UBS5 Greek New Testament Overview

I recently purchased a copy of the 5th edition of the United Bible Societies Greek New Testament, commonly called UBS5.[1] The primary changes in this new edition track with the changes made in NA28,[2] although there are some that are particular to features of this text.[3]

  1. Readings from Papyri 117–127 are now cited. This makes the UBS5 along with NA28 the most up-to-date critical editions of the Greek New Testament, incorporating the most recent discoveries in manuscript evidence.
  2. The Catholic Epistles now incorporate readings from the Editio Critica Maior, a new critical edition of the Greek New Testament published by the INTF,[4] just as NA28 does. The distinction here is that with the Editio Critica Maior the INTF is shifting to a new method for the evaluation of textual evidence, the coherence-based genealogical method. Although the INTF has for years been at the vanguard in textual criticism research, the jury is still out on the theories and outcomes of this method.
  3. Several modern Bible versions are now listed when their translations accept a variant reading instead of the text reading of the UBS5. English, French, Spanish, and German translations are represented. When they disagree with the UBS5, their abbreviation will be listed at the end of the textual problem. This is a helpful addition, as comparison between Bible versions can be a helpful way to compare textual (and exegetical) decisions. The English Bible translations represented are the Good News Bible (1992), the New International Version (1984), the New Revised Standard Version (1989), and the Revised English Bible (1989). I would love to see this feature expanded to include other versions, like the NET Bible.
  4. Editions of the UBS text prior to the fourth included a punctuation apparatus, which highlighted differences in punctuation important for interpretation in different Greek texts and modern translations. In the fourth edition the editors changed this to a discourse segmentation apparatus, in keeping with advances made in discourse analysis, which dealt with structural organization of the text at the clause and sentence level but also at the paragraph and section level. This has been thoroughly revised in this edition.

The difference between these two editions has normally been discussed in terms of intended audience: Broadly speaking, the Nestle-Aland text is appropriate for scholars and the UBS text is appropriate for translators. With the advances in the UBS text, though, this may no longer be the best way to describe the differences. Many of the features of UBS5 would be very appropriate for exegesis, not only translation. For years the NT department at DTS required the UBS text for first year Greek students and then the Nestle-Aland text for second year and beyond. We recently started to require only the Nestle-Aland text because it began to be available with an included dictionary. After spending some time with UBS5, I’m beginning to wonder if for teaching exegesis UBS5 might be the better choice. The NA28 would still be more appropriate for those who are studying textual criticism more in-depth.

  1. Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, and Bruce Metzger, eds., The Greek New Testament (5th ed. prepared by the Institute for New Testament Textual Research under the direction of Holger Strutwolf; Stuttgart: German Bible Society, American Bible Society, and United Bible Societies, 2014).  ↩

  2. Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, and Bruce M. Metzger, eds., Novum Testamentum Graece (28th ed. in cooperation with the Institute for New Testament Textual Research; Stuttgart: German Bible Society, 2012).  ↩

  3. For a helpful comparison of the differences between NA28 and UBS5, see this page.  ↩

  4. INTF stands for Institut für Neutestamentliche Textforschung, the German name for this organization. In English it is called the Institute for New Testament Textual Research.  ↩