How is the SBLGNT Apparatus Different from Other Apparatuses?

by Rick Brannan

Textual apparatuses can be excellent tools. They do an incredible job of densely packing a large amount of information into a small portion of the printed page. They contain information that is incredibly valuable to the specialist. But the compact nature, abbreviations and symbols take time and effort to master.

The apparatus for the SBLGNT is different. Using a minimum amount of symbols and abbreviations, it gathers some of the most well known textual critics of the past and present (Tregelles, Westcott and Hort, Robinson and Pierpont, those responsible for the Greek text behind the NIV, and those responsible for the NA27/UBS4 text) and records where they agree and where they take different readings. In this way, it is very similar to the apparatus that the Nestle text had for its first twelve editions (1898–1927).

The editions represented in the SBLGNT apparatus form a rough spectrum from Robinson-Pierpont as a representative of the Byzantine text, to Tregelles which, while pre-papyri, was one of the first to break from the Byzantine, to Westcott and Hort (including the great uncials but little papyri) to the NIV Greek text and the NA text which have the benefit of available papyri. The sorts of differences that end up in the SBLGNT apparatus are:

  • Likely to be represented in an English translation. The KJV, of course, uses a more Byzantine Greek source. The NIV and NA do not. Several other NT translations (ESV, NLT, NET, etc.) actually have their own underlying Greek text with some degree of difference from the NA27, most of the divergences in those would also be accounted for with readings given in the SBLGNT. This range of information gives the person preaching/teaching/exegeting the passage familiarity with options their pupils or parishioners may have represented in their translations.
  • Given the "spectrum" of the editions, the variant info might quickly point out some more interesting variants. If the SBLGNT agrees with Westcott and Hort, Tregelles, and NIV/NA but disagrees with Robinson-Pierpont, it is likely a pretty standard difference with the Byzantine text. But if the SBLGNT's chosen reading is only present in Robinson-Pierpont or Tregelles then it might be more interesting and worth a deeper look into the specialist-oriented materials such as the UBS or NA apparatuses, technical commentaries such as ICC or Word Biblical Commentary, the Editio Critica Maior, Tischendorf, Comfort & Barrett, and the like.

No one apparatus is perfect for everyone. The NA27 apparatus gives manuscript-level information to those who require it. The UBS4 apparatus is geared towards translators. The SBLGNT apparatus complements these functions, pointing out readings of interest for further research, instead of competing with them.