It has been almost four years since the release of the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, the first revision of the critical text of the Greek New Testament since 1979. Its text in the Gospels, Acts, the Epistles of Paul, and in Revelation is unchanged from what was printed in 1979. The apparatus (the list of variants and the witnesses that support them) is much improved, but still has room for improvement.
Aside from the introduction of a new font, new orthographic standardization, and new formatting, the only place where NA28 reflects new text-critical decisions is in the General Epistles (James-Jude), where 36 alterations of the text in the previous edition have been introduced. (Officially, the count is 34, but in First Peter , two variant-units occur close together, and in Jude verse 5, two variant-units overlap.)
One persistent claim about NA28 is that it expresses a new appreciation for the Byzantine Text. Dan Wallace, for example, reported that Klaus Wachtel conveyed that as the editors worked through the General Epistles, “They came to see much greater value of the Byzantine manuscripts than they had previously.” James Leonard has similarly stated than an “interesting result” of the use of the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method is that “it is finding more and more individual Byzantine readings to be more plausible.”
However, an examination of the new readings in NA28 indicates that the Byzantine Text was valued primarily in the role of a merely confirmatory witness, reinforcing the readings found in the important minuscule 1739. As evidence of this, let’s investigate all of the textual changes from NA26 (1979) to NA28 (2013) in James, First Peter, and Second Peter. Red text signifies that NA28 rejects a Byzantine reading that was in NA26 and NA27. A black circle accompanies each adoption of a Byzantine reading.
● 1:20: κατεργάζεται instead of εργάζεται, agreeing with 1739 and the Byzantine Text.
2:3: η κάθου εκει instead of εκει η κάθου, rejecting the word-order found in the Byzantine Text, and which was followed in NA27.
● 2:4: Και is adopted before ου at the beginning of the verse, agreeing with the Byzantine Text.
● 2:15: ωσιν is included after λειπομενοι, agreeing with 1739 and the Byzantine Text.
● 4:10: του is included before κυριου, agreeing with 1739 and the Byzantine Text.
1:6: λυπηθέντας instead of λυπηθέντες, rejecting a Byzantine reading that was in NA27.
● 1:16: οτι is not included after γέγραπται. The non-inclusion of οτι is supported by P72, À, 1739, and the Byzantine Text.
: ειμι is not included at the end of the verse, rejecting a reading which is supported by the Byzantine Text, P72, and 1739. At this point, the compilers of NA28 returned to a reading found in NA25.
2:5: τω is not included before θεω, rejecting a Byzantine reading that was in NA27 in brackets. (Papyrus 72 supports the inclusion of τω here.)
● : αλλ’ instead of αλλα. This orthographic shift in NA28 constitutes the adoption of a Byzantine reading that is also supported by À.
● 4:16: μέρει instead of ονόματι, agreeing with a Byzantine reading that is opposed by a widespread array of witnesses, including P72, À, B, 1739 and 1505.
● 5:1: τους after Πρεσβυτέρους, agreeing with 1739 and the Byzantine Text. Rival variants are ουν (supported by P72, A, and B), no word at all (supported by 1505), and ουν τους (supported by À). This is an interesting variant-unit, not least because the reading in Codex Sinaiticus looks like a conflation, made by a copyist using two exemplars, one of which had ουν and the other of which had τους.
● 5:9: τω is not included before κόσμω, agreeing with 1739 and the Byzantine Text.
: Ιησου is not included after Χριστω, rejecting a reading that is supported by P72, A, 1739, and the Byzantine Text. The non-inclusion of Ιησου is supported by À, B, and 1505.
● 2:6: ασεβειν instead of ασεβέσιν, agreeing with À, 1739, and the Byzantine Text. Ασεβειν was also the reading of NA25.
● 2:11: παρα κυρίω instead of παρα κυρίου, agreeing with À, B, 1739, and the Byzantine Text. Παρα κυρίω was also the reading of NA25.
● 2:15: καταλιπόντες instead of καταλείποντες, agreeing with P72, 1739, and the Byzantine Text.
● 2:18: όντως instead of ολίγως, agreeing with 1739 and the Byzantine Text. The recent history of this variant-unit is interesting: in the first edition (1966) of the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament, the compilers adopted ολίγως and ranked it at level “C,” signifying a “considerable degree of doubt” about it. In the fourth edition (2001), the compilers still adopted ολίγως but ranked it at level “A,” signifying that “the text is certain.” Obviously it was not so certain after all.
● 2:20: ημων is not included after κυρίου, thus agreeing with B and the Byzantine Text but disagreeing with a wide array of witnesses.
3:6: δι’ ον instead of δι’ ων at the beginning of the verse, rejecting a reading with very widespread support that includes the Byzantine Text, in favor of a reading with negligible support: according to J. K. Elliott, the Greek witnesses for this reading consist of 025, eight minuscules, and one lectionary. One of those minuscules was 1175 (from the 900’s), which was given special weight in the CBGM. Nevertheless it is difficult to see what drove, or could ever drive, the conclusion that all Greek manuscripts are incorrect at this point except for that small group.
: ουχ ευρεθήσεται instead of ευρεθήσεται, rejecting the Byzantine Text and rejecting all Greek manuscripts. The Greek reading in NA28 is not supported by any Greek manuscripts. As a Greek word, it is a conjectural emendation, based on the assumption that a reading in the Sahidic text of First Peter was translated from an exemplar that had this reading.
●3:16: ταις after πάσαις, agreeing with À, 1739, and the Byzantine Text.
: στρεβλώσουσιν instead of στρεβλουσιν, rejecting the Byzantine reading and adopting the reading of P72 and 1739.
: αμήν is not included at the end of the verse, rejecting the reading of P72, A, and the Byzantine Text and adopting the reading shared by B and 1739.
From this review of the newly adopted readings in James, First Peter, and Second Peter in NA28, a few conclusion can be drawn:
(1) The Byzantine Text’s readings are hardly ever adopted unless they agree with 1739. Exceptions are at James 2:4, First Peter , , and Second Peter 2:20.
(2) NA28 agrees with the Byzantine Text at 15 places where NA27 disagreed.
(3) NA28 disagrees with the Byzantine Text at 9 places where NA27 agreed.
(4) Calculating that the net number of agreements between the Nestle-Aland compilation and the Byzantine Text has thus increased by six, and observing that there are 187 disagreements between NA27 and RP2005, it follows that the total number of disagreements between the Nestle-Aland compilation and the Byzantine Text in these three books has decreased from 187 (in NA27) to 181 (in NA28).
How exactly does a net gain of six agreements in James, First Peter, and Second Peter express a significant new appreciation for the Byzantine Text when the compilers of Novum Testamentum Graece continue to reject the Byzantine readings in 181 other places in these three books? The answer is simple: it doesn’t.