After 10 years of scholarly work, Tyndale House is launching a new version of the New Testament in its original Greek language, which aims to be the most accurate ever published. Taking as its authority the very oldest available manuscripts, the new edition reflects as clearly as possible the earliest recoverable wording of the books.
The version of the Greek New Testament that currently forms the basis of most English Bible translations was published in 1975, but since then several important ancient manuscript discoveries have been made. The Greek New Testament Produced at Tyndale House includes the evidence from these manuscripts, presented in a way that mirrors the sources it is drawn from. This means that paragraph marks reflect the earliest manuscripts rather than being edited to create a text flow that is more appropriate to modern languages. Tyndale House has also been involved with others in pioneering new techniques that can account for copying errors made by the scribes who created them.
The edition’s editor, Dr Dirk Jongkind, Vice Principal of Tyndale House, has given a decade of his life to leading the Greek New Testament project in order to achieve a version that reflects the latest thinking on these so-called “scribal habits”. According to Dr Jongkind: “When we copy a text we are always bound to make small mistakes, and the New Testament is no exception. The great thing is that now we have so much evidence at our fingertips, we can study the types of errors the New Testament scribes made and come to more informed conclusions about what the text being copied would have said. Our 10-year study of the most important manuscripts shows that while errors are part and parcel of the copying process, there is no evidence whatsoever of systematic revision of the text. So while a scribe might accidentally change ‘Jesus Christ’ to ‘Christ Jesus’, we don’t encounter textual differences between the manuscripts that materially change the meaning.”
Dr Jongkind was previously curator of the Codex Sinaiticus documents (one of the earliest complete New Testaments in the world) held by the British Library, and his PhD focused on the textual habits of the scribes who produced the manuscript. He is an Associate Editor of the Tyndale Bulletin and serves on the editorial board of the Journal for the Study of the New Testament. A fellow of St Edmund’s College, Cambridge University, since 2005, he is currently Academic Vice Principal of Tyndale House.
The associate editor of The Greek New Testament Produced at Tyndale House is Dr Peter Williams, Principal of Tyndale House. Dr Williams is chairman of the International Greek New Testament Project and a member of the translation committee of the English Standard Version of the Bible.
The Greek New Testament Produced at Tyndale House will be available from Cambridge University Press (£115 for calfskin binding, £85 for French Morocco leather binding and £47.50 for imitation-leather binding; www.cambridge.org) and IVP (£55.99 for TruTone imitation leather binding and £30.99 for hardback;www.ivpbooks.com).
About Tyndale House
Tyndale House is an academic institute for biblical understanding, with a rigorous data-driven approach to tackling questions about the nature, origin and meaning of Scripture. Founded in Cambridge in 1944, it has become the headquarters of a global fellowship of academics that includes many leading members of the biblical scholarship community. It is also home to one of the world’s most significant libraries for biblical studies, as well as the Tyndale Bulletin academic journal.
Why do we need another Greek New Testament?
Soon after the publication of Erasmus’s first edition of the Greek New Testament in 1516, multiple editions of the Greek New Testament began to be published. Until the 19th century, however, these editions differed more in their scope and textual apparatus than in the actual text. But since the mid-19th century, editions of the Greek New Testament have differed more significantly in their text, based on the discovery of, and eclectic selection from, many more Greek manuscripts than were available to Erasmus. Around 1975, however, a number of factors led to the nearly universal adoption of a single standard text, published by the German Bible Society. Since 1975, significant advances have been made in our knowledge of the text of the Greek New Testament. This has included (a) the discovery of further primary material (eg, early papyri), (b) improvements in the accuracy with which we can use early versions, and (c) careful study of scribal habits. Existing Greek New Testaments have generally not been updated in light of this accumulated knowledge.
To what manuscript family does this Greek New Testament foundationally appeal?
This Greek New Testament is a revision of a previous Greek New Testament edition produced in the 19th century by Samuel Prideaux Tregelles. This major 19th-century edition was used as a textual source in Westcott and Hort’s classic edition The New Testament in the Original Greek.
Other than through an indirect influence via Westcott and Hort’s work, however, Tregelles’s edition was the only major 19th-century edition that was not part of the genealogy that contributed to the 20th-century Greek New Testament editions. This unjustly neglected edition followed a thoroughly documentary approach — which, with some variation, is most akin to the current editors’ work. The GNT editors therefore used Tregelles’s foundational work as a template, while at the same time re-evaluating all its readings in light of all major subsequent editions and in light of the earliest manuscript evidence. The editors have sought to ensure that all the words, spellings, and paragraph marks are found in multiple manuscripts and in at least one early manuscript.
How different is this text from the Nestle-Aland/UBS text?
The editors of the GNT believe that some significant improvements can be made relative to other existing editions. For example:
1) No previous edition has ever used the recent studies on the habits of scribes to inform editorial decisions as to what the earliest text was. Recent decades have provided a wealth of material regarding the errors scribes were likely to make, thereby providing the means for the Tyndale House editors to make more informed decisions about textual history.
2) In general, previous editors have allowed themselves considerable liberty in standardising spelling, making paragraph divisions, deciding punctuation, and other matters. Sometimes this has meant that modern editions have standardised spellings or introduced textual divisions against a very strong consensus of early manuscript witnesses. This may hide significant data about the origin and even interpretation of the Greek New Testament, as it is not possible to study the extent of variation of the spellings in the New Testament based on editions currently available. Attention to these and other philological details will make the GNT a particularly useful edition from which to begin philological investigation.
Will this text be made available digitally?
This text will be available digitally and will be free for many uses around the world, in accordance with the desire of Tyndale House to serve the global church in an open-handed way with the very best Greek text possible.