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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Review: An Introduction to the Old Testament

26267459John Goldingay (PhD, University of Nottingham; DD, Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth) is David Alan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary. Goldingay is the author of numerous books, including the seventeen-volume Old Testament for Everyone series (Westminster John Knox, 2010-15), The Theology of the Book of Isaiah (IVP, 2014), Do We Need the New Testament? Letting the Old Testament Speak for Itself (IVP, 2015), and the three-volume Old Testament Theology (IVP, 2003-09). Furthermore, Goldingay has also published a number of highly respected commentaries and a host of articles pertaining to the sphere of Old Testament studies. Most recently, An Introduction to the Old Testament: Exploring Text, Approaches & Issues (IVP, 2015), Goldingay has brought the lively and informative conversations of his classroom to the everyday reader.

Part of the difficulty with the current landscape of introductory material on the Old Testament is that it generally overlooks the necessary balance between engaging the reader and instructing them in the areas of information they need. There are certain topics that the instructor needs to address in detail, and others that they do not. Moreover, for the student, there are particular issues and topics that perk their interest and others that may not. Finding the proper balance between “need to know” and “want to know” is a difficult task, but it is essential if one is going to fully engage others in the learning process. It is within this need and reality that An Introduction to the Old Testament shines the brightest, as it executes this balance with intentional precision.

There are several unique features that make An Introduction to the Old Testament more accessible in this manner. For the sake of space here, I will list two. First, rather than operating within the traditional chapter divisions, Goldingay has designated separate two-page sections for each topic addressed within the five major sections of the book — (Part I) Introduction, (Part II) Torah, (Part III) The Prophets, (Part IV) The Writings, and (Part V) Looking Back over the Whole. This attention to detail makes the content more digestible and accessible for the average reader. Second, to supplement these smaller sections, Goldingay has provided the reader with a whole host of additional material and expanded discussions at his website. Thus, at the end of each major division the reader will find a dedicated section entitled “Web Resources” where they can further investigate related issues. This is a great feature and it really allows the reader to plunge as deep as they desire, into whatever area they desire, and come out on the other side with a better understanding of the material.

An Introduction to the Old Testament: Exploring Text, Approaches & Issues by John Goldingay is an excellent guide through the deep trenches of the Old Testament Scriptures. Goldingay is a seasoned professor and has provided the reader with a welcomed balance between the “need to know” information of the Old Testament and the “want to know” information. Moreover, he has presented it in an easily digestible layout and provided the reader additional avenues to further pursue other topics of interest. For these reasons and more, An Introduction to the Old Testament is an easy recommendation for anyone looking to explore the Old Testament. But, more specifically, if you are a teacher and/or professor and are considering the use of An Introduction to the Old Testament as a textbook, I couldn’t think of a better resource to engage your students and cultivate conversation in your classroom than this. It comes highly recommended.

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.