Published January 29, 2020 in Diakonos
In 2017, Dirk Jongkind and Peter Williams released “The Greek New Testament, Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge” (THGNT). This much celebrated text is unique among Greek editions in that it places significant focus on scribal habits and gives priority to the earliest manuscripts available. (For a complete summary and critique of the THGNT, see the Spring 2018 JMAT review by Wayne Slusser).
As an introduction and companion guide to the THGNT, Jongkind released “An Introduction to the Greek New Testament, Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge.” The aim of this book is twofold. First, Jongkind offers core background information about the THGNT. Second, he provides a concise summary of the broader discipline of New Testament textual criticism. As Jongkind notes, “This little book tells the story behind [the THGNT] and is a tool for all who have the privilege to learn New Testament Greek.” The book is divided into eight chapters spanning 128 pages (94 pages if not including front or back matter). The chapters include: Your Greek New Testament and the Manuscripts, Practicalities, How Decisions Are Made and Where to Go from Here?”
Perhaps the most helpful chapters are two, three and four (the first is an introduction to the topic of New Testament textual criticism in general, and the fifth through eighth are focused on select issues). The second chapter deals with unique aspects of the THGNT and is a valuable primer to this edition. The third offers a helpful summary of the textual apparatus, as well as the distinctives of important manuscripts. The fourth chapter discusses how the editors of the THGNT came to their conclusions and offers some criteria for readers on how to make their own decisions. Jongkind then offers practical discussion of controversial passages such as Mark 16:9–20, John 7:53–8:11, Luke 22:43–44 and Luke 23:34a. At this point, it may have been helpful to include a few examples of how to work through less controversial passages.
There are several helpful and practical features of this book. For instance, there are several fairly high-resolution photographs and illustrations to help the reader visualize the manuscripts discussed as well as the text of the THGNT itself. Additionally, Jongkind includes the link to a larger collection of articles about this text available on the Tyndale House website. For readers unfamiliar with key text critical terms, Jongkind’s glossary at the back of the book will come in quite handy.
The beauty of “An Introduction to the Greek New Testament” is that there is little to critique. Some will disagree with Jongkind’s methodology and the approach of the THGNT. Others may take issue with his views, for instance, on the Byzantine text. However, by and large, Jongkind offers an evenhanded summary and introduction to a rather complex topic. Again, in approaching this book, one must recognize that it is an introduction specific to the THGNT. If one expects Jongkind to be an unbiased observer, one will be disappointed.
Of course, “An Introduction to the Greek New Testament” does not replace more formal introductory or technical books on the topic (such as Metzger’s “The Text of the New Testament” or Aland and Aland’s book by the same name), yet it was never meant to. What Jongkind does is whet the reader’s appetite to dig into the Greek New Testament. As such, his conclusion could not be better stated: “The important thing to take away from this little book is that you have every reason to read the Greek New Testament with confidence and pleasure.”
It almost goes without saying that “An Introduction to the Greek New Testament” should be required reading for any course on textual criticism. I heartily recommend this book to anyone interested in the topic. The undergraduate will be challenged; the seminary student will be engaged; the pastor will be encouraged, and the scholar will be refreshed. A difficult task for any book—especially one on textual criticism!
Jared M. August, Ph.D.
CSU/BBS grad in ’14, ’15, ’16, ‘18
From undergrad through doctorate
Published in Volume 23 Number 2 of the Journal of Ministry & Theology (2019)
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