The Early Text of the New Testament and the Usefulness of Papyri MSS

I’m currently reviewing The Early Text of the New Testament. I couldn’t help but stop to interact and briefly summarize the first chapter by Charles Hill and Michael Kruger (blog). Below is a brief summary and personal interaction on the first chapter (“Introduction: In Search of the Earliest Text of the New Testament”). Much of the documentation is Hill and Kruger’s research and I provided it to supplement the summary. If you are able, any NT and Early Patristic student or professor ought to own this and digest its findings.

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As new generations of text-critical scholars have surfaced in the past decade or so, it appears to come with a new set of text-critical questions and conclusions. When trying to state what “text criticism” is trying to accomplish, there are various and competing ideas. Are we trying to find the “original” (however that is defined)?[1] Or are there other textual concerns driving the discipline? “It is by no means self-evident that this ought to be the goal of the discipline,” Bart Ehrman asserts, “there may indeed be scant reason to privilege the ‘original’ text over forms of the text that developed subsequently.”[2] As text-critics look at the process of the early MSS tradition, some are moving far away from attempting to determine the “original” text, but are seeing “text” as a process. Consequently, multiple MSS, even with their variants, are traditions and “Scripture” to multiple early Christian communities. Therefore, there is no pressing need to locate the “original”.[3]

Regardless of these suppositions, each textual critic must interact with the early texts of the New Testament as they appear in codices and papyri. At the turn of the 20th century, there were only 9 papyri MSS documented. As of now, there are 127.[4] Therefore, the conversations of the early text a century ago are much different than current discussions. In 20th century textual scholarship, Bruce Metzger, Continue reading

The Didache Pt. 2: Modern Discovery and Textual Status

In preparation for the SBTS Greek Reading Group (Click here and here for more details), I wrote a basic introduction highlighting elementary information about the Didache. Over the next two weeks, I’ll be posting portions of that text.

The Didache Pt. 1: Why Read the Didache

For more information about the Didache reading group email swilhite at sbts dot edu

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The Didache: A Basic Introduction


The discovery of the Didache in 1873 has been acclaimed in many a eulogy, in many a language and by many a scholar. And rightly so. For this work has cast a spell over even the most cautious who, finding its magic irresistible, seek time and again to prise its secrets.

Joan Hazelden Walker[1]


Discovery and Textual Status

Didache Facimile
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‘Catholicity’ in early Gospel MSS: A case for early canonization of the Gospels

Early Text

The Early Text of the New Testament, edited by Charles Hill and Michael Kruger, as I have said previously, is going to be a textual source of extreme value. In “‘Catholicity’ in Early Gospel Manuscripts”, Scott Charlesworth’s tentative textual conclusions matched with early patristic writings provide, with high probability, early (i.e. up to third/forth century) textual and historical evidence of circulating orthodox Gospel codices for public and private use.

This chapter by Charlesworth has provided a shift and confirmation in some of my thinking about early canonization of the Gospels. “Scribal conventions,” Charlesworth concludes, “in second- and second/third-century gospel papyri are indicative of ‘catholic’ collaboration and consensus, presumably among the ‘orthodox’ [Gospels].”[1]

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Forthcoming Book Review: Canon Revisited


Yesterday, I received Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books in the mail from a journal editor! Having provisionally read and watching the waves of discussion concerning this book, I couldn’t be more excited to read, to critically interact with, and to participate in this conversation. The canonization of the text, in my estimation, will be revisited as newer revisions and discussions of inerrancy continue to exist in the coming years.

Michael Kruger, NT RTS professor, will be a name to watch as study of canonization and textual criticism continues. He recently edited The Early Text of the New Testament, along with Charles Hill, that will be considered one of the top NT text criticism books. I find Part II: The Manuscript Tradition of this book the most helpful for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it’s lasting value will be for how it traces the history of early textual traditions in each book of the bible (or corpus of literature). I hope to add it to my library soon and will be required reading for any text critical class I proctor.