As has been hitting the blogs, Logos Bible Software and the Society of Biblical Literature partnered to create an edition of the Greek New Testament, named “The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition” (abbreviated SBLGNT, also known as the “SBL Greek New Testament”). Michael W. Holmes is the editor, and I had the great privilege of working with him on creating this text. He did everything text-critical, I worked to support him however I could, getting him all the information he needed to evaluate the variation units (nearly 7000).
Michael Holmes has written a post for the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog announcing the SBLGNT and describing it a bit. It is well worth the read, as is the comment section.
This project has been in the works for awhile, and when Holmes’ name was suggested as a possibility to be the editor, I was hoping beyond hope that he’d be able to. It was great to work with him and support him however I could in the project.
Mike writes of the basic process in the introduction. Using some existing data on orthographic variants I’d put together earlier, I prepared a special version of WH for him to work through, and he corrected (updated) the orthography (both items our existing data flagged, and items he isolated on his own) while so doing. This needed to be done anyway, and it had the side benefit of making the later comparison stage (which compared primarily to editions of texts that use similar “updated” orthography) a little easier. After this pass, I wrote a bunch of code to do comparisons of the four versions, to each other, to generate an initial set of units where there were discrepancies. Mike, again, diligently worked through this data, one book at a time. He made notes in the data as to the preferred reading in each instance, and he also maintained an updated form of the text itself. That text is what eventually became the SBLGNT in Logos, and which is being printed by the SBL.
The apparatus is a bit of a different story. We originally weren’t sure about the apparatus, but as Mike started work it became clear that an apparatus listing the edition evidence for each variation unit could be a handy thing. Based on his notes for the first book he did, I transcribed his notes (copy/paste with the Greek text, not typing) into something that could be an apparatus. I showed it to Mike, he had several great suggestions, and we went back and forth for awhile. It became clear the edition apparatus, while not listing primary MSS sources, could be helpful to show where the variation unit came from, and how different editions treated it. So Mike and I decided to pitch the idea and see if we could add the apparatus to the project. And we could! Mike was busy enough doing the real work (textual criticism), so I volunteered to do the work to create the apparatus from Mike’s notes. I’d dig into the apparatus for a book after he finished the draft. This served a secondary purpose of checking Mike’s work against the notes to ensure the text (and apparatus) actually represented what he intended.
All in all, it worked out very well. When Mike was done with the text, and I had a version of the apparatus together, we had a great platform for me to write some more code to check the text against the apparatus to find more subtle (and some not-so-subtle) issues. I can honestly say we found a decent amount of issues that we might not have found otherwise.
While we were careful, as Mike notes in a comment to the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog post, “I am more pessimistic than James; as a firm believer in the truth of Romans 3:23, I take it for granted that there will be typos, and only hope that none are too embarrassingly obvious.” With this I agree.
When the SBLGNT text was solid, and the apparatus was in good shape, it became apparent to me that my job had only started. We still had to get the text morphologically analyzed. And into a Logos resource. And … well, I had a lot more to do with derivative and associated projects. Like the Lexham English Bible English-Greek Reverse Interlinear New Testament (go to bottom of the download page). And some other things. Keep your eyes on the Logos blog for upcoming announcements over the next few days.
I have learned a whole lot throughout this whole process. Yes, I learned a lot about the application of text-critical principles (Look, I just essentially took a course on applied textual criticism with the whole NT as the textbook and Michael Holmes as the instructor). But that’s not my primary take-away. I learned more about how to be precise in work. I learned more about how to be gracious in relationships both professional and personal. And I learned that a textual apparatus is much, much more than a simple or even a complex diff between two (or more) texts.