Maurice Robinson: The Textual Critic

Early in his seminary career, a young student had the opportunity to pursue additional study under a noted professor of textual criticism. As they were discussing the development of the Greek New Testament text, and noting some dissatisfaction with the then-current state of New Testament textual criticism, the professor referred to something he had previously written that changed the course of the young seminarian’s life: “We must have a critical history of transmission. Some new angle, some novel experiment must be tried.” The discussion regarding that comment then set in motion what has become a lifetime pursuit of digging for the truth.Maurice Robinson Research Thing_1

Maurice A. Robinson received his undergraduate degree in English and Secondary Education from the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida. Being called into the ministry, he attended Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he obtained his Master of Divinity degree. That is when he had the privilege noted above of studying one-on-one with noted textual critic Kenneth W. Clark at Duke University. These studies whetted his appetite for scholarly endeavors, leading him to continue into the Master of Theology program at Southeastern, and the Doctor of Philosophy program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

Dr. Robinson has been engaged in various forms of teaching and research ministry for over thirty years. He currently is Senior Professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he has served for the past 22 years. He has presented numerous papers in various venues, with many of these being published, and has spoken frequently at various symposiums and seminars on topics that deal with New Testament textual criticism.

Robinson is best known for his defense of the Byzantine-priority theory of New Testament textual criticism. As he stated, that position

evaluates internal and external evidence in light of transmissional probabilities. This approach emphasizes the effect of scribal habits in preserving, altering, or otherwise corrupting the text, the recognition of transmissional development leading to family and texttype groupings, and the ongoing maintenance of the text in its general integrity as demonstrated within our critical apparatuses. The overriding principle is that textual criticism without a history of transmission is impossible. To achieve this end, all reading in sequence need to be accounted for within a transmissional history, and no reading can be considered in isolation as a ‘variant unit’ unrelated to the rest of the text.[1]

His various papers and presentations both support his theoretical position as well as critique and oppose current critical views regarding New Testament text-critical praxis. A tangible result of his text-critical theory is his co-edited edition of The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform 2005. A current major research project involves the collation of all available Greek manuscripts and lectionaries in relation to the Pericope Adulterae (Jn. 7:53-8:11), listing all variants, with the intent of defining and establishing the textual interrelationships among those manuscripts, with a goal of demonstrating an archetypal form of that periscope, detailing its further relationship to the Gospel of John.

In addition to these accomplishments, Robinson has also been a pioneer in the area of computerized study of the Greek New Testament. In this regard, beginning the mid-1980’s, he created electronic editions of a number of Greek New Testament texts, with grammatical lemmatization and parsing data. These were originally prepared for the Online Bible software program, but have also been incorporated into various major Bible software programs (including Bibleworks), with raw ASCII/DOS versions of these texts in CCAT-based format also available freely from dozens of internet web sites worldwide.

This book consists of various essays gathered in honor of Dr. Robinson’s sixty-sixth birthday. The authors share his esteem for the Biblical text and recognize his unique contributions to the field and have chosen to recognize his scholarship by being included in this work.

Mark Billington — Peter Streitenberger

To read more about Dr. Robinson’s Festschrift click here.

To purchase this Festschrift click here.


[1]. Maurice Robinson, “Appendix: The Case for Byzantine Priority,” in the New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform 2005, by Maurice A. Robinson and William G. Pierpont (Southborough, MA: Chilton Book Publishing, 2005).

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  1 Comment

  1. gary hill   •  

    Dr. Robinson

    Hope this notes finds you well. You have wonderfully in the past helped us through questions on biblical grammar — and now have another

    You’ll recall Dr. Archer spent 26 with me as consulting editor of The Discovery Bible project. He believed ardently that the oblique OT verb stems all had stable, uniform core-meanings, throughout the OT canon. That is, hiphil can be assumed to be causitive in all roots/occurrences, and piel intensive-extensive (factitive) meaning. We have never found one instance that was not at least viable, including verbs that always appear in just one stem — i.e. their core-idea still applied in some way as contoured in the particular context. Knowing this gives precious assurance to OT students/pastors etc wanting to exegete/preach/teach from the original text.

    Would you be so good as to affirmation of this general principle if you also believe it, and that OT vocabulary terms likewise have presumptive core-meanings that can/should be responsively applied, ie. again as shaped in individual contexts.

    I know you are very busy, so even a one word reply would be greatly reassuring — many in the linguistics/discourse, text-linguistics camp as you know deny this ( really shaking up sincere OT students in ministry trying to carefully do their sermons from the original text).

    Sincere thanks from myself and many others committed to studying OT grammar to share God’s Word from the sacred originals.

    Very appreciatively

    Gary Hill
    cell: 630-890-5712

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