Review: A Student’s Guide to Textual Criticism

2113111Paul D. Wegner is the Director of Academic Graduate Studies Program and Professor of Old Testament Studies at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. Wegner has a M.Div. and Th.M from Trinity Divinity School, and a Ph.D. from Kings College, University of London. Prior to his position at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Wegner taught at Moody Bible Institute for roughly thirteen years in the Bible department and Phoenix Seminary for about eleven years as Professor of Old Testament. Wegner has written numerous articles in the field of biblical studies and textual criticism, authored several books, including, The Journey from Texts to Translations: The Origin and Development of the Bible (Baker Academic, 2004), Using Old Testament Hebrew in Preaching: A Guide for Students and Pastors (Kregel Academic, 2009), and contributed study notes for Habakkuk, Daniel, and an article on the reliability of the Old Testament for the highly acclaimed ESV Study Bible (Crossway, 2008). Wegner has consistently shown himself to be a competent scholar with a clear passion for bringing many of the conversations of the scholarly community in an accessible form to the classroom and pulpit.

A Student’s Guide to Textual Criticism: It’s History, Methods, and Results (IVP Academic, 2006) is a unique and accessible introductory guide through the trenches of the complexities that characterize the study of the textual criticism of the Bible. It is unique in that Wegner effectively covers both the Old Testament and New Testament in a single volume, and does so in tremendous detail. It is accessible in that Wagner is continually sensitive to the technicalities that often plague the conversations by building a language barrier between the expert and laity. This doesn’t mean that Wegner avoids the technical terms that the reader needs to know, but rather he explains and illustrates them in a way that cultivates understanding. The book opens with a general introduction to the study of textual criticism, including the definition and importance of the study itself, the explanation of the various transmissional errors that occur in the Bible (i.e. homophony, haplography, dittography, etc.), as well as the transmission of the biblical texts themselves. The learned reader may be tempted to merely skim over this introductory section assuming little benefit, but this would only result in the bypass of one of the most helpful sections of the book. The novice readers will want to spend as much time here as possible, and mastery is recommended. Wegner provides a host of examples and illustrations as he sets the stage for the more detailed investigation ahead.

The second and third sections of the book detail specified attention to both Old Testament and New Testament textual criticism. Both sections are thorough in examination and extremely user-friendly. In regards to the Old Testament, Wegner walks the reader through the history of Old Testament textual criticism and the methods with which such practice is best practiced. After walking the reader through Wegner provides two specific examples of how textual criticism works in practice, 1 Chronicles 6:40 and Hosea 7:14. Wegner closes the Old Testament section with a sizeable discussion on various sources closely associated with Old Testament Criticism. The same format is provided with regards to the New Testament textual criticism section. Here Wegner guides the reader through the history and practice of New Testament textual criticism and provides specific examples from Ephesians 1:1 and Romans 15:7. Subsequently, the discussion is directed upon the sources of New Testament textual criticism—the biblical papyri, uncial manuscripts, and minuscule manuscripts.  With these two sections, both Old Testament and New Testament juxtaposed with one another the reader can quickly distinguish the difference between the two disciplines. Wegner also aids in this effort. The book closes with a look into other relevant text for the task of textual criticism, including early translations of the Old Testament and New Testament. The keen reader will certainly appreciate the inclusion of this section into the overall aim of the book, as some of these early versions of the biblical text become imperative the task at hand.

A Student’s Guide to Textual Criticism: It’s History, Methods, and Results is an essential resource for anyone interested in the underlying investigation of the Bible. Not only because the discipline of textual criticism, in general, is imperative to the preaching and teaching of the Bible, as Wegner makes clear, but he has labored to make the study accessible and comprehendible to the reader. Apart from the goldmine of information provided within the sections briefly described above, Wegner has also included relevant bibliographic material for further reading at the end of each section. Moreover, each section in the book is littered with helpful illustrations and photographs to better engage the reader with the groundwork taking place. Lastly, for quick reference Wegner has included a healthy 10-page glossary for relevant terms and an exhaustive name and subject index. If you are looking for an introduction to the complex world of textual criticism from a trusted and reliable source then A Student’s Guide to Textual Criticism is a book you should not overlook. Wegner has skillfully gathered a wealth of imperative information and presented it with judicious care and attention for the student of Scripture. If you are a pastor, teacher, student, or interested laymen, I couldn’t recommend this resource enough. It will encourage and enhance your understand and confidence in the Bible.

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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