The field of textual criticism remains an exciting one. Thousands of manuscripts have been recovered in recent years. Some are only papyrus fragments found in the sands of Egypt, while others are handsomely copied parchment volumes long-preserved in ancient monasteries. Using the methods of textual criticism, translators have been able to discern from these manuscripts a probable reading of the original New Testament text—a difficult but important task. Several scholarly books describing the process of textual criticism have already been written, but Encountering New Testament Manuscripts is uniquely different in its approach. This volume provides the opportunity to see and read portions of the chief manuscripts and learn firsthand the principles of textual criticism.
Reproduced at or near actual size are twenty four photographs of some of the oldest and most important manuscripts, including papyri, parchment, and paper texts with both uncial and minuscule script. Through the steps of transcribing the original manuscripts and organizing the various evidence presented, readers can develop their own conclusions about reading the original text. A comprehensive introductory chapter surveying the nature and history of textual criticism and a concluding chapter on the question of methodology make this book a complete course on the subject. Helpful indexes and lists of important New Testament manuscripts make in an excellent resource volume as well.
This work is characterized by a combination of thorough scholarship and clarity of presentation. The student of the New Testament text will find herein far more than an introduction to New Testament criticism. As the title indicates, he will, in effect, be encountering New Testament manuscripts. He will do this in chronological sequence, beginning with the earliest papyrus fragments and on through the whole manuscript tradition. He will also find generous and lucid treatment of the technicalities of ancient writing and the history of textual criticism. While not supplanting the work of other modern textual scholars such as Metzger, Colwell, and Zuntz, the work will probably become a standard reference tool for New Testament scholars and teachers. As a textbook of New Testament textual criticism, I would rate it as the best available.
—Thomas W. Leahy, S.J., Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley