On the Bookshelf: An Introduction to the Greek New Testament Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge

6/7/2019

By: Andrew J. Patton

2017 marked an important year for New Testament scholars with the publication of The Greek New Testament Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge (THGNT). Now, Dirk Jongkind, one of the editors of the THGNT and Senior Research Fellow in New Testament Text and Language, Tyndale House has produced a new volume: An Introduction to the Greek New Testament Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge. This brief book offers a primer on the distinctive features of the Tyndale House Edition and the method the editors used for making textual decisions.

One of the best things about Jongkind’s new book is that while the focus is centered on the production of the THGNT, it functions as a concise introduction to the field of New Testament textual criticism. He provides background on the making of the New Testament—answering the question of the relationship between New Testament manuscripts, scholarly editions, and then modern translations (chapter 1). Only then does he proceed to describe the manuscript witnesses to the Greek New Testament with brief introductions to some of the most significant manuscripts (chapter 3).

Of special interest to text critics is the chapter “How Decisions are Made” (chapter 4). Here, Jongkind describes the method used to create the THGNT. For a beginner student, the chapter is a useful summary of the various aspects of textual criticism. For the experienced text critic, he offers greater insight into how he and the editors of the Tyndale House Edition made textual decisions. Overall, this provides more detail into their thinking than is conveyed in the THGNT (pp. 505–523). The starting point for considering a variant reading is, “How is the evidence distributed over the various alternative readings?” (p. 68). They favor readings found throughout the earliest manuscripts and argue that those places where later manuscripts preserve the original reading against the early ones are, in fact, exceptions. The editors considered a variety of factors in both external and internal evidence, placing them solidly in the camp of reasoned eclecticism with a priority toward (early) external evidence. Jongkind also addresses their rationale for not following the Textus Receptus and the Majority Text (chapters 5 and 6). 

The final chapter offers a biblical theology on variation and the transmission of the text. Jongkind argues that the starting point for this discussion begins not with the abstract reflection on what Christians believe God should have done but acknowledging the reality of what God has done. Then he examines biblical passages related to the transmission of the Scriptures. Ultimately, he maintains that the reality of textual variation in the copies of the Scriptures reflects the incomplete knowledge God has given to finite people and the wide geographic spread of early Christianity. 

Aside from the theory and methodology presented above, the book also includes information specific to the Tyndale House Edition, including a chapter that describes its unusual features and a guide to using its apparatus (chapter 2). The so-called unusual features are especially related to the editorial decision to follow the early manuscript tradition by placing the Catholic Epistles before Paul and in display features like ekthesis (dividing paragraphs by placing the first letter in the inside margin) and following archaic spelling.

Jongkind’s work is a helpful introduction to the Tyndale House Edition and to New Testament textual criticism in general. It will be especially valuable for beginning seminary students and anyone looking to better understand the Greek texts standing behind the translations they read everyday. For the expert in textual criticism, the volume offers additional insight into the method and perspectives undergirding the Tyndale House Edition. Their focus on early external evidence in particular should inspire further conversation about how we make decisions about variant units. At less than 100 pages of text and $12 on Amazon, this is a great value addition to your library. 

N.B.: Our Executive Director, Dan Wallace, wrote one of the cover endorsements for this book. He concludes: “Jongkind introduces the reader to manuscripts, textual theory, praxis, major textual problems, and even brief theological reflections on the reality of textual variants. It is no easy task to render this field of study within the grasp of any interested reader, and Jongkind has done so in a remarkably disarming manner.” 

You can purchase An Introduction to the Greek New Testament Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge on Amazon.