Anyone who has studied some New Testament Greek, or who has looked a commentary like the Word Biblical Commentary has heard about “textual criticism”. But the field is hopelessly technical, with all of its abbreviations and assumed knowledge.
More important than being able to read a textual apparatus (such as that of the NA27 or of Tischendorf) is gaining an understanding of the general nature of the problem that textual critics, through these apparatuses, are trying to describe. And that’s what the New Testament Textual Criticism Collection (6 vols) is all about: giving some background to understand the problem.
There are some books geared towards introduction to manuscripts and to textual criticism in general; there are other books that are collections of essays that describe the practice of textual criticism applied to problems found in the New Testament. And there’s even an excellent book on the Synoptic problem. Here’s the list:
- Encountering New Testament Manuscripts by Jack Finegan.
- Manuscripts and the Text of the New Testament by Keith Elliot and Ian Moir
- New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide by David Alan Black
- Studies in the Theory and Method of New Testament Textual Criticism Eldon J. Epp and Gordon D. Fee, editors
- The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research Bart D. Ehrman and Michael W. Holmes, editors
- The Synoptic Problem: A Way through the Maze by Mark Goodacre
Encountering New Testament Manuscripts and Manuscripts and the Text of the New Testament are good introductions to the sorts of documents and evidence we have for the text of the New Testament. David Alan Black’s New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide gives a good starting point in three parts (Purpose, Method and Examples).
Studies in the Theory and Method of New Testament Textual Criticism and The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research are both sets of essays dealing with the background and application of textual criticism. The essays in these books are routinely cited and are well regarded. They are important works in the field. I’ve read them, and they are excellent.
The seeming outlier is Mark Goodacre’s The Synoptic Problem: A Way through the Maze, but it is one of the gems in this collection (it is also available individually). Goodacre identifies what is known in Biblical Studies as “the synoptic problem” and, unlike many books that only describe a problem, Goodacre posits a way out of it. And (here’s the spoiler if you haven’t read it) Goodacre’s solution does not involve “Q”. I’ve read this book as well (on my iPod!) and it is well written, convincing, and enjoyable to read. You will learn simply by reading this book. It’s that good.