This semester I am teaching my PhD seminar in precisely the topic I’ve been discussing for the past number of weeks, New Testament textual criticism.  Here, for your reading pleasure, is the syllabus for the class.


  Reli 809: New Testament Textual Criticism

  Instructor:  Bart D. Ehrman

   University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

   Fall 2015


Course Description

This class focuses on one of the foundational disciplines of biblical studies.  New Testament textual criticism has experienced a significant resurgence over the past twenty years or so, as scholars have begun, again, to recognize its importance for exegesis, theology, and the history of Christianity, and have realized, contrary to general perception, how much of real significance is yet to be done in the field.

Your work for this seminar will assume sundry forms.  A substantial portion of it will be devoted to the study of a significant textual problem, on which you will write a term paper.  The basic task, of course, is to establish the earliest form of the text.  But most of the interesting textual problems in the New Testament involve other issues as well — e.g., the exegetical significance of a passage, the theological or canonical shape of the book in question, the relationship of the transmission of the text to the social or theological situation of its transcribers, and, on the more nuts-and-bolts level, the circumstances relating to palaeography and the transmission of hand-written texts in antiquity.

It would be impossible to jump into the study of a particular text-critical problem without being thoroughly grounded in both theory (how this kind of study can be done) and the history of the discipline (why these methods have developed).  Without such a grounding, text-critical judgments will at best appear arbitrary and, more typically, plain wrong-headed.  And so a considerable portion of our semester will be devoted to establishing the necessary methodological and historical foundation for your subsequent text-critical work.


Course Requirements

— Attend all class meetings

— Do all the assigned readings

— Collate small portions of sample manuscripts (one papyrus, one majuscule, and two minuscules) for our second class meeting (Aug. 31)

— Write a 10-page, single-space summary of F. J. A. Hort’s Introduction to The New Testament in the Original Greek for our fourth class meeting (Sept. 21)


For most weeks, consider at length the problems surrounding particular textual variants (given in the reading schedule below), by looking at the various apparatus, reading Metzger’s Textual Commentary, and digging around in other commentary and journal literature on your own.

– Make a 20-minute oral presentation summarizing and evaluating a major monograph in the field (chosen from those listed below), accompanied by a 1000-1250-word book review to be distributed to all the members of the class (your oral presentation is to be based on the written review, it is not to be a simple reading aloud of the review).  Presentations will be on November 2 and 16.

— Make another 20-minute oral presentation discussing a recent development in the field.  Presentations will be on November 9.  Here are the options:

  • Projects Digitizing Manuscripts;
  • Developments of Computer Technology (collation programs, etc.)
  • Use of Conjectural Emendation
  • Coherence Based Genealogical Method;
  • Developments within the IGNTP (International Greek New Testament Project) and/or the INTF (Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung).


— For your term paper, you are to analyze in depth one of the variants that we discuss in class over the course of the semester, or any other variant reading that you choose, based on your reading (with professorial veto; please check with me before doing substantial preparatory work).

  • Your choice of variant must be made by Oct. 19 (to allow you ample time to work on it.) The following weeks, in class, we will discuss the progress you’re making and the issues that are arising.
  • Submit your final paper on Friday Dec. 4.

— Attend that evening a festive occasion at the instructor’s house, where you and your colleagues will be treated to culinary delights (pizza and beer, e.g.) and intellectual discourse.




          (In addition to a Nestle-Aland 28th edition)

Kurt and Barbara Aland, The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and To the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism, tr. Erroll F. Rhodes.  2nd ed.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989.


Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament.  2nd ed. New York: Oxford University, 2011.

Idem. Studies in the Textual Criticism of the New Testament.  NTTS; Leiden: Brill, 2008.

Idem, and Michael Holmes, The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis.  2nd ed. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2012.

Kim Haines-Eitzen, Guardians of Letters: Literacy, Power, and the Transmission of Early Christian Literature.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Fenton John Anthony Hort and Brooke Foss Westcott, Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1882; reprinted Peabody Mass: Hendrickson, 1988.

Bruce M. Metzger and Bart D. Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, 4th ed.  New York: Oxford, 2005.

Bruce M. Metzger.  A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd revised edition.  London: United Bible Societies, 2005.


Office Hours

Flexible.  Let’s do coffee.





Aug.   24:  Introduction to the Field


Aug.   31:  Palaeography; Collation; The Use of Critical Apparatuses


Metzger, Text, pp. 3-94; Alands Text, pp. 222-79; “Introduction” to the Nestle-Aland 28th ; Collate portions of speciman manuscripts.

Variant Readings to Consider: 1 John 5:7-8; 1 Thess. 2:7


Sept.  7:  NO CLASS.  Labor Day.  Labor on Westcott and Hort!


Sept.         14:  The History of the Discipline Up To Westcott and Hort; Basic Methods of MS Classification; Standard Text-Critical Criteria


Metzger, Text, pp. 137-94; Alands Text, 1-47;  Ehrman and Holmes, Text of the NT, chap. 24 (J. Hernandez).

Variant Readings to Consider:  Mark 16:9-20; John 7:53-8:11; Luke 23:34


Sept. 21 :  Westcott and Hort: Summary and Evaluation.


Ten-page single-space summary of Westcott and Hort


Sept. 28:  Since Westcott and Hort: Debates over Method


Ehrman and Holmes, Text of the NT, chaps. 20, 25-27,  (E. Epp; D. Wallace; J. K. Elliott; M. Holmes); Metzger, Text, 272-79; 300-343; Idem. Textual Commentary; Alands, Text, 48-71; 280-316..

Variant Readings to Consider:  Luke 3:22; 22:43-44; 1 John 4:3


Oct.    5:  The Greek Manuscript Evidence


Ehrman and Holmes, Text of the NT, chaps. 1-4 (E. Epp; D. Parker; B. Aland and K. Wachtel; C. Osburn)

Variant Readings to Consider: Luke 22:19-20; John 1:18; 1 Tim. 3:16


Oct.    12:  The Early Versions and Patristic Citations



Metzger, Text, 94-125; Alands, Text, 171-221; Ehrman and Holmes, Text of the NT, chaps 5-8, 13-16 (U. Schmid, P. Williams, P. Burton, C. Askeland, R. Mullen, H. Houghton , S. Brock; P. Head)

Variant Readings to Consider: Mark 1:41; John 20:31; 1 Cor. 14:34-35


Oct.    19: Manuscript Classification.


Ehrman and Holmes, Text of the NT, chap. 19 (J.-F Racine); chap. 20 (Eldon Epp); Bart D. Ehrman, “Methodological Developments in the Analysis and Classification of New Testament Documentary Evidence,” Idem, “The Use of Group Profiles for the Classification of NT MSS”; Idem, “A Problem of Textual Circularity: The Alands on the Classification of NT MSS” all in Studies in the Textual Criticism of the New Testament

Variant Readings to Consider: Mark 1:1; 15:34; Heb. 2:9


Oct.    26: Scribal Tendencies


Ehrman and Holmes, Text of the NT, ch. 17, 18 (J. Royse; K. Haines-Eitzen); Ehrman Orthodox Corruption, chs. 1-3

Variant Readings to Consider: Luke 24:51; Rom. 6:1; Matt. 1:16


Nov.   2: Scribes and Readers.    Oral Presentations (monographs).


Harry Gamble, Books and Readers (peruse); Kim Haines-Eitzen, Guardians of Letters: Literacy, Power, and the Transmission of Early Christian Literature.

Variant Readings to Consider: Luke 8:3; Mark 6:3; Rev. 1:5.


Nov.    9:  Major current projects and technologies, and the status of the “original” text.  Oral presentations.


Ehrman and Holmes, Text of the NT, chs. 21-23 (T. Wasserman; J. Krans; M. Holmes).


Nov.   16: Historical Influences on the Text: Theological Controversies.  Oral presentations (monographs).


Ehrman, Orthodox Corruption, chs. 4-6


Nov.   23:  NO CLASS.  SBL


Nov    30:  Historical Influences on the Text:  Women in the Church and Pagan Assaults on Christianity.  Oral presentations.



Ehrman and Holmes, Text of the NT, chs 28 (B. Ehrman)






Books for Oral Presentations/Reviews


Epp,  Eldon.  The Theological Tendency of Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis in Acts.  SNTSMS 3; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966.

Hurtado, Larry.  The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006.

Kannaday, Wayne.  Apologetic Discourse and the Scribal Tradition: Evidence of the Influence of Apologetic Interests on the Text of the Canonical Gospels.  Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2004.

Krans, Jan.  Erasmus and Beza as Conjectural Critics of the New Testament.  NTTS 35; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2006.

Metzger, Bruce. The Early Versions of the New Testament: Their Origin, Transmission, and Limitations.  Oxford: Clarendon, 1977.

Parker, David.  Codex Bezae: An Early Christian Manuscript and Its Text.  Cambridge: University Press, 1992.

Parker, David.  Introduction to the New Testament Manuscripts and their Texts.  Cambridge: University Press, 2008.

Royse, James. Scribal Habits in Early Christian Greek Papyri.  NTTSD, 36.  Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2007.

Zuntz, Günther.  Text of the Epistles: A Disquisition on the Corpus Paulinum.  Schweich Lectures, 1946; London: Oxford University, 1953.