I have been working my way through Larry Hurtado’s Early Christian Artifacts (see sidebar) recently. The introduction succeeded in making me feel partly self-satisfied and partly guilty: guilty because I have no real familiarity with the physical manuscripts of the New Testament; self-satisfied because I do understand and can navigate the apparatus of Nestle-Aland 27 (something that Hurtado thinks is increasingly rare, see his comments n p.8 and n.14). However, I am also aware that by using electronic versions of the Greek New Testament, there is always a danger of moving one further step away from the actual MSS and towards the unwarranted assumption that the text that I am reading on screen is self-evidently what the NT authors wrote. So, I think I want to make sure I use my printed texts much more, not least because the small print at the bottom of the page reminds me that the text I am using is based on a host of editorial decisions that are matters for debate, not blind acceptance. But this raises the question (and Hurtado hints at it), which physical Greek New Testament should I use? I actually make use of several: these are my ‘artifacts’ if you like.
So I use a beaten and battered copy of UBS 3rd edition, uncorrected (the Burgundy one with the older rubbery covers) when I want to remind myself of where my journey in NT studies started. I bought it in SKOOB books in London for £4.00 in 1986, 2 months before I went to theological College. It was the first Greek New Testament I started to read and saw me through my undergraduate studies in Bristol. I still use it devotionally and sometimes take it along to conferences. It also has Barclay Newman’s Concise Greek-English Dictionary in the back. This is the best UBS edition for one reason: the font chosen for UBS4 is quite simply disgusting and illegible. This is what one reviewer on Amazon has to say about the font for UBS4:
A different font is used for the text itself. Not just a different
font, but a repellently ugly font that has not much resemblance to any
font with which a quality edition of a Greek text has ever been
published before. Yes, ever. The geniuses at the United Bible Societies
are the first people (going back to Erasmus’ publication of a NT
edition in 1516) who thought that a hideous, spindly, faux-italic
computer font would be a better choice than ANY of the established
Greek fonts that heretofore have been used in the printing of ancient
texts. I hope you’ll forgive my emotion on this point, but, as a
scholar of (Classical) Greek with a library full of Greek texts
published by Oxford, Teubner, etc., I am just flabbergasted to see such
disregard for tradition as this. The UBS4 font choice is analogous to
printing an English Bible in one of those goofy "Calypso" or "Horror
Movie" fonts that come with Windows.
Towards the end of my undergraduate studies I learned more about textual criticism (thank you John Ziesler who explained it all) and realised that, if I was going to make textual decisions myself, based on some sort of reasoned eclecticism, then I needed to use the Nestle-Aland text which has a more detailed apparatus. So I bought a copy of NA26, the small blue copy. I still keep this at home and it is the Greek New Testament I take to church.
For the record I also own a copy of the Greek-English Nestle-Aland, with NA26 on one side and the RSV on the facing page. I bought ages ago a copy of the wide margin version of NA26, thinking that I might annotate it. I never have. I also have a copy of Wescott and Hort (1903) given to me by John Morgan Wynne who was my Principal at Bristol Baptist College for a while.
And I know the pictures are back to front. For some reason I can’t get them to flip over.
So, what are the artifacts that form the basis of your own work with the biblical texts? And should you spell the word with an ‘i’ as Hurtado does, or an ‘e’?
Update: thanks to Catriona and Robert for fixing the pictures for me! And I agree with Robert that the word is artefacts.