Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My Review of The UBS Greek New Testament

Many thanks are in order to Bobby Koduvalil at Hendrickson Publishers for this review copy!

Newman, Barclay M., ed.
The UBS Greek New Testament: A Reader’s Edition
Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2007. Pp. x + 704.
Cloth. $69.95 ISBN 1598562851.

Many harsh realities exist in biblical language acquisition. As one encounters the biblical languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, & Greek) it is tough not to feel as though one is sojourner in a strange land. Alphabets are at best vaguely familiar, while vocabulary and the different parts of speech can be even larger obstacles for the learner. Once the beginning student begins to read for the first time, syntax and context sensitive vocabulary can be tremendous stumbling blocks. As the student begins to feel more at home with their BHS or NA27/UBS4, the often sad conclusion is that he/she finishes their respective coursework in Hebrew/Greek, never to keep up with the good work that has begun. Many such tools exist to help the student rekindle their biblical language acquisition, some of which I have highlighted on this very blog.

Among the best out there is the recent contribution by Barclay M. Newman as he has provided those students who desire to develop reading facility of their Greek New Testament's. As Philip Towner states in the preface:

"The bottom line is this: to master the skill of reading the Greek New Testament there is simply no substitute for linear and sustained reading. This tool will aid the student and scholar in achieving this goal" (8).

Given the above quotation, one may wonder what makes the Reader's Edition so useful. Well, here are some of the volume's unique features:

  • All words occurring 30 times or less are given their lexical form and defined with a running dictionary at the bottom of the page.

  • All words occurring more than 30 times in the GNT are given an appendix in the back of the book.

  • Definitions are given according to context, preventing the reader from the struggle of deciding on which gloss may be best.

  • Where a word has a meaning different from its usual definition elsewhere in the NT, the broader meaning is provided.

  • Where scholars show significant disagreement over the meaning of a word, the alternate suggestions are included.

  • Each word is assigned a number which corresponds to the number in the running dictionary at the bottom of the page. Moreover, the numbering system begins anew with each turn of the page.

  • Occasionally, idiomatic word combinations are defined. (e.g. John 2.7̔̔ έ́́́́́́́́́́̓́́́̓̓́̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̓̓̓̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔ως ανω is defined as "to the brim" [253 n.33]).

  • Unusual verb forms are given their root form as well as their parsed form.

  • The dictionary identifies these specific parts of speech:

Verbs: Present indicative active first person singular, except where only passive and/or middle forms occur in the NT.

Nouns: Lexical form, genitive ending, article.

Adjectives: Lexical form, alternate nominative endings.

Adverbs, prepositions, and particles: Fixed form.

On a personal note, while I was teaching my 12 week class on Romans, I found my reading greatly enhanced using the UBS Reader's Edition. Many words I normally would have fumbled over, inhibiting and frustrating my reading, were given a major boost, knowing that I could get through a major discourse without spending an hour getting to the end of the unit, encouraged me greatly. This tool is not a "crutch" if used properly. I agree with Towner's assessment that "This tool will help the reader 'graduate' to independent reading of the UBS Greek New Testament/Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece sooner rather than later" (8).

I would be remiss if I did not mention one item of concern in closing. I was perusing through 1 Thessalonians 5.26 when I came across the phrase εν φιληματι ̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔αγιω ("with a holy kiss"). I was surprised to find that the noun φιλημα was unnumbered and undefined at the bottom of the page. Since φιλημα only occurs rather infrequently elsewhere (LXX: ʹ̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔Prov 27:6; Song 1:2; Luke 7:45; 22:48; Rom 16:16; 1 Cor 16:20; 2 Cor 13:12; 1 Thess 5:26; 1 Pet 5:14), I was left wondering where else errors may have occured in this work. What is more remarkable however, is that in a task as monumental as the one Newman undertakes, that these kinds of errors do not occur more frequently.

Newman is to be commended for a fine piece of work, one that every student with at least a year of Greek under his/her belt should keep readily available and read daily.

(Disclaimer: I apologize for my lack of Greek accents and breathing marks. I could not get them to work properly!)


M Slater said...

Have you also used the Zondervan Readers Greek New Testament (either edition)? If so how did you feel they compared?
I have the 2nd edition and although the UBS version looks quite solid, I'd need to see enough difference to make it worth the purchace.

Matthew D. Montonini said...


I have used the 1st edition of the Zondervan Readers GNT, but I did not care for it as much as the UBS Reader's Edition.

I thinks one reason was simply b/c I did not care for the font style used in the first edition, and secondly, if I remember correctly, the Zondervan Reader's GNT used a modified text not the NA 27/UBS 4.