Book Review: “A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament” by Philip Wesley Comfort

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Biblical scholars and general students of the Bible typically have at least a few commentaries on a particular book of the Scriptures. These are wonderful tools for learning, indeed. However, Philip Wesley Comfort’s recently published work, A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament, is a different type of commentary altogether. As the name indicates, Comfort’s book comments on the available manuscripts available to us. Specifically, this is a resource for helping students of the New Testament do “lower criticism,” and a good one at that.

This is a fairly unique work, though it is not quite accessible for the average “layperson” who has no or little Greek proficiency. The first 126 pages provide readers with a significant amount of data on the nearly 6,000 manuscripts that are available. Comfort then proceeds in going book-by-book of the New Testament, and even looking at individual verses, to properly evaluate the textual information for Scripture. In my opinion, while the book-by-book section is helpful, the most valuable part of Comfort’s text is his section on the manuscripts themselves. While exegetical commentaries go into a great depth pertaining to the verse-by-vese textual issues, I don’t really know of a commentary on a particular book of the Bible that is as comprehensive on analyzing the actual manuscripts.

One surprising feature for me was that, despite there being plenty of great textual data, the physical book itself is quite concise. So, if space is a concern for a work that is basically a reference book, then A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament would be a good fit (literally). I would say that the ideal audience for this book would be biblical scholars, particularly New Testament specialists. While I don’t think that it is necessarily a “must have” book for pastors, it certainly would be a valuable resource, particularly if the pastor has at least a working proficiency of Greek.

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