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About this website

History

This is Andrew Wilson's website devoted to the subject of New Testament Textual Criticism. Andrew has had an interest in NT textual criticism since his late teens, when (a) he started reading the NT in Greek, and noticed the various alternative readings in the footnotes, (b) his family inherited a box of old books on the subject of NT textual criticism from a somewhat eccentric Christian classicist. Amongst these books were a number of Greek New Testaments from the earlier part of the 20th century that adopted quite different readings to the standard UBS text. The notes in the margins of some of the books also showed that their previous owner had strongly disagreed with many textual decisions in our current NT critical text (he had marked up a number of complimentary copies of the UBS texts). Some of the books in the box also explained why the previous owner was unhappy with the current state of thinking on NT textual criticism. The effect of all this was to highlight that other views of NT textual criticism existed besides the 'official' view represented by the UBS commitee. (In fact, one of the facts highlighted by the number of UBS editions in the box was how many hundreds of differences there were between the various of editions of the NT text compiled by virtually the same commitee). Probably the most important book in the box was a collection of essays by E. C. Colwell, who combined a spicy writing style with original thinking and a disinclination to parrot the conventional wisdom on the subject. Among the important and innovative research essays in this book, there was Colwell's article on scribal habits based on singular readings.

When the internet came along, Andrew started playing around with his new-found knowledge of HTML to make (for himself) a NT text with a hyperlinked textual apparatus combining information from some of the older critical apparatuses like Tischendorf and von Soden. After starting to collect variant readings, he also came across Reuben Swanson's NT Greek Manuscripts series of volumes, and found these the best way to graphically track variant readings (and later, singular readings). In the end, he left off the project to compile his own critical apparatus because of an interest in his growing collection of singular readings, and what they were revealing.

Eventually, during a number of years living in England, Andrew did five years of part time research in scribal habits in Greek NT manuscripts at Tyndale House in Cambridge. There he benefitted greatly from interaction with others interested in NT textual criticism as well as from the research facilities.

In 2011, Andrew presented a paper at the Society of Biblical Literature Conference held in London to commemorate the four-hundredth anniversary of the King James Version. An expanded version of this paper subsequently appeared in Filologia Neotestamentaria volume 44 (2011). In 2014, another yet-further expanded version of this article, explaining the significance of scribal habits for a more general audience, was included in the volume, Digging for the Truth: Collected Essays regarding the Byzantine Text of the Greek New Testament; A Festschrift in Honor of Maurice A. Robinson

Robinson Festschrift

Here is the link to Amazon.

Content

This website exists to fulfil a number of functions. Firstly, it provides a simple introduction to textual criticism of the New Testament. There are a number of articles that provide basic information about the subject for internet enquirers with little or no previous knowledge of the subject. 

Secondly, this site provides more technical information about research into scribal habits. The evidence from studies in scribal habits shows why NT textual criticism as currently practised is in need of serious rethinking.

Thirdly, this site provides an introduction to a different way of approaching NT textual criticism that goes under various names: Reasoned Conservatism (which is how it is described in Dave Alan Black's New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide), or Balanced Eclecticism (Andrew Wilson's preferred name). This approach to NT textual criticism places the emphasis upon (a) propinquity in regard to external evidence, (b) revised transcriptional canons based on accurate evidence of what scribes actually did in relation to transcriptional arguments, and (c) exegetical arguments for the best reading in context, in line with a high view of Scripture.

Lastly, this site hopes to provide a growing library of NT examples which show how such principles are applied to individual textual variants.

Banner

The website banner is a combination of two images. Firstly, there is a page from Codex Vaticanus at the beginning of the Epistle to the Hebrews (notice the large capital Pi in the margin at the top of the second column - Hebrews begins with the word 'polymeros'). Further down the second column, you can see faintly where a scribe has written in the margin the words, 'Fool and knave, leave the old reading and do not change it!' (or, if you prefer a less Shakespearean translation of the Greek, you could read it as 'Stupid idiot, don't change the old reading!'). This little comment nicely illustrates the problem of scribal changes to the text. New Testament textual criticism is the attempt to weed out these copying changes and errors, leaving us with the authentic, original wording.

On the right hand side of the banner is an illumination, that is, a graphic illustration that sometimes accompanied the wording in some manuscript copies of the New Testament. In this case, the illumination contains (in gold!) a picture of the apostle John being divinely inspired to write his gospel (although it seems to assume some sort of dictation theory of inspiration!). The image is from a 12th Century NT manuscript that was apparently stolen from a Greek monastery. The image has been displayed on the J. Paul Getty Museum website, and in various publications and exhibitions, but the manuscript is being returned to Greece in June 2014.

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