Philip Wesley Comfort. A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2015. 416 pp. $29.99
Well-known NT text critic Philip Comfort’s latest offering, A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament, is an essential resource for those interested in NT textual criticism. It’s likely designed to appeal especially to those who primarily read and study the NT in Greek because it has the same dimension as the UBS and NA. However, it’s also accessible to those with little or no Greek skills because the Scriptures are presented in English and Greek, when used, is transliterated. If you find yourself wanting more detail when consulting the critical apparatus of your GNT, this book is for you. If you find yourself wanting to know more when the footnote of your English Bible discusses other manuscripts, this book might be for you.
Comfort begins with a brief introduction in which he notes the main unique features of this commentary. One is that the commentary is on actual manuscripts. Another feature found in no other commentary is the attention paid to nomina sacra.Words almost always written as nomina sacra are noted in the rare instances when they are not written as such; nomina sacra written in full to indicate human rather than divine are noted throughout; titles such as “Son of God”, “Son of Man”, and “Son of David” when written as nomina sacra are noted. After the introduction, Comfort presents a list of the earliest manuscript(s) for each chapter of the NT. Chapter One provides a helpful introduction to NT textual criticism covering topics such as papyri, nomina sacra, and establishing the text of the NT. Chapter 2 provides an annotated list of NT manuscripts, and the rest of the book goes through the NT books chapter by chapter, noting and commenting on the major textual variants. The book concludes with an appendix that provides more in-depth information about nomina sacra, noting each one used in the NT and its significance.
A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament is an excellent supplementary reference resource for those interested in NT textual criticism. It’s certainly helpful, but I wouldn’t consider it essential. While there are points where it addresses variants not covered in the NA28 critical apparatus and/or Metzger’s textual commentary, and while the emphasis on nomina sacra is unique and extremely beneficial, often the comment on a particular verse really doesn’t provide more information than the critical apparatus in your GNT. Since I’m studying Colossians this semester in my Greek exegesis course, I’ll illustrate by way of an example from this epistle: the textual variants for the end of 2:2. The top image is from my NA28, and the bottom image is from Comfort’s new commentary.
Thanks to Kregel Academic for the review copy!