In a recent post at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog, Peter Gurry shares some notes that he took at SBL Denver 2018 about the plans for the next editions of the NA29 and UBSGNT6. I too was sitting in that session where Holger Strutwolf was presenting the plans. But I did not take any notes, so I am thankful for Peter’s making his comments available.
To summarize, the NA29 and UBSGNT6 will share the same editorial committee. And the UBSGNT6 will perhaps have fewer variants than the UBSGNT5 in the apparatus to suit the practical needs of Bible translators in the field. Also, the committee is hoping to be able to publish the NA29 in 2022.
It is in fact great news that we will be celebrating publications of two critical Greek New Testaments in just a few years. But I must admit that I have some concerns.
First, I think some may still find it uncomfortable that the two most-widely used critical editions of the Greek New Testament will again closely follow the ECM (Editio Critica Maior) volumes of the INTF Münster. Gurry, of course, stresses that the NA/UBSGNT editorial committee is not under pressure to uncritically follow the ECM decisions; he seems confident that the committee will make their own judgments independently of the ECM editors and that NA29 will thus be different in principle from NA28. This is confusing because we all know NA28 actively incorporated the ECM Catholic Letters (1997–2005). Does Gurry mean that the committee now has a different principle and policy to distance itself from the ECM? Does he mean that the NA/UBSGNT committee is now willing to sacrifice editorial consistency between NA28 and NA29? Questions pour in. Moreover, the committee’s statement that they will not closely follow the ECM is, as it were, self-contradictory because it is clear that the committee is anxiously waiting for the ECM edition of Mark to be done so that they may “incorporate the ECM work” into the next NA/UBSGNT editions.
Second, people will realize that the ECM will certainly exert immense influence on the NA29/UBSGNT6 committee’s text-critical decisions because both committees share the similar resources and, most of all, people. The head of the NA/UBSGNT committee is Holger Strutwolf, who is, not surprisingly, one of the chief editors of the ECM III (Acts, 2017). Gurry also says that two of the current ECM research associates, Theodora Panella and Gregory S. Paulson, will join the editorial committees as assistants. The reader should also note that both committees are operating under the formidable umbrella of the INTF Münster. For this reason, many—including myself—are skeptical that the NA/UBSGNT committee is in a position to make their own decisions freely.
Third, I am quite worried that the so-called Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (CBGM), the underlying text-critical principle of the ECM, is dominating both committees without proper checks and balances. Even Gurry himself admits that the CBGM is little known or understood “even among NT scholars” for “its sheer complexity” (see Gurry’s 2016 JETS article and his 2017 monograph). If it is too complex for even NT textual critics, who, in the world, are these committee members who seemingly “understand” and use it to edit Greek New Testament texts that millions of readers will be using?
Again, it is good news that we will soon see NA29 and UBSGNT6 be published. But I think it is time for us to at least begin to ask if we are using our resources properly and wisely to produce the best approximation of the original text.
— John J.H. Lee
John is currently a PhD student in New Testament at McMaster Divinity College and has previously worked with SIL International in the Caucasus. He is studying papyrology and textual criticism with Stanley E. Porter.