It is a pleasure for me to introduce our next interview. John (Ioannis) Karavidopoulos (1937–) is Emeritus Professor of the Theological School of Aristotle and is best known among English-speaking scholarship for his membership on the editorial committee of the UBS Greek New Testament. He has written numerous articles and books during his career and it is a real honor to interview him here.
Peter Gurry: Can you tell us about how you came to the academic study of the Bible and, in particular, what led you to textual criticism?John Karavidopoulos: As you know the Bible is the basis of Christian belief and life. All the other disciplines of Christian theology are based on the Bible. So the academic study of the Bible gives you the opportunity to get into the heart of theology. Personally, as a Greek theologian, I was attracted to textual criticism because I think that the different readings of the manuscripts prove the richness of Christian tradition.
[PG] What is the academic study of the New Testament like in Greek Universities both in your experience and now in view of the current financial situation?[JK] In both Greek university theological faculties (in Athens and Thessaloniki) as well as in all the ecclesiastical high schools, the academic study of the Bible is a fundamental discipline in which the support of the Orthodox Tradition (Fathers of the Church, liturgical life etc). And, of course, with the knowledge of modern international Biblical scholarship, Greek biblical scholars can be in contact and in dialogue with their colleagues all over the World. Especially in the current difficult financial situation, the Bible gives comfort and support to the Greek people.
Do you have a favorite edition of the Greek New Testament? Do you use a critical text in your study and an ecclesiastical text in church and in prayer? How does that work out?The academic teaching and the scholarly work are based, of course, on the critical editions of the New Testament (NA28/UBS5) although in the Church and in prayer we use the patriarchal edition of the byzantine text. This causes no problem at all. All modern Greek translations of the New Testament are based on the Byzantine Text because people are familiar with this type of text. The Greek people know the byzantine text type and cite it from memory in everyday speech.
If I’m not mistaken, you joined the UBS editorial committee in 1981 along with Barbara Aland. How did you come to join the committee?I was invited by the late professor Kurt Aland to join the committee because he and the rest of the editorial committee wanted an Orthodox member. So I accepted, not without some hesitation. In the end, I do think that I contributed to the enrichment of the critical apparatus with many byzantine reading which, in limited cases, were also adopted in the text.
Greek Lecture on Jesus
Can you give us any sense for what the committee meetings were like? How long they lasted, how frequently they met, the personalities involved, particular passages you fought over, etc.?This is a difficult question to answer. The committee did not meet very frequently, but I was given the financial possibility to set up a group of collaborators in the University of Thessaloniki with the purpose of collating a select number of byzantine manuscripts. I fought especially for New Testament verses which are very familiar to the Greek Orthodox audience because of their liturgical use (e.g., Mark 9.29: “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting”). But I did not succeed in many cases.
A few years ago, you met with a team from CSNTM digitizing manuscripts in Zagora, Greece. How do you think such easy access to so many manuscript images will change the discipline of NT textual criticism?I appreciate very much the work of CSNTM and of professor Dan Wallace and I helped as much as I could to facilitate their task in photographing manuscripts in Greece in spite of the understandable negation of some Greek institutions. I hope that their work will contribute to the discipline of New Testament textual criticism.
Last year, a new UBS committee was announced. Having been part of the previous committee, is there any advice you would give the new members as they begin their work?The only thing I can say is that some short byzantine Readings could be adopted by the committee of which I am no longer a member.
From your vantage point, what aspects of the NT’s transmission are most in need of serious investigation?The byzantine text type must be more seriously investigated.
Many thanks to Dr. Karavidopoulos for his time!