B. B. Warfield devoted much of his scholarly career to defending Reformed theology against modernism and emotional revivalism, and one of the central arenas in which he carried out this task was in the field of biblical criticism. An Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament serves as a primer to textual criticism for both his students and for interested laypersons.
Warfield aims to make as accessible as possible the principles of textual criticism. The complex task of criticism, he says, begins with the simple definition of a text as “the web of words itself.” In fact, wherever the written word exists, textual criticism is not only legitimate, but inevitable. In the case of the Bible, Christians must learn how to do it well. But what makes the text of the Bible different from other texts, such as great works of literature? And what is the role of the Holy Spirit? Warfield answers these questions with chapters on method, practice, and a history of criticism—all theologically informed and ecclesiastically faithful.
His mind was so clear and his literary style so chaste and lucid that it is a real joy to read his works and one derives pleasure and profit at the same time.
Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield was born in 1851 in Lexington, Kentucky. He studied mathematics and science at Princeton University and graduated in 1871. In 1873, he decided to enroll at Princeton Theological Seminary, where he was taught by Charles Hodge. He graduated from seminary in 1876, and was married shortly thereafter. He traveled to Germany later that year to study under Franz Delitzsch.
After returning to America, Warfield taught at Western Theological Seminary (now Pittsburgh Theological Seminary). In 1881, Warfield co-wrote an article with A. A. Hodge on the inspiration of Scripture—a subject which dominated his scholarly pursuits throughout the remainder of his lifetime. When A. A. Hodge died in 1887, Warfield became professor of Theology at Princeton, where he taught from 1887–1921. History remembers Warfield as one of the last great Princeton Theologians prior to the seminary’s re-organization and the split in the Presbyterian Church.
B. B. Warfield died in 1921.
“It is clear, therefore, that the text of a work as distinguished from the text of a document can be had only through a critical process. What is necessary for obtaining it is a critical examination of the texts of the various documents that lie before us as its representatives, with a view to discovering from them whether and wherein it has become corrupted, and of proving them to preserve it or else restoring it from their corruptions to its originally intended form. This is what is meant by ‘textual criticism,’ which may be defined as the careful, critical examination of a text, with a view to discovering its condition, in order that we may test its correctness on the one hand, and, on the other, emend its errors.” (Page 4)
“The art of textual criticism is thus seen to be the art of detecting and emending errors in documents. The science is the orderly discussion and systematisation of the principles on which this art ought to proceed.” (Page 7)
“The autographic text of the New Testament is distinctly within the reach of criticism in so immensely the greater part of the volume, that we cannot despair of restoring to ourselves and the Church of God, His Book, word for word, as He gave it by inspiration to men.” (Page 15)
“The great mass of the New Testament, in other words, has been transmitted to us with no, or next to no, variation” (Page 14)
“We are to use the word in its general and original sense, in which it designates the ipsissima verba, the woven web of words, which constitutes the concrete thing by which a book is made a work, but which has nothing directly to do with the sense, correctness, or the value of the work.” (Page 2)