Logos is release a series a 4 book series titled the “Lexham Methods Series” published by Lexham Press. It will be a digital resource available through logos.com. It consists of four works, including:
- Textual Criticism of the Bible
- Linguistics and Biblical Exegesis
- Social & Historical Approaches to the the Bible
- Literary Approaches to the Bible
The purpose of these volumes is to enable the reader to “learn, refresh or master the tools of Biblical scholarship” and be “equipped to share the material with others.” I was kindly sent an advanced copy of volume one of this series and would like to briefly summarize and interact with it here.
Summary of Textual Criticism and the Bible
This volume begins with a brief introduction defining textual criticism (TC) and differentiating this discipline with translation technique. TC is simply defined as “exercising judgment about a text to determine the most original wording.” This definition will be further qualified and unpacked in the remaining chapters.
In Chapter 2, “An Overview of Textual Criticism, contains discussions of both Old and New Testament TC, including the present state of the manuscripts as well as how textual variants have appeared. It explains why TC is important, the goal of TC, its basic principles, and its limitations.
In Chapters 3, “Introduction to Old Testament Textual Criticism” the author introduces the history of Old Testament TC, the textual evidence available for doing TC of the Old Testament, as well as a practical section on how to do Old Testament textual criticism, which includes tools and specific examples. This same pattern is followed in chapter 4, “Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism.”
Finally, in chapter 5, “Textual Criticism and the Bible” the author lists several popular translations of the Bible and explains each one’s text-critical approach. It also includes a brief discussion on how TC impacts our understanding of the authority of Scripture.
My Thoughts on the Volume
First, I am a huge fan of how this volume is organized. It is easy to read through in a few sittings or to use as a reference guide. The table of contest is easily navigated and labeled so that it is easy to find the subject matter you might be looking for. Also, throughout the work many important words and concepts have linked definitions, and links to other helpful resources. Each major section also contains an annotated bibliography for further study, which guides one into further study if desired.
This volume is perhaps one of the most thorough yet accessible introductions to Textual Criticism available. It for the most part finds a good balance between scholarly treatment of the issues, yet accessibility to the average reader. For example, the introductions to both Old and New Testament Textual Criticism include a section on its history and key figures. While each of these topics is massive, this volume seems to hit the most important points without bogging the reader down with details.
The same is true with these sections’ discussions of textual evidence. This work hits the major textual witnesses with brief yet informative descriptions of each. With regard to the OT, it covers the Masoretic Text, the Septuagint, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and other less significant but still valuable witnesses, including the Samarian Pentateuch and translations from Hebrew into Syriac, Aramaic and Latin. As someone not all that familiar with Old Testament textual criticism, after reading through this work I feel much more competent to address the issue and study it in more depth.
The discussion of the New Testament witnesses is excellent and covers the papyri, uncials, minuscules and lectionaries, with discussions of the most important witnesses in each. There are also brief discussion of the modern critical editions, early translations and citation in the church fathers.
Finally, the sections on both Old and New Testament TC have sub-sections on how to do textual criticism. These sections themselves are reason enough to get the volume. There is an overview of the principles and a step by step guide to the process using specific textual problems from the Biblical text.
The Lexham Methods series looks to be a valuable tool for for students, pastors and laypeople alike. Whether seeking to refresh or learn the valuable tools contained in it’s pages, the organization and content provide an accessible way to delve deeply into the topic.
Volume one, Textual Criticism of the Bible, is more than an introduction to the topic. While it does not provide an exhaustive discussion of TC, it does delve deeply into the issues involved and provides avenues for further in depth study. I am in the process of preparing for my comprehensive exams as a PhD student and this work has certainly provided more than enough information on textual criticism should that question arise! But more important than the impartation of information, which the book does very well, is the fact that it makes TC accessible so that anyone can read it and be strengthened in their confidence in the reliability of God’s Word.
Update: A print version of this series is also forthcoming and will be made available through Amazon.