Title: The Greek New Testament (GNT)
Edition: United Bible Society, 5th Edition (UBS5)
Genre: Sacred Scripture
Pages: 886 (plus indices etc.)
Rating: 5 of 5
For my Bible reading this year, I decided to read the New Testament in the original Koiné Greek. Because it’s been 10+ years since my last seminary class, I used the electronic Logos software edition where tapping on an unfamiliar word provides its gloss & parsing (I used this feature a lot in Luke, Acts, Hebrews, & 2 Peter).
Reading Scripture in the original language doesn’t give it some sort of magical power boost, nor is each Greek word brimming with extra-deep insights unavailable to the uninitiated. However, as with reading any work in its original language, you do get a better feel for the flow of thought, vocabulary choices, and idiosyncrasies of the individual writers…and there is a certain thrill to reading the words as read by the original recipients unmediated by someone else’s translation.
But, how do we know that what we’re reading almost 2,000 years later hasn’t been corrupted (on purpose or accidentally) over generations of hand-copying? Well, we have thousands of hand-written manuscripts containing all or part of the New testament, with dates ranging from early 2nd century through about the 16th, and they overwhelmingly agree with each other. Obviously, some minor differences between manuscripts occur, but in scholarly editions of the Greek New Testament (like the UBS5 I read) there is an apparatus at the bottom of each page the notes significant variations between manuscripts and lists the evidence for each possible reading (the Nestle-Aland 28th Edition (NA28) lists more variants, but most of the additional ones are of little interest/importance for translating the text).
As I read, I looked at each of the variants recorded in the UBS5, often consulting Bruce Metzger’s A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament which provides a scholarly rationale for which reading is deemed most likely to be original (and the level of certainty). In college and seminary I was always taught that most variants have little to no effect on the meaning of the verse in which they occur, and none of them affect a major doctrine of the faith. After this read-through, I have to agree with that assessment…not that I really doubted it, but I wanted to see for myself. I’ll post more on this later in the week, but right now I’m too tired to go into it.
For now, I’ll end by saying that this was a great experience, and if you’ve had enough college/seminary classes to be comfortable with it, I highly recommend trying to read through the whole GNT (examining each variant not necessary…that’s just my own interest in textual criticism popping up).