The Ancestry of Our English Bible

By Mike Willis

For an introductory study of textual criticism, this book by Ira M. Price would be hard to beat. While I was attending Butler University, the book was used as textbook for one of our classes. The book is divided into these three divisions: (1) The Old Testament, (2) The New Testament, and (3) The English Bible. Price spent some time in dealing with the types of manuscript errors which appear in the extant texts, introducing his student to the problems of the textual critic.

In the section on the Old Testament, the author discussed the. types of materials used for writing, the best surviving Hebrew manuscripts, and the importance and use of the early translations of the Old Testament (such as the LXX, other Greek versions, Latin, Syriac, etc.) in the textual criticism of the Old Testament. This book was written before much could be definitely stated about the Dead Sea Scrolls’ influence on the study of Old Testament criticism. Although Price does refer to the scrolls, better works are available. Under this section of the book, Price also discusses the apocrypha.

In his discussion of the New Testament, Price followed the same- general outline as he followed with reference to the Old Testament-he discussed the materials, the best extant Greek manuscripts and the value of the various versions to the study of New Testament textual criticism. However, under this section a brief history of textual criticism is included to acquaint the reader with the men and the work done in this field as well as the general rules followed in determining which is the best reading in a given text. In his concluding statement for this section of the book, Price said,

“On the other hand, the multiplication of witnesses and variants attest the tremendous importance of the New Testament in the early centuries and really guarantees the general integrity of its text. Only 400 or so of the 150,000 variants affect the sense, and of these perhaps 50 are of real significance. But no essential teaching of the New Testament is greatly affected by them” (p. 222).

In the last section, Price discussed the history of our English Bible from the earliest introduction of Christianity into England in 597 A.D. to the Revised Standard Version in 1952 (the date for the publication of its Old Testament section). Some of the precursors of the King James Version. such as the Wycliffe, Tyndale, Coverdale, Genevan, etc., versions, are discussed and their influences on the King James Version noted. The reviews of the translation of the King James Version, the Revised Version, and the Revised Standard Version, as well as of some of the better known modern speech translations, are excellent.

A word of caution should be added to this review. Price accepted the liberal position with reference to the canonization of the Scriptures. Therefore, several of his comments need to be watched, weighed and compared with works of a similar nature by conservative scholars. However, the book is still worth its cost and is tremendously useful as an introduction to the field of textual criticism and acquainting oneself with the ancestry of our English Bible.

Truth Magazine, XVIII:42, p. 2
August 29, 1974