At the annual Society of Biblical Literature conference held in Chicago last month, the latest edition of the Novum Testamentum Graece, or the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, was unveiled. This has been a long time coming—nineteen years to be exact. The Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung (INTF) in Münster is behind this production, and deserves accolades for its fine accomplishment. This is the first new edition of the Nestle-Aland text since the death of Kurt Aland, the founder of the INTF.
Inexplicably, even though the new text was available at SBL—both as just the Greek text and in diglot with English translations—it could not be acquired through Amazon until later. I pre-ordered a couple copies last April; the diglot arrived in November but the Greek-only text will not be released until January!
Several gave presentations on the new Nestle-Aland text at SBL. Klaus Wachtel of INTF gave an overview of NA28. In his lecture, he noted, inter alia, the following:
- The textual differences from the previous edition only occur in the Catholic Epistles. This is due to the fact that behind the scenes INTF has been doing exhaustive research on many variants in these letters and has produced the impressive Editio Critica Maior (ECM) series. These are the only books that have been thoroughly examined; hence, the changes to the text are only in these books. A total of 34 textual changes have been made.
- In these letters, the siglum Byz is used instead of the gothic M (M).
- As INTF worked through the Catholic letters, they came to see much greater value of the Byzantine manuscripts than they had previously. In Wachtel’s presentation, he noted that the NA27 displayed “prejudice against the Byzantine tradition” while the NA28 recognized the “reliability of the mainstream tradition.” This is a welcome change in perspective, made possible because of exhaustive collations.
- For the entire New Testament, the apparatus functions now as “a gateway to the sources” instead of the more restricted purpose of the previous edition “as a repository of variants.”
The Introduction to the new work adds much more information. Among these consider the following:
- “from now on, the Nestle-Aland will not appear only as a printed book, but also in digital form” (48*). This is more than what is already available in the digital copies of the NA27 that are part of the Accordance and Logos Bible software packages. For example, “Abbreviations, sigla and short Latin phrases in the apparatus are explained in pop-up windows. Above all, the digital apparatus becomes a portal opening up the sources of the tradition, as it provides links to full transcriptions and, as far as possible, to images of the manuscripts included” (48*).
- Gone are the “consistently cited witnesses of the second order”—that is, those witnesses that comprised the gothic M (M) in NA27. Although this siglum is still used, its meaning has changed. Individual non-Byzantine witnesses that are part of the ‘majority text’ (a term that means more than just the Byzantine witnesses in NA27; it is unclear exactly what this siglum means in NA28) are now apparently cited explicitly, even if they agree with the Byzantine minuscules.
- Conjectures are no longer to be found in the Nestle-Aland apparatus. There were nearly 120 conjectures listed in the previous edition. Nevertheless, at Acts 16.12 the editors still print as the text a reading that is not found in any Greek manuscripts (Φιλίππους, ἥτις ἐστὶν πρώτης μερίδος τῆς Μακεδονίας πόλις).
What can we say about this new edition of the Novum Testamentum Graece? First, it is fascinating to see the sea-change going on in Münster. The text of the Catholic Epistles is analyzed on an entirely different basis than the rest of the New Testament. Gerd Mink of INTF has been developing a new textual method called the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method or CBGM. This has been applied only to the general letters to date, but has been in the background of INTF’s work for decades. If this method proves to be worthy of support by other textual critics, it will become another tool—to supplement reasoned eclecticism—that scholars can use to gain greater certainty about the wording of the autographs.
Second, this ‘new’ approach nevertheless has produced some surprising results. Perhaps the most controversial reading in the text of NA28 is found in 2 Peter 3.10: οὐχ εὑρεθήσεται. This is not found in any Greek witnesses. NA27 printed as the text reading εὑρεθήσεται. The textual problem is extraordinarily difficult, and even though εὑρεθήσεται has solid support (א B K P 0156vid 323 1241 1739txt) a variety of variants sprang up most likely because of the difficulty this reading presented.
Another significant change is found in Jude 5. NA27 reads πάντα ὅτι [ὁ] κύριος ἅπαξ, while NA28 has ἅπαξ πάντα ὅτι Ἰησοῦς. The key difference is Ἰησοῦς for κύριος. The text now says that Jesus saved his people out of Egypt and later destroyed the unbelievers. The NET Bible and the ESV also have the reading Jesus. As the primary textual critic for the NET, I felt that this reading would be the most controversial of any that we adopted—if people would ever read Jude! But it seemed to raise no eyebrows at all. One of my students at Dallas Seminary, Philipp Bartholomä, examined the issue in much greater detail, writing his term paper in the class New Testament Textual Criticism on this textual problem. He concluded that Ἰησοῦς was the preferred reading. That paper was developed into an article that was published in Novum Testamentum: “Did Jesus Save the People out of Egypt? A Re-examination of a Textual Problem in Jude 5” (NovT 50  143–58).
Third, the massive effort needed to do exhaustive analysis of the witnesses that the ECM displays has resulted in only the Catholic Letters getting a facelift in the apparatus at this stage. NA28 thus offers two different kinds of apparatus—one for the Catholics and one for the rest of the New Testament. This will most likely be confusing to many users, but in order for the edition to come out in a timely fashion this approach was needed. When Acts, John, and the corpus Paulinum receive their own ECM volumes, newer editions of the Nestle-Aland text will no doubt be published. Until then, NA28 will have to do, even though it presents itself as an unfinished work. Meanwhile, Münster will need to generate more literature explaining CBGM in a clear and convincing way.
Fourth, this new text has actually taken a step backward in cooperative effort across ‘denominational’ lines (in a broad sense). The previous edition was edited by three Protestants (Kurt Aland, Barbara Aland, Bruce Metzger), one Roman Catholic (Carlo Martini), and one Greek Orthodox scholar (Ioannes Karavidopoulos). The latest edition lists as its editors only “the Institute for New Testament Textual Research… under the direction of Holger Strutwolf.” This is a surprising development since INTF in the last several years has been partnering with other institutes such as the University of Birmingham (in work on the Gospel of John) and the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (in utilizing CSNTM’s digital images for much manuscript data). Thus, collaboration is certainly going on, while the final decisions about the text are solely in the hands of Münster.
Finally, regarding the ESV diglot, I have to express my deep disappointment in the format. When the German Bible Society approached Biblical Studies Press about producing a diglot with the NET New Testament, BSP jumped at the opportunity. Three editors worked on the diglot—Michael H. Burer, W. Hall Harris III, and Daniel B. Wallace. Harris in particular should be singled out for his industry in producing an apparatus specifically for the diglot. Besides the translation and text-critical notes already found in the NET New Testament footnotes, Harris added rigorous comparisons with several translations. He ingeniously matched the English page with the Greek—both in the text and footnotes—so that there are no unsightly gaps at the bottom of the page and so that the Greek and English pages correspond to each other. For those textual problems that required longer discussions, an appendix was added. The ESV diglot, on the other hand, leaves gaps on every page that correspond to the Nestle-Aland apparatus. The whole endeavor looks as though it was hurriedly put together. Another diglot is soon to appear: the NRSV and REB with the NA28. I have not yet seen this volume, but my hunch is that the two English translations will stand side-by-side in columns that will extend to the bottom of the page, thus corresponding to the Greek. This will almost surely be more aesthetically pleasing than the ESV diglot.
Overall, Nestle-Aland28 is a welcome addition for students of the Greek New Testament. Not only a welcome addition, but a necessary one for those who wish to stay current on the critically-reconstructed text of the New Testament. And it makes a great Christmas present for seminary students, pastors, translators, and professors. It’s available at Amazon in a variety of versions: Greek text only, Greek text with dictionary, and diglot.