Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Which Greek Text?

I get asked this question a lot. Which Greek text should I buy?

There are two things you should check first. (1) Does my teacher (or school) have a preference? Because the text critical notes are different, and because teachers will have an opinion about the different helps that come with some Greek Bibles, you need to ask this question first. (2) If possible, you should go to your school’s bookstore and actually look at them. The fonts can be considerably different and, for example, you may love or hate the italic Greek font.

When I was in school, there were only two choices, the Nestle-Aland text done by the German Bible Society, and The Greek New Testament done by the United Bible Societies. What has made things much easier, now, is that these two groups got together (some of the editors served on both committees) and agreed on a common critical text. In other words, the Greek text itself is identical in both these volumes. Your decision will be made on another basis.

Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece (27th edition revised; German Bible Society) is the one I use. It’s primary distinctive is in the text critical notes. They give significantly more variants than the United Bible Societies’ text but with fewer references to each variant. In my experience, though, they give more than enough references. The font is clear and readable, and you can get an edition with a dictionary (which is nice if you are reading along at church and get stuck on a word). For you Greek Geeks out there, you can also get an edition that is black leather; I use this because I don’t want people at church reading over my shoulder and thinking that I think I am someone special. It’s my “Stealth Bible.” There is also a large print edition as well as a diglot, Greek on one side and the RSV (English) on the other. There also is a diglot with the NET Bible (very cool).

The Greek New Testament (4th edition revised; United Bible Societies) has an Greek text identical to the Nestle-Aland. It uses headings and is a little more generous with white space in terms of its typesetting, which makes it easier for me to read. The main difference is that they give fewer text critical variants but many more references to each variant. If you are writing a technical paper and it is important to see a wider range of witnesses, then this is the text to use. My biggest complaint against this text, and why I shifted to the Nestle-Aland, is that the current printing uses an italic Greek font, which does nothing but hurt my aging eyes. I have also seen printings where the paper was so thin that the text bled through the page making reading even harder. Perhaps this problem has been fixed. The font is slightly larger than my Nestle-Aland and the margins are wider. You can buy it with a concise dictionary (English or Spanish).

We now get into specialized Greek texts. Zondervan has published A Reader’s Greek New Testament, edited by Goodrich and Lukaszewski. The Greek text is a reconstructed text by Kohlenberger and Fee that shows the textual decisions of the TNIV committee. Footnotes show where it is different from the UBS/NA text. As Gordon Fee is one of the top textual critics today, this text (along with the NET notes) gives a helpful alternative to the decisions of the UBS/NA folk. This is also the Greek text that I used in my interlinears. What makes this text helpful especially for second to third year Greek students is that the meaning of all words occurring 30 times or less are given in the footnotes, thus encouraging rapid reading of the Greek Testament. (There is no parsing information). It also comes with a cool Italian Duo-Tone cover and hence can function as another “stealth Bible.” The first edition used (in my opinion) a horrible and unreadable italic Greek font, and evidently I was not alone in that judgment and in the second edition the Greek font is much more readable.

The German Bible Society publishes a similar product, The UBS Greek New Testament. It uses the UBS text (4th edition) but without the textual apparatus. It includes Newman’s Greek-English dictionary, the meanings of all words occurring 30 times or less (adjusted for context), and also footnoted help on some of the more difficult forms (i.e., parsings). Its larger print and wider margins makes this an especially helpful tool if your goal is to read large chunks of the Greek text.

There are other tools such as interlinears, but these are the most helpful Greek texts out there. Which one should you buy? As I said as the beginning, ask your teacher if he or she has a preference, but nothing beats standing in a bookstore and looking at the text itself. For more information, and web access to pictures and pdfs, see my reading lists.


Do you use a particular publisher or title for your New Testament Greek. That way I can order it for myself for the class I'm taking at church

Based upon your recommendations I just purchased a copy of Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece (28th edition revised; German Bible Society).

This blog has inspired me to really get immersed in the world of textual criticism and learning about the greek text.

Hello, I am following the BBG with books and lectures and they are pretty amazing. Do you have a specific type you use - Receptus / Majority / Eclectic / Family 35? Thanks! Eduardo

no sure I understand how this works but I am trying to go through each lesson

I have my Greek New Testament, Basics of Biblical Greek 4th edition, Workbook (3rd edition), laminate paradigm chart and all vocab cards. I want to do it right.

Thank you so very much for your recommendations. Like many who responded, I am very grateful for your guidance. I am refreshing myself on Greek since I have not touched it since I graduated with my Master of Divinity in 2007. I have the complete fourth-edition package and am starting my refresher process today. Why am I doing this? Good Question! I have decided to embark on a Ph.D. program in the summer of next year, and I want to be proficient enough to handle the language requirement. I have heard wonderful things about your program, so I decided to press forward with it.

Oh, I forgot to share that I took your advice and emailed the language instructors to ask for guidance in determining which tools would benefit my learning experience. Thank you so very much for your insight. In addition, one last question. I have purchased the videos along with my Fourth Addition pack. Will you provide prompts for me to switch to them when the time comes? Thank you in advance,