THE IDENTITY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT TEXT
Wilbur N. Pickering, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee, 1977, 191 pages, $7.95.
Do you love your Bible and like to think for yourself? If so, this is a book you should read. In his detailed and well-documented exposition of the whole problem of discovering the original text of the New Testament, Pickering takes up the challenge of the Westcott and Hort theory and text, which have dominated the field since 1881.
This theory was set forth in the first of the two volumes of Westcott and Hort's The New Testament in the Original Greek, in which Dr. Hort laid down rules for the discovery of the true text of the New Testament. His ingenious arguments are so highly involved and circuitous that on the back page of the wrapper of Pickering's book a vice-president of the Moody Bible Institute parallels my own reaction in his "doubt that very many in the present era have ever read it [Hort's theory]." Pickering will be admired by all who have tried to read it, for he studied every one of its 324 pages. Incidentally, the table of contents gives so full a summary of Hort's arguments that many who never read the book itself must have been convinced.
Hort's purpose was to turn the search for the true text from the several thousand manuscripts of the traditional or Byzantine text, whose remarkably consistent witness had survived every challenge for over one thousand years, and to lead scholars to concentrate their efforts on the few hundred diverse manuscripts that seemed to conform to his "canons." Says E. C. Col well, Hort "dethroned the Textus Receptus," yet his own theory "shaped—and still shapes—the thinking of textual scholars." So much so that K. W. Clark can say, "The Westcott-Hort text has become today our textus receptus. We have been freed from the one only to become captivated by the other" (see pp. 38, 39, and 29).
Such remarks are not surprising when it is realized that the manuscripts approved by Hort contain multiple contradictions. His two favorite manuscripts, Codices Aleph and B, for example, differ from each other more than three thousand times in the gospels alone.
After one hundred years of following the path marked out by Westcott and Hort, how near are New Testament scholars to success? Pickering quotes from articles in the Journal of Biblical Literature, which call the original text a "retreating mirage" and say "to achieve this goal is well-nigh impossible."
Believing as he does that the New Testament scriptures were inspired of God and accepted as such by the apostolic church, Pickering cannot accept such a conclusion. He believes that equally thorough work on the traditional text, using such modern aids as computers, could soon demonstrate the original wording of the autographs. A German institute has already made a beginning and now has microfilms of 4,500 Greek manuscripts for study, according to this book.
Does Pickering point the way to a settled text acceptable to all? Since most of the variants between manuscripts are of little real consequence, one cannot read The Identity of the New Testament Text without concluding that the doubt regarding the identity of the Greek text has done great harm in that it diverts minds from the study of the Word of God to endless discussion of what that Word is.
W. T. Hyde
TELL IT TO THE WORLD
C. Mervyn Maxwell, Pacific Press Publishing Association, Mountain View, California, 1976, 287 pages, $6.95.
Dr. Mervyn Maxwell, chairman of the Department of Church History at the Seventh-day Adventist Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan, has done much more in this volume than simply tell the story of the Adventist Church. Of course, he has done that (and in the inimitable style of the master storyteller he is), but he has also taken up the underlying causes for the experiences he relates. The basic spiritual conflicts and theological issues are here, as well as the facts and stories. The result is a very readable, consistently interesting, yet highly probing analysis of how Adventism began, what makes it tick, and where it sees itself going.
According to Maxwell, the Adventist Church has a momentous message—Jesus Christ—and an impelling mission to tell it to the world. He examines what Adventists owe to other Christian bodies and concludes that the debt is quite large, a fact that shouldn't be too surprising, actually, when it is remembered that practically every man and woman involved in the founding of Adventism came from the Christian fellowship of some established denomination.
Whether or not one knows a great deal about the Seventh-day Adventist Church, he will find Tell It to the World profitable reading.