Differences between published copies of the Greek New Testament
EHOBBS at WELLESLEY.EDU
Wed Jan 6 16:04:19 EST 1999
Trevor Jenkins asks about the BFBS GNT, 2nd edition.
"I am currently using a copy of the Second Edition of the Greek New
Testament published by the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1958
(specifically the reprint of 1979). I've looked at the United Bible
Society's version (designated 4th revised edition) and apart from the
obivous things like fonts and layout I wonder what other differences there
are in the text and in the apparatus. (I also have Online Bible for the Mac
with the 1991 Byzantine Majority text and the 1881 Westcott-Hort and
Nestle's 27th text. Though for most purposes I find a printed edition
"Can some one more knowledgable than me comment upon the differences and,
if appropriate, the advantages of the UBS edition?"
I'll answer this off the top of my head, since all my editions of the
various older Nestle and BFBS texts of the GNT are in my study at home.
(But I think my memory on this matter is pretty good.)
The original GNT text edited by Eberhard Nestle (1898-on) was a strictly
mechanically-produced text: Where Tischendorf's, Westcott-Hort's, and B.
Weiss's texts agreed (or two of the three), that was the text. The fourth
edition of 1904 coincided with the 100th anniversary of the British and
Foreign Bible Society, so they issued their own printing of it, with
really beautiful type (and virtually no text-critical apparatus).
They continued to print that same text, while Nestle (later with the help
of his son Erwin) regularly revised his critical apparatus, in "new"
When World War II broke out, the latest edition of Nestle from Germany was
not available in Britain or America. So BFBS continued to print their
1904 Nestle text, in a variety of formats (cheap cloth binding, fine blue
buckram binding, very-wide-margin (also in blue buckram), plus each of the
Gospels in a single thin volume bound in flexible keratol. When I began
reading the GNT, about 1941, I bought the best of these I could get through
the American Bible Society (the wide-margin blue buckram, heavy paper
edition). Near the end of the War, ABS took advantage of the Alien
Property Act (seizure of intellectual property of enemy countries) to
print a photo-copied version of the 16th edition of Nestle (horrible paper,
crumby blue plastic binding, unclear type), which was then all one could
get from them (no GNT's were being shipped westward-- U-boats!).
Not too long after the War, later editions of Nestle became available.
Somehow, Frederick Grant had obtained a 17th edition from Germany
early in the War, which was used in the RSV translation committee. I was
able to get the 18th about 1947, as I remember. (I own Nestle's 4th, 12th,
16th, and all from 18th on to 27th.)
In 1954, the BFBS celebrated its 150th anniversary by having George
Kilpatrick (with help from Erwin Nestle) produce an apparatus to be
published with a (mostly) reprint of their 1904 edition. (About 20
changes were made in the text. Otherwise, only typographical and
punctuation-type changes were made.) Again, they used beautiful type.
I bought several different bindings of this lovely printing, each of which
was autographed by Kilpatrick (in Latin!), done while he spent a few
weeks visiting me in Berkeley.
As all of you know, the UBS-GNT text was produced by a committee, which
gradually changed over the years/editions. The editions were 1, 2, 3,
3 (corrected), and 4. The text of UBS-GNT and Nestle-27 are now the same.
The type in Nestle, horrible for decades, has now become readable,
partly through a slight increase in font-size, partly through a major
increase in page-size (the apparatus now has room, so to speak!).
The type in UBS-GNT, beautiful through three editions, is now so ghastly
that I will not use it (I'm stuck with three copies, one leather-bound!).
(I bought my third copy because Clay wrote that he thought
the 2nd printing had ever-so-slightly darker printing [it
doesn't].) I know I have vision problems; but looking at a
page of this 4th edition makes me want to call up an eye-surgeon!
Probably more than Trevor (or anyone) wanted to know.
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