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A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament

A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament by Philip Wesley Comfort

Longtime scholar of ancient biblical manuscripts, Dr. Comfort has been an authority on textual manuscript traditions for many years.  Here, in this updated edition, his A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament is a welcome addition to the growing field of textual studies.  What do you find in such a commentary?  For one, Comfort introduces the reader to the extant papyrus manuscripts we have of the New Testament, namely the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, the Chester Beatty Papyri, and the Bodmer Papyri.  Also, Comfort reasons that the earliest manuscript evidence is generally followed, “documentary evidence has pride of place (31).”

One of the most significant sections of the book for me was Comfort’s elucidation concerning nomina sacra in the NT. Comfort writes, “The earliest copies of the New Testament writings (perhaps some of the autographs themselves) included these specially inscripted forms for the sacred names…some writers and/or scribes used the first letter and the last letter of the name; others used the first two letters and the last letter.  Thus, for example XPICTOC (Christ) was written as XP (line over it, very rare form), XPC (line over it), or XC line over it (the most common form).  In whatever form, XPICTOC (Christ) was always written as a nomen sacrum (37-38).”  In the LXX, the Greek Old Testament, these nomina sacra were not used, the only similarity is in the divine name of Yahweh (it would often be a Hebrew contracted form).  In some of the very earliest copies of the NT, we find other words that are deemed nomina sacra, cross and crucify are some of those examples (stauros and stauromai).  One of the reasons why a bar would be over a significant word, a nomen sacrum, was to desecularize the term, giving is sacred status (40).  Lectors and readers of liturgy would also know as a result of the nomina sacra where to provide more emphasis when reading a text, thereby giving it more weight as its heard.

The rest of the text is a careful analysis of the textual variants and commentary on the textual tradition in the various books of the NT.  Comfort pays careful attention to the very earliest manuscript and papyri traditions. 

This book is a welcome addition to the growing literature on textual analysis.  Comfort helpfully gives us a background on the text families and the most important things to look for in textual analysis.

Thanks to Kregel Academic for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


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