Monday, November 13, 2017

Initial thoughts on the Tyndale House Greek New Testament

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Dan Wallace, Larry Hurtado, James Snapp, Todd Scacewater, and Brice Jones have all given us their first impressions on the Tyndale House Greek New Testament (THGNT) and, since I have now had some time to look over my gratis copy, I thought I would share some of mine.



Since I was able to see the final stages of the edition up close and personal, I cannot feign neutrality—I am an unashamed supporter of the effort, the editors, and (mostly) of the results. For what they’re worth, here are some of my initial reflections on the edition.
  • The most important distinctive of the edition is its documentary approach which aims to follow early manuscripts as much as was feasible. This is most obvious in the paragraphing and the textual choices but also in more subtle details of orthography. In terms of establishing the text, this approach means that only readings attested by at least two witnesses are printed and one of them (except in Revelation) must be from before the sixth century (p. 506). Within this documentary constraint, the editors gave special weight to matters of scribal tendencies. Where a variant could be explained transcriptionally, it was and was thereby set aside. The strict constraint bears some unexpected similarity to the Byzantine priority method of Maurice Robinson and William Pierpont. The difference is that here early external evidence sets the boundaries whereas in the Byzantine priority approach, late evidence plays that distinctive role. The result is that neither method is open to rejecting their take on external evidence where the internal evidence strongly goes against it. For examples, consider ὀνόματι vs. μέρει in 1 Pet 4.16 in THGNT and ἐπηγγείλατο vs. ἐπηγγείλατο ὁ κύριος in Jas 1.12 for Robinson-Pierpont. In both cases, strong internal evidence gives way to the editors’ external constraints.
  • The THGNT hardcover is
    just slightly taller than NA28.
  • The editors passed on printing nomina sacra in the main text though they do occasionally show up in the apparatus (e.g., Rom 8.34). This was because there was not time for a systematic review. While the nomina sacra would trip up beginning Greek readers, I think they would be great to have a in a printed edition. The trick, of course, will be deciding which nomina sacra to use and where. But its the same issue that faced the editors with the next matter of formatting so, I suppose, there is cause for hope for the future.
  • The paragraphing too has been drawn from the early manuscripts as much as possible. The editors only present a new paragraph where such is found in at least two pre-sixth-century manuscripts. Unfortunately, it is not clear from the edition itself which manuscripts these come from in any given case. How did the editors decide when two such manuscripts disagreed with two others? We are not told. This problem aside, I find the paragraphing to be one of my favorite features of the new edition. The amount of paragraphing is really quite surprising, especially in the Gospels. But even outside, the breaks will surprise many of us who are accustomed to reading, say, Romans in a certain way (note, for example, the non-break at Rom 3.21). One curiosity on this front is how often the THGNT’s paragraphs match the versification. So far, I’ve only spotted a small handful of places where a new paragraph does not line up with a new verse (e.g., Gal 4.12b).
  • Orthography is another major area of distinction as far as presentation goes (see Pete’s various posts). Much effort has clearly gone into matters of spelling here, so much that I think it is safe to say that no edition since WH has done more. Certainly, none that I can think of has been more transparent about it. Capitalization is kept to a minimum such that even χριστος is given a lowercase. However, I do question the decision to use uppercase letters at the start of paragraphs. Would doing otherwise really be a “stumbling block” (p. 511) to readers? I would think that the other changes introduced to the paragraphing (their frequency and ekthesis) are different enough, that it would be a small thing to also give way to the habit of capitalizing them too. There is also no distinction given to text cited from the Old Testament. I must say, this is one place I wish the edition had followed the early manuscripts more than it does. It seems to me that this is a perfect place to introduce the common use of the diple symbol to mark such quotations. Couldn’t that be handled in the same way as paragraphing? Perhaps something else for a 2nd edition. 
  • The apparatus is small and unencumbered. I cannot say I am happy that the versional evidence was excluded or that it seems to have played such a minor role in the editorial decisions (p. 507). But one thing I really like about the apparatus is that it gives much more detail about legibility. For instance, P75 is not merely marked with “vid” at John 13.10, but what appears to be in P75 is also listed as νι[ψ]α̣σ̣θ̣αι. This extra detail is quite nice to have in an appratus.
  • The order of books is a pleasant change. The editors have printed the Catholic Letters before Paul’s but have placed Hebrews at the end of the latter section. I am happy to see from the ECM for Acts that it too is moving this direction. Perhaps the NA29/UBS6 will adopt the same?
  • The type used in printing Greek New Testaments is one of my pet interests and I was very pleased with the use of Adobe Text here. Some letter shapes (like alpha) grate just slightly but, on the whole, it is a clean, crisp face that is a pleasure to read. I should confess that I campaigned several times for the use of Porson Greek given its Cambridge roots. But, alas, I failed to convince. Mostly I am just glad they did not settle for Times New Roman’s Greek. Unfortunately, it seems impossible to avoid Times New Roman altogether and here it managed to sneak itself into the edition in the book titles and the running heads.
These are some initial impressions, then. Overall, the edition is refreshing in its visual simplicity and some of the novelties such as paragraphing are a nice change. I will still use my NA, of course, for serious work but I expect to be reading the THGNT devotionally in 2018 and perhaps as my new church NT.

With only a few exceptions, the THGNT is set in Adobe Type throughout.

20 comments :

  1. Where can this be purchased at?

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  2. Thanks for this thoughtful review, Peter.
    I too was struck by the frequency of the paragraph breaks. I think this is an important reason why future iterations of the THGNT should follow the lead of the NA editions by including the Eusebian apparatus. At points, I'd suggest, the paragraphing we find in manuscripts of the gospels is hard to explain except as a result of the attraction exerted by the Eusebian sections, which aren't based on intuitive pericopes but rather on various permutations of parallels with the other gospels.
    Of course, the Eusebian apparatus was also an important part of how readers encountered the gospels from the fourth century on, as well.

    --Jeremiah

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  3. Dear Peter,
    I am looking forward to reading the THGNT at ETS/SBL. The 11-hour drive from VA to RI will be worth it.
    Sincerely,
    Alistair

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  4. Some of the paragraphing in THEGNT seems excessive to me. E.g. in John where the early manuscripts (P66 & P75) have very limited paragraphing; I presume the THEGNT paragraphing must be based on the later manuscripts over against the earlier ones. (One has to presume because there is no transparency in relation to the paragraphing.) Creating a system for presenting the manuscript evidence in a clear and transparent manner is a desideratum for us all.

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  5. Of course this paragraphing is a first pass, pioneering the use of early paragraph marks. It's to be expected that its publication will lead to scrutiny and improvement in subsequent editions (already being planned). This is just the beginning. I hope that in 40 years' time it will be normal for modern translations to use ancient paragraphs.

    There's a limit to how much info we can add and still leave the page uncluttered as we want, so perhaps we need a reading edition and a study edition. Suggestions welcome.

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    1. As you are thinking ahead for the future, what would be the possibility of a majuscule type text, How wonderful that would be?

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    2. Perhaps (a) a study edition with a fairly extensive apparatus, dealing not least with MS testimony re paragraphing and the like, and perhaps even a very concise textual commentary along the lines of BHQ and (b) a portable edition with only the diamond readings, thus distracting from focused reading of the GNT only where the TH editors were themselves particularly uncertain.

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    3. Peter Williams,
      Okay; I suggest removing the apparatus completely, putting it all in a (much more thorough and more useful) digital resource, perhaps merged something like with the STEP-Bible apparatus.



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    4. This edition would be wonderful in a larger print. The font is too small. Thank you.

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  6. It would be easy to make that an electronic option. For print, I don't find it attractive, as it would slow down reading.

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    1. PLEASE make a large print edition. The font is beautiful, but I can't appreciate it without a magnifying glass. Large print please. 12 point coming soon?

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  7. With this edition, are you essentially returning to Bentley's theory as to how to determine a text? And there is nothing telling us how you weigh early Greek mss, and Old Latin mss that represent a 200 AD text even if the copy is 800 AD, and early church writers who often give powerful evidences (example Acts 8:37, Cyprian Irenaeus and many others).

    Among the early evidences, is Vaticanus and Sinaiticus still given special weight? What would be the maximum number of evidences considered, can you give an example?

    Steven Avery

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  8. Larry Hurtado mentioned a forthcoming fuller apparatus on his blog. Is there more information about that?

    Ross Purdy

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  9. We look forward to user feedback which will aid decisions about this.

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    1. A few reviews have made comments like: "I will use the THGNT for reading but NA28 for deep study!" How about a separate volume or volumes (matching of course) with a more complete, correct, and fuller apparatus that is easier to understand so NA28 becomes obsolete?

      Ross Purdy

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  10. How about accepting the fact that modern Textual Criticism would and will not be possible without the existence and usage of the NA/UBS GNT-editions?!

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  11. TH team (and Crossway), beautifully done all around!

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  12. Ditto! The design is appealing and durable, and I think the text takes a lot of steps in the right direction. I'm looking forward to seeing how this edition is used and developed in coming years.

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