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The Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism

have much control over these; if the producer said, “we need to cut twenty minutes,” he
might be allowed to choose what was cut, but if a part called for an actor to do
something he physically couldn't do (e.g., perhaps, jump a wall), then tough luck to the
So the question of what we should reconstruct is very real. The foul papers, the only
copy known to have been entirely by Shakespeare? (We should note that this copy
often contains errors which the author clearly did not intend — e.g., characters whose
stage directions are identi?ed by the wrong name, as the infamous use of “Oldcastle” for
“Falstaff” on occasion in Henry IV Part I.) The fair copy, which — if by Shakespeare —
would undoubtedly have contained some additional corrections by the author? The
prompt book, which is not in Shakespeare's hand and may contain corrections he did
not make — but which also contains material he did suggest, and which will have the
full stage directions and proper identi?cations of the speakers? Or the production
And once we decide which to manuscript to target, we still have to sort through the
materials. Some Shakespeare plays exist only in the printing of the so-called “First
Folio” and editions taken from it. The plays in the folio are believed to derive from all
sorts of sources, from Shakespeare's foul papers to the prompt book to editions
produced by other printers.
Other plays exist also in individual quarto volumes. Some of these are “good” quartos,
taken from sources similar to the folio. Others as “bad” quartos, taken from the
memories of authors who had performed the plays, often misremembered and often cut
by the producers. Yet they are the only line of evidence outside the folio edition, and
may represent a more advanced state of the script.
Many other writings have suffered similar complications, and there is no reason to think
Shakespeare, or the New Testament, is any way unique in this. The problem of what to
reconstruct is very real.
Assured Results
Textual Criticism has a problem: It doesn't know what is and is not true. There are no
assured results. In the sciences, there are some things so thoroughly veri?ed that you
don't have to re-re-recon?rm the results. (The obvious examples are from physics: The
?rst two laws of thermodynamics — the law of conservation of energy and the law of
entropy — have been so thoroughly veri?ed that there is no need to further test them. At
least until some strong counter-evidence shows up.)
The Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism