Black, David Alan. 1994. New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
To begin, I want to say a word about myself. I am not an academic scholar. What I am is a retired businessman with a late life interest in textual criticism. And a newbie at that. This month marks my second month in the study of textual criticism. Do I speak Greek? I wish.
New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide by David Alan Black offers a general, but brief, orientation to textual criticism for the new student. The book includes a preface, three chapters, three appendices, and three back matter items. All of these take up a brief 79 pages. The book is paperback and measures 5.5 inches (width) x 8.5 inches (height) x .25 inches (thickness). The book appears to be currently available as print-on-demand from Amazon (Lexington, Kentucky). The font typeface is large and easy to read. The page format allows for underlining and hand-written notes in the various margins.
In the Preface, Black explains the scope of his little book, as well as recommending Bruce M. Metzger's The Text of the New Testament (3d rev. ed; Oxford: University Press, 1992) as a more detailed introduction to textual criticism.
Chapter 1 - Scribes, Scrolls, and Scripture: The Purpose and Materials of New Testament Textual Criticism describes the importance and scope of New Testament textual criticism for the student and reader interested in the discipline. Next, Black introduces the writing materials, writing utensils, and book forms of the ancient world. He also summarizes the types of errors in the New Testament manuscripts, as well as the sources of evidence (Greek manuscripts, ancient versions, and citations by early church fathers). Black concludes the first chapter (19 pages in length) with six key thoughts and three questions for discussion.
The history and methods of textual criticism are introduced in Chapter 2 - From Corruption to Restoration: The History and Methods of New Testament Textual Criticism. The history portion of this chapter (14 pages in length) summarizes the earliest centuries, middle ages, and modern era. Next, he presents the principles of external evidence and internal evidence, which is followed by the four modern approaches to New Testament textual criticism (Radical Eclecticism--G. D. Kilpatrick, J. K. Elliott; Reasoned Eclecticism--B. M. Metzger, K. Aland; Reasoned Conservatism--H.A. Sturz; and Radical Conservatism--Z. Hodges, A. Farstad). His outline of the four approaches is succinct and to the point, a valuable sketch for both the new student and seasoned scholar. The chapter ends with a conclusion and two questions for discussion. One of these questions is a good exercise for those of us just entering the world of textual criticism. He asks the reader to use the KJV or NKJV and a modern version to compare 25 variants: (1) omission or addition of nine substantial passages, (2) omission or addition of nine shorter passages, (3) substitution of a word (or words) for another in two passages, and (4) omission or addition of a single word or group of words in five passages.
Chapter 3 - From Theory to Practice: Selected Examples of New Testament Textual Criticism continues the application of criteria by analyzing more examples of variation. Black opens the chapter by offering useful comparison of the critical apparatuses found in the two most commonly used editions of the Greek New Testament: United Bible Societies' (UBS) and Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece. I found the comparison of these two apparatuses to be quite helpful in the selection of Greek New Testaments for my personal shelf. Next, the author guides us into working four variants: Mark 1:2; Matthew 5:22; Ephesians 1:1; and John 3:13. In the working of John 3:13, Black provides a chart of the external evidence found among the Byzantine, Alexandrian, Western, and "Caesarean" sources. He further illustrates the internal evidence of John 3:13 with the following principles: (1) prefer the more difficult reading, (2) prefer the shorter reading, (3) prefer the reading that best accounts for the others, (4) author's theology, and (4) author's style and vocabulary. Black finishes off this chapter (15 pages in length) with a few words on how to deal with textual problems in preaching and teaching, a short conclusion, and another practice session (15 variants).
Appendix 1 summarizes the types of errors found in New Testament manuscripts: accidental errors and intentional errors. Appendix 2 lists the four text types: Byzantine, Alexandrian, Western, and "Caesarean." Appendix 3 presents a 4-part worksheet for doing textual criticism on variants.
The back matter to the book includes a select bibliography (current as of 1994), scripture index, and subject index.
As I said at the beginning of this review, I am very new to the discipline of textual criticism. Black's Concise Guide provides a nice first step for my wrinkled old brain.
What is next on the shelf to read? Philip Comfort's Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism (Tyndale House, 2005).