Challenges In New Testament Textual Criticism For The Twenty-First Century -- By: Daniel B. Wallace

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 52:1 (Mar 2009)
Article: Challenges In New Testament Textual Criticism For The Twenty-First Century
Author: Daniel B. Wallace

Challenges In New Testament Textual Criticism For The Twenty-First Century

Daniel B. Wallace*

* Daniel B. Wallace, professor of NT studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, 3909 Swiss Ave., Dallas, TX 75204, delivered this plenary address at the 60th annual meeting of the ETS in Providence, RI on November 20, 2008.

I. Preface

Thirty years ago, NT textual criticism on this side of the Atlantic seemed to be on its last legs—so much so that Eldon Epp could write with a straight face an essay entitled “New Testament Textual Criticism in America: Requiem for a Discipline”—an article published in the Journal of Biblical Literature.1 Five years earlier, he lamented the fact that there were probably more textual critics working at the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung in Münster than there were in all of North America.2 (The INTF is responsible for producing the Nestle-Aland Greek text; there are about half a dozen fulltime textual critics working there.) What Epp described was a sad state of affairs, but the postmortem reports were nonetheless a bit premature.

In the last decade and a half, the cadaver has come back to life3 and is stronger than ever. Who could have predicted that a book on textual criticism would ever make the New York Times Bestseller list? Yet Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus: The Story behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, published four years ago, did just that. A large part of the reason it did so was because its thesis was that the proto-orthodox radically changed the text to conform to their views. Misquoting Jesus gave the impression that everything was in doubt and nothing was certain. The book was a sensation, creating a Chicken Little effect; countless people abandoned the faith because of it.

When Misquoting Jesus hit the stores, questions were raised that many biblical scholars were not prepared to discuss. That is because most scholars have only gotten a taste of textual criticism, often on the assumption that all the work has already been done. All they needed was their Nestle-Aland text and they have got the original.

Much of what Ehrman said was a simplifying of his Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, a first-rate academic piece published in 1993. But he had also gone through a theological shift in the last decade and a half, and Misquoting Jesus began to reflect that shift. He was more provocative and less cautious than he had been previously. Most importantly, he took his argument to ...

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