As the word of God “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), sustaining the consequences of human nature (albeit “without sin”, according to Hebrews 4:15), in this way also the words of the Son and Logos of God taking the form of human language and being written down in manuscripts sustained the consequences of human weakness. The frequently tired copyists of the manuscripts (monks or people living in the world) sometimes made errors unconsciously, while at other times they consciously “improved” the text on the basis of their own philological knowledge.
Nevertheless, the above theological position towards the imperfections of the manuscripts neither excuses nor justifies the negligence or indifference of contemporary editors of the New Testament. Neither does it constitute a reason for us today to avoid a serious occupation with the publication of a carefully studied text of the Holy Scriptures with its variant readings which constitute a part of the ecclesiastical tradition. A critical edition of the ecclesiastical text is not useless scholasticism, but it is an expression of our love for the word of God.
There is an urgent need today for a new edition of the New Testament—a critical edition at this time—100 years and more after the first basic edition by the Ecumenical Patriarchate which was created without a critical apparatus (apparatus criticus) of the ecclesiastical or liturgical text of the New Testament (i.e. the Byzantine text as referred to by foreign scholars). This new edition will consider as many manuscripts as possible. In other words, it will have a broader basis of manuscripts that did the 1904 edition.
If the Church during the centuries has occupied itself with the copying of the manuscripts, with the reconstruction of the biblical text (as an example I would like to mention the critical work done by Lucian of Antioch, the presbyter and martyr, in the 4th century), if the Church has adorned some manuscripts with beautiful iconographic illuminations (µικρογραφίες), with ornate decorations of the capital letter beginning paragraphs (αρχικά γράµµατα), and with creatively shaped designs (επίτιτλα), and has shown its concern with manuscripts in every way, why would the Church not be in a position today to proceed with an edition of the New Testament with scholarly specifications and, above all, with a uniform text?
Ioannis D. KARAVIDOPOULOS
Professor Emeritus, University of Thessaloniki Greece
Sacra Scripta X, 1 (2012)