The THGNT ESV New Testament
The Greek-English New Testament: Tyndale House, Cambridge Edition and English Standard Version (Crossway, 2020)
I am not the person to write a critical review of the Greek-English New Testament recently published by Crossway. After all, having worked for so long on the Greek side of this book it is hard feigning any measure of objectivity. I cannot take any credit for the design of this volume either. I ought to say, though, that since the beginning of the cooperation between Tyndale House and Crossway I have been pushing for this edition; it is a tool that serves more purposes than just being a help for those people who could use the support that a facing English text offers when reading the Greek.
The text is laid out in such a way that every opening shows the Greek on the left hand page and the English on the right. The Greek pages are unaltered in layout when compared to the standard THGNT edition and consequently also include the small apparatus of that edition. This means that the English side has been carefully adjusted to fit alongside the Greek. All the subheadings and typographical conventions of the normal ESV are retained too. Normally the Greek takes slightly more space than the English counterpart.
I would like to point out three things that struck me when reading through. Firstly, the ways in which the ESV and THGNT handle citations from the Old Testament are different. The Greek side does not mark these out in any way (at least not yet), though there is a long Christian manuscript tradition of doing this by placing tiny wedge-shaped markings ‘>’ in the margin of a line where OT text is cited (these signs are called diplai; singular diple [pronounced dipleh]).
On the English side the situation is different, and mixed. So, on page 636 – 637 (Romans 14:10 – 15:5) the first citation (14:11) is given two indented lines; the second (15:3) is not set apart in any way. The marking of citations typographically have always helped me to find a place more quickly, but by using something like a ‘block quote’ it suggest that the way the New Testament uses the Old is the same way a term paper might cite a source. And yes, there are overlaps, but there are also differences.
Secondly, still sticking with the same pages (636 – 637), the only ‘divisions’ in the flow of the text on the Greek side are paragraphs, yet the English has both paragraphs and subheadings. And though the paragraph divisions are in general near to one another (though more frequent in the Greek), they are also different. Take for example Romans 14:12-13. On the Greek side this is a single paragraph with a new one starting at 14:14. In the English 14:13 starts not just a new paragraph, but even a new section with its own heading ‘Do Not Cause Another to Stumble’. That means that the flow of the text, the way we move from one sentence to the next and from one thought to the following, is quite different. Is one better than the other? Probably yes, but what is more, having the Greek and the English next to one another forces us to consider the question of how we divide the text up for preaching and teaching. And to go with the division the English translation presents, may just be the lazy option.
Finally, we do not need to be told that our English New Testament is a translation from the Greek. We all know this. Yet to see the Greek and English side by side drives this notion home in a way that separate books do not. Both the source and translation are in the same field of view. The first ‘follows’ (physically and conceptually) the second. When our eyes go back and forth we see the tiny differences in nuance between the two (did you spot the καί – ‘also’ at the beginning of Romans 15:3?) And we celebrate the fact that we have a translation, just as having a translation works a certain humility in us. We also celebrate the transparency of putting the translation next to the Greek. The Greek side says at verse 14:21 ‘your brother to stumble or be hindered or be weakened’, the English side has the final two phrases only in a footnote (‘Some manuscripts add or be hindered or be weakened’). Life is complex, sometimes Bible reading is too. We should not attempt to hide this complexity. Neither is this a reason to skeptical and relativist, saying that we simply cannot know anything at all.
The Greek-English edition is a beautiful statement about what our New Testament Scripture truly is. A statement both to the folk in the church and to those just visiting. I believe that every church where the ESV is used by at least some of its attendees ought to have one available for use. For the seasoned believer to see the two texts together, for the visitor to declare our transparency, for the youngster to ignite their curiosity.