A new Greek-English parallel NT

November 5, 2012

Zondervan has just released a new parallel Greek-English NT that is of interest:

NIV Greek and English New Testament, ed. John R. Kohlenberger III (Zondervan, 2012). 962 pgs. + maps. $52.99 hardcover, ISBN 978-0310495901; $69.99 Italian Duo-Tone leather, ISBN 978-0310495895.

This is similar in design to the NET Bible NT with parallel NA27 Greek text, only about half the size.* This is not an interlinear (thank goodness!), but a parallel edition. The right hand page throughout is the NIV 2011 revision (for which see my review in Themelios). The facing page is the Greek NT. The Greek text printed is similar to the one found in Zondervan’s Reader’s Greek NT. That is, it provides the Greek text that underlies the NIV translation.

Though this is not a critical edition with a full textual apparatus, it does indicate all variations from the standard UBS4/NA27 text. As such it is a valid, usable Greek text. Though the variations from the UBS/NA texts are relatively few, this simply reflects the textual decisions of a different group of editors much as Michael Holmes has done in the SBL Greek NT (and many other scholars before him: Souter, Merk, Bover, Tischendorf, Westcott & Hort, Alford, Tregelles, etc.). According to the introduction, there are technically 720 differences in the Greek text when compared with the UBS/NA texts, but half of this number are only matters of what words are placed in square brackets. (This edition does not use square brackets in the text to mark words that have been questioned by some scholars, but they are all duly noted in the footnotes.)

More interesting is the typography. The page layouts of the facing pages are nearly identical with (for the most part) the same paragraphing, indentation, punctuation, and section headings. In this case the typographical “standard” is the NIV with the Greek text laid out to match. This does result in a Greek text that does not use the traditional Greek form for such things as paragraph breaks, though Greek punctuation is retained (e.g., the Greek question mark is still ‘;’ and has not been conformed to the English ‘?’). This makes it much easier to compare the English text with the Greek. Since typographical matters (including punctuation) are editorial, this is not at all objectionable. The most obvious differences (other than the paragraphing) will be the punctuation, especially when paragraphs are involved; i.e., when a paragraph break has been “added” to the UBS/NA text, the final punctuation has typically been changed to a period despite other Greek texts having a comma or semicolon at that point.

The printed form is nicely done with what appears to be good quality Bible paper—thin and very white, yet sufficiently opaque so that text on the reverse of a leaf does not distract. With thin Bible paper there will almost always be some shadow of the text visible on the reverse when the reverse has blank areas. Some editions show too much in this regard, but I think the tradeoffs here are well balanced. The Greek font used is legible. I might prefer just a tad more leading on the Greek page—even one point (and maybe even a half point) would help legibility. But then you need to allow for the fact that my eyes are not as sharp as they once were, even with bifocals. Most people will not be bothered by this and the leading is probably not much different than any other Greek NT.

Where an edition like this might be used in another question. I adamantly do not recommend its use in a first year class. Though it would be a major improvement over an interlinear or an electronic text, it still provides too easy a “pony” to tempt the beginning student into over confidence. Students will not learn to read Greek if they try to learn with the English too easily at hand.† Once there is a solid foundation, however, a text like this has a place in second or third year classes, especially if one goal is to read larger sections of Greek text. In this case rapid reading is facilitated by using the parallel English text as a “quick lexicon.” This is even easier with the explicitly parallel paragraphing/typography on the facing pages. It would even have a place in an exegetical class as students wrestle with how meaning is expressed. Since Greek and English are such different languages in this regard, the task of correlating the two texts can be very instructive. Though some would think that a formal equivalent translation (e.g., NASB) is best for this purpose, I demur. It is the functional equivalent choices found in the mediating translations such as NIV, HCSB, NET (text) [and yes, even some of the functional equivalents in the ESV! :) I just wish they had done more of this!] that force the students to move beyond wooden word-for-word glosses and grapple with meaning. (I am less comfortable with full-blown functional equivalence such as NLT, but even that may have a place in some situations.)

There are other situations in which this sort of edition can be useful. The pastor will appreciate having one book open on his desk rather than two, and carrying one instead of two is also much more convenient. Many these days use only digital editions and even on the small screen of an iPhone one can have parallel Greek-English panes open. But I am still persuaded that reading is best done from a printed text where context is more prominent. There is a limit to what one can see on a screen, esp. on the limits of a laptop or tablet screen—and those monstrous displays in the 23–30″ range are not really “reading” screens; one can have many windows open on a large screen, but there is too much head movement required to read comfortable across that span, even if arranged in narrower columns. But that’s just the contrarian opinion of a book lover! Your mileage may vary!

*The NET edition is useful but it is a hefty book due to the extensive notes included.
†I do use parallel Greek-English examples in my forthcoming first year grammar, but I do so in a progressive manner, first giving actual Greek texts in parallel with the current “feature” hi-lighted, then additional examples without the parallel English. When actually teaching I have students cover the English column when they first begin working on a new text and only uncovering it after they think they know what it says.