When You Read the Greek, Are You Reading the Original? – Mondays with Mounce 324

Bill Mounce on June 25th, 2018. Tagged under ,.

Bill Mounce

Bill is the founder and President of BiblicalTraining.org, serves on the Committee for Bible Translation (which is responsible for the NIV translation of the Bible), and has written the best-selling biblical Greek textbook, Basics of Biblical Greek, and many other Greek resources. He blogs regularly on Greek and issues of spiritual growth. Learn more about Bill's Greek resources at BillMounce.com.

This question can be answered several ways, but this morning I am not interested in the issue of the faithfulness of the manuscript tradition to the original autographs. I am interested in the faithfulness of our modern Greek texts to the ancient Greek manuscripts we have.

I was proofreading a statement I made in my textbook, Basics of Biblical Greek. In 8.13 I say, “The ν in the third singular ἐστίν is a movable nu, but ἐστί occurs only once in the New Testament (Acts 18:10).”

This statement is true for NA27 (the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland text) and UBS4, but in NA28/UBS5 it isn’t true because the modern editors have standardized spellings. There are other examples of this, but ἐστί illustrates my point.

Why do this? Have the manuscripts changed? Is this an issue of textual criticism? I don’t think so, since there are standardizations of spellings elsewhere as well. This appears to be an overall decision of the editors of the Nestle/Aland.

This is one reason why I am thankful for the new Tyndale House Greek New Testament. The vast majority of scholars agree that the earliest texts such as Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are the most reliable, so shouldn’t our modern critical text follow them more closely, not just in what words are actually used but in things like spelling? See the Introduction to the Tyndale House text for a detailed discussion of their approach, pp. 508-12).

Disclaimer: I have no connection with the Tyndale House text. But it is a fresh look at an old problem, and I for one appreciate its honesty with the text. If we believe that Luke originally wrote ἐστί in Acts 18:10, shouldn’t our Greek texts do the same?

If you use Accordance as I do, you can read a discussion of it here, and get a tagged version here. If you are old school, Crossway has done a typically marvelous binding with both hardback and a beautiful leather edition.

I really encourage you to pick up the text in one version or another and use it, along with the NA28, in your studies. I look forward to the many gems I will be learning.

For more information, read Crossway’s Introduction and also Daniel Wallace’s quick review. [For direct links to Crossway’s introduction and products, see Bill’s article.]

By the way, ἐστί also occurs in Matt 6:25.

Professors: Request an exam copy of Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek here.

Bill is the founder and President of BiblicalTraining.org, serves on the Committee for Bible Translation (which is responsible for the NIV translation of the Bible), and has written the best-selling biblical Greek textbook, Basics of Biblical Greek, and many other Greek resources. He blogs regularly on Greek and issues of spiritual growth. Learn more about Bill’s Greek resources at BillMounce.com.

  • Michael Edgecombe 5 months ago

    Hi Bill, I completely agree with you. I see another reason why it is important to preserve non-standard spelling if that appears to be the original text. These and other linguistic anomalies give us insights into contemporary Greek practice, and these insights can help us to solve textual and exegetical issues elsewhere in the text. If we conform the text we not only lose authenticity, we also lose the opportunity to draw on these possibilities to solve puzzles elsewhere in the text.