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Hull Jr., Robert F.
The Story of the New Testament Text. Movers, Materials, Motives, Methods, and Models.
Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature 2010. XIV, 229 S. 23,0 x 15,2 cm = Society of Biblical Literature Resources for Biblical Study, 58. Kart. US$ 29,95. ISBN 978-1-58983-520-7.
David J. Trobisch
Robert F. Hull recently retired from Emmanuel School of Religion in Johnson City, Tennessee, where he taught New Testament. The book is written for students of text criticism who look for an overview of the history of this discipline. The narrative begins with the authors of the New Testament writings and ends with a description of contemporary attempts to recover the oldest text through the study of the manuscript tradition.
Starting with Paul and Luke’s efforts to publish their own writings, H. quickly moves to the history of the printed Greek text and describes the different stages of collating variant readings and evaluating them. The »precritical« stage, as he calls it, covers the millennium between Origen and Erasmus. He then presents an account that goes from the 16th century to Semler’s work at the end of the 18th century. The 19th century is organized around the work of Wettstein and leads up to Westcott and Hort. The second half of the book explores the 20th century and leads up to contemporary research. Each section is divided into a description of scholars in-volved (movers), the evidence they were interpreting (material), the reason for their interest (motives), their approaches (methods), and the theories they developed (models). The narrative ends with a personal assessment of the discipline. H. encourages students of textual criticism to appreciate variants as expressions of scribal concerns in a changing world, and to value New Testament manu-scripts as Christian artifacts. He also urges Bible Societies, trans-lators and translation committees to better communicate text-critical decisions to the readers of their editions.
Textual criticism has the reputation of being dull and uninteresting. H., however, tells the story by providing enough biographical details of the important scholars of each epoch to capture the readers’ attention and hold it. With great skill he presents advances and setbacks of the discipline in the context of those who dedicated themselves to the task at hand. The language is concise and never pretentious, a glossary explains the technical terms, and the chronological order of the narrative creates some suspense and greatly helps to stay focused.
Personally I most enjoyed the section on the early printed editions of the Greek text. The description of individual manuscripts is very short, and only the most important ones are represented in more than just a few paragraphs. Admirable is the effort to sort out developments in recent research, but clearly the task of organizing emerging schools of thought and contemporary methodological shifts will be easier to accomplish when more time has passed.