What the SBL Greek New Testament is, Exactly

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The other day Joel mentioned the SBL GNT and announced that free copies would be passed out at the SBL in Atlanta in mid November.  But there wasn’t anything then up on the SBL GNT website (though there obviously is now) and information was as scant as a bikini on Chris Tilling.

Fortunately, light has been shed- by Rick Brannan himself.  The edition is downloadable here or purchaseable here.  Interestingly, the hardback copy runs around $30 whilst the latest edition of Nestle-Aland runs $40.

I downloaded both the xml and plain text versions and I have to say, I didn’t find either particularly useful.  Perhaps because they were intended for use other than simply reading or perhaps my computer-ese isn’t up to snuff.  In either case, I’ll wait for the PDF to become available and download that before I decide whether or not to invest $30 plus shipping in a hard copy.  I’m not convinced (yet- though I may well be) that the apparatus will be an advance over or even supplement to NA27.

In point of fact, the SBL GNT strives, evidently, to be a compilation of modern editions. As the introduction has it-

The textual apparatus provides information about a wide range of textual variants. It records all differences between the text of the SBLGNT and the texts of WH, Treg, NIV, RP, and NA except for those differences that fall in the category of “orthography and related matters” (discussed above). That is, the apparatus does not take note of differences that are solely a matter of orthographic variation or that involve only elision, crasis, movable ν, interchange between first and second aorist verb endings, and the like; it does record all other differences between the SBL text and the texts of the five other editions just listed.

Indeed- a look at the sample text of John 1 (available here) shows that the SBL GNT has no mention of any variant until v. 15.  NA27 lists variants for vv. 3,4, 13, and 15.  And the variants listed by SBL GNT aren’t ancient manuscripts at all but modern editions, or, to say it differently, second hand, rather than first hand witnesses. An interesting procedure to say the least. (And I don’t mean that critically- it’s just different, not bad). The reader is then left to decide, I suppose, whether he or she wants to follow NA, or WH or, heaven forfend, RP or the textual basis of the NIV (!). Since this is, after all, a text-critical edition of text critical editions, one has here witnesses to witnesses.

Nonetheless, if the project’s purpose is to provide a less expensive GNT for those wishing an edition with less text-critical information then they seem to have achieved it.  So good for them.


4 thoughts on “What the SBL Greek New Testament is, Exactly

  1. Mike H. 29 Oct 2010 at 8:08 am

    If users of BibleWorks want to add the SBL GNT to BibleWorks to view it there, I’ve ported it into BibleWorks so that is now possible.

    The first version is posted here. You can visit the blog for further updates/corrections to the text.


    • Jim 29 Oct 2010 at 9:07 am

      so do i just update bibleworks 8 with that addon?


  2. Mike H. 29 Oct 2010 at 9:18 am

    Jim, since this is a user-contribution, it isn’t updated in the BibleWorks updater. You download the file from the blog, unzip it into the \databases\ subfolder of BibleWorks and restart BibleWorks. The two versions are SBL and SBL2 (no diacritics).

    They are not 100% error free yet, but I will be updating them as I learn about the bugs.


    • Jim 29 Oct 2010 at 9:32 am

      thanks- easy download and easy install. thanks very much.


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