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Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism Hardcover – 15 Nov 2005

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 420 pages
  • Publisher: Broadman & Holman Publishers (15 Nov. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805431454
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805431452
  • Product Dimensions: 15.8 x 3.3 x 23.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,623,769 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Phillip Comfort has examined, many times over, every single word of every early New Testament manuscript. His previous works include "The Test of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts," "Early Manuscripts and Modern Translations of the New Testament," and "New Testament Text and Translation Commentary."

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
With some judicious editing and better-quality printing of the photographs, this could easily become a five-star book. Before summarising some of the details that let it down, let us focus on the positive.

A key to understanding what this book offers is to read the subtitle: "An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism". So it has two distinct focuses:
- introduction to paleography
- introduction to textual criticism.

In the opinion of the present reviewer, it is more successful in its second focus than in its first.

The first chapter (54 pages) gives a general description of the production of manuscripts in New Testament times.

The next two chapters (144 pages) give an overview of (apparently) all the New Testament manuscripts from approximately the first 300 years, also explaining dating decisions. Chapter two consists of a brief introduction to some of the principal manuscripts, followed by a summary of key information for each manuscript. I read this through in full, and would recommend that readers do the same. However, it will subsequently prove to be a very good quick reference for the purpose of finding the key facts about any manuscript.

It is only in chapter three that we actually see reproductions of single pages from some manuscripts, and the whole of some tiny fragments. This is a disappointment for several reasons:
- I would have expected to have seen more pages and manuscripts reproduced than are actually in the book.
- The quality of reproduction is generally not good. The chief cause of this is the paper that is used, which is fine for normal text but not up to the job of reproducing photographs with sufficient clarity.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Will be a great source of information. Introduced me to an area of research of which I was completely ignorant. Initially way beyond my level of comprehension but written in a way that made sense. Now when I read other books on NT I have a deeper level of understanding when there is reference to specific texts and their value in translation. It was not an easy read for me but well worth persevering. Can even make a bit of sense out of the apparatus sections in Greek NT.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Excellent, clear Introduction to the subject
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x932366b0) out of 5 stars 16 reviews
69 of 73 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92ed0e70) out of 5 stars A Rare Look into the Pre A.D. 300 New Testament 2 Dec. 2005
By John Matlock - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This momumental work explores the earliest New Testament writings (pre AD 300). The goals of the book are:

. to give an annotated list of all significant Greek manuscripts

. to assign dates for the earliest manuscripts

. to examine the nomina sacra (standardized abbreviations) used in the early manuscripts

. to present the history of textual variation in the early centuries of the church

. to explore various methods of recovering the original wording of the Greek.

All of this is within the main goal of helping students interact with the New testament test by knowing the original wording.

This book gives a rare insight into the work of the scholars putting the Bible together from very fragmentary documents. All in all, it is amazing that so much material exists from almost two thousand years ago.
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92ed0ee8) out of 5 stars Helpful introduction, in spite of editing flaws 4 Feb. 2013
By TRA - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
With some judicious editing and better-quality printing of the photographs, this could easily become a five-star book. Before summarising some of the details that let it down, let us focus on the positive.

A key to understanding what this book offers is to read the subtitle: "An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism". So it has two distinct focuses:
- introduction to paleography
- introduction to textual criticism.

In the opinion of the present reviewer, it is more successful in its second focus than in its first.

The first chapter (54 pages) gives a general description of the production of manuscripts in New Testament times.

The next two chapters (144 pages) give an overview of (apparently) all the New Testament manuscripts from approximately the first 300 years, also explaining dating decisions. Chapter two consists of a brief introduction to some of the principal manuscripts, followed by a summary of key information for each manuscript. I read this through in full, and would recommend that readers do the same. However, it will subsequently prove to be a very good quick reference for the purpose of finding the key facts about any manuscript.

It is only in chapter three that we actually see reproductions of single pages from some manuscripts, and the whole of some tiny fragments. This is a disappointment for several reasons:
- I would have expected to have seen more pages and manuscripts reproduced than are actually in the book.
- The quality of reproduction is generally not good. The chief cause of this is the paper that is used, which is fine for normal text but not up to the job of reproducing photographs with sufficient clarity.
- One MS (P Rylands 547 on page 185) consists of a blurred photograph in which the camera has clearly moved during the exposure: focus is correct, but there is a double image.
- References in the text to the reproductions often give no page number and occasionally give the wrong page number. (This is one of the places where the publisher should have done a better job of editing the text.)
- It would be better if the illustrations were on the page on which they are discussed, or on the facing page. As different paper is not used for them, there is no justification for grouping them together, far from the relevant descriptions.

Chapter four (a little over 54 pages) is a fascinating introduction to the use of "nomina sacra" in the manuscripts. This is a major plus point of the book, in the opinion of the present reviewer. Thoroughly recommended.

The last three chapters (one hundred pages) are an excellent introduction to textual criticism in relation to the New Testament.

The book has a glossary. However, some key terms are missing from it (e.g., stichoi).

There is an index of Scripture passages that are discussed. However, this is incomplete. Thus, there is a significant discussion of John 1:18 on page 328, but this is not listed in the Scripture references index. Likewise, John 8:58 is discussed on page 339, but this is not listed in the index.

The book is lacking a general subject index, which I view as a serious flaw. Thus there are, for example, scattered throughout the book comments on the work of Westcott & Hort. But there is no way to track these down, nor indeed the comments on other major topics and writers referred to (Metzger, the Alands, etc.).

The book has one extremely odd characteristic. Whole paragraphs, sometimes whole pages of text, are repeated verbatim in different parts of the book. One must assume that the author pasted in text from another document that he had written, and then forgot that he had already done this - on numerous occasions. Thus, for example, many paragraphs on pp. 47-48 are identical with those on pp 276-7. Likewise, part of page 49 is identical to page 278. The last paragraph of p. 97 and the first paragraph of p. 98 are identical with sections of two paragraphs on p. 278. Many paragraphs of pp 281-2 = pp. 296-7.

Taking the book through a proper editing process should also result in the correction of the relatively small number of spelling errors (including in German and French), and the correction of non-standard punctuation in places (as, for instance, when a full stop is followed by the first letter of the next sentence, without a space). I also note that an unusual Greek font is used in which the final "s" of words has the form of a Latin script "s" (or perhaps they accidentally selected the wrong font for that letter?).

So, the book is definitely worth reading, but I hope that a second edition will be produced in which the errors will be eliminated and a subject index added. It taught me less about actually reading Greek manuscripts than I expected. For that, it would have been necessary to present more manuscripts, and some of them would have needed to be worked through with the reader.

Perhaps what I was expecting to find is in another book by the same author, which he repeatedly refers to, "The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts" (co-authored with David Barrett). In yet another typo, this is referred to on the back cover of this book as "The TEST of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts"(!) - capitals mine, perhaps typical of the lack of care by the publishers (note also that the word "Greek" is missing). Perhaps this is not what I was expecting. I would advise reading the reviews on Amazon.com before purchasing.

In spite of the limitations referred to above, "Encountering the Manuscripts" is a good starting-point as an introduction to New Testament Greek manuscripts.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92ca6e34) out of 5 stars Excellent introduction to Paleography 28 Dec. 2009
By S. Angland - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This introduction to the NT manuscripts is highly readable and filled with fascinating insights. Its only downfall is the book's poor quality photographs of selected manuscripts. This is a pity since examining the manuscripts is a key part to understanding palaeography.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9361518c) out of 5 stars Good introduction to the early NT manuscripts and the science ... 5 July 2014
By Florenc Mene - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Good introduction to the early NT manuscripts and the science of NT textual criticism. Unfortunately, Comfort does not seem to provide a rationale/method as to why the dates he provides for the manuscripts are usually earlier than the standard mss dates appearing in the Nestle-Aland or other standard text critical works.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x93615108) out of 5 stars Essential and Needed for Anyone Interested in New Testament Textual Criticism 19 Nov. 2015
By John M. Kight - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Philip W. Comfort is senior editor of Bible reference at Tyndale House Publishers and a noted scholar in the field of biblical studies and textual criticism. Comfort has a Ph.D. in Theology from Fairfax University and a second doctorate degree earned under noted textual critic Jacobus H. Petzer from the University of South Africa. Comfort has taught at several academic institutions, including Wheaton College, Trinity Episcopal Seminary, Columbia International University, and Coastal Carolina University. He is author or co-author of numerous books, including The Origins of the Bible, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary (Tyndale, 2008), and the subject of the current review, Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism.

Encountering the Manuscripts is the effort of several years of detailed examination of every early New Testament manuscript prior to AD 300 (viii). For Comfort, the result of this work has led to the publication of The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts (with David Barrett), New Testament Text and Translation Commentary, and Encountering the Manuscripts. The first volume represents a joint effort to reconstruct the earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts. The second volume represents Comfort’s longstanding desire to aid the overall conversation around the relationship between textual criticism and English translations of the Bible. This third volume focuses more narrowly on the most significant New Testament manuscripts from the vantage point of paleography and textual criticism.

According to Comfort, Encountering the Manuscripts attempts: (1) to explore scribal participation in the production of the earliest New Testament writings; (2) to provide an annotated list of all significant Greek manuscripts and early versions; (3) to assign dates for the earliest New Testament manuscripts; (4) to examine the use of the nomina sacra in the early New Testament manuscripts; (5) to present the history of textual variation in the early centuries of the Christian church; (6) to explore various methods of recovering the original wording of the Greek New Testament and assess the New Testament manuscripts as to their textual groupings and their influence on New Testament textual criticism; and (7) to offer concrete examples for the praxis of textual criticism, and in so doing to identify how the papyri influenced the text of the Greek New Testament (viii).

The field of New Testament textual criticism is full of complexities and technical nuances. This is evident by the sheer number of introductory material being produced and even more evident when the bulk of that introductory material reads more like a dissertation than an introduction. While Encountering the Manuscripts isn’t going to diverge very far from that current trend, Comfort does an excellent job guiding the reader through the complex issues in such a way to bring about an understanding of the material. In fact, I would say with confidence that he does this much better than most introductions that I have encountered. Still, the reader should be prepared to undergo and partake in a journey through a fairly complex conversation. The journey may be difficult, but the destination is more than desirable.

There are a number of excellent sections in this book that I found to be particularly helpful. First, the sections that address the topic of paleography (or the dating) of the New Testament Manuscripts are sure to be received as a highpoint for many readers. Comfort does an excellent job explaining the process and procedure that accompanies the task of paleography. Some readers may find his ascribed dates contestable, but Comfort provides ample explanation to support his conclusions. Second, the discussion that surrounds the nomina sacra (sacred name) in the New Testament manuscripts is indispensable and worth the price of the book alone. Lastly, the inclusion of a chapter devoted entirely to the praxis of New Testament textual criticism accommodates a much needed sense of practical application. This allows the reader to experience some practical benefit from the long journey in which they just embarked on.

Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism by Philip W. Comfort will inspire readers to engage the New Testament text through cultivating a closer sense of interaction and familiarity with the manuscripts themselves. It is from this realization that the reader is able to better understand and utilize the tools of textual criticism. From the careful and comprehensive explanations provided throughout the book, to the visible firsthand familiarity with the manuscripts themselves, Comfort has provided an excellent introduction to the field. I think readers of all backgrounds and interests will find great benefit in this book. It is technical but readable, intricate but informative. If you are a student of the New Testament, a pastor, or a teacher, then I would recommend that you prepare room for this book to find a new home on your bookshelf—sooner rather than later.

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
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