Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Criticism



Since the unexpected popularity of Bart Ehrman’s bestselling Misquoting Jesus, textual criticism has become a staple of Christian apologetics.

Ehrman’s skepticism about recovering the original text of the New Testament does deserve a response. However, this renewed apologetic interest in textual criticism has created fresh problems for evangelicals. An unfortunate proliferation of myths, mistakes, and misinformation has arisen about this technical area of biblical studies.

In this volume Elijah Hixson and Peter Gurry, along with a team of New Testament textual critics, offer up-to-date, accurate information on the history and current state of the New Testament text that will serve apologists and Christian students even as it offers a self-corrective to evangelical excesses.

Around 367 pages.

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“The authors in this book offer a necessary corrective to decades of overly exuberant apologetic arguments—arguments that have actually hurt the Christian faith. The writers are refreshingly honest, and they do not pull their punches. They observe poignantly that apologetic works on the reliability of the New Testament text have been drifting away from a proper, well-researched, accurately documented scholarship that is anchored to actual data. Apologists have had a tendency to regurgitate other apologetic works, which in turn are based on other apologetic works. Meanwhile, the scholarship that is supposedly behind the popular declarations in many an evangelical trade book is out-of-date, misunderstood, or simply ignored.

These young scholars have something to say—not only to Christian speakers and writers but to non-Christian speakers and writers and even to New Testament scholars of all stripes. I was happily stunned to see the depth of discussion, the candid examination, and the up-to-date bibliography in each chapter. Although Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism is written in clear, user-friendly prose, the contents are well-grounded and perspicacious. I intend to utilize this volume unapologetically in my introduction as a primary source for several analyses.”

From the foreword by Daniel B. Wallace, Dallas Theological Seminary and Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts

“Sanity, balance, and sober judgment are all qualities that too frequently are lacking in recent discourse. Even what some might consider to be the arcane discipline of New Testament textual criticism has not been immune from false facts and fake news. It is against this backdrop that this volume makes an invaluable contribution. Combining care, caution, and rigorous scholarship, the contributors place before readers the latest research and an accurate account of the state of the text of the New Testament. For those seeking to be reliably informed there will be no better guide than this book to understand the origins, manuscripts, transmission, collection, and translations of the writings that form the New Testament. This book replaces ignorance with knowledge, foolishness with wisdom, and angry argument with irenic debate. Anybody who cares about the text of the New Testament must read this book.”

Paul Foster, professor of New Testament and Christian origins, School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh

“I personally don’t think that you can defend the truth and accuracy of Scripture as the Word of God with untruths and inaccuracies. So I welcome this book that contains an enormous amount of useful information on the text of the New Testament in a form aimed to help people involved in apologetics. Occasionally there is some tough love when mistakes and problems are highlighted, but the aim is always to improve the reader’s understanding of the New Testament and thus their witness to the person of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Scriptures that tell his story.”

Peter M. Head, Wycliffe Hall, University of Oxford

“Early in my work as an apologist, I made an embarrassing number of mistakes when it came to comments about textual criticism. In almost every instance, a book like this one would have provided the broader perspective that I needed to speak the truth with greater precision. What Elijah Hixson and Peter Gurry have provided in this handbook is a tool that every would-be defender of the Christian faith should purchase and regularly consult. Sloppy defenses of the truth always end up diminishing the truth instead of exalting the truth. Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism will equip you to leave behind sloppy defenses of Scripture when it comes to textual criticism.”

Timothy Paul Jones, C. Edwin Gheens Endowed Chair of Christian Ministry, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Packed with reliable data, Christian-friendly apologetics, but also critical of exaggerations and inaccuracies of some apologists, this rich multiauthor volume is a valuable resource. Practically every aspect of New Testament textual criticism is addressed competently and clearly. Highly recommended!”

L. W. Hurtado, emeritus professor of New Testament language, literature, and theology, University of Edinburgh

“I am delighted that these rising stars in the field of New Testament textual criticism have undertaken to guide the church to more integrity and accuracy in the way we talk about the Bible, especially to outsiders. Students, pastors, and lay leaders will find a great foundation for proper handling of Scripture as well as trustworthy resources for apologetics. The essays are in-depth enough to inform the expert but written in plain language with helpful conclusions and takeaways, so the main points are accessible to any committed reader.”

Amy S. Anderson, professor of Greek and New Testament at North Central University, Minneapolis

“Informative, fair-minded, and sober. A corrective to the text-critical ‘malpractice’ of the current age.”

Juan Hernández Jr., professor of New Testament and early Christianity, Bethel University


List of Figures and Tables
Foreword by Daniel B. Wallace
1. Introduction (Peter J. Gurry and Elijah Hixson)
2. Myths about Autographs: What They Were and How Long They May Have Survived (Timothy N. Mitchell)
3. Math Myths: How Many Manuscripts We Have and Why More Isn’t Always Better (Jacob W. Peterson)
4. Myths about Classical Literature: Responsibly Comparing the New Testament to Ancient Works (James B. Prothro)
5. Dating Myths, Part One: How We Determine the Ages of Manuscripts (Elijah Hixson)
6. Dating Myths, Part Two: How Later Manuscripts Can Be Better Manuscripts (Gregory R. Lanier)
7. Myths About Copyists: The Scribes Who Copied Our Earliest Manuscripts (Zachary J. Cole)
8. Myths About Copying: The Mistakes and Corrections Scribes Made (Peter Malik)
9. Myths About Transmission: The Text of Philemon from Beginning to End (S. Matthew Solomon)
10. Myths About Variants: Why Most Variants Are Insignificant and Why Some Can’t Be Ignored (Peter J. Gurry)
11. Myths About Orthodox Corruption: Were Scribes Influenced by Theology, and How Can We Tell? (Robert D. Marcello)
12. Myths About Patristics: What the Church Fathers Thought About Textual Variation (Andrew Blaski)
13. Myths About Canon: What the Codex Can and Can’t Tell Us (John D. Meade)
14. Myths About Early Translations: Their Number, Importance, and Limitations (Jeremiah Coogan)
15. Myths About Modern Translations: Variants, Verdicts, and Versions (Edgar Battad Ebojo)
List of Contributors
Image Credits
Name Index
Subject Index
Scripture Index
Ancient Writings Index
Manuscript Index

Around 367 pages in Print Edition


Elijah Hixson

Elijah Hixson (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is junior research associate in New Testament Text and Language at Tyndale House, Cambridge, and author of Scribal Habits in Sixth-Century Greek Purple Codices. He has served as a tutor in biblical studies at the University of Edinburgh and as a research assistant in Greek manuscripts at Tyndale House, Cambridge, and has written articles for Journal of Theological StudiesJournal of the Evangelical Theological Society, and Lexham Bible Dictionary.


Peter J. Gurry

Peter J. Gurry (PhD, University of Cambridge) is assistant professor of New Testament and codirector of the Text & Canon Institute at Phoenix Seminary. His books include A Critical Examination of the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method in the New Testament and A New Approach to Textual Criticism (with Tommy Wasserman).

Gurry has been an expedition team member for the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) in Dallas, Athens, Bucharest, Florence, and Dublin, and he previously served as a preacher and children’s Sunday school teacher at Christ Church, Cambridge. He has published articles in New Testament StudiesJournal of the Evangelical Theological Society, and The Lexham Bible Dictionary.

Read his blog posts at Evangelical Textual Criticism.

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