The Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism

Based on the idea of Rich Elliott,
then of Simon Greenleaf University

Author's Retraction

When I first began this site, half a lifetime ago, I said that "The Encyclopedia attempts to cover all aspects of New Testament Textual Criticism in an orderly fashion," and that I hoped to represent all viewpoints. Over the years, I learned that I was doomed to fail. First, I cannot reconcile scientific and faith-based criticism, and I am a scientific critic. Thoroughly so: I think that ultimately, method should be entirely mathematical and algorithmic, and once an editor establishes a method, any other editor should be able to follow that method and produce that same text. We aren't there yet, but that is my goal.

Second, the direction that textual criticism is going is one which I do not believe in. I cannot help but think that the Coherence Based Genealogical Method is a pernicious waste of good data. (All that information, and it is put into an unpublished algorithm which is then rendered even less rigorous by being modified by human judgment. If all that data were simply published, think what could be done with it!) But the CBGM is becoming the main basis for criticism, even though it is ultimately a handwaving-based method: The final judgment on relationships is done by humans, not algorithms, and then the text is edited based on these handwaved relationships and further human judgment. I don't trust the method -- as a person with a degree in mathematics, it feels flawed to me even if you ignore the human element -- and I don't believe the results.

I still try to offer valid data, and to present alternative and minority viewpoints (after all, mine is a minority viewpoint!), but only if the appeal is to actual data about manuscripts and criteria, not to faith -- because I believe that the actual data and logic have to come first.

Since my methods and those used by the scholars in the field have diverged, and I am now an old man, I think it is time for me to lay down my keyboard and produce a final version of the Encyclopedia. There is little more that I can add that applies to the methods used at Münster, and if I continue to work, there is a good chance that I will be unable to complete what I do.

So: the 2024 edition will be the last update, at least to the HTML version of this Index. (I hope to create a PDF version, and no doubt there will be a few corrections to that.) This is a reference for a particular, no-longer-fashionable, approach to New Testament Textual Criticism. I still hope it will be useful -- there is a lot of research and hard work behind what you read on this site! But the site will (probably) remain as it currently stands, because there is little I can add to the field.

I should further add that I (Robert Waltz) am not a recognized textual critic, and that the information on this page has not been peer reviewed. While I have done all I could to ensure its accuracy, this page probably should not be used as a bibliographic reference.

Also, keep in mind that this site originated in the mid-1990s, when HTML 3.2 was a new thing, bandwidth was limited, and unicode was not yet a standard. I had to use special fonts to represent Greek, images had to be small and far between, and browsers were not consistent in their behavior. I had a whole list of technical tricks people might have to use. Unicode has largely resolved the Greek problem, but many of these documents are minimally patched versions of files created prior to 2000. I hope they all work, at least.

Having said that, there is little that I can say in my farewell that was not better said by Geoffrey Chaucer in his retraction to the Canterbury Tales.

Now preye I to hem alle that herkne this litel tretys or rede, that if ther be any thynge in it that liketh hem, that therof they thanken oure lord Jhesu Crist, of whom procedeth al wit and al goodnesse. And if ther be any thyng that displese hem, I preye hem also that they arrette it to the defaute of myn unkonnynge, and nat to my wyl, that wolde ful fayn have seyd bettre if I hadde had konnynge. For oure book seith, “al that is writen is writen for our doctrine,” and that is myn entente. Wherfore I biseke yow mekely, for the mercy of God, that ye preye for me that Crist have mercy on me and foryeve me my giltes; and namely of my translacions and enditynges of worldly vanitees.... But of the... othere bookes... that thanke I oure lord Jhesu Crist and his blisful Mooder, and alle the seintes of hevene, bisekynge hem that they from hennes forth unto my lyves ende sende me grace to biwayle my giltes, and to studie to the salvacioun of my soule, and graunte me grace of verray penitence, confessioun and satisfaccioun to doon in this present lyf, thurgh the benigne grace of hym that is kyng of kynges and preest over alle preestes, that boghte us with the precious blood of his herte, so that is may been oon of hem at the day of doom that shulle be saved. Qui cum Patre et Spiritu Sancto vivit et regnat Deus per omnia secula. Amen.

(New Testament scholars may be interested to know that there are some significant parallels between the Canterbury Tales and the New Testament. There are about eighty manuscripts containing parts of the Tales, with many significant variations in the text -- including even some apocryphal tales. However, a number of these manuscripts are defective, so that there are only about thirty copies of the "retraction" quoted here. Moreover, there is an odd parallel between B of the New Testament and the most valuable manuscript of the Tales, the Hengwrt manuscript: Hengwrt, like B, breaks off before it reaches the end. Perhaps as a result, although there are many variations in the Tales, there are no really noteworthy variants in the text quoted above.)

For a PDF download:

The Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism, by Robert B. Waltz, Inspired by Rich Elliott, Last Preliminary Edition

Table of Contents of the Encyclopedia

In the lists which follow, links in PLAIN TEXT point to major articles. Links shown in italic lead to short definitions.

This page was last comprehensively updated May 20, 2012. I have made smaller updates since. Articles updated since then have been flagged where possible (I forgot to mark some of the smaller updates); the last mid-level updates were on:

A very brief (and inadequate) introduction to textual criticism can be found here.

If you wish to see the sort of text I personally would produce if I were to edit a New Testament, a sample edition of Galatians is here. This is rather different from most other editions, but maybe that will help people to see what a text determined by strong reliance on external evidence would look like..

Available Articles:

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Thanks to the folks who have made corrections, suggestions, and additions, including Jean Valentin for photographs; Ulrich Schmid for information on Wachtel; Wieland Willker for proofreading corrections; Ulrich Schmid for information on manuscripts, Michael Holmes and Jimmy Adair for source materials; Ulrich Schmid, Jean Valentin, Christopher Eyton, and Vincent Broman for information on the Fathers; James Dowden; and anyone else whose names I have forgotten. Also to for hosting these materials.