I had the pleasure of reviewing “Textual Criticism of the Bible” by Amy Anderson and Wendy Widder in exchange for a review. This book is a part of the “Lexham Methods Series”, which covers a variety of subjects including canon, source criticism, narrative criticism, linguistic approach, and so on. To mention this in passing, it looks like a really solid series that is worth exploring, but I digress.
When I first received the book “Textual Criticism of the Bible” I had thought it was a bit thin, but after reading through it, it isn’t lacking anything for an introduction into the subject. The book treats itself as an introduction, and provides you with the concepts of textual criticism. Not only that, but it provides some tools to apply those concepts, while also listing out resources for going deeper into the subject. It covers the subjects of “What is textual criticism?”, Old Testament textual criticism, New Testament textual Criticism and how textual criticism is seen in history to today. This is to say that these five chapters are packed and you’ll leave with new vocabulary and better understanding of why footnotes are the way that they are, and you’ll also understand that not every difference in translation is translational. You’ll see how and why textual Critics do what they do and why it is necessary for us today. It is worth saying that this book will leave you with questions, but as I mentioned, the book provides resources to help you answer those questions when you’re ready to go deeper.
When looking at the format of the book, I think it is fantastic. Key terms are in bold print, and if you forget a term, there is a glossary in the back of the book. Not only this, but the book certainly isn’t lacking when it comes to tables, charts, and images to help you practically see what is occurring. The format is excellent for relaying the content as you first get a term, an explanation of that term, and then a few examples from the Old and New Testament of how things work. The book lays out the principles of textual criticism and then provides examples of how a textual critic would examine the text and not only that, but the book provides the reader with an overview of how to read and understand a critical apparatus and apply the principles themselves. In addition to all of this, the authors do a great job with informing the reader of the text behind their bibles, and teaching the reader about some of the important witnesses of the bible. You can expect to know more about the scrolls, papyri, majuscules, minuscules, and lectionaries, while understanding how we examine them and establish a text.
I will say this, after reading a few books on the subject, I have found that this particular volume is probably the most user-friendly when zoning in, specifically, on the subject of textual criticism. While it doesn’t go as deep as others, it lays out the information in a way that it makes for an excellent starting point. Whether you’re wanting to get into the subject of textual criticism, or just want to know more about your bibles, this book is excellent.
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