewed--but in a much more readable digital font! The images can be viewed and scrolled in parallel with the digitized texts, as well as the UBS or NA Greek New Testament. Since the uncial texts are morphologically tagged, crossover highlighting works between them the UBS/NA texts.
I’m still amazed to have this kind of access to ancient texts. Yes, all the standard reference works are indispensable, but there’s nothing quite like doing your own textual criticism and verifying readings for yourself (and it will impress your instructors, too!).
There are many more resources in Accordance related to textual criticism, including alternative apparatuses—too much content to go into here. However, check out Tim Jenney’s webinar from a couple of years ago, “Greek New Testament Textual Criticism,” to see some of these tools in action and to be introduced to some of the other text-critical resources not mentioned here.
Don't miss previous installments in our Strategies for Students series!
If textual studies are your area of interest, your Accordance Library will not be complete without Emanuel Tov’s Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible and The Text-Critical Use of the Septuagint in Biblical Research. Together, these volumes leave no stone unturned in looking at manuscript evidence and development of the Hebrew Bible and its first translation, the Septuagint.
What is Textual Criticism? Tov defines it this way:
Textual criticism deals with the nature and origin of all the witnesses of a composition or text, in our case the biblical books. This analysis often involves an attempt to discover the original form of details in a composition, or even of large stretches of text, although what exactly constitutes (an) “original text(s)” is subject to much debate. In the course of this inquiry, attempts are made to describe how the texts were written, changed, and transmitted from one generation to the next [Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, p. 1].
In the image at the left, Tim Jenney ("Dr. J") demonstrates for Emanuel Tov how his books on textual criticism integrate with the Accordance Library.
In the third revised and expanded edition of Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, Tov emphasizes the significance of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the impact this had on textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible. And if anyone wants to dismiss textual criticism as a practical exercise, Tov gives significant attention to the impact upon biblical exegesis as well as literary criticism.
Click on the image above for a closer look at Tov's Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible
As the history of the Hebrew Bible and Septuagint are so historically and textually intertwined, The Text-Critical Use of the Septuagint in Biblical Research (also in its third revised and expanded edition) is invaluable for understanding the development of these two corollary texts. As with his volume on the Hebrew Bible, Tov emphasizes the importance of textual criticism upon exposition and literary analysis. However, for the individual who has not yet discovered how to integrate the Septuagint into biblical research, this volume serves as an excellent introduction for determining how the Hebrew and Greek biblical texts work together.
Click on the image above for a closer look at Tov's The Text-Critical Use of the Septuagint in Biblical Research
The Accordance Team has analyzed both of Tov’s works on textual criticism with meticulous precision. All content has been tagged according to the following fields for Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible: English Content, Hebrew/Aramaic Content, Greek Content, Transliteration, Manuscripts, Scripture, Bibliography, Table Titles, Captions, Image Credits, and Page Numbers. The Text-Critical Use of the Septuagint in Biblical Research receives the same kind of careful attention with content assigned these fields: English Content, Scripture, Greek Content, Hebrew Content, Transliteration, Manuscripts, Bibliography and Page Numbers. Such careful tagging of Tov’s works allows the Accordance user to find the exact content needed quickly and efficiently.
Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible (3rd Edition) (Tov)
Regular Price $89.90
The Text-Critical Use of the Septuagint in Biblical Research (3rd Edition) (Tov)
Regular Price $42.90
When I took a masters-level textual criticism class under Dr. John Polhill in the early nineties, everything we studied was in books about the subject. We read about various textual traditions, but we weren't really able to look at them side-by-side. We learned about important manuscripts and codexes, but there was simply no easy way for us to examine these documents for ourselves. We were at the mercy of trusting those who had written about them.
The advent of Bible software has taken personal textual criticism to an entirely new level. For instance, Accordance allows me to place a modern eclectic Greek New Testament text and a Greek text from the Byzantine tradition side by side to discover the differences myself. I can go even further by examining high-resolution images of the original manuscripts and codexes and draw my own conclusions. Perhaps it's not quite the same as having direct access to an important textual source, but with the ability to zoom in on a page and examine these early handwritten documents myself, I am able to draw my own text-critical conclusions instead of having to merely depend upon the evaluations of others.
Accordance has had a long tradition of bringing important manuscript traditions and image collections for the use of the individual deeply interested in textual issues. And today, we both update a few of our previous offerings as well as deliver some entirely new titles to our users.
We are pleased to announce two new morphologically tagged Greek New Testaments from the Byzantine family of manuscripts.
The first is the GNT-Family 35, a new scholarly edition of the Greek New Testament from the Center for the Study and Preservation of the Majority Text (CSPMT). Also known as the Byzantine Greek New Testament (not to be confused with the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform 2005), this text, compiled from a consensus of readings from the Byzantine Kr or Family 35 textform, is the most current Greek text of its kind. The CSPMT plans for an eventual critical apparatus to accompany this Greek text.
In addition, this set comes with the more well-known GNT-Ecumenical Patriarchal Text, also known as the Antoniades Text. This is the official Greek text published by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1904, incorporating corrections in the printed edition of 1912.
The Patriarchal Text was developed by a team led by Basil Antoniades, consulting numerous manuscripts of the Byzantine tradition and following the writings of John Chyrsostom whenever variants among the manuscripts existed.
The Leningrad Codex is the oldest complete manuscript (1008 CE) of the Hebrew Bible and the primary basis of modern editions such as Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and the Biblia Hebraica Quinta. Working with the West Semitic Research Project, we have now incorporated nearly 1,000 images from the Leningrad Codex to be examined in parallel with any biblical text from within an Accordance workspace.
Few readers of the Hebrew Bible would be able to journey to St. Petersburg, Russia, to examine the pages of the Leningrad Codex for themselves. However, having access to the codex images in Accordance allows the user to examine the pages in high resolution. Moreover, the images are fully exportable from Accordance. In a sample export, the image of one leaf from the codex measured 3673 x 4090 pixels.
Leningrad Codex Images
Regular Price $129; Sale Price $129
Accordance users who are seriously involved in Greek studies and textual criticism have long valued our New Testament MSS Images bundle. Now, in partnership with the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, we're greatly expanding this set with the introduction of additional texts and a new name: Greek MSS Images. This collection of images includes all previous titles and will now add the Septuagint from Codex Sinaiticus, as well as 1-2 Clement from Codex Alexandrinus. The Septuagint from Codex Alexandrinus will be added later at no additional cost. Several titles in the previous NT MSS Images have also been updated with links to high-resolution online images.
A discounted upgrade price is available for Accordance users who previously purchased NT MSS Images.
Our DSS Index has been updated to include hyperlinks to images housed at the Israel Museum as well as the Accordance Dead Sea Scrolls Images. The Index also includes the latest content updates from Dr. Martin Abegg. This is a free update to the DSS Index; a paid upgrade from the older Qumran Index. No actual images are stored or loaded in this module; links are provided for reference only.
DSS Index upgrade from Qumran Index
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In this video, Dan Wallace discusses his history with Accordance (he has been using Accordance since the first beta!). He also names what he considers to be the "must have" Accordance titles needed for textual criticism.
Dr. Wallace is professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and founder and executive director of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM).
Last year, almost to the day, I wrote a blog post on our release of Comfort and Barrett's, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts. In that post I highlighted some of our enhancements to the book, which included creating a separate corpus of morphologically-tagged Greek texts that are contained in the book (collated in canonical and manuscript order).
As soon as I became aware of this project I started thinking of ways in which this resource could be used to contribute to the field of New Testament textual criticism. At the SBL Annual Meeting in Boston I ran some of these ideas by a friend in the field and received a positive response. So, I drafted them up as a paper proposal for the International Meeting in Rome, which was subsequently accepted.
At the meeting in Rome I presented on how this resource can be used to search for and analyze the distribution and form of nomina sacra (Latin for "sacred names") in early New Testament papyri. The scribal convention of writing certain words in an abbreviated form with a supralinear stroke is one of the visible distinctions of Biblical manuscripts, and has long captivated the attention of scholars in this field. My paper set out to show the chain of research on this phenomenon, and how the Accordance version of Comfort and Barrett's work makes it possible to analyze, in one place, all the occurrences of nomina sacra in New Testament papyri up to the 3rd century.
One of the other highlights of my paper was that I revealed a further enhancement of the Accordance edition of Comfort and Barrett's work, namely the inclusion of five new papyri not included in the print edition: 𝔓118-121, and 𝔓123. During the Annual Meeting in Boston I was able to show Philip Comfort our work, and asked him to consider creating new transcriptions of papyri that had been discovered since his work was published that fit within his date criteria (up to c. 3rd century). This he graciously agreed to do. In Rome I was working with a prototype of this module with the new papyri, but wasn't able to announce this new enhancement until our official release (now included as a free update of the module). The new papyri added by Philip Comfort have been grammatically tagged, and recent updates to Accordance offer enhanced searching for nomina sacra-two developments that were indispensible for my research.
Because I showed how this tool was able to meet a perceived need in the field of textual criticism instead of merely giving a demonstration of its general features, I believe it was well received. In the discussion that followed we were also able to identify an error in the transcription in the first edition of one of the papyri. You can see some additional details on my paper, along with others in the Working with Biblical Manuscripts section, at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog
While I have attended various SBL meetings during the last several years, it was a privilege to be able to present for the first time at the International Meeting in Rome. I would like to thank both Accordance and Reformed Theological Seminary for this unique opportunity.
Those interested in studying the text of the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament can now do so in an unparalleled fashion, including access to these additional papyri with the unlock of this module on the Primary 8.4 DVD.