BibleWorks 9 - Is Textual Criticism for the specialist only?

Written by Michael Hanel on July 11th, 2011

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If you want to save yourself a lot of time. My answer to that question is no. But, if you want to learn something, keep reading.

First of all, realize that 99% of the readers of this blog are already familiar with textual criticism and engage in it on one level or another (whether they know it or not) whenever they read the Bible. This range of familiarity can be seen when one

  • chooses an English Bible version because it conforms to a certain preference of fidelity (some people will never move out of the KJV camp not necessarily because they love its English, but rather because they think that it translates the manuscripts that are the ones most faithful to the original autographs.)
  • reads footnotes in their Bible that say “Some Greek manuscripts say …” or “The Septuagint reads…”) (for instance the NET Bible goes farther than almost any other English edition when it comes to referring to textual critical issues)
  • picks up a Greek text and makes judgments based on its text
  • decides that she’s more of a Westcott-Hort person than a Textus Receptus one.
  • looks at the critical apparatus of a Greek text and adopts a reading from it rather than the adopted portion of the text
  • reads a commentary which discusses various other readings for a given text

But textual criticism doesn’t end there. In fact that is only the tip of the iceberg. But the nice thing about BibleWorks is that it has tools for everyone, no matter what your level of skill is.

  • BibleWorks 9 ships with the NET Bible, which as I said, is one of the English Bibles that probably has the best discussion of textual critical issues. The NET Bible has been updated in BW 9 so that you can easily read the textual notes in the new Verse Tab alongside the Biblical text!
  • Study bibles can also provide helpful resources, whether it be the ESV Study Bible that BibleWorks offers or the Holman Christian Study Bible that is offered by WORDsearch, but works in BibleWorks too!
  • BibleWorks 9 ships with the CNTTS New Testament textual apparatus which gives an exhaustive list of variants and manuscripts that support them. In addition BibleWorks contains Tischendorf’s critical apparatus. While it is not exhaustive as far as Greek manuscripts or variants are concerned, it cites the Church Fathers and other early non-Greek Bible versions. We also host a module in which you can download von Soden’s critical apparatus for free as well!
  • For the first time ever, the BibleWorks Manuscripts Project, which is part of BibleWorks 9, allows you to see images of the manuscripts themselves along with transcriptions of them. Now if you want to adopt Codex Sinaiticus as your Bible, you can do just that!
  • Because a lot of other scholars have already weighed in on the issue of textual criticism, you can see some of the decisions they’ve made by comparing their critical Greek New Testaments to another as well as with the CNTTS apparatus and Greek manuscripts. BibleWorks 9 includes more Greek New Testament versions than ever before including the NA27, newly proofed versions of Westcott-Hort and Scriveners, and Greek New Testaments by Stephanus (Textus Receptus), Tischendorf, von Soden, Tregelles, Robinson-Pierpont (Byzantine)!
  • If you want to study some of the early translations of the Bible into English you can do that too and there are even more resources available here which include John Wycliffe’s English translation of the Vulgate (1388), the Miles Coverdale version (1535), Bishops’ Bible (1568) and the King James (1611) to name a few.
  • Or maybe your Latin is better than your Greek. In addition to … you can download transcriptions of early Latin versions: Codex Vercellensis, Codex Veronensis and Codex Bobbiensis here.
  • For an extra $20 you can unlock for Bruce Metzger’s A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition, which discusses in prose a select number of variants in the Greek New Testament. If you are upgrading to BibleWorks 9 from BibleWorks 7, you receive a complimentary unlock to this resource.
  • For an extra $30 you can unlock Philip Comfort and David Barrett’s The Text Of The Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts. This resource provides 50 photographs of different Greek New Testament papyri and transcribes the texts of 69 of the earliest Greek papyrus manuscripts.
  • There are resources for the Aramaic Peshitta to supplement those that come free in BibleWorks.
  • Dead Sea Scrolls resources can also be added to BibleWorks, if the user wants to do more work with the Qumran evidence.
  • In Hebrew land, the Septuagint and the Targums also come standard with BibleWorks with Etheridge’s translations and the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon (CAL).
  • Can you believe I’ve even left things out of this list??

As you can see there is so much to textual criticism that you will never find a true “expert.” Someone might know more about one area than another, but the field is so large, that even the scholars are always learning new things. In other words, you don’t have to have a Ph.D. to be a part of textual criticism. You’re probably already doing it, even if it is at a very rudimentary level. BibleWorks 9 provides you the flexibility to use as little or as many of the tools as you want.

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