Saturday, December 09, 2017

Word Magazine # 84: Review: Tyndale House Greek New Testament

Note: I have recorded and posted WM 84: Review: Tyndale House Greek New Testament.

The Tyndale House Edition of the Greek New Testament (THGNT) is a newly published edition of the Greek New Testament produced by several scholars at Tyndale House, an independent Christian study center founded in 1944 with an evangelical Christian heritage and located in the university town of Cambridge, England. The work is edited by Dirk Jongkind, the Academic Vice-Principal and a Research Fellow at TH. The associate editor is Peter J. Williams, the Principal (Director) of TH. This work reflects the fruit of more than ten years of collaboration and study by the editors.

The THGNT is published by Crossway and will also eventually be freely available in an online edition.

This edition is noteworthy on several levels. Detailed scholarly discussions might be held on the textual and apparatus decisions reflected in this edition, and, indeed, many of those have already begun and will, no doubt, continue. My review will not attempt to delve into the minutia but offer a general overview from the perspective of a pastor who hold to the Textus Receptus. Two other reviews I have found helpful: Peter Gurry and James Snapp.

The work is organized in five parts: (1) Frontmatter; (2) Preface (pp. vii-viii); (3) the Greek text of the NT (pp. 1-504); (4) Introduction (pp. 505-524); and (5) Acknowledgements (pp. 525-526).

I will look at each of these and share some reading notes in order:

First Part: Frontmatter:

1.    Published by Crossway, 2017

2.    Produced by Tyndale House, Cambridge

3.    Editor, Dirk Jongkind; Associate Editor, Peter J. Williams; Associate Editors: Peter M. Head and Patrick James.

Note: Jongkind is a Dutch scholar who had a previous career in Holland in horticulture (see his TH bio). He completed a PhD in NT at Cambridge in 2005 and his dissertation was published as Scribal Habits of Codex Sinaiticus (Gorgias, 2007). His scholarly interests, of course, are reflected in this edition.

4.    Table of Contents: Order of books changed from standard printed order: Gospels, Acts, Catholic Epistles, Pauline Epistles (with Hebrews last), Revelation.

Note: Robinson and Pierpoint in the Byzantine Greek NT (2005) follow a similar order with the Catholic Epistles before the Pauline epsitles, though they place Hebrews after 2 Thessalonians and before the Pastoral epistles and Philemon.

Second Part: Preface (vii-viii):

1.    Edition based on Samuel Prideaux Tregelles 19th century Greek NT.

See Robert Hull’s sketch of Tregelles in The Story of the NT Text (SBL, 2010): 79-82. He calls Tregelles (1813-1875) a “blue collar scholar,” noting that he was a lay researcher, without university degree, who labored in the iron works by day and studied Biblical languages and texts by night (p. 79). He produced his NT by subscription from 1857-1872. Hull notes Tregelles’ significance as being the fact that in his Greek NT he used “ancient sources” to construct his text, “disregarding the Textus Receptus altogether” (p. 80). Using Epps military analogy, he says, Tregelles was “a brigadier general in the campaign to defeat the Textus Receptus” (p. 81).

2.    It “aims to present the NT books in the earliest forms in which they are well attested.” This is an interesting statement. Note: The goal is not to reconstruct the original but the earliest and best attested.

3.    It does this by using “careful analysis of the scribal habits and typical transmission errors of individual manuscripts.”

4.    It points to some of the distinctive editorial decisions on paragraphs, layout, spelling, grammatical markers, book order, and critical apparatus that will be discussed in the Introduction.

5.    It includes a confessional aim, which begins, “The focus of these sacred scriptures is, of course, on the person of Jesus Christ, presented on page after page as the unique Son of God.”

Third Part: The text of the NT (1-504):

1.    Inset text to left margin (rather than indenting) to mark paragraphs. This is later called ekthesis in the Introduction (p. 512).

2.    Each book begins on right hand page. Legible font. Designed for a good reading experience.

3.    Matthew 6:13: Omits doxology and lists as variant in the apparatus.

4.    Mark 1:2 reads “as in Isaiah the prophet” rather than “in the prophets,” which it lists as a variant.

5.    Mark 16:8 includes a scribal note in Greek from minuscule 1. It is translated in the apparatus: “In some of the copies, the evangelist finishes here, up to which (point) also Eusebius of Pamphilus made canon sections. But in many the following is also contained.”

Note: Minuscule 1 is not listed among the main witnesses used for this edition but listed with other “witnesses which have been consulted in the preparation of this edition” (p. 523). No date is given for it in the THGNT. The NA 28 lists it as XII century and in Basel.  In other words it is late and only acknowledges earlier textual controversy over the ending dating back to Eusebius (see my forthcoming article on “The Ending of Mark as a Canonical Crisis” in PRJ (January 2018). Indeed, Erasmus apparently had access to this minuscule, but this note did not deter him from including Mark 16:9-20 as part of the text.

Mark 16:9-20 is not in brackets and the shorter ending is not in the test, though it is listed in the apparatus with reference to its appearance in codices L and Psi.

W is listed in support of vv. 9-20, and the “Freer Logion” of W is not in the apparatus at v. 14.

6.    Luke 23:34: It includes the prayer of Jesus without brackets but lists the omission as a variant and marks with a black diamond.

7.    John 1:18: It has the traditional reading “only begotten Son [ho monogenes huios]” rather than the modern critical “only begotten God [ho monogenes theos],” which it lists as a variant. No black diamond!

8.    John 5:3b-4: Omitted from text and lists as variant.

9.    John 7:53—8:11: It omits from text. In apparatus it notes mss. that omit, including four that leave space open (L, Delta). It notes that minuscule 69 inserts the PA at Luke 21:38, thus subtly perpetuating the “floating tradition” idea. It lists only three mss. supporting inclusion: D, K, and 1424 marg.

Note: Minuscules 69 (the Leicester Codex) and 1424 are the only two minuscules listed among the chief witnesses (p. 523). 69 dates to XV century and 1424 to IX/X century.

10. Acts 8:37: Omits; list as variant in apparatus.

11. 2 Peter 3:10: Contra NA 28 it does not include the conjectured negative particle oux, but it does follows the NA28 in using the verb eurethesetai [“laid bare” from heurisko], rather than the TR’s katakaesthai {“burned up” from katakaio]. Here is evidence in the THGNT of departure from the CBGM.

12. I John 5:7b-8a: It omits the CJ but provides extended discussion of variants in the apparatus. The fact that it provides the discussion in some detail is, at least, encouraging to some degree.

13. Jude 5: It follows NA 28 in reading “Jesus” rather than “Lord,” which is listed as a variant, along with “God” and “Christ.” It is marked with a diamond.

14. 1 Timothy 3:16: It reads “he” rather than “God.”

15. Revelation 22:19: It reads “tree of life” rather than “book of life” and no variant in listed in the apparatus.

Fourth Part: The Introduction (505-523):

So, in this edition, the introduction comes at the end! Though brief, this introduction is very dense and requires close attention.

1.    It begins by noting it seeks “the best approximation to the words written by the NT authors” (505). Note: Not the exact, but the best.

2.    It notes the standard that a reading had to be contained “in at least some Greek manuscripts” (505). So, there are no conjectures. This reminds me of Calvin’s approach and his seeking Greek ms. support.

3.    The formatting seeks “to constrain editorial choice” as “a check on editorial fallibility and eccentricity” (505). Is this a critique of the CBGM?

4.    The work began as a revision of Tregelles, which was used by Wescott and Hort and has been, in the editors’ opinion, “undeservedly ignored,” so this edition, in part, attempts “to compensate for this oversight” (505). The editors note two major advances since Tregelles’ time: (1) papyri discoveries; and (2) study of scribal habits (506). The revision became “more thoroughgoing” and resulted in “a completely new edition” (506).

5.    In keeping with Tregelles, this edition required each reading to have at least two Greek witnesses, at least one of which had to be from the fifth century or earlier (506).

6.    A textual commentary will be presented later (506).

7.    The most prominent scribal tendencies include: (1) “influence from text elsewhere” and (2) “the habit of copying text in the form that requires least energy to retain” (506).

8.    Attention was also given to “tendencies of individual mss.” (507).

9.Like Wescott and Hort’s NT, the value of this edition is not in the apparatus but “in the text itself” (507). The apparatus does not include versional or patristic evidence. Though the editors acknowledge the influence of this evidence in their thinking, they conclude; “Nevertheless, we have not felt at any point that their witness was strong enough to change the decision we made on the basis of the Greek manuscripts” (507).

10. The editors note that their focus on early Greek mss. departs from the current CBGM being used to produce the modern critical text. That method allows that later mss. may reflect earlier readings. The THGNT editors acknowledge “that at times a late manuscript may contain a text that is logically prior to and ancestral to that in the earliest extant manuscript,” but contend that their aim was to produce “a text with a high degree of directly verifiable antiquity” (507). Summation: “Throughout the text, the editors sought to consider the most ancient Greek testimony wherever feasible” (507).

11. The discussion of orthography is on pp. 508-512. It is noted that this edition relies on spellings from mss. of the fifth century and earlier. One example is the use of episilon-iota for iota, so that the verb ginomai is written as geinomai (see futher examples on p. 509). This is typically the reading of the earlier manuscripts. It is noted that “the modern habit of printing the NT in a form in which the spelling is almost entirely uniform gives a misleading historical impression….” (511).

12. This edition does not make use of the nomina sacra, but it does leave open the possibility for such usage in future editions. The usage of some such words is not consistent and it would be against the principles of the edition “to impose uniformity in a global way” (511).

13. To “optimize readability” the lower case is generally used, including with the title christos (511).

14. The discussion on “Order of Books, Paragraphs, Breathings, Accents, and Punctuation” appears on pp. 512-515.

15. It suggests the Catholic epistles after Acts as “the best attested order” but concedes that a good case can be made for Hebrews after 2 Thessalonians (512).

16. It notes the paragraph divisions by ekthesis may seem “eccentric,” but add, it is “according to ancient custom,” and it is “at least equal in elegance to modern indentation” (512).

17. As regards breathings and accents, the editors note they have sought “to print what is consistent and attested in the manuscripts containing accents” (512), while acknowledging that the study of these matters is “in its infancy” (513). They further acknowledge that choices here were made, in part, based on easiest access to manuscripts online (514).

18. The editors note their attempt “to present the Greek text with as little interruption as possible.” (515). Thus, they add, “We have avoided scholarly signs within the text as well as brackets, dashes, or marking of perceived citations by special typefaces” (515). The latter means, among other things, that unlike in some editions, OT citations are not set off in a special type to alert the reader to this phenomenon.

19. As for punctuation marks, the edition uses full stops (periods), raised points (equivalent to a semi-colon in English), and commas. It also uses the Greek question mark (a semi-colon) “even though this postdates the NT by the best part of a millennium” (515).

20.Notes on “The apparatus” appear on pp. 515-523. It explains the choice of variants listed in three categories:

(1)  Variants that were in the eyes of the editors extremely close contenders for consideration for the main text. In some cases the editors were in doubt as to the correct decision. These are marked by a diamond.
(2)  Variants which have a high exegetical importance.
(3)  Select variants which illustrate scribal habits (515).

21. The primary focus in the apparatus is evidence from papyri and majuscules. The only minuscules consistently cited are 69 and 1424 “since these are diverse and significant textual witnesses” (516).

22. For two variants (1 John 5:7 and Hebrews 2:9) “manuscripts are listed only for the occasion of that specific unit” (516).

23. Sometimes codex D is not cited due to its “substantial recastings of the text” (516).

24. A partial list of papyri are included (518-520). These include three new finds not listed in NA 28 (p129, p130, p135). NA 28 lists only 127 papyri.

25. This is followed by a select list of uncials (pp. 520-522), two minuscules (69 and 1424) (523) and some select witnesses used (523).

Fifth Part: Acknowledgements (525-526):

The edition ends with a note on how the work began in conversations “during famed tea and coffee breaks” at TH, and notes that Jongkind did “the bulk of the work” (525).

Final Evaluation:

This is a physically attractive printed edition of the Greek NT. It is being promoted by Crossway, the masters of evangelical marketing and merchandizing. Witness their promotion of the ESV and the ESV Study Bible among Calvinistic and other broad evangelicals. There is already this slick video for the edition (look here). It will apparently be offered for free online and appear in various Biblical software formats.

As acknowledged it is inspired by Tregelles and focuses on the earliest extant Greek manuscripts (papyri and uncials). This means that it rejects the Textus Receptus. It also departs, however, from the current trends manifest in the application of the CBGM in the Editio Critica Maior and now in the critical handbooks being produced by the Institute für Neutestamentliche Textforschung in Münster. See the comments in the Introduction on the effort “to constrain editorial choice” as “a check on editorial fallibility and eccentricity” (505). There has long been a history of both Anglo adaptation and dissent from German higher criticism.

Any edition of the Greek NT will be, by definition, a specialty publication aimed at a limited audience. Greek texts are usually read by pastors, scholars, Bible translators, and theologians, and also by seminary and Bible students aspiring to those callings. It seems unlikely that this edition will gain a strong following or usage among these. Scholars will probably continue to prefer the editions overseen by Münster, and mainstream Protestant and evangelical seminaries will also continue to use the NA/UBS handbooks. The THGNT has enough peculiarities to it (the ordering of the books, the ekthetic paragraph divisions, the lack of versional and patristic citations in the apparatus, the removal of traditional passages like the PA from the main text) to make it more of a “boutique” edition of the Greek NT.

Another question would be about any larger purpose. Will there be a new vernacular translation based on this text? Will Crossway’s ESV be adapted to it? If so the ESV would undergo some serious changes (cf. John 1:18; John 7:53—8:11, etc.).

Though we can be thankful for some things in this edition, like the acknowledgement of the NT as a Christ-focused religious text in the Preface, the assumption of traditional readings in places like John 1:18, the lack of bracket around the traditional ending of Mark, etc., in the end this remains yet another Enlightenment-influenced, modern critical text. For those who hold to the traditional, confessional text, it serves to illustrate some of the wider problems we perceive to be inherent in modern academic reconstructionist text criticism. Despite all the erudition and scholarship, by virtue of its methodology it does not and cannot yield a stable text but only a scholarly approximation of an ever-evolving text, devoid of consideration of providential preservation.


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