BookReview: Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament

Today’s book review book is provided by Kregel Publishers. It’s from their Academic and Professional Line. The title is Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament and it is edited by Daniel B. Wallace. Here’s the cover and Amazon link:

Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament: Manuscript, Patristic, and Apocryphal Evidence (Text and Canon of the New Testament)

Wallace is the editor, but the book itself is a collection of six essays regarding the textual basis of the New Testament. These are contributed by Wallace and five of his former academic interns (think something more than a student but less than a one-to-one disciple). Naturally, Wallace has a high opinion of their work and is the key to their involvement in this project. They are not quite as well-known as Wallace, so his credibility is the support of this work.

What is this work about? It is, essentially, a response to the work of Bart Ehrman in Misquoting Jesus and The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. The former work is based on the latter, drawing from the scholarly evidence there to produce a more accessible wide-market book. The popularity of Dr. Ehrman’s work has caused a stir in theological academics, especially in the field of Biblical Studies.

The first effort of this book is to fairly summarize Ehrman’s position. The work then proceeds to provide evidence and opinions to counter that position. To summarize Ehrman is easy, but to do so fairly might be more of a challenge. A quick summary is this: Ehrman holds that the original text of the New Testament was intentionally corrupted into the form that is available today and that recovery of the original text is impossible.

Wallace disagrees. He holds that effective textual criticism can derive a reliable text for New Testament study. The arguments are presented here in both general form and addressing specific passages.

This book is technical in its approach and is more suited for individuals with at least a passable knowledge of Greek and some basic exposure to the work of textual criticism. While the discussions are likely understandable without that pre-existing knowledge, that information is certainly helpful.

I found the book well-toned for a response book. Often these types of books become personal and vicious in their nature, but I did not find this to be written in that manner. As to the strength of the arguments, I am predisposed to agree with Wallace in the first place, so I found the arguments sound.

The difficulty in textual criticism, though, is that you will often find what you carry into it. Ehrman carried skepticism and found a conspiracy and corruption. Wallace carried trust in the text and found evidence to support it. I carry the same trust in the text and find agreement with Wallace.

Will this book convince a skeptic? I am not certain. I do think it is of value for people like myself who have heard the rumbles of these arguments but lack a good understanding of them. Wallace and his fellow writers provide a good basis for understanding why the text of the New Testament can be trusted.

For scholarly work, a copy of this alongside Ehrman’s works would likely be a good pairing to understand both sides of the issues.


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