The New Testament in the Original Greek

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The New Testament in the Original Greek is the name of a Greek-language version of the New Testament published in 1881. It is also known as the Westcott and Hort text, after its editors Brooke Foss Westcott (18251901) and Fenton John Anthony Hort (18281892). It is a critical text, compiled from some of the oldest New Testament fragments and texts that had been discovered at the time. The two editors worked together for 28 years.

Westcott and Hort state: "[It is] our belief that even among the numerous unquestionably spurious readings of the New Testament there are no signs of deliberate falsification of the text for dogmatic purposes."[1]

According to Hort, "Knowledge of Documents should precede Final Judgments upon Readings". Two manuscripts were favoured by Westcott and Hort: Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. They also believed that the combination of Codex Bezae with the Old Latin and the Old Syriac represents the original form of the New Testament text, especially when it is shorter than other forms of the text, such as the majority of the Byzantine text-type,[2] as one of the primary principles of their fledgling textual criticism was lectio brevior, sometimes taken to an extreme, such as in the theory of Western non-interpolations, which has since been rejected.[3]


WH edition

Westcott and Hort distinguished four text types in their studies. The most recent is Syrian, or Byzantine text-type, of which the newest example (thus from their false critical text view less reliable) is the Textus Receptus. The Western text-type is supposedly much older, but tends to paraphrase, so according to them also lacks dependability. The Alexandrian text-type, exemplified in the Codex Ephraemi, exhibits a polished Greek style. The two scholars identified their favorite text type as "Neutral text", exemplified by the two 4th century manuscripts codex Vaticanus (known to scholars since the 15th century) and Codex Sinaiticus (discovered only in 1859), both of which they relied on heavily but not exclusively for this edition. This text has only a few changes of the original.[4] This edition is based on the critical works especially of Tischendorf and Tregelles.[4]

Westcott and Hort worked on their Testament from 1853 until its completion in 1881.[5] It was followed by an Introduction and Appendix by Hort appearing in a second volume in 1882. In 1892, a revised edition was released by F. C. Burkitt.


The edition of Westcott and Hort began a new epoch in the history of textual criticism.[4]

All critical editions published after Westcott and Hort closely follow the text of The New Testament in the Original Greek with the exception of the text edited by Hermann von Soden. Soden's edition stands much closer to the text of Tischendorf than to the text of Westcott and Hort. All editions of Nestle-Aland remain close in textual character to the text WH. Aland reports that, while NA25 text shows, for example, 2,047 differences from von Soden, 1,996 from Vogels, 1,268 from Tischendorf, 1,161 from Bover, and 770 from Merk, it contains only 558 differences from WH text.[6]

According to Bruce M. Metzger, "the general validity of their critical principles and procedures is widely acknowledged by scholars today."[7] In 1981 Metzger said:

“The international committee that produced the United Bible Societies Greek New Testament, not only adopted the Westcott and Hort edition as its basic text, but followed their methodology in giving attention to both external and internal consideration”.[8]

Philip Comfort gave this opinion:

The text produced by Westcott and Hort is still to this day, even with so many more manuscript discoveries, a very close reproduction of the primitive text of the New Testament. Of course, I think they gave too much weight to Codex Vaticanus alone, and this needs to be tempered. This criticism aside, the Westcott and Hort text is extremely reliable. (...) In many instances where I would disagree with the working in the Nestle / UBS text in favor of a particular variant reading, I would later check with the Westcott and Hort text and realize that they had often come to the same decision. (...) Of course, the manuscript discoveries of the past one hundred years have changed things, but it is remarkable how often they have affirmed the decisions of Westcott and Hort.[9]

Other editions of Greek New Testament

The text of Nestle-Aland, and the texts of Bover and Merk, differs very little from the text of the Westcott-Hort.[10]

See also


  • 1. Brooke Foss Westcott, Fenton John Anthony Hort, The New Testament in the Original Greek: Introduction, Appendix, p. 282.
  • 2. Aland, Kurt; and Barbara Aland; Erroll F. Rhodes (trans.) (1995). The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans. p. 236.
  • 3. Aland, Kurt and Barbara. The Text of the New Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1995, p. 33
  • 4. H. Schumacher, A Handbook of Scripture Study (B. Herder Book Co.: St. Louis-London 1923), p. 53.
  • 5. Metzger, Bruce M.; Ehrman, Bart D. (2005). The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration. New York – Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 174. ISBN 978-0-19-516122-9.
  • 6. K. Aland & B. Aland, Text of the New Testament, pp. 26-30.
  • 7. Bruce M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, p. 136.
  • 8. B. M. Metzger, cited by James Brooks, Bible Interpreters of the 20th century, p. 264.
  • 9. Philip Comfort, Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism, (Nashville, 2005), p. 100.
  • 10. Robert Waltz

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