[B-Greek] Current Value of the Westcott-Hort GNT

House mark at househouse.us
Thu May 29 17:54:57 EDT 2008

Eldon Epp, in his Foreword to Hendrickson's recent publication of the
Westcott-Hort Greek NT, gives an excellent summary of the value of the WH
GNT that I would highly recommend. There is, of course, the historical value
of preserving the work of two of the most eminent NT textual scholars in the
history of the discipline. The labors of WH produced the most complete and
mature theory of the history of the NT text ever written, building, of
course, on the substantial contributions of their predecessors. Behind the
"reasoned eclecticism" practiced by many textual scholars today is WH's
understanding of the history of the text, the development of the major
"text-types," and most important in shifting the course of NT textual
studies, an explanation and defense of the secondary character of the textus
receptus. The value of their historical reconstruction can be seen in the
fact that no one since there time has proposed a viable alternative
explanation of how the NT text developed. Without this background as a
foundation, contemporary textual criticism would lack the framework needed
for drawing inferences regarding the external evidence for particular
readings and would be limited largely to internal evidence, which is often
subjective and of mixed character.

Another reason the WH text is valuable today is that it continues to be
standard against which contemporary eclectic judgments are made. The fact is
that despite the willingness of contemporary textual critics to differ,
based largely on internal considerations, from the textual decisions of WH,
the NA27 text as a whole is in far greater agreement with WH than it is with
the TR. The reason for this is simply that the WH text, based as it is on 
cogent reconstruction of NT textual history, has been considered a more
trustworthy base from which to make reasoned departures than the TR. So the
WH text holds up a fairly pure Alexandrian prototype as major a point of
departure in making reasoned judgments regarding individual readings.

A third value I see in the WH text for current scholarship is that it
reminds us that the faithful reconstruction of the history of the NT text,
and consequently the faithful reconstruction of the text itself, is an
ongoing quest. The early textual scholars who produced the first printed
editions of the text, based largely on the Byzantine manuscripts at their
disposal, produced a text that has come to be seen by most contemporary
textual scholars as of secondary quality. The editions produced by
subsequent scholars who based their work on developing theories of how the
text was transmitted through the ages resulted in more reliable texts. Each
subsequent edition offers the fruit of that scholar's understanding of that
history. The WH account of that history is still considered the apex of this
work of historical reconstruction, and has simply not been superceded.
Although textual critics have called for a more comprehensive reconstruction
of NT textual history based on a more careful evaluation of the evidence,
such a revision has yet to be written. Contemporary editions, while they
often challenge the decisions made by WH, do so most often on the basis not
of a better historical reconstruction, but rather on the basis of often
subjective internal criteria. This is not to say these contemporary
departures from WH are wrong, but simply that they need to be seen in the
light of the (admittedly imperfect) standard from which they are departing.
In the same manner, the preservation of the TR is important so that the
departures of scholars like WH can continue to be seen against the backdrop
of that earlier standard.

The new Hendrickson edition of WH, while it lacks a critical apparatus that
compares readings with particular manuscripts, versions, and Fathers, does,
through its comparative apparatus of editions, put at the readers disposal
the fruits of all three major stages of NT textual development-the
Byzantine, the Alexandrian (i.e., WH themselves), and the eclectic. It also
contains WH's own shorter exposition of the principles upon which their
reconstruction of the text is based.

Mark House
Associate Editor
Hendrickson Publishers

> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Message: 1
> Date: Thu, 22 May 2008 12:58:27 -0700 (PDT)
> From: Kenneth Litwak <javajedi2 at yahoo.com>
> Subject: [B-Greek] Current Value of the Westcott-Hort GNT
> To: b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org
> Message-ID: <206453.3666.qm at web51806.mail.re2.yahoo.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=iso-8859-1
>   Please excuse a non-grammatical question.  While
> the Westcott-Hort Greek NT has played a very important
> role in NT scholarship, given that the practice of
> textual criticism has gone past it, and the main GNT
> editions available today, such as NA27, provide a much
> more eclectic text than WH, is there any value today
> to the WH GNT or is it now mostly interesting from an
> historical point of view?  What do you all think?  I'm
> inclined to think that it has no value any more.
> Ken 

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