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SBL Greek New Testament

December 8, 2010

The Society of Biblical Literature, in cooperation with Logos Bible Software, has recently published a new edition of the Greek New Testament, edited by Professor Michael W. Holmes, a senior respected figure in NT textual criticism.

This new edition is available to download free from the SBL web site:  This is a real boon to teachers and students, including especially many in coutnries in the “global south”.  It is a further boon that the text is Unicode-compliant, which means that it can be used across various hardware platforms and software environments, and users don’t need to purchase a proprietary Greek font.  Print/hardbound copies can be purchased via the SBL (see the link from the SBL home page:

Essentially, Holmes was charged with creating an edition by drawing primarily upon four previous editions:  (1) the Westcott-Hort 1881 edition; (2) S. P. Tregelles’ edition (1857-79); (3) the Greek text lying behind the NIV; and (4) the Robinson/Pierpont edition of the “Byzantine Textform” (2005).   The SBL edition notes 6,928 variation-units in the apparatus (which records variants supported by the various editions used).  At these variation-units, the variant preferred by Holmes in the SBL edition is supported by Westcott-Hort 6,049 times, by Tregelles 5,701 times, by the NIV text 6,312 times, and by the “Byzantine/Majority Text” edition 969 times.  At 56 variation-units, Holmes preferred a reading not supported by any of the four primary editions used.  These tend to be variants shown as marginal alternatives by Westcott-Hort (30x), Tregelles (2x) and/or Nestle-Aland (10x).

The apparatus and the symbols used to mark variation-units are both simplified in comparison with the Nestle-Aland text, and should be easy to follow, even by readers unaccustomed to such matters.

I’ve not yet had time for a more detailed perusal of the text, and this isn’t the place for a detailed discussion of it.  But my initial impressions are that it is a very useful contribution to the study of the Greek New Testament, and to the awareness of textual variation in the transmission of the New Testament writings.

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  1. Melissa Fitzpatrick permalink

    Like all members, I received a free copy at SBL of this new edition and have been making my way through it. I am looking forward to looking closer at the variants that Holmes has included that are not supported by any of the four major editions, and also trying to get used to the apparatus. I did not realize that the downloadable text is unicode-compliant. This is great news.

    I will say that my favorite thing about Nestle-Aland is the marginal notes (parallel passages, etc.). Before I received the new edition, I was wondering if Holmes would do his own marginal notes and perhaps include additional texts, etc.

    • The new Holmes edition had to be produced under severe time constraints, and primarily with the single aim of producing a text that in some way represented critical judgements and, crucially, was not under copyright. Logos Software in particular wanted an electronic Greek NT text that was free for them to use without having to pay fees for any (e.g., Nestle-Aland) under copyright.
      So, the Holmes edition is perforce primarily for those who need simply access to a Greek NT text to read, or to use in courses/exams. Scholars properly will continue to use the Nestle-Aland editions, which provide much, much more by way of collateral information (including the valuable cross-references you mention).

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