THE INTERNATIONAL GREEK NEW TESTAMENT PROJECT: A CRITICAL EDITION OF THE GOSPEL OF JOHN

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: School of Philosophy Theology & Religion

Abstract

The Gospel of John, like all ancient texts, exists in multiple forms. A printed edition has to be carefully compiled from these forms. In early Christianity, changes were made to the text not only by mistake in writing them out by hand, but also intentionally, in order to 'improve' the text. These included grammatical and theological changes, and saving interesting material, even if it did not originally belong to the text (for example, in John the meeting between Jesus and the adulteress in Chapter 8). Other changes include theologically significant passages such as whether one should read 'only begotten God' or 'only begotten Son' in Chapter 1 verse 18. In total there are about 8,000 places of variation between the manuscripts, of which there are almost 2,000. There are also important manuscripts of ancient translations of John into Syriac, Latin, Coptic and other languages, and quotations in early Christian writers down to the fifth century.

These differences have to be listed and studied, for us to know what the text of the New Testament is. This is done by making a 'critical edition', which consists of two parts. The first is a critical apparatus, in which are listed all the differences found in the manuscripts and other witnesses. The second is a critical text, which is made by comparing these differences and selecting from them the one most likely to be the oldest.

The last reliable major edition was published in 1869, so that a new edition of John is urgently required. Editing a text has to be undertaken at regular intervals, because
1. New witnesses are found. Over the past 70 years, many more copies of John have been discovered, and in particular two which were written in about 200 and are the oldest surviving copies of any length (there are also fragments of other manuscripts, each containing parts of a few pages). By contrast, the oldest copies available in 1869 were copied 150 years later, in about 350.
2. New methods of evaluating the evidence are discovered. Today the development of computer based tools has led to a revolution in ways of managing and interpreting textual data. Because there is so much evidence that the human mind finds it hard to manage, the computer provides ways for editors to review their own decisions and improve them, while leaving the decisions under human control.

Making an edition like this requires technical expertise and specialist resources such as collections of images of manuscript and specially designed software. Today scholars collaborate far more than ever before. This project is part of an edition of the whole New Testament directed by the Institute for New Testament Textual Research in Münster, Germany, called the Editio critica maior ('Larger critical edition').

The edition will be used by specialists, including textual researchers, commentators and historians. It will also have an impact on all readers of the Bible, since the text that is made will be used for the two most popular editions of the Greek New Testament. Not only are these editions bought and used by many thousands of people worldwide, they also provide the basis for almost every Bible translation in the world today. As a result, this critical text will for the next few generations be the foundation of the million copies of the Bible sold every year.

The edition of John will be made by the International Greek New Testament Project. This project brings together professional scholars and volunteers from various walks of life who study manuscripts and provide information from them. The professional scholars include researchers and research students. The management of this web of volunteers, team projects and individual research and the production of the critical edition requires a management team. This project funds the editorial team who are directing the research and making the edition.

If you are interested in finding out more about how you can participate, please go to http://www.igntp.org

Planned Impact

The Gospel of John is one of the most important texts of the Bible, itself the most widely disseminated collection of texts in the history of the world. A proper understanding of the many forms in which it has existed, and of the problems surrounding the reconstruction of its oldest forms, is thus an essential element in the study of the development and influence of the contents of the Gospel, and in its continuing use in intellectual debate and religious practice. In particular, the following groups will be affected by this research:

1. All students studying the New Testament in Greek, from first year undergraduate level up, as well as educators and researchers worldwide, use one of two editions of the Greek New Testament: the United Bible Societies 'The Greek New Testament' and the Nestle-Aland 'Novum Testamentum Graece'. The text of John in these editions will from 2032 be based upon the critical text and apparatus produced by this project. 25,000 copies of these two editions are sold or given away every year. This is exclusive of diglots (a typical figure is 5-6,000 copies a year of a Greek/German version, and the Greek/English version sells even more). These editions are also available in a range of electronic and web-based editions. This text will be used by all readers of the Greek New Testament (for example, clergy and native Greek speakers). Since there will be no replacement edition for at least a generation (perhaps even the 150 years that its predecessor, the 1869 edition by Tischendorf has survived), one may estimate that printings of our text will pass the million mark quite quickly.

2. It is not only the Greek New Testament that will be affected. The two editions named above are the basis of almost all the translations of the New Testament, so that from 2032 all translations of the Bible will use the edition produced by this project. There are translations of the New Testament into over 400 languages currently available, and approximately one million copies of these translations are sold every year. This results of this edition will therefore reach more people than any other edition in the world, being read and heard by a weekly global audience of many millions.

3. There is a wide range of people outside academia who will make a contribution to the Project by providing raw material on a voluntary basis. These contributors are able to develop skills and knowledge which is valuable to themselves, and which they then share with others (for example, there are parish clergy who collect information about a particular manuscript, and then tell their congregation about what they have done). The skills they develop include the ability to read Greek manuscripts and record their contents accurately. The knowledge includes an understanding of the variety of forms in which the text has survived, which leads to discussions about the nature and roles of texts in religion. This model provides a very effective way of spreading knowledge and skills in a direct and relevant manner. In addition, presentations such as Elliott's work with Rotary Groups (see Case for Support) shares the research with a wide audience.

Given the significance of the Gospel of John in influencing humanity's self-understanding, the impact of this edition will be enormous. The history of the printed text of the New Testament, and the way in which successive editions have changed both in content and in form, shows the importance of each individual step in changing attitudes. The very existence of editions which list thousands of points of variation is an important part of the way in which the New Testament is understood, and today most translations record some of these variations. Textual research is important because without it various types of fundamentalism can flourish unchallenged. The existence of critical editions creates a forum for though

Publications

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D.C. Parker (2014) Texts and Traditions

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D.C. Parker (2016) The New Testament in Byzantium

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Förster H (2017) John 8.17-An Invitation to Perjury? in The Bible Translator

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Hans Förster (2016) Überlegungen zur Grammatik von Joh 8,25 im Lichte der handschriftlichen Überlieferung in Zeitschrift für neutestamentliche Wissenschaft

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Hans Förster (2018) Ein Vorschlag für ein neues Verständnis von Joh 12,39-40 in Zeitschrift für neutestamentliche Wissenschaft

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Hans Förster (2016) Zur Bedeutung von ???a???a in Joh 10,2 in Revue Biblique

 
Description Deeper knowledge of the variation between the Greek manuscripts of John's Gospel and how this writing changed in the course of its use.
Exploitation Route By biblical scholars, Byzantinists and philologists. Historians of Greek can study the language as it changes in the manuscript copies
Sectors Other

 
Description Presentation of research to non-academic groups, discussion of concepts of digital texts
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Other
Impact Types Cultural

 
Title Collation Editor 
Description The Collation Editor and the engine within it, CollateX, were developed in response to the needs of the project for collating many manuscript copies of the New Testament. For further details on the tools, visit https://collatex.net/ and https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/itsee/projects/workspace.aspx. Although it is also described under the entry for Software, this is also a research tool which allows editors to work more logically, systematically and efficiently than has been possible in the past. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The tool is intended for editors of any text, and is being used by MUYA, the Multimedia Yasna Project funded by the ERC and based at SOAS. 
URL https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/itsee/projects/workspace.aspx
 
Title A Negative Apparatus of the Gospel of John in Greek 
Description A Negative Apparatus of the Gospel of John in Greek 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Wider access to data 
URL http://www.iohannes.com/ECMgreek/negative/index.html
 
Title A Positive Apparatus of the Gospel of John in Greek 
Description A Positive Apparatus of the Gospel of John in Greek 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Wider access to data 
URL http://www.iohannes.com/ECMgreek/positive/index.html
 
Title An Apparatus of the Greek Manuscripts for the Editio Critica Maior of the Gospel of John 
Description An apparatus for the Gospel of John, comprising 236 Greek manuscript witnesses in the form of a negative apparatus. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact A stage towards the creation fo the Editio Critica Maior of John, representing the fullest documentation of the history of the text of the Gospel according to John in the first millennium. See also http://iohannes.com/ECMGreek/ 
URL http://epapers.bham.ac.uk/3277/
 
Title Database of all citations of the Gospel of John by Greek writers before c. 500 CE 
Description Database of all citations of the Gospel of John by Greek writers before 500 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact None yet 
 
Title Database of citations of John in Greek writers before 500 CE 
Description This dataset, listed by Prof. Parker in 2014, has now been migrated to a new server. See the URL below. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2014 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Citational data for the ECM of John, which is being added in preparation for the printed edition. 
URL https://itsee-wce.birmingham.ac.uk/citations/search
 
Title IGNTPTranscripts 
Description A website containing full xml transcriptions of over 200 Greek manuscript copies of the Gospel of John, including papyri, majuscules, minuscules and lectionaries, and of copies in Latin and Coptic. The transcriptions are revised where improvements are made and the website is regularly updated. It received a new look in 2017. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2008 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Global usage 
URL http://iohannes.com/transcriptions/
 
Description Collaboration with Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung, Universität Münster 
Organisation University of Münster
Department Institute for New Testament Textual Research
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Participants in the project funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
Collaborator Contribution Specialist knowledge of a particular textual field; expertise in analysing textual relationships and New Testament manuscripts; experience of producing the Editio Critica Maior
Impact Editio Critica Maior of John under production in Birmingham. Collation of transcriptions of Mark using software produced in Birmingham in Münster (beginning from October 2014). Münster bought out the ITSEE technical officer position for a fixed percentage in 2016-17 to develop the software tools further.
Start Year 2010
 
Description Partnership with Carla Falluomini (University of Perugia) 
Organisation University of Perugia
Country Italy 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We provided an apparatus of Greek readings and a digital interface for versional data to be added
Collaborator Contribution Prof. Dr. Carla Falluomini entered Gothic versional data to the Greek apparatus.
Impact Data currently stored in server in anticipation of publication in the Editio Critica Maior of John.
Start Year 2011
 
Description Partnership with Christina Kreinecker (KU Leuven) 
Organisation University of Leuven
Country Belgium 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We provided an apparatus of Greek readings and a digital interface for versional data to be added
Collaborator Contribution Prof. Dr. Dr. Kreinecker entered Latin versional data to the Greek apparatus.
Impact Data currently stored in server in anticipation of publication in the Editio Critica Maior of John.
Start Year 2011
 
Description Partnership with Curt Niccum (Abilene Christian University) 
Organisation Abilene Christian University
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We provided an apparatus of Greek readings and a digital interface for versional data to be added.
Collaborator Contribution Prof. Niccum entered Ethiopic versional data to the Greek apparatus.
Impact Data currently stored in server in anticipation of publication in the Editio Critica Maior of John. New collaboration developed in 2020 with Prof. Niccum for work on Colossians.
Start Year 2011
 
Description Partnership with Hans Förster (University of Vienna) 
Organisation University of Vienna
Country Austria 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We provided an apparatus of Greek readings and a digital interface for versional data to be added
Collaborator Contribution Dr. Hans Förster, and Matthias Schultz, Institut für Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft, Evangelisch-Theologische Fakultät, Universität Wien, entered Coptic versional data to the Greek apparatus.
Impact Data currently stored in server in anticipation of publication in the Editio Critica Maior of John.
Start Year 2011
 
Title Collation Editor 
Description Software for editing a collation of a set of copies of a text, allowing the editor to regularise, align and list the changes in accordance with editorial practice. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2017 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact Use by other editors 
URL https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/itsee/projects/workspace.aspx