Text Tuesday: Textual Criticism, the New Testament, and the Qur’an


Dr. Small’s book as pictured is an abridgement of the larger version reviewed by Dr. Hurtado.

For Christians thinking about the New Testament in terms of its textual landscape, it is worth clicking through to Larry Hurtado’s blog below to read his post in full. Dr. Hurtado is a scholar of the New Testament and Christian Origins.

If you have the priviledge of discussing texts – biblical and quaranic with good Muslim folk – it is an especially interesting read. The two key points for me (briefly mentioned) are about the role of the presence or absence of ‘state sponsorship’ for want of a better phrase and also the desire and need for correctives that arose in both traditions. In Islam – this was toward the text (I am thinking about Uthman) and in Christianity, this was toward belief and doctrine – (I am thinking about the great church councils – Nicea for example). The relationship between power and orthodoxy are interlinked for both communities. But both communities were exercised about potential threats to orthodoxy in different ways.

The early(ish) Islamic community embarked on its quest for textual orthodoxy in the full bloom of its power and has been consequently very successful. Whereas Christianity needed or at least saw fit to embark on its quest for doctrinal (not textual) orthodoxy relatively late and with relatively liitle power in place. These adventures in securing orthodoxy seem poorly understood by many, misrepresented by some and challenging to all – for different reasons. A key staple of Islamic rhetoric appears to be one of Islamic textual stability. A key polemic against Christianity is one of instability of doctrine and belief. But what if in spite of all the offensive and defensive bluster Christianity was somewhat more stable that its critics wish to allow and Islam was a little less stable than its adherents can allow? It certainly would make for more interesting conversations – with more learning and listening, wondering and journeying.

Over to you Dr. Hurtado.

 Textual Criticism, the New Testament, and the Qur’an

Larry Hurtado's Blog

I’ve recently reviewed a fascinating book:  Keith E. Small, Textual Criticism and Qur’an Manuscripts (Lanham/Boulder/New York/Toronto/Plymouth:  Lexington Books, 2012), the review appearing in Scottish Journal of Theology in due course.  The book arises from Small’s 2008 PhD thesis, and is an impressive and stimulating work.  To engage in depth his data requires, of course, a good competence in Arabic, one of my many deficits.  But Small’s analysis and judgements seem measured, always based on evidence he proffers, and also respectful of the scholarship (both “Western” and traditional Islamic) that he so profusely engages.  My reason for mentioning the book on this blog site is that Small’s study prompts some interesting comparisons with the textual history of the New Testament.  Indeed, comparing the two textual histories (of the Qur’an and the New Testament writings) might enhance our appreciation of each one.

As an immediate comparison/contrast, note Small’s opening statement (p. 3): …

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