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A New Greek New Testament

November 7, 2017

There is a newly-published edition of The Greek New Testament prepared by scholars associated with Tyndale House (Cambridge, UK).   For more information, and for continuing commentary on its features, see the dedicated blog site here.  It is published in the USA by Crossway (online entry here), and by Cambridge University Press.  A free sample is available for download from the Crossway site.

The editorial work was headed by Dirk Jongkind, who is based in Tyndale House.  It is the fruit of a decade of work, but there is more to come, including a textual commentary that will address the editorial choices made at the many variation-units, and will give additional evidence for the variants considered beyond the witnesses cited in the apparatus.

I’m pleased to have a copy of the work, and thus far have been able to peruse the Introduction and to spot check a few major variation-units to see how they were handled.  (I should note that my pre-publication endorsement of the work was based on an earlier perusal of the Introduction and plan for the work, plus a sample of it, and was limited to features that I could safely commend on that basis.)

The work originated using the edition of the Greek New Testament produced by the remarkable Samuel Prideaux Tregelles (19th century), but, as the editors note, the project became more demanding than they initially expected.  One of the reasons is that we now have much more early textual evidence to consider than was available to scholars of Tregelles’ time.

The evidence-base used in this project is comprised of Greek manuscripts dated to the 5th century or earlier.  The editors, thus, have not cited variants attested only in Patristic quotations or in early translations of the New Testament writings.  The basic principle in choosing a variant for the main text was that it should have the support of at least two Greek manuscripts of this early period (exceptions, however, in Revelation, where the evidence base is slimmer).

This edition is an interesting combination of decisions about the format.  On the one hand, it follows the pattern of practically all modern editions of ancient Greek texts in using lower-case Greek letters (whereas early manuscripts used all “majuscule”/capital letters).  As well, they incorporate the familiar chapter and verse numbering (which appeared only in the middle ages).  On the other hand, the editors chose to convey also several visual features of early witnesses.  These include, notably, adopting paragraph divisions attested in early manuscripts, and also beginning new paragraphs by the first word extending into the left-hand margin (“ekthesis”).  Likewise, as well as giving the titles of NT writings at the beginning of each, the editors have followed the ancient practice of supplying the title at the end of each.

Modern readers will also find ancient spellings of a number of words preferred in this edition, particularly many instances of epsilon-iota where modern editions typically have a iota, and the editors, also chose to remove many iota subscripts (again, not a feature of early manuscripts).  The editors chose not to represent any nomina sacra, however.

Perhaps the largest layout difference is in the ordering of NT writings.  This edition follows the ancient practice of connecting Acts with the “Catholic Epistles” (Acts apparently read as a kind of narrative framework for these epistles), and so the sequence is Gospels, Acts, Catholic Epistles, Pauline Epistles, Revelation.

The apparatus is deliberately selective in the variants included and the witnesses cited.  The forthcoming textual commentary is to provide a much fuller body of variants and evidence.  Unlike the Nestle-Aland editions, this one doesn’t have any marks in the body of the text to signal that there is a variation-unit.  You have to scan the apparatus for yourself to see if there are any.

My initial, quick check of a few major variation-units included the endings of Mark.  Here, after 16:8 the editors supply a note found in the minuscule manuscript 1, indicating that in some copies Mark ends here, but that in others vv. 9-20 are found.  The apparatus also indicates that the verses are absent from Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, but are present in a body of later manuscripts.  As well, the editors include the variant reading found between v. 8 and v. 9 in manuscripts L and (with small variations) Ψ (which date respectively to the 8th and 9th/10th centuries).  Curiously, however, there is no reference here to the famous “Freer Logion” (the unique Greek witness being Codex W), perhaps because it appears only in this one manuscript.

The still more famous pericope of the adulterous woman, which appears in the mass of later manuscripts (marked as John 7:53–8:11), is rightly consigned to the apparatus, as it, too, has no Greek manuscript support from the early period.  At 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, the apparatus indicates that these verses appear after 14:40 in Codex D.

At a few places, where the editors are somewhat less sure of their preference for a given variant, this is signaled in the apparatus with a small black diamond.  For example, at John 7:39, there is this mark to indicate that, although they adopted the reading πνευμα αγιον (“holy Spirit”), they acknowledge the reading without αγιον in some very early witnesses (P75, P66c, Sinaiticus) as a viable alternative.

Free digital editions are said to be available from the publishers, which will be a boon to students and others of limited financial means.  Finally, although the scholarly analysis of the text should continue, this edition is commendably well laid out and so easy to read.  As I indicated in my pre-publication endorsement, this edition should be welcomed as an additional resource for students of the Greek NT that has some distinguishing features that reflect the layout of early manuscripts.

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  1. About that note extracted from MS 1 (and 1582) — it does not merely say that verses 9-20 are found in “others.” It says that the passage is found in /many./

  2. Good stuff, a new Greek NT!

  3. S Walch permalink

    I do like some of the editorial decisions that they’ve made for this edition of the NT (also had an interesting discussion with P. Head over at the ETC blog concerning ει/ι), especially concentrating on 5 CE> Greek manuscripts.

    I am disappointed, however, in that they’ve opted not to have the -nomina sacra- used in the edition. If there’s evidence for something to be used in an edition of the GNT, then the -nomina sacra- are surely to be employed before anything else!

    • Well, they probably thought that the nomina sacra were a bit too demanding/unfamiliar to the main intended readership. The edition is obviously prepared for a wide readership of students, graduates of theological programmes, etc. Similarly, the choice to use lower-case characters reflects this. It’s an interesting experiment in choosing what and what not to convey.

  4. fgiannang permalink

    I warmly thank you for this signalment and review.
    So, a quite “new” NT.

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