Very exciting news came out of a session at the 2017 annual Society of Biblical Literature conference in Boston: Geoff Smith and Brent Landau announced their discovery of the first known Greek fragments of the First Apocalypse of James, a Coptic text known from a Nag Hammadi codex (Codex V) and the famous Codex Tchacos. This early Christian text consists of a dialogue between Jesus and James the brother of Jesus. Scholars have argued that this Coptic text was probably translated from Greek, but until now, no Greek witnesses have been known to exist.
The papyrus codex fragments are housed in the Sackler Library at Oxford University and were found during the dig season of 1904/05. The two fragments have different inventory numbers but are written in the same hand and belong to the same codex. The papyri are fragmentary but offer a decent amount of text. I noted from the photos shown in the session generous margins and a letter in the top corner of one page, which may be a quire number (so Smith). Smith and Landau offer a tentative dating of fifth-sixth century, offering a preliminary comparison with the so-called “Gospel of the Lots of Mary,” a fifth-sixth century miniature Coptic parchment codex housed at Harvard University, published recently by AnneMarie Luijendijk. The Nag Hammadi Codex and the Tchacos Codex are typically dated to around the fourth century so the Oxyrhynchus fragments are probably at least a century removed from them.
There are some variants in the text (only one was discussed in the session), but Smith and Landau note that the text of their fragments aligns more closely with Codex Tchacos than the Nag Hammadi tractate. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this papyrus is that the scribe employed middle dots to separate syllables. This is rare in literary texts, but it does appear in school texts, which prompts the question as to how this document was used. Was it a school text? The editors suggest the papyri are fragments of a larger codex that probably contained the entire text of the First Apocalypse of James. Could the middle dots have served a liturgical function, facilitating easier reading on the part of the anaginoskon? The raison d’être of the codex is thus still being considered by the editors.
The editors announced that the edition of the Greek fragments is likely to appear in a forthcoming Oxyrhynchus Papyri volume, which we all look forward to.
The Greek New Testament, Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge. Wheaton: Crossway, 2017. Hardcover. 540 pp. $39.99
I would like to express my utmost appreciation to the kind folks at Crossway for sending me a review copy of this book.
This edition of the Greek New Testament (hereafter, THGNT) represents the work of a group of scholars associated with Tyndale House, Cambridge, “a study centre focusing on advancing understanding of the Bible.” Dirk Jongkind is named the primary Editor of the edition, with Peter J. Williams as Associate Editor, and Peter M. Head and Patrick James as Assisting Editors. According to the acknowledgements, this edition has been in the works for some time, with initial conversations having begun in 2005 at Tyndale House.
The edition has an attractive, dedicated website, which includes an introduction, endorsements, FAQs, and other information. It appears that the website will eventually host a free, digital version of the edition that will include morphological information, parsings, an ESV interlinear rendering, and much more. This will be a real convenience for users who want to access the edition “on the go.” Hopefully, the online edition will be user-friendly.
According to the introduction (which is located in the back of the volume), the text of THGNT is a major revision of the 19th century edition of the Greek New Testament produced by Samuel Tregelles. The editors note that Tregelles’ text was used as a starting point partly because it has been “undeservedly ignored” (p. 505).
The editors chose not to bring versional or patristic testimony into consideration because, according to the editors, “we have not felt that at any point their witness was strong enough to change the decisions we made on the basis of the Greek manuscripts” (p. 507). Yet, in the FAQ document on the THGNT website, the editors highlight the “improvements in the accuracy with which we can use early versions.” The statements seem inconsistent. THGNT also excludes later witnesses, with an emphasis on the most ancient testimony throughout the text. Some will likely criticize this approach, since the best reading is not necessarily always found in the earliest witnesses, which the editors readily admit on p. 507.
In these (and other) ways, THGNT is quite different in editorial approach than the Nestle-Aland edition produced by the Institut für Neutestamentliche Textforschung in Münster, which has been the standard scholarly edition of the Greek New Testament for decades.
There are several other major changes that set this edition apart. Perhaps most significant is a change in the ordering of books. While preparing for this review, I was interested in viewing a passage in James but quickly realized that James was not in the place it usually is. Uniquely, THGNT presents books in the following order: Gospel, Acts, Catholic Epistles, Pauline Corpus, and Revelation. The reason for doing this is a historical one: it reflects the order of books as found in many ancient manuscripts. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because it is historically justified. However, it does break from the norm and will require some familiarization.
Another major change is the paragraphing, which is influenced by what is found in manuscripts, particularly those from the fifth century or earlier. Ekthesis, used by ancient scribes of literary texts, is also employed in THGNT to mark new paragraphs, which is basically the opposite of “indention.” The editors admit that this way of paragraphing is different from what is followed today but that there is an “inner logic when studied more closely” (p. 512).
There are other decisions for which the editors rely on ancient manuscripts and the study of scribal habits (e.g., spelling, accentuation of Semitic names, breathings, enclitics, punctuation). While these decisions are not inherently wrong, the changes will require some familiarization. An understanding of the reasoning behind these changes is likely to be found in the textual commentary that is to be published subsequent to the edition (p. 506).
The textual apparatus is very limited. Manuscripts that support the main text are listed first (i.e., it is a positive apparatus). The choice of variants consists of three main categories (p. 515):
After the introduction, there is a table of “witnesses” consisting of 130 manuscripts cited in the apparatus, followed by a list of other manuscripts consulted in the preparation of the edition.
A few, small observations:
I applaud the editors for producing a new edition of the Greek New Testament. No doubt an immense amount of work went into its production—a daunting task. Like the SBL Greek New Testament edited by Michael Holmes, this hand edition offers an alternative to the Nestle-Aland edition. I do not foresee THGNT replacing the Nestle-Aland edition; and the extent to which it will be used in the field is yet to be determined. But, it is an edition to be considered, especially given some of its unique characteristics, some of which I have highlighted above.
Although a book should never be judged by its cover, I must say the book is bound very nicely, comes in a protective box, and the Greek font is very pleasing to the eye. The printing quality is also excellent: the pages are thick, the text is bold and clean. A staurogram appears on the book's cover, spine, and cover page.
Click here to purchase the THGNT.