Textual Criticism of the Bible receives recognition
To say Amy Anderson, Ph.D., is passionate about her field of study would be an understatement. As Professor of New Testament & Greek in the College of Church Leadership, Anderson is an expert in textual criticism, and finds her unique niche in making her area of scholarly study as accessible as possible. “I have scholarly training,” Anderson pointed out, “but I’m good at turning things around an making it make sense for beginners.”
This skill serves her well in the classroom and as an author. Her most recent publication was selected by Fred Zaspel and The Gospel Coalition for a short list of “New Books You Should Know.”
In his comments about Textual Criticism of the Bible (Lexham Press, 2018), co-authored by Anderson and Wendy Widder, Ph.D., Zaspel affirms Anderson’s skills in accessibility. Zaspel said, “If you work at all with the Bible’s original languages you inevitably need to understand at least something about those pesky variants. It may be a field for experts, but Anderson and Widder have provided a wonderfully accessible introduction to the study of textual criticism for both Old and New Testaments. If you feel weak in this area, this is the place to start. Clear, accessible, and even practical.”
What is textual criticism of the Bible?
Biblical textual criticism comes as naturally as breathing to Anderson and many of her scholarly peers, yet it is a field still full of opportunities for new discoveries. Anderson explained that the goal of textual criticism is to compare the ancient biblical manuscripts—thousands of them handwritten over hundreds of years—to develop reasoning regarding the most likely oldest form of the text.
Anderson points out that it’s important for all Christians, not just scholars, to have confidence in the validity of Scripture. “When I speak in churches, people are super interested in this topic,” Anderson said. She noted that many people’s exposure to the Bible is as a 21st-century document in a variety of English translations. When she shares the complex, historical context of the texts, she’s observed it really captures people’s interest. “People are fascinated,” Anderson said. “It makes it come alive in a way, and I love exposing Christians to the amazing beginnings of our sacred book.”
Dr. Amy loves old stuff and so should you
Anderson credits Gordon Fee, an Assemblies of God scholar and one of the leading textual critics in the world, for her interest in the field that has been the driving force for her work. “I read some of his [Fee’s] books and had his class, and just kept moving in that direction,” she said. “I learned Greek, took some classes, and when it came time to do a Ph.D., in textual criticism there was a huge amount of work to do. I applied and got a full-ride scholarship in Birmingham [England], where my advisor was one of the leading experts.”
For the past 20 years, Anderson has shared her knowledge and passion freely with North Central students and scholars around the world. She loves to speak in chapel and once gave an enlightening talk titled, “Dr. Amy loves old stuff and so should you.”
Social media has become another platform for Anderson to facilitate scholarly discussion and generate interest in the importance of biblical knowledge. She serves as the administrator for three different Facebook groups—one for NCU Biblical and Theological Studies students and alumni, one centered around biblical literacy, and one called “Being Church,” which focuses on “what it means to be the gathered people of God.” The foundation for the third group comes, in part, from another book of Anderson’s, When You Come Together (Anderson, 2010).
Textbooks and recommended reading
Wendy Widder, co-author of Textual Criticism of the Bible who wrote the Old Testament portion of the book, also served as an adjunct instructor at North Central, but as they were working with the book’s editor separately, the authors did not realize their NCU connection until well into the project. The book has been adopted as a textbook for classes at North Central and is finding its way to other institutions as well. Anderson herself uses it in both introductory and upper-level courses.
Asked about her own list of “books you should know,” Anderson had several recommendations.
Dr. Amy Anderson’s recommended readings
About the Church:
- Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster (“This changed my life the most,” Anderson noted)
Learning to study the Bible:
- How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart