Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Souter's GNT Preface

            In 1910, Scottish scholar Alexander Souter (1873-1949) released his Novum Testamentum Graece.  This was just 21 years after Westcott and Hort replaced the Textus Receptus with their own very heavily pro-Alexandrian compilation, and only nine years after Eberhard Nestle released the first edition of his Novum Testamentum Graece in 1898.  Souter’s Greek New Testament presented what he understood to have been the base-text of the 1881 Revised Version.  Souter’s GNT is not the text of Westcott and Hort, but of Westcott and Hort after it had been filtered through the minds of their fellow creators of the 1881 Revised Version.

            In 1912 Souter wrote The Text and Canon of the New Testament (revised in 1935).  He also produced a Pocket Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, which (unlike the UBS Greek-English Dictionary) includes some terms that are used in the text of Codex Bezae but which are not found in most other manuscripts.  Souter also edited The Earliest Latin Commentaries on the Epistles of St. Paul (1927).  His last major work was Glossary of Later Latin to 600 A.D.

            Souter’s GNT (copies of which can still be found at online markets such as eBay, etc.) has been superseded in the marketplace by the UBS and Nestle-Aland editions.  Those who seek it out will, however, find a tidy edition of the Greek New Testament very similar to what is in print today.  

            How did Souter introduce his work?  With two very short prefaces, written in Latin.  Since Latin is treated as a relic in many schools in America today, I thought it might be helpful to present here an English rendering of the Prefaces with which Souter introduced his GNT.   But beware:  my own skill at translating Latin is minimal; I hope that other will improve upon the translation given here.  Stay tuned for corrections/revisions:


The purpose of this edition of the Greek New Testament is to present the text which was the basis for the Revised Version in English published in 1881, which was produced by scholars at Oxford whose research into the text is necessary to gain an overview of its history. 

Regarding the selection of readings that I have noted in the apparatus:  although I devoted much time to this, I am unable to placate everyone, and it can scarcely be doubted that readers will reproach me for having omitted a particular variant somewhere.  But if I am going to please no one in this regard, at least it may be said that many of the apparatus-notes here are more complete and more accurate than can be found in any other edition.

I have consulted versions as they are represented in the most recent editions, which were not covered in Tischendorf’s Greek compilations:  Latin (Old Latin and Vulgate), Syriac (the Old Syriac, the Peshitta, the Philoxenian, the Palestinian), Coptic (Bohairic, Sahidic [from Horner]), and, in the Apocalypse, Armenian (as represented in both the ancient text and in ordinary editions).  I have also consulted the patristic evidence; I cannot say how many thousands of passages in the fathers’ works I have re-examined.  And finally, I have consulted the writings of the primarily Latin interpreters, such as Ambrosiaster, Tyconius, Pelagius, Pseudo-Jerome, Cassiodorus, and Bede, using in some cases editions which I have prepared and which, I am confident, will not be significantly altered in the future either by our scholars or by foreigners.  It should be noted that the elegant work of William Sanday was always on hand to guide me.  May that tireless patron of New Testament studies be given his due honor and commemoration, and may the same be done for the printers, who have exercised extraordinary diligence.

 Sent from Oxford, in the year of our salvation 1910. 


 After 33 years, within which a large number of copies of the previous edition were sold, I was fortunate to be approached by a very respectable publishing-house which insisted upon another edition.  As far as the text itself is concerned, the discoveries of the past few years are not of the sort, in my view, that would make it wise to make a fresh compilation of the text. 

For now it is clear that there are many more textual variations than previous generations imagined, and it is also clear that it is better to rely on the many minuscule copies than has been done previously.  See, for example, the research by Kirsopp and Silva Lake, and by Hermann C. Hoskier – the former chiefly in the Gospels, the latter in the Apocalypse.  Adolph Jülicher’s laborious collection of versions of the Gospels has been a valuable contribution to the study of the Latin Gospels, and has had an effect upon almost the entire New Testament. 

            In the following pages, I have taken precisely this approach, and shared some readings from recently-discovered papyri, like those in the Chester Beatty collection, and from Codex Washingtoniensis (W) and Codex Koridethi (Θ) and also from some small fragmentary sources.  I reviewed the versional data in accordance with the current editions, citing readings from the best editions of the fathers which I have on hand, such as the Venerable Bede in Acts of the Apostles by M.L.W. Laistner, and in the General Epistles by British Library curator C.H. Milne, which is not yet published. 

            Readers, both known and unknown, have corrected a few mistakes of the first edition, for which I am grateful.  This edition was prepared with proof-reading by Frederick Fyvie Bruce, A.M. (a former student of mine), who is now a lecturer at Leeds University.  His learning and diligence made important contributions, to the great advantage of my readers. 

 Sent from Oxford, in September, in the year of our salvation 1944.

Here is Souter’s Latin text, for those who would like to correct my no-doubt flawed renderings:


Huius editionis Novi Testamenti Graecu lex haec constituta eat, ut is textus, qui Anglae recensioni anno 1881 editae subesse uidetur quique Oxoniensium manibus teritur, denuo actum agere uideamur, breuem ad paratum criticum addidimus, quo adiutus multa inuenias quae sine ad uerum textum enucieandum siue ad historiam eius inlustrandam neglegi non possint.   In elegendis uero lectionibus quas adnotarem etsi multam operam impendi, omnibus scilicet satis facere nequeo et uix dubium est quin praetermissum hoc additum illud exprobraturi sint mihi lectores.

Quod si in illa re nemini sum placiturus, fortasse non siaplicebunt adnotatiunculae ipsae, quas diligentius interdumque plenius quam in ulla alia editione conscriptas reperias,   nammpraeter quam in ulla alia editiones codicum Graecorum Tischendorfio ignotorum quoas fieri poterat adhibui, uersiones laudaui secundum editiones criticas recentissimas : Latinas (et antiquioris et uulgatam), Suras (ueterem, uulgatam, Philoxenianam. Palaestinensem), Aegyptiacas (Bohairicam, Sahidicam), in Apocalypsi Aemeniacas (ueterem et uulgatam),  idem quoque de testimonio sanctorum patrum feci, nec possum dicere quot milia locorum denuo inspexerim.   Quod denique in libellostudiosis nostris maxima ex parte destinato ἐξηγητὰς Latinos, in quibus iam diu lucubro, Ambrosiastrum, Tyconium, Pelagium, Pseudo-Hieronymum, Cassiodorum, Bedam, secundum codicun conlationes a me ipso factas citaui, id doctis et nostris et alienigenis haudingratum fore confido.

Concinnanti opus numquam deerat mihi consilium sagacissimum Guilelmi Sanday S.T.P.  studiorum talium patroni indefessi, neque taceda est typographorum eximia diligentia.

Dabam Oxonii mense Septembri

Anno Salutis MCMX.


Feliciter mihi contigit ut post XXXIII annos, intra quos permulta exemplaria editionis prioris sunt diuendita, bibliopola honestissimus alteram poposcerit.  Quantum quidem ad textum ipsum pertinet, recentuirum annorum reperta eius generis sunt ut praesenti tempore imprudentis me iudice esset textus editionem nouam refingere.  Nunc enim luce clarius est antiquissimis temporibus multo plures fuisse uarias letiones quam maiores nostri putarant et codices uetustos non necessario semper omnium optimos quia sint uetusti, neque recentiores minoris momenti esse quod antiquitate scriptionis non gaudeant.   Codices quoque multos qui ‘minusculi’ dicuntur, melius e diligentius quam adhuc factum est innitescere oportet, exemplo Kirsopp et Siluae Lake, Hermanni C. Hoskier, illorum praecipue in Euangelio, huius in Apocalypsi.   Uersionum quidem quas uocant Sahidicae editio a G. W. Horner curata totum fere Nouum Testamentum inlustrauit, Adolphi Jülicher collectio laboriosa adiumentum pretiosissimum ad studium Latinarum euangeliorum uersionum antiquarum contulit, nec praetermittendae sunt editiones aliarum uersionum qualis Roberti P. Blake Georgicae.   In paginis sequentibus id solum egi ut communicem papyraceorum recns repertorum aliquot lectiones, uelut Chester Beatty, pergamenorum uelut Washingtoniensis (W), Koridethi (Θ), minusculorum denique quorundam ; uersoinum indicia ad normam hodiernam recenseam ; patrum lectiones ad optimas quas ad manum habeo editiones citem, ut Bedae Venerabilis in Actus Apostolorum a M. L. W. Laistner, in Epistulas Canonicas a C. H. Milne curatam, quae nondum sub prelo est.

Editionis prioris pauca errata correxerunt lectores noti ignotique, quibus maximam habeo gratiam.  Fridericus Fyuiee Bruce, A.M., olim discipulus meus, Universitatis Leodiensis nunc praelector, plagulas huius editionis, qua est summa doctrina diligentiaque, perlegit, magno emolumento meo et lectorum.

Dabam Oxonii mense Septembri


1 comment:

Daniel Buck said...

Translation Latin is easier to translate, especially if it began as English anyway.