In 1984 while working on the third draft for the Modern Standard Version, a new analytical version, I realized that the average student of the Bible had no resource available to him to help him understand all the textual footnotes that are found in the several modern translations of the Bible. For those who read Greek, the United Bible Societies have published Dr. Bruce Metzger's excellent book, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. But for the person who does not read Greek, textual criticism is a mystery about which little has been written. To be sure, one cannot engage in textual criticism of the New Testament without a knowledge of Greek. But many aspects of this discipline can be understood by the average person even without a knowledge of Greek. It is for these people that this book is written. The textual footnotes of modern translations seem to follow no set pattern—one version may say that a reading is found in late manuscripts while another version says that the same reading is found in early manuscripts. In this book the reader can find more information on the subject. Indeed, in this volume he can begin to see for himself the fallacy of two modern myths of textual criticism: the constant superiority of the "best and most reliable witnesses" and the constant superiority of the majority of the manuscripts. Perhaps if for the common man this volume sheds a little light on a difficult subject so that he understands that there is no simple answer, this work will have filled a purpose. Hopefully this book will not breed more controversy but will bring more understanding that will help to calm the spirit of controversy that now exists in some circles.
The book is based upon the Modern Standard Version of the New Testament. This has three advantages: 1) it is a fairly literal translation in modern English, which helps those who do not read Greek often see clearly the differences between two readings; 2) it is based on the United Bible Societies' The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition, which has become something of a standard for textual criticism in the past few years (changes in the 5th edition are noted in the comments); 3) it includes all the textual footnotes found in the American Standard Version (ASV), the Revised Standard Version (RSV), the New American Standard Version (NASV/NASB), the New International Version (NIV), the New English Bible (NEB), and the Today's English Version (TEV; also known as the Good News Translation: GNT/GNB) plus some. The 2023 update to this book adds the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV, both 1989 and 2021 editions), the English Standard Version (ESV), the Revised English Bible(REB), and the Christian Standard Bible (CSB), resulting in over 1250 entries that cover 1206 verses of the New Testament.
In this book the differences between the textual base of the King James Version (KJV) and New King James Version (NKJV) and those of ten modern translations can be seen. One can see the places where the KJV follows the Latin Vulgate rather than the majority of Greek manuscripts. One can see too the very few places where the underlying Greek text of the NKJV differs from that of the KJV. Also, one can see how the textual basis of the RSV, the NRSV, the NASV, and the NIV have changed with new editions over the years. In addition, this book shows how the underlying text of dependent translations has changed: the NRSV and ESV from the RSV; and the REB from the NEB.
For each textual footnote in any of the ten modern English translations, the text reading of the Modern Standard Version is given plus the major English translations that have it. The text reading is the reading that is found in the United Bible Societies' The Greek New Testament, third edition. A ranking as to certainty is given that corresponds to the original ranking which the UBS Textual Committee assigned in the third edition to the readings. A hyphen is given when no ranking exists. Next come the readings given in the footnotes together with the major English translations that have them. Sometimes other variations of interest are also noted. Finally, comments are made on each variation, often sifted from Dr. Metzger's A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, but also based on my own studies. It is hoped that this book will provide to some extent for the student who does not speak Greek the information that is available in that book to those who do. While this book is based in part upon the work of the UBS Textual Committee, the comments found in it are my own, and any mistakes contained in them are mine, not theirs. Although there are times when I would have preferred another reading, and this can often be told from the comments, I have tried to fairly represent to the reader why they chose to put a particular reading in the text. In the final analysis, this work can only give information to help the reader understand, not to correct the work done by the UBS Textual Committee. At any rate, ultimately New Testament textual criticism must be done by the experts, for the task involved is too important to be left to amateurs.
I would be remiss if I did not thank the women in my life who put up with this project: my daughters Brina, Breta, and Becka, who often saw daddy on the computer for the first edition, and my wife Barbara who has been a constant support throughout the production of both editions.R. Bruce Terry, Ph.D.