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Average customer rating:
4.0 out of 5
ISBN/ASIN : 080101252X
Manufacturer : Baker Books|
Release data : June, 2003
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Dr. Neil R. Lightfoot provides an overview of the collation of the Biblical text. He provides sufficient detail for understanding various components of such a complex history. However, the lower rating derives from repeated frustration at perceived apologetic overtones throughout the book. For example, on page 29 he discusses the fact that the original New Testament manuscripts were written in the contemporaneously common Greek language. He ascribes this to "the providence of God, since the gospel was to be proclaimed to every creature, that the New Testament writers made use of a language that was known throughout the Mediterranean world." Such unsubstantiated assertions (and his near polemical treatment of the uncanonized status of the apocryphal texts in Chapter 15) mar an otherwise decent exposition. I would advise looking elsewhere for a less overtly-biased historical account.
Don't be fooled by its 'simplicity'
Coming from a position of knowing little about the manuscripts behind the Bible, this book was most helpful in presenting a balanced and readable account of the key issues. It includes the different physical types of manuscripts, a survey of all the significant manuscripts, an introduction to techniques of textual criticism for resolving uncertainty in the text, evidence on how and when the canon was established, and short considerations of the most English translations of the Bible. The presentation is strong on fact and low on rhetoric, and yet very readable - an ideal combination.
Naturally I found myself wishing the book would go into more detail on many a subject: but I suppose that is actually a mark of its success in getting to the heart of the key issues. So then I moved on to what I thought were more in-depth books, such as that by FF Bruce. What surprised me was that I found time and time again that Lightfoot actually gave more *facts* per square inch than any other comparable book. I can hardly think of one significant fact I learned from the other books which wasn't already in Lightfoot's. So don't be put off by suggestions that it might be a bit light, superficial, and basic. There is more in it than many books twice the size.
There are one or two points which could usefully have been addressed without adding too many pages. For example, Lightfoot tends to assume implicitly that older manuscripts are better, almost by definition. In view of the hot debate on this issue, a short, factual contribution would have been welcome. Also, a more factual rebuttal of critics who erroneously claim that the texts are unreliable, rather than just a few important quotes and statements, would have been helpful.
One of the legacies of reading this book is that I find that I can now make sense of - and take an interest in - a lot of the debates and arguments which rage over the text and its translation. In my opinion, it is the best book out there for someone wishing to learn the key facts about the Bible manuscripts in as short a time as possible.
Simple to Understand
If you are not a scholar but want to know more about where the Bible has come from this is the book for you! Lightfoot does a wonderful job of laying out the facts and presenting them in a way that is easy to understand.