Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Designing a Greek New Testament

At present there is no recent manual eclectic GNT that seeks to present the earliest form of the text alongside variants selected on the basis of likelihood that they were in the original. The UBS editions seek to present variants that are relevant to Bible translators; the NA editions seek 'to provide the reader with a critical appreciation of the whole textual tradition' (NA27 p. 45*). Consequently, major variants about spelling are dropped in favour of semantically important variants that virtually no one thinks are original (or even in favour of semantic information which does not involve variant Greek texts, as in Matthew 6:11).

There is a need for a manual edition that is more focussed on the question of the original text. This would begin to highlight where true uncertainty exists and would allow researchers to focus attention on those parts.

Despite the level of abbreviation that takes place in the apparatus of NA27 it still generally considers variants as whole words. I should like a system that is more willing to pinpoint the variation by letters. Thus, if ° were allowed to apply to single letters within a word,


could signal the variation in John 20:31 most succinctly, provided the ° could be placed in a way that did not interrupt the flow of the text. Nor is there any particular reason why ╭ ╮ should not occur in the middle of a word.


  1. A *manual* edition that gives this level of detail?! Not even Tischendorf or *Editio Critica Maior* marks that level of detail--though much of it can be found in the apparatus. I don't know how one would ever squeeze that much detail into a manual edition; it would swell the apparatus far more than the text itself. But then I note that you would like to see such a text; you didn't exactly propose it's development and publication...! :)


  2. Thanks for the reaction. Publication would be far less of a problem than development. I think that we're still a way off even beginning development, but we need to begin with debate about what is possible and desirable in a manual edition.

    A manual edition would not record all spelling variants, but merely such spelling variants as are well attested enough for it to be not unlikely that they are original. Thus the spelling ιωανης would get either into the apparatus or the main text of Revelation 1:4. Why should varying spellings of 'Jerusalem' be recorded in GNTs, but not variant spellings of Moses?

    Such a manual edition would not in any way compete with NA27 since it would have a different purpose. It would save a lot of space omitting historically significant and interesting variants (e.g. Bezae's reading in Luke 6:4) in favour of historically uninteresting and insignificant variants. It would, however, have this advantage: it would be designed for those whose basic interest was the original text of the NT.

    NA27, with its Variae Lectiones Minores, provides a good template for giving additional information. It might be that variants removed from the apparatus could be included here.

    If I were designing such a text (which I'm not) I'd like the apparatus to be under one sixth of the printed page, though I recognise that in texts like Jude it might well be necessary to let the apparatus have more room.

  3. The best way to explore feasibility of such a project is to do a small pilot project and publish it as a acrobat (pdf) document. It would cost you nothing but your time. I share some of Rod Decker 's reservations. It sounds like a book that would be more effectively implemented as hyper-text publication rather than a physical book.

  4. Of course such a text can appear in hypertext, and in many other formats. PDF would also be a good way of testing the 'product' with people. However, I tend to leave quite a few GNTs lying round my house and office and still think that the book is the best format for general use and study of the GNT.

    The particular suggestion that variant letters in words can be marked is only of secondary importance to the main point that spelling variants should be marked. For this see a subsequent post.

  5. I don't know if it is useful, but I have converted all the variant readings in Titus on my site to RTF format - only 5 pages at 12 point, but there aren't many variants in that book. It has at least all the readings that at least one of NA/UBS, WH, Byzantine or two editions of the TR think are original. Sooner or later I'll create a file with all the NT - whether sooner or later depends upon how much interest there is :) The file is at http://www.laparola.net/file/titus.rtf