Text & Canon Project

Tregelles’s Greek New Testament
TNT and TNT2

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The text of Tregelles’s edition

Tregelles describes the method that he used to determine which reading was most likely to be original with the term 'comparative criticism'. Much emphasis is laid on the age of the witness, so that ancient manuscripts carry more weight than the more recent ones and that ancient testimony to a certain reading, such as in the case of a citation by a church father, is equally relevant. Likewise, a more recent manuscript can well testify to an ancient text if it contains demonstrably old readings. Tregelles writes often about 'the facts' of manuscript readings and 'the evidence' they offer. This emphasis on 'facts' and 'evidence' leads him to reject any notion of deliberate recension in the history of the transmission of the New Testament. A number of scholars before Tregelles argued that one or more of the text-forms found their origin in a recension of one particular church father. Tregelles acknowledges that there are 'groups', or 'families' of manuscripts but still maintains that these groups are very difficult to demarcate and, therefore, the existence of a single point of origin of such group remains unproven. Tregelles deliberately rejects the notion that one first needs to have a theory of the history of transmission in order to establish the text of the New Testament. In this sense, the work of Westcott and Hort from only a few years later operates on radically different principles.

 

This emphasis on the evidence leads at times to surprising choices. The choice of the reading ἔχωμεν instead of ἔχομεν in Romans 5:1 may not be a great surprise, but his choice of the reading ὡς καὶ ἐν τῷ πρώτῳ ψαλμῷ γέγραπται ('as it is also written in the first psalm') in Acts 13:33 may have raised eyebrows. The citation that follows is clearly from Psalm 2 as is also found in most of the Greek manuscript tradition. Tregelles follows here the most ancient testimony he can find: Codex Bezae from the fifth century supplemented with the third century support from the church father Origen.

 

Traces of Tregelles’s actual work practice

Tregelles used a series of identical printings of the then standard text of the Greek New Testament (the Textus Receptus) as the basis for his collation of manuscripts and ascertaining the text of his edition. It is almost inevitable to avoid errors caused by this base text shining through, and these are particularly visible in the errors of the printed edition. So we find, for example, that Tregelles prints in Matthew 6:16 the phrase μὴ γίνεσθε ὥς οἱ ὑποκριταὶ σκυθρωποί ('do not look gloomy like the hypocrites'). The word ὥς would normally not take an accent (and if it took an accent if would have to be a grave rather than acute), but if we realise that the base text reads the word ὥσπερ at this place then the presence of the accent becomes understandable: ὥς is a relic of the previous (and correctly accented) ὥσπερ. Similarly in Matthew 26:53, Ἀπόστρεψόν τὴν μάχαιραν σου ('Put your sword back'). The possessive pronoun σου stands in the Textus Receptus right after ἀπόστρεψον and, as it is an enclitic, causes it to be written ἀπόστρεψόν. However, now that σου stands after μάχαιραν the correct accentuation of this phrase should have been Ἀπόστρεψον τὴν μάχαιράν σου. The pronoun changed place but the accents did not follow. And in Luke 19:41 we find the conflated reading ἐπ᾽ αὐτῄν, a combination of the reading of the Textus Receptus, ἐπ᾽ αὐτῇ, and the reading Tregelles must have preferred, ἐπ᾽ αὐτήν.