Series: Text and Canon of the New Testament
Editor: Daniel Wallace
Bibliographical Info: 266 + 17 (indices)
Publisher: Kregel, 2011
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With thanks to Kregel for the gratuitous review copy.
Read Part I here.
Chapter 4 contains Adam Messer’s contribution to this volume with an essay titled, Patristic Theology and Recension in Matthew 24.36 – An Evaluation of Ehrman’s Text-Critical Methodology. This chapter is similar to the previous one in that it approaches a NT textual variant with the purpose of investigating the charge that passages in the NT were deliberately changed for theological reasons. The variant found in Matt 24.36 is whether, when discussing the parousia, Matthew recorded Jesus’ caveat that the Son doesn’t know the day and hour (ουδε ο υιος).
Messer provides an examination of the theological motivations that might have caused the omission of the phrase from Matthew, as well as the Patristic evidence for this variant. It was quite interesting to see the excuses that some of the church fathers came up with in order to reconcile how Jesus could say that he didn’t know the day nor hour of his return with the belief that Jesus is God. It reminds me of how many people today come up with some creative explanations to reconcile parts of the Bible which contradict each other.
In chapter 5 Tim Ricchuiti provides us an essay title, Tracking Thomas: A Text-Critical Look at the Transmission of the Gospel of Thomas. Ricchuiti uses the canons of textual criticism to examine the differences between the Coptic and Greek versions of various logia of the Gospel of Thomas. The purpose of such an exercise? By comparing the Greek fragments to the Coptic text, Ricchuiti is aiming to to assess the merit of the Greek fragments against the Coptic text. He concludes that, inter alia, “scholars are on fairly solid ground when it comes to the assumption that the Greek represents an earlier strain of Thomas.” (226)
Brian Wright contributes the essay for chapter 6, Jesus as ΘΕΟΣ – A Textual Examination. Wright examines the seven verses in the New Testament which may very well call Jesus “θεος” (John 1.1, 1.18, 20.28, Acts 20.28, Gal 2.20, Heb 1.8, and 2 Pet 1.1). Wright concludes that the three Johannine passages, Heb 1.8, and 2 Pet 1.1, do refer to Jesus as θεος, whereas Acts 20.28 and Gal 2.20 do not.
I believe that the point behind this essay was to show that despite the fact that many of the passages in the NT which call Jesus θεος have either grammatical problems or textual variants, it is still clear that the NT unambiguously refers to Jesus as θεος. While I wouldn’t disagree with this, it doesn’t take it far enough. I mean, having decided that the NT calls Jesus θεος, the question naturally arises as to what exactly this meant for the author of the text (as one can not just simply assume it means what mainstream Christianity thinks it means).
In general I don’t have many criticisms of this book. All of the essays were thoroughly researched and exhaustively footnoted. It was kind of annoying, though, to see a few verses examined multiple times throughout the book (e.g. an examination of Matt 24.36 is found in three of the six essays). Also, seeing as one of the themes of the book was whether any important Christian doctrines are altered by NT variants, it would have been interesting to see Heb 2.9 tackled in this regard, i.e. what would be the theological implications of the reading “choris theou“? Is it easily reconcilable in a Trinitarian framework?
Despite these criticisms, I thought this book was great from a text-critical perspective and I am interested to see what other volumes this new series from Kregel brings forth.