The Greek New Testament
Posted by Michael Dormandy, 12 Oct 2018
Michael Dormandy reviews the new edition of the Greek New Testament from Tyndale House, Cambridge
The Greek New Testament , Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge
Dirk Jongkind, ed., Peter Williams, associate ed., Peter Head and Patrick James, assistant eds.
Wheaton, IL: Crossway & Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017
526pp £28.69hb ISBN: 9781433552175
Academic heads have recently been turned by a new edition of the Greek New Testament, produced by a team of evangelical scholars, based at Tyndale House, Cambridge. The Tyndale House Edition (THE) has a number of advantages over other editions of the Greek NT, relevant for scholars, pastors, students and any Christians keen to read the Bible in its original languages. It would make a lovely gift to someone starting on Greek. I was involved peripherally in producing the THE and my doctoral supervisor is the senior editor, so I must admit a degree of bias.
What, then, are the advantages of the THE? First, and least importantly, aesthetics. The THE looks and feels like a Bible, not a mere tool for academic research. There are a number of hard-back and leatherbound formats, produced by both CUP and Crossway. All of them are beautiful to hold and read. Most modern editions of the Greek NT fill about a third of each page with symbols and notes on variant readings, of interest only to scholars. The THE presents only the most important and interesting information, which means the page is uncluttered and clear. Secondly, reading the New Testament with the early Christians. The editors of the THE have attempted to reproduce the writing conventions of the earliest scribes and readers for whom we have evidence. Most modern editions of the Greek New Testament use a system of spellings, breathings and accents dating to the Middle Ages. Where possible, the THE uses the forms from the early papyri. This does mean the spellings differ slightly from those used in standard textbooks, but readers quickly get used to the change. The order of the books is also different, with the catholic letters coming between Acts and the Pauline corpus. This reflects many of our early manuscripts and brings these little books into the heart of the New Testament, rather than languishing in obscurity at the back of our Bibles. The paragraphing is changed, sometimes with implications for exegesis. For example, John 1:18 is taken, not as part of John’s prologue, but as the introduction to John the Baptist’s encounter with the Jewish leaders. Thirdly, and most importantly, text-critical methodology. Too few Bible readers consider the fact that we don’t have access to the actual documents which were physically written by Paul, John and the others, or scribes writing to their dictation. Instead, we reconstruct what they wrote by comparing copies of copies of copies. The THE gives us a text that is supported by the oldest Greek manuscripts that survive. At almost every disputed passage, the form of words found in the THE will also be found in at least two Greek manuscripts, at least one from the fifth century or earlier. Many older Greek texts (including the basis of the KJV) follow late, medieval manuscripts. Some modern texts include readings supported by only one Greek manuscript, or none (where the reading comes from early quotations or manuscripts in other languages).The THE aims to follow the reading that is most likely to come from the authors and that is supported by Greek manuscripts. It assumes that when scribes altered the text, they did so for predictable and well-documented reasons, unless there is reason to think otherwise. There are a few interesting places where the THE differs from well-known readings: e.g., in Romans 8:2, the THE has με, rather than σε, i.e., “me” rather than “you,” so that in English the verse reads, “For the law of the spirit of life has set me free in Christ Jesus” (emphasis mine). Books could be written on which version Paul actually sent to Rome and what is the theological significance of the difference, but the THE has good reasons for printing the alternative reading.
In summary, in the words of its editors, the THE “aims to present in an easily readable format the best approximation to the words written by the New Testament authors, within the constraints of the documentary evidence that survives.” I commend it to all Churchman readers.
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Michael Dormandy is a PhD student in Cambridge
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