Major Critical Texts of the New Testament
Byz RP: 2005 Byzantine Greek New Testament, Robinson & Pierpont
TR1550: 1550 Stephanus New Testament
Maj: The Majority Text (thousands of minuscules which display a similar text)
Gries: 1774-1775 Johann Jakob Griesbach Greek New Testament
Treg: 1857-1879 Samuel Prideaux Tregelles Greek New Testament
Tisch: 1872 Tischendorf’s Greek New Testament
WH: 1881 Westcott-Hort Greek New Testament
NA28: 2012 Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament
UBS5: 2014 Greek New Testament
NU: Both Nestle-Aland and the United Bible Society
TGNT: 2017 The Greek New Testament by Tyndale House
ACTS 20:28 1881 (WH-NU) [CE]
28 προσέχετε ἑαυτοῖς καὶ παντὶ τῷ ποιμνίῳ, ἐν ᾧ ὑμᾶς τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον ἔθετο ἐπισκόπους, ποιμαίνειν τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ θεοῦ, …
ACTS 20:28 1550 Stephanus New Testament (TR1550)
28 προσέχετε οὖν, ἑαυτοῖς καὶ παντὶ τῷ ποιμνίῳ, ἐν ᾧ ὑμᾶς τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον ἔθετο ἐπισκόπους, ποιμαίνειν τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ θεοῦ, …
Acts 20:28 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the congregation of God, ...
Acts 20:28 King James Version (KJV)
8 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God …
TR WH NU TGNT τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ θεοῦ
“the church of God”
א B 614. 1175. 1505 vg syr boms; Cyr
Variant 1 την εκκλησιαν του κυριου
“the church of the Lord”
P74 A C* D E Ψ 33. 453. 945. 1739. 1891. 2818 gig p syhmg co; Irlat Lcf
Variant 2 την εκκλησιαν του κυριου και του θεου
“the church of the Lord and God”
C3 L 323. 1241 Maj
The convincing evidence for original wording is “the church of God,” which is found in some of the best manuscripts and diverse witnesses (א B 614. 1175. 1505 vg syr boms; Cyr). This reading is found in the TR NA28, UBS5, and TGNT and almost all English translations. The variant 1 reading “the church of the Lord” has weighty manuscript support as well, which is supported by (P74 A C* D E Ψ 33. 453. 945. 1739. 1891. 2818 gig p syhmg co; Irlat Lcf). The variant 2 reading “the church of the Lord and God” is clearly a conflated reading of the two earliest readings, which is supported by (C3 L 323. 1241 Maj). “The church of God” is found eleven times, all by the Apostle Paul, and Luke, the writer of Acts, who was Paul’s traveling companion.
The textual criticism principle of what reading led to the other will be discussed in two parts. There is no doubt that variant 3 is simply a conflation (a combination of variant 1 and variant 2). If “the church of the Lord” is the original reading, it could be that a copyist familiar with Paul made the change to “the church of God.” On the other hand, if “the church of God” is the original reading, there is the slight chance that a copyist was influenced by the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint), and changed it to “the church of the Lord.”
However, our other principle of textual criticism, ‘the more difficult reading is to be preferred’ (more difficult to understand), seems to be most helpful. This principle is also related to ‘the reading that led to the other,’ as the copyist would have moved to an easier reading. The reason being is that it was the tendency of scribes to make difficult readings easier to understand. There is no doubt that “the church of God” is the most difficult reading. Why? The following clause, which will be dealt with in another article could have been taken as “which he purchased with his own blood.” This would almost certainly cause pause for any copyist, asking himself, ‘does God have blood?’ Thus, the original was “the church of God,” which was changed to “the church of the Lord,” because the idea of saying ‘God had blood’ would have been repugnant. All things being considered (internal and external evidence), the correct reading is “the church of God.”
Kenneth O. Gangel on Acts 20:25-31,
20:25–28a. Whether Paul had in mind his death (of which he had just spoken), or the fact that his future ministry plans did not include a return to the Aegean, Luke does not tell us. For whatever reason, the apostle was quite convinced he would not see the Ephesian leaders again. The possibility exists that Paul actually did return to Asia after the first Roman imprisonment (2 Tim. 4), but even if that is an accurate conclusion, it does not change what Paul felt and said on this occasion.
Like Ezekiel as watchman (Ezek. 33:1–6), Paul sounded the alarm and thereby delivered himself from any responsibility for those who have heard his gospel. He has proclaimed the whole will of God, an interesting phrase which probably includes the basic message of the gospel and additional teaching by which Paul sought to build up believers in the faith.
Now these overseers (episkopoi), these bishops, have a responsibility to guard themselves and the flock. Most scholars hold the words presbuteros and episkopos to be synonymous in the New Testament, making elder and bishop (overseer) the same office. Polhill, however, sees a distinction in this particular context: “The Ephesian leaders were not designated as bishops but rather as elders who functioned to ‘watch over the flock of God.’ This image of the leaders as shepherds of God’s flock permeates all of vv. 28–30 and is a common biblical theme” (Polhill, 427). Some have suggested that the term “elder” focuses on dignity, whereas the term “overseer” emphasizes duty, but such distinctions seem unnecessary.
20:28b–30. Not only do the elders guard the flock; they shepherd the church of God. The metaphor of a sheepfold appears often in Scripture (Jer. 23:2; Ezek. 34:12–16; Zech. 10:3; 11:4–17; John 10:1–18; 21:15–17; 1 Pet. 2:25; 5:2).
The second part of verse 28 uses a very curious expression which seems to indicate that the Father bought the redemption of the church with his own blood. Since the trinitarian Godhead is a unity, one could argue that the blood of the Father is the same as the blood of the Son, but that would be a very unusual New Testament expression. Grammatically, we can possibly render the last phrase “which he bought with the blood of his own,” thereby emphasizing the “beloved son” motif of John.
Acts has emphasized the resurrection, not the cross, but this verse makes it clear that the atonement never strayed far from the minds of Paul or Luke. Enemies of the gospel will arise from both outside and inside the congregation, a prediction which quite literally came true (1 Tim. 1:3; 2 Tim. 1:15; Rev. 2:1–7).
20:31. Guard the flock; shepherd the flock; warn the flock. The church can resist false teaching in direct proportion to its knowledge of and dedication to the Scripture. Paul had constantly warned against false doctrine, and now that responsibility would fall to the elders. Polhill writes:
By the second century Asia was a virtual seedbed for Christian heresy. Paul’s warning was thus timely and essential. It is not by chance that this section both opens and closes with an exhortation to vigilance (vv. 28, 31), and Paul’s reference to his three-year ministry with the Ephesians was not just a reminder of his warnings but also an appeal to be faithful to the sound teachings he had brought them (cf. 20:20f.) (Polhill, 428).
 Kenneth O. Gangel, Acts, vol. 5, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 342–343.
Variant Reading(s): differing versions of a word or phrase found in two or more manuscripts within a variation unit (see below). Variant readings are also called alternate readings.
Variation Unit: any portion of text that exhibits variations in its reading between two or more different manuscripts. It is important to distinguish variation units from variant readings. Variation units are the places in the text where manuscripts disagree, and each variation unit has at least two variant readings. Setting the limits and range of a variation unit is sometimes difficult or even controversial because some variant readings affect others nearby. Such variations may be considered individually, or as elements of a single reading. One should also note that the terms “manuscript” and “witness” may appear to be used interchangeably in this context. Strictly speaking “witness” (see below) will only refer to the content of a given manuscript or fragment, which it predates to a greater or lesser extent. However, the only way to reference the “witness” is by referring to the manuscript or fragment that contains it. In this book, we have sometimes used the terminology “witness of x or y manuscript” to distinguish the content in this way.
If we have the original words, we, in essence, have the original and; therefore, do not need the original documents.
Textual Criticism: the art and science (some would say only art) of determining the original text from variant readings exhibited by extant manuscripts.
TERMS AS TO HOW WE SHOULD OBJECTIVELY VIEW THE DEGREE OF CERTAINTY FOR THE READING ACCEPTED AS THE ORIGINAL
The modal verbs are might have been (30%), may have been (40%), could have been (55%), would have been (80%), must have been (95%), which are used to show that we believe the originality of a reading is certain, probable or possible.
The letter [WP] stands for Weak Possibility (30%), which indicates that this is a low-level proof that the reading might have been original in that it is enough evidence to accept that the variant might have been possible, but it is improbable. We can say the reading might have been original, as there is some evidence that is derived from manuscripts that carry very little weight, early versions, or patristic quotations.
The letter [P] stands for Plausible (40%), which indicates that this is a low-level proof that the reading may have been original in that it is enough to accept a variant to be original and we have enough evidence for our belief. The reading may have been original but it is not probably so.
The letter [PE] stands for Preponderance of Evidence (55%), which indicates that this is a higher-level proof that the reading could have been original in that it is enough to accept as such unless another reading emerges as more probable.
The letter [CE] stands for Convincing Evidence (80%), which indicates that the evidence is an even higher-level proof that the reading surely was the original in that the evidence is enough to accept it as substantially certain unless proven otherwise.
The letter [BRD] stands for Beyond Reasonable Doubt (95%), which indicates that this is the highest level of proof: the reading must have been original in that there is no reason to doubt it. It must be understood that feeling as though we have no reason to doubt is not the same as one hundred percent absolute certainty.
NOTE: This system is borrowed from the criminal just legal terms of the United States of America, the level of certainty involved in the use of modal verbs, and Bruce Metzger in his A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (London; New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), who borrowed his system from Johann Albrecht Bengel in his edition of the Greek New Testament (Tübingen, 1734). In addition, the percentages are in no way attempting to be explicit but rather they are nothing more than a tool to give the non-textual scholar a sense of the degree of certainty. However, this does not mean the percentages are not reflective of the certainty.
- B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek: Appendix (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1882)
- Bruce Manning Metzger, United Bible Societies, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th Rev. Ed.) (London; New York: United Bible Societies, 1994),
- Eberhard Nestle and Erwin Nestle, Nestle-Aland: NTG Apparatus Criticus, ed. Barbara Aland et al., 28. revidierte Auflage. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012).
- Dirk Jongkind, ed., The Greek New Testament: Apparatus (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017).
- Dirk Jongkind, ed., The Greek New Testament (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), Matt. 6:8.
- Eberhard Nestle and Erwin Nestle, Nestle-Aland: Novum Testamentum Graece, ed. Barbara Aland et al., 28. revidierte Auflage. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012)
- The NET Bible. Garland, TX: Biblical Studies Press, 2006
- Philip Wesley Comfort, A COMMENTARY ON THE MANUSCRIPTS AND TEXT OF THE NEW TESTAMENT (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2015).
- Philip W. Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary: Commentary on the Variant Readings of the Ancient New Testament Manuscripts and How They Relate to the Major English Translations (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008).
- Philip Wesley Comfort and David P. Barrett, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2001)
- Wallace B., Daniel (n.d.). Retrieved from The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts: http://csntm.org/
- Wilker, Wieland (n.d.). Retrieved from An Online Textual Commentary on the Greek Gospels: http://www.willker.de/wie/TCG/index.html
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