Elijah Hixson: A Curious Fellow

10/21/2020

Elijah Hixson (PhD, University of Edinburgh) recently joined CSNTM as a research fellow. After completing his doctoral thesis, published as Scribal Habits in Sixth-Century Greek Purple Codices, Elijah served at Tyndale House in Cambridge. His areas of research include New Testament textual criticism, papyrology, early Christian theology, C.H. Spurgeon (1834–1892) and apologetics.

Elijah took some time to share with us what sparked his interest in New Testament textual criticism and what keeps him going.

“After high school, I chose chemistry as my major in college because I like being able to measure things.”

Elijah’s penchant for observing and measuring didn’t limit itself to the realm of science. Like most people in his rural hometown, Elijah attended church, where opinions typically swirl like dust in a feed bin.

“Back then, it seemed like much of theology was just one person harping on someone else’s opinion while declaring his own opinion to be obvious truth. I remember thinking it would be great if I had something to measure like I do in the lab. In there, opinions have to come to terms with facts. Theories or statements can be tested or observed—proven or disproven. I later found out that manuscripts allow you to do just that—measure things.”

Later, while attending Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, Elijah’s curiosity led him deeper into textual criticism. Blogs, papers, and texts that bored many of his seminary friends stimulated his desire to learn. “Oh, this is something you can measure; this is fun stuff! Why don’t more people like this? By the time I finished my master’s level work, I knew I should pursue a PhD in New Testament textual criticism, and I was especially drawn to studying scribal habits.”

Elijah admits that his interest in apologetics fueled his desire to observe how copyists reproduce manuscripts. “I do think the New Testament we have today represents what the Apostles wrote, and we have historical reasons to support that assertion. Compelling evidence for this can be found in observing, measuring, and describing the habits of individual scribes.”

“We are thrilled to get Elijah Hixson on staff at CSNTM,” says founder and executive director Dr. Daniel B. Wallace. "He loves to chase down ideas and draw out the facts from the ancient data. Elijah brings a lot of credibility with him, and even though he’s a fairly recently-minted PhD, he has already become an industrial-strength textual scholar.”

Image of Manuscript 𝔓45 at The Chester Beatty in Dublin

Elijah’s first assignments include manuscript transcriptions, starting with 𝔓45 for the facsimile publication by Hendrickson Publishers to be released later this year. He will also help us prepare for potential expeditions to eastern Europe and a Middle Eastern site once travel restrictions are lifted and approval is received. As Stratton Ladewig, research fellow at CSNTM stated, “Elijah will strengthen the ‘S’ part of our name. We not only preserve manuscripts and make them available to other scholars, we also study these documents to advance the work of textual criticism.”

When asked what he wants to do at CSNTM, Elijah responded, “I’ve had people ask me, ‘What’s your next research project?’ and I usually say, ‘I don’t know.’ Things work out the best when I try to be a faithful Christian wherever I am, do my job well, and allow my brain to go down rabbit trails when something catches my interest. I seem to do best when I follow my curiosity and somehow end up at the right place at the right time. I would like to keep doing that, if I can.”

Elijah and Peter Gurry co-edited the book, Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism, and recently joined seminary student, Christopher Marsh, on his podcast. You can listen to their conversation here