Greek New Testament(s): A Comparison of the Reader’s Editions

I was incredibly blessed by my placement in history to have a wealth of tools available for studying the New Testament. As I am told, only a few years ago, if a first or second-year Greek student wanted to engage substantively and prolongedly with the Greek New Testament he or she required not only the New Testament text in Greek, but also a Greek lexicon (dictionary) as well as one or more of a number of helps such as Zerwick and Grovesner’s A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament which could assist in taming strange, previously unencountered syntax dragons. This was not only cumbersome but also discouraging. However, now the aspiring student has several one-volume options from which to choose.

A one-volume “Reader’s Edition” of the Greek New Testament provides many of the necessary aids to jump headfirst into the text quickly and easily. Primarily this aid is provided through short, contextual glosses of Greek words that show up infrequently in the New Testament and thus are likely to be unfamiliar to the new student. However, there are now a number of such works each with unique benefits and quirks.

The primary contenders in English are fourfold: two from Zondervan, one from the United Bible Societies, and one from Crossway/Tyndale House.

Zondervan’s Reader’s Greek New Testament

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The earliest one produced that is still widely available is Zondervan’s A Reader’s Hebrew and Greek Bible published in 2010. This volume is based on the text underlying the TNIV translation, mainly based on the UBS4, and like several of these volumes, it glosses Greek words that occur less than 30 times in the New Testament. You can find more information from the publisher here.

The Pros: This volume contains both the Old Testament in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek, both with glosses for unfamiliar and infrequent vocabulary. It contains a dictionary at the end of the New Testament section with glosses for every word that occurs 30 times or more in the New Testament, as well as several helpful maps for quick reference. These features mean you can bring this Bible to church without raising eyebrows, and it comes with nice looking leather binding.

The Cons: The glosses are all run together in paragraph format at the bottom of each page, which means finding the correct gloss in the footnotes can become quite a quest. The thin, italicized font compounds this issue. In addition, there are helpful footnotes illuminating where the TNIV base text differs from the UBS4. However, these fall far short of a textual apparatus for anyone interested in wrestling with significant textual problems as they engage the text, and they are based on an older edition of the standard Greek New Testament.

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The most up-to-date offering from Zondervan is A Reader’s Greek New Testament, 3rd Edition. Which is one volume offering most of the same features as A Reader’s Hebrew and Greek Bible but with the text updated to that of the NIV2011 based primarily on the UBS5/NA28 Greek Text. You can find more information from the publisher here.

Pros and Cons: This volume is the slimmest of all the reader’s editions and sneaks easily alongside a thinline English (or other translation) Bible into church. However, the thinness comes with the cost of the glosses being paragraphed together and more difficult to sort through. Most of the pros and cons of A Reader’s Hebrew and Greek Bible apply to this volume except the font has been drastically improved and it uses a more current textual basis.

The German Bible Society’s Reader’s Edition

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The next volume, produced by the German Bible Society, is The Greek New Testament: A Reader’s Edition. This volume features the exact same text as the UBS5/NA28 along with running textual glosses and a few notes by Florian Voss. This reader’s edition has, perhaps, the most features of any of the editions. It not only has glosses, a dictionary, and maps, but it also features selected textual notes on some of the most significant variants, a more thorough dictionary by Barclay Newman, and the same English section headings as the UBS5. Again, it glosses words occurring less than 30 times in the Greek New Testament. You can read more about it on Hendrickson’s website here.

Pros: This version has the same format and layout as the UBS5, which will be familiar to most students of the Greek New Testament. The English section headings and normal font make it easily readable and navigable. The glosses are neatly organized in columns beneath the text, and the most significant textual variants usually get a note with some information about the witnesses. Furthermore, the maps are the same fine topographical maps that come in the NA28 and UBS5 texts, but in a larger format so they are much easier to read and use for reference. All difficult verb forms are parsed in the glosses (i.e. -μι verbs, verbs with differing stems in the future, aorist, and perfect).

Cons: Currently, only a hardcover is available from the publishers, and this volume is substantially thicker than the Zondervan reader’s version. However, this lack is made up for in the fact that the glosses are more easily accessible. Only one contextual gloss is given per word in most instances, as opposed to the Zondervan versions which often give several options.

The Greek New Testament, Produced at Tyndale House

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Finally, the newest work available is The Greek New Testament, Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge, Reader’s Edition published by Crossway. The text of this volume is based on the recent Greek New Testament, Produced at Tyndale House. It is similar in size and format to the German Bible Society reader’s edition, but with a few significant differences. Most significantly, it is the only edition that glosses words occurring less than 25 times in the Greek New Testament. You can find more information from Crossway here.

Pros: The Tyndale House version features a beautiful type and very nice binding and packaging. If you want to have fewer glosses to be distracted by, this version is for you, since it glosses fewer words than any of the other versions. It is also available in a fine leather binding, which makes it easier to handle than the German Bible Society version. It features the text of the Tyndale House Greek New Testament which is very recent and has a slightly different approach than the NA28/UBS5 editions. Like the German Bible Society version, glossed and difficult verbs are parsed in the glosses and only one contextual gloss is given in most instances.

Cons: Awkwardly, this edition has no textual notes, even though it is from a very recently published Greek text. The paragraphing is awkward with the paragraph being indented and the first line pushed flush left. There are also no maps or supplemental materials provided in this edition.

Conclusions

I currently own three of these four reader’s Greek New Testaments and find various uses for each of them. Although I do not own a Tyndale House reader’s edition, I have interacted with it through friends who have let me look over their copies.

All in all, each version has a place. If you want the whole Bible in the original languages in one all-inclusive package, the Reader’s Greek and Hebrew Bible will serve you well. The thinness of the font and density of the glosses can be overcome for the convenience of having both the Old and New Testaments easily at hand. If you are competent in syntax, only need an occasional glance toward the glosses, and want more options when you check the glosses, then Zondervan’s A Reader’s Greek New Testament, 3rd Edition is for you. This is the version I bring to church or take to the coffee shop because of its portability. If you want the best of all the features (access to the standard text, and text-critical notes, limited syntactical help) all in one volume, then I recommend the German Bible Society’s The Greek New Testament: A Reader’s Edition. This is the version I use most often as a New Testament Student, and it seems to give the most mileage for assistance in reading large swaths of text. Finally, if you simply want a nice-looking and feeling reader’s edition with some good, interesting, and recent scholarship behind it then the Tyndale House version may be for you.