In some of my previous posts I’ve indicated that since I was known as a textual critic (one who worked with Greek manuscripts of the New Testament in order to determine both what the authors originally wrote and how the text came to be changed over the centuries) I was not widely seen as a candidate for writing a New Testament textbook for undergraduates. Several readers have expressed some perplexity over this. Aren’t textual critics, by their very nature, background, and training, proficient in the wider field of New Testament studies?
The answer may surprise you: it may be that they should be, but many (at one time, most) are not.
It’s a little hard to explain why, but I’ll try. As is my wont, I’ll start autobiographically.
In my case, the great bulk of my graduate training actually had very little to do with textual criticism. When I came to Princeton Theological Seminary as a master’s student ) in 1978 (after I had finished my BA in English at Wheaton college), I was required to take all the courses for the Masters of Divinity Program (which is always a three-year program). That was the only degree that PTS offered. And so if I wanted to study there, that’s what I had to do. The reason I wanted to study there was because the leading textual critic in the country, arguably in the world, Bruce Metzger, taught there, and I wanted to study with him. But in fact, I could not take many courses with him (since I had to take a full schedule and he didn’t offer a huge number of different courses), and most of the ones I did take had nothing to do with textual criticism.
As an MDiv student I was required to take courses in…
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