Bret James Stewart's Reviews > A Student's Guide to Textual Criticism of the Bible: Its History, Methods & Results

A Student's Guide to Textual Criticism of the Bible by Paul D. Wegner
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it was amazing

Paul D. Wegner’s A Student’s Guide to Textual Criticism of the Bible: Its History, Methods, and Results provides a nice overview of the areas of biblical textual criticism for both testaments and general hermeneutics. As the title implies, he is assuming the reader has no previous knowledge of the subject.

The book itself is well done and interesting. Wegner includes a number of charts and graphs of various sorts as well as photographs of people and things. These help bring the subject the life and makes some of the heavier information easier to understand. The book also includes the standard academic features one would hope to be present: a glossary, subject index, and name index. As this is an introductory text, he includes a list of recommended books after each segment.

Part One deals with the basics of textual criticism such as what it is, why it is important, and an overview of both testaments, which is necessary as there is some divergence between the two. The goals of textual criticism in both testaments are also addressed. Wegner goes on to describe the different types of errors the texts display before going on to cover the transmission of the biblical texts themselves. The latter involves the known history of the books, how they were copied and maintained throughout time.

Part Two deals specifically with Old Testament textual criticism. He provides a historical overview of the subject, then describes the modern editions of the O.T. before addressing the methodology of determining the most plausible original reading of the text. I suppose he does it in this order to show what we have so that we have something—a target goal or final text--upon which to focus. Lastly, Wegner provides an overview of the major sources for O.T. textual criticism.

Part Three is the same as the previous section except that it is focuses on the New Testament. As I mentioned above, criticism for the two testaments are not identical as they have different starting points and circumstances in the two discipline that affect the procedures.

Part Four provides an overview of the primary ancient versions of the Bible and their impact upon textual criticism in the past and in the future. Wegner divides this topic by the geo-political division of Eastern tradition and Western tradition.

Wegner’s writing style is accurate and easy to follow. He does include a few examples of how to consider a text, and he provides a list of suggested verses to use as subjects to which to apply this knowledge, but I would argue that this book is not really a “student’s guide” in any capacity beyond it merely being an introductory text on the subject. There are not summary questions or any other aids that one might expect in a book considered such a guide.

Overall, I think this is a great book. It will appeal to those who are interested in textual criticism, of course, but also to those interested in hermeneutics, exegesis, biblical text history, and the rationale behind the generally accepted modern versions of the Bible. Almost all of this information is included in a larger earlier book: The Journey from Texts to Translations: The Origin and Development of the Bible (BakerAcademic, 1999). A Students Guide… is essentially the pertinent portion of this larger text (which also deals with translations, a subject not covered in A Student’s Guide…). Thus, I would maintain that one should read one or the other, but probably not both as the information is largely duplication. Unless you have to read it for a class and/or only want the textual criticism information, I posit The Journey… as the better text to get as it is more complete.

Wegner has done a fantastic job of dealing with this subject and has provided an interesting introduction that is fun to read. Highly recommended—five stars.

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January 16, 2015 – Shelved

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