Let us not forget that critical editions of the Greek New Testament comprise an artificial text. These editions are the result—on the basis of scientific principles—of a large portion of manuscripts (geographically and chronologically), but such editions have never been read in the liturgical life of the church. Conversely, the so-called Byzantine text, that which we have referred to repeatedly in this paper as the “liturgical” or “ecclesiastical” text, has been read for many centuries (and is still being read) during the liturgical assemblies of the Orthodox Church primarily in Greek speaking areas, but also in many other lands (however, not in all) by translation into local languages.
3. Should one look at scholarly production in the field of the biblical studies in Greece after World War II, i.e. during the second half of the 20th century, one will notice a huge bibliographic explosion, but a very limited number of studies on New Testament textual criticism. This could be explained by the fact that the needs of post-war Greece were so numerous and of such nature that they justified the priority of theological and exegetical studies. Today, however, since we find ourselves in early 21st century we can verify that “the time has come near” to give due consideration to the area of textual criticism after so much progress has already been made in all other areas of biblical studies. Specifically, a critical edition of the ecclesiastical text is imperative.
In my opinion, the characteristics of this edition should be the following:
- The well-known Ecumenical Patriarchate’s 1904 edition should serve the base text for the aforementioned edition.
b. The manuscripts upon which the edition is to be based for the improvement of the text i.e. the choice of the most prevalent readings and of the critical apparatus (the so-called apparatus criticus) will certainly be more than the 116 manuscripts that were used for the 1904 edition and they will represent more geographical areas.
- Not only the collaboration of specialists who are Greek will be required (the number of whom is extremely limited), but also collaboration with international research centres, such as The Institute for New Testament Textual Research in Münster, Germany; The Centre for Editing of Religious Texts atthe University of Birmingham, United Kingdom; and probably other such centres so that the great experience of the aforementioned research centres can be utilized.
d. It is more than obvious that such a scholarly enterprise cannot be based merely on the good will of Greek and foreign biblical scholars (which is certainly well known), but it requires generous financial support primarily from the Church for obtaining the necessary technological-electronic infrastructure, for copies of Byzantine manuscripts, for the remuneration of the researchers, and for other needs essential to the project.
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I do not, however, wish to conclude this article with financial issues, which are certainly essential. I wish to do so with a theological remark.
The Church has journeyed through history for twenty centuries, producing theology and creating civilisation with important works of art. It confronted heresies on the one hand, while on the other it nourished its members with hymns, rituals of worship, and teachings, leading them to holiness. All these have been accomplished despite any kind of differences among biblical manuscripts, despite the omissions and imperfections of copyists, and despite the errors occurring later in printed editions.