A Reader’s Greek New Testament, 2nd Edition (Review)

RGNT2.jpgGoodrich, Richard J. and Albert L. Lukaszewski, eds.

A Reader’s Greek New Testament, 2nd ed.

Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007. Pp. 575. Leather. $34.99.

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With thanks to Chris Fann at Zondervan for this review copy!

One Amazon reviewer opined with regard to the RGNT2:

For the money this is great — in fact for the money I’d give it 4.5 stars — but you’re much better off, assuming it’s within your budget, applying the price of this volume to the UBS Reader’s edition. There’s no comparison between the two.

Although I understand the sentiment, I ultimately disagree.  These are certainly comparable products and because a reader’s budget is a factor, one will probably be more suited to some than the other.  Having already reviewed the UBS Greek New Testament: A Reader’s Edition (UBSRE) I will approach this review in a comparative manner.  The features I outlined in that review will be outlined in this as well, with a conclusion as to which resource wins the day in each category and then in overall usefulness.

The Text

The same reviewer lamented that the RGNT2 doesn’t use the “standard text” (UBS4/NA27) but surely this is not grounds for criticism.  The introduction clearly states:

The Greek text presented in A Reader’s Greek New Testament is the ecclectic text that underpins the Today’s New International Version. . . .The critical apparatus included with modern versions of the Greek New Testament alerts the reader to the possibility of other readings. One of the preliminary tasks of any translator is to review the variants found in a source text. The Committee on Bible Translation (the body responsible for the translation of the NIV) subjected the Standard Text to a critical review, and somewhat unsurprisingly, their independent scholarship led them to favor different readings in the case of selected variants. [p. 9-10]

I can be no more disappointed that the RGNT2 differs from the UBS4/NA27 than I can be that the UBS4/NA27 differ from the Westcott-Hort GNT.  This is a welcome addition to my ever-growing library of GNT texts, as it shows the weight that certain scholars felt certain variants held in their composition of an ecclectic text.  The more the merrier I say!  I would also add that there are footnotes in the places where the RGNT2 differs from the UBS4/NA27 which makes for easy cross-referencing.

Main Features

  • Footnoted definitions of all Greek words occurring 30 times or less
  • Mini-lexicon of all words occurring more than 30 times
  • Greek text underlying Today’s New International Version
  • Footnotes offering comparisons with UBS4
  • 4 pages of full-color maps

Aesthetic Features

I can’t express how much I love the look of this Bible.

  • Designer box (pictured above)
  • Beautiful burgundy Italian Duo-tone cover
  • Burgundy ribbon marker
  • Sewn binding which allows the Bible to lay flat in your hand or on your desk
  • Ultra-thin paper (with gilded edges) making it a very slim volume

Generally, bleedthrough is a problem with Bibles that use ultra-thin paper, but not so in this volume because the Greek font used is rather thin, a little too thin if you ask me.  Having seen the difference between the font used in the first edition and the font used in this edition (pictured on the back of the box) I would say that this is an improvement, but only slightly so.  I’ve never been one to complain about italicized Greek fonts (which the first edition employed).  Size-wise, I prefer RGNT2 over the UBSRE because it’s much lighter and only about half as thick.  It has a much better feel in your hand as well, and lends itself to travel much better than the UBSRE in my opinion.


Photo by Rick Mansfield

Functionality

My comments on the functionality of the UBSRE can be equally applied to the RGNT2.  With the amount of vocabulary I have memorized, this makes reading the GNT much easier since it lists the words I’m not familiar with in the apparatus.  But concerning the apparatus I will express some disappointment with the layout.  For starters, it appears in paragraph form.  This makes it harder than it has to be to pick out the gloss you’re looking for.  In this area I much preferred the “itemized” (for lack of a better term) layout of the UBSRE.

I also found it strange that it listed words that appear more than once in a given passage with separate footnotes for each.  This can’t even be explained by the context denoting different uses of the word, as in some cases the glosses are exactly the same.  E.g., the noun κλέπτης in John 10:1 and 10:10 is glossed in the apparatus both times as: “κλέπτης, ου, ὁ, thief” under different footnotes (3 & 15 respectively). [p. 224]  The UBSRE on the other hand defines it in only its first use [p. 277].  Had the RGNT2 followed this approach it would have saved the mistake in Matthew 12:31 where βλασφημία appears twice and is footnoted twice (60 & 61 respectively), but the gloss for the second occurence is actually the gloss for δένδρον in Matthew 12:33 which was also numbered as 61 in the footnotes [p. 44].

But the UBSRE is not without its peculiarities, and it was only by comparing it with the RGNT2 that I was able to notice some of them.  One thing that jumped out at me was the fact that the verb ἐγένετο appears 162 times in the UBS4/NA27, yet it is inconsistently footnoted in the apparatus of the UBSRE.  For example, of the 13 times this verb appears in Matthew, it is footnoted in:

  • Mat. 7:28 [p. 20]
  • Mat. 9:10 [p. 24]
  • Mat. 11:1 [p. 30]
  • Mat. 26:1 [p. 79]

But not in:

  • Mat. 8:24, 26 [p. 22]
  • Mat. 11:26 [p. 32]
  • Mat. 13:53 [p. 42]
  • Mat. 17:2 [p. 51]
  • Mat. 19:1 [p. 56]
  • Mat. 21:42 [p. 65]
  • Mat. 27:45 [p. 88]
  • Mat. 28:2 [p. 90]

The RGNT2 is consistent in not footnoting this verb throughout.  An example of where the RGNT2 should have had a footnote but didn’t (perhaps due to an oversight) is with the verb διαρπάσει which occures only twice in the NT (Mat. 12:29 & Mk. 3:27).  The RGNT2 has the footnote in Mark 3:27 but not in Matthew 12:29.  The case is reversed in the UBSRE where διαρπάσει is footnoted in Matthew 12:29 but not in Mark 3:27.

And the last area of functionality in the apparatus that I wish to comment on is the parsing (or lack thereof) in these two GNTs.  The RGNT2 unfortunately does not give parsing information in the apparatus (whereas the UBSRE does), although it does have various “definition tags” for words that “change their meaning depending on their syntactic function.” [p. 11]  I’ve found that the more detailed parsing information in the UBSRE is useful, but I have to question how necessary it is if the goal is simply reading the GNT.  Ultimately, it’s not a necessity for the goal of reading, but one can easily see the benefits it has in learning the language to the best of ones ability.

Finally, a word on the lexicons in each of these Bibles.  The RGNT2 has a six-page lexicon of all Greek words that appear more than 30 times in the GNT with very simple (usually one or two word) glosses.  The UBSRE has a twenty-two-page lexicon with fairly detailed definitions that outline the different possibilities depending on context.  The definitions in the RGNT2 are based on Warren Trenchard’s fantastic work The Complete Vocabulary Guide to the Greek New Testament, whereas the definitions in the UBSRE are based on Barclay Newman’s A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament.  I have to give the advantage to the UBSRE here.

Conclusion

I think that both the RGNT2 and the UBSRE will benefit the person seeking to simply read the New Testament in Greek equally.  In terms of look and feel, I prefer the RGNT2; this is the Bible I’d rather travel with.  In terms of apparatus I think the UBSRE wins the day.  It’s both easier to read and more informative.  But as I said in the beginning of this review, price is a factor.  The RGNT2 is much more affordable and so for those on a budget, I’d recommend it without hesitation.  If you have the money and can only get one, then I think the UBSRE would be the more beneficial of the two.  If money is no object then get both, because there’s enough difference between them to warrant owning one of each.  In the end I give the RGNT2 four stars4.0 out of 5 starswith hopes that subsequent editions will revise the apparatus to be easier to use and more appealing to the eye.

B”H

32 thoughts on “A Reader’s Greek New Testament, 2nd Edition (Review)

  1. Nick,

    Once again, another great review. I like that you’re including some extra visual elements in your reviews. It definitely gives it a little something extra. Keep up the good work.

  2. Regarding the fonts of the RGNT2 and the UBSRE, there appears to be quite a difference with the UBSRE coming across as being much more visible. Is the difference that great?

    Thanks.

  3. Stan: The difference is pretty pronounced. I think the font is too thin in the RGNT2. I have fairly poor eyesight so to read the RGNT2 I have to have it on the desk. Sitting in the same position, I can place the UBSRE on my lap and read it with the same amount of ease. I also think that the font in the USBRE is slightly larger in addition to being darker/bolder.

  4. Before I’m declared a winner could you help me find out if this would be as useful for me as someone else?

    I’m going through Mounce’s Greek for the Rest Of Us so at the end I’ll know the Greek alphabet (already), pronunciation and basic grammar. I’m not sure how much further I will go but I imagine I’d like to memorize some words.

    What’s the difference between this and an interlinear which I could definitely use?

    Jeff

  5. Jeff: These reader’s editions assume that the user knows all of the words in the GNT that occure more than 30 times. This is usually the extent of what is learned in a student’s first (or is it second?) year of Greek. All of the words that occur less than 30 times appear in the footnotes for easy reference when reading. The major difference between this and an interlinear is that this requires that you know some Greek coming in while the interlinear doesn’t.

  6. Nick,
    Thanks for your help. I prefer a larger, darker font so I think I’ll have to eventually go with the UBSRE. I say “eventually” because I’m not sure when I’ll get back to looking at the Greek.

    I had done a minimal amount of self-studying about 18 or so years ago. The alphabet is still in my mind and I find that I can still recognize a few words. Basically, I know enough to make reading commentaries a bit less grueling.

  7. Jeff: According to Mounce there are 313 words that occur 50 times or more [Basics of Biblical Greek, 18] but I’m not sure exactly how many occur more than 30 times. I suppose I could go through the lexicon in the back of the RGNT2 and count them out, but I don’t think I’ll be doing that. ;)

    Esteban: Sound advice, but remember, the winners must write a review for Amazon.com and their blogs. If Jeff doesn’t think he’ll be able to do that then I’ll have to give it to someone else. :(

  8. Alright folks, Jeff declined so there’s one more spot open. If you meet these conditions:

    (1) You must have a blog.
    (2) You must write a review to be published on both Amazon.com and your blog.
    (3) You must link to my review.

    Then you can be the next winner!

  9. I was torn. I think Esteban has more confidence in me that I do. I still feel firm about declining. There is no way I could do a respectable review of this book and at this point there is someone else out there who will benefit from it more than me. No sad face here.

    I think the rules are good.

    Nick, to use HCSB terminology, you’re such a slacker. Seriously, thanks for looking that up. I don’t think I’ll be learning over 300 words anytime soon.
    Jeff

  10. Jeff it’s actually a lot easier than it sounds and I think a book like this would help you since the words are contextual and from passages you probably already know. I think you should go for it and in fact I’d be interested in seeing how someone like you who is just starting out in learning Greek benefits from it.

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

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