Yep, it’s a long title. And a short book. Actually, not that short. It comes in at 416 pages but the paper is quite thin, creating a very trim size hardcover.
The book itself, A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament (hereafter something like “The Commentary”) presents not only the differing manuscript readings throughout the New Testament (in canonical order) but also discusses which readings seem most likely. There are also notes on where some manuscripts have used devices such as nomen sacrum (a marker for sacred names) and potential explanations for various manuscript development.
In short, Comfort attempts to explain many of the variants that are often footnoted in newer translations and also to highlight important facts lost in the realities of translations. It is a highly academic work. The first two chapters will orient the reader to the issues involved in textual criticism, but one definitely needs to be read-up in Greek to truly benefit from what’s going on here.
Now, there are some good reviews (like Dr. Varner’s here)that walk through the ups and downs of the academic work. I am, unfortunately, not as versed in all the academics as I would like to be. If you are doing deeper academic work, check for reviews and recommendations in the academic world.
I am not an academic, but just an ordinary pastor. That means I grapple with different texts every week and rarely have time to fully research all the textual issues related to any of them. Further, I’m leaning on Greek I learned a while back, and am trying to keep up with in these days. My view of Comfort’s Commentary is related to its usefulness for an every week preacher and teacher of the Bible.
First, it’s not a necessary book. As much as I like it, it’s not critical to your weekly preaching. The information is helpful on background but not absolutely necessary. In fact, if you don’t know how to work this into your teaching ministry, you can do more harm with it than good.
Second, though, is that this is a helpful book. If you’re putting together an in-depth study, this illuminates some of the background. Further, Comfort has provided a deeper look at something we often lean on a book-specific commentary for. Here, we have a look at the text as a whole and how the variants developed. It’s handy. Especially in those times when I have a little bit of extra study opportunities.
Form factor is great. Fits right alongside my Greek New Testament, my Apostolic Fathers, and the smaller hardcovers. Put it on your “should get at some point” list.
I was provided a copy by Kregel Academic in exchange for the review.