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A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament - Metzger CD-ROM

Metzger, Bruce M., A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (2nd Edition), Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1994.

This work is a companion volume to the fourth edition of the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament (UBS4), published by the German Bible Society on behalf of the United Bible Societies early in 1993. It also makes a great companion to the Stuttgart Electronic Study Bible, which contains the critical apparatus of the NA27 Novum Testamentum Graece, and to Comfort & Barrett's Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts.

Benjamin Chapman, author of Greek New Testament Insert, says this of Metzger's Textual Commentary:

"One does not have to be a textual critic to benefit from the results of textual criticism. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, edited by Bruce M. Metzger, provides concise comments and explanations for the choices among variants made by the editorial committee that produced the United Bible Societies' The Greek New Testament. The Textual Commentary is in plain English and requires no technical skills of its readers. Every interpreter should at least open this book to his text and read the few paragraphs there concerning whatever variants may be involved."

Value of the Textual Commentary

Why is a book like Metzger's Textual Commentary valuable? The best answer to this question is to offer an example using the screenshot below (Fig. 1).

Consider James 2:20, which the KJV translates as: "But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" This same verse, in the ESV, reads: "Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?" Now, why the discrepancy? Why does the KJV use dead, and the ESV use useless? Does the Greek word there really have that variable of a meaning?

The Textual Commentary is a resource that can be used to answer this question.

Figure 1 — James 2:20 in Textual Commentary

Looking at the entry for James 2:20, we see immediately that the manuscript tradition of the KJV New Testament (the Textus Receptus) reads νεκρα, which is the Greek word for dead. We also see that several manuscripts agree with this tradition. The symbols here refer to Greek manuscripts. For instance, the Hebrew aleph represents Codex Sinaiticus, the A represents Codex Alexandrinus, C2 represents the second corrector's "hand" in Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, and so on. Each of these sigla are implemented as information popups, so one need only hover or click to get information on the manuscripts.

However, continuing on in the entry, we see that the editors of the UBS4/NA27 Greek New Testament have suspicions concerning the use of νεκρα. Metzger explains, "Since there is considerable suspicion that scribes may have introduced the latter word (i.e., νεκρα) from either ver. 17 or 26, the Committee preferred αργη ..." The manuscript evidence for this preference is laid out next, consisting of a number of other Greek manuscripts that support the reading of αργη. This is the word that the ESV translates as useless.

The Textual Commentary offers insight as to the considerations and internal dialogue of the Committee that produced the UBS4/NA27 Greek New Testament. Interestingly, for the set of critical readings (over 600) chosen for the edition, the user of this resource has at his fingertips what amounts to a commentary and explanation of the UBS4 apparatus. Instead of simply listing the variant evidence as the apparatus does, explanation is given. This explanation is what gives this resource value, and what makes it useable.

The example from James 2:20 is only one of many. Examine the entry for James 2:19 above, or perhaps the entry for James 3:9. The Textual Commentary is full of such insight and explanation, and as such is a valuable supplement to any reference library designed to assist exegetes and textual critics of the Greek New Testament.

Below are the prefaces to the first and second editions of the Textual Commentary, which explain more about the contents of the book and its purpose.



The present volume is designed to serve as a companion to the third edition of the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament (UBS3), edited by Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger, and Allen Wikgren.

One of the chief purposes of the commentary is to set forth the reasons that led the Committee, or a majority of the members of the Committee, to adopt certain variant readings for inclusion in the text and to relegate certain other readings to the apparatus. On the basis of a record of the voting of the Committee, as well as, for most sessions, more or less full notes of the discussions that preceded the voting, the present writer has sought to frame and express concisely (a) the main problem or problems involved in each set of variants and (b) the Committee's evaluation and resolution of those problems. In writing the commentary it was necessary not only to review what the Committee had done, but also to consult once again the several commentaries, concordances, synopses, lexicons, grammars, and similar reference works that had been utilized by members of the Committee during their discussions. More than once the record of the discussion proved to be incomplete because, amid the lively exchange of opinions, the Committee had come to a decision without the formal enunciation of those reasons that appeared at the time to be obvious or self-evident. In such cases it was necessary for the present writer to supplement, or even to reconstruct, the tenor of the Committee's discussions.

The general Introduction to the commentary includes an outline of the chief kinds of considerations that the Committee took into account in choosing among variant readings. By becoming acquainted with these criteria (pp. 10*-14*) the reader will be able to understand more readily the presuppositions that underlie the Committee's evaluations of the divergent readings.

In addition to the 1440 sets of variant readings supplied in the apparatus of the Bible Societies' edition, the selection of which was made chiefly on the basis of their exegetical importance to the translator and student, the Committee suggested that certain other readings also deserved discussion in the supplementary volume. The author has therefore included comments on about 600 additional sets of variant readings, scattered throughout the New Testament; the majority of them, it will be noted, occur in the book of Acts, which, because of its peculiar textual problems, seemed to demand special attention (see the Introduction to the book of Acts).

In the comments on the variant readings for which the text-volume supplies an apparatus, it was considered sufficient to cite merely the more important manuscript witnesses; the reader of the commentary will be able to supplement the partial citation of evidence by consulting the fuller apparatus in the text-volume. On the other hand, occasionally the discussion in the commentary supplements the apparatus in the text-volume by the citation of additional witnesses, a few of which were not known at the time of the Committee's work, and others of which had been deemed unimportant for citation in the apparatus. Since the present volume is designed to assist translators and students who may not have available an extensive library, the comments on the 600 additional sets of variant readings are accompanied by a more or less full citation of evidence, drawn from such standard apparatus critici as those of Tischendorf, von Soden, Nestle, Merk, Bover, Souter, Hoskier (for Revelation), and Wordsworth and White, as well as from editions of individual manuscripts.

The writing of the commentary was begun during 1964, when the author, on sabbatical leave from his usual academic duties, was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. During the following years, as the first draft of each major section was completed, it was circulated among the other members of the Committee to make certain that the comments reflected adequately the Committee's deliberations. Frequently it had happened that the members of the Committee differed in their evaluation of the textual evidence, and thus many readings were adopted on the basis of a majority vote. In special cases, when a member holding a minority opinion had strong feelings that the majority had seriously gone astray, opportunity was given for him to express his own point of view. Such occasional comments, identified by the writer's initials and enclosed within square brackets, are appended to the main discussion of the textual problem in question.


Princeton Theological Seminary
September 30, 1970


The present edition of this Textual Commentary has been adapted to the fourth revised edition of The Greek New Testament (UBS4), published by the German Bible Society on behalf of the United Bible Societies early in 1993. This means that each of the 284 additional sets of variant readings that were included by Committee decision in the apparatus of the fourth edition has now a corresponding entry in the Commentary. On the other hand, the comments on almost all of the 273 sets of variant readings that the Committee removed from the apparatus, because the variants were of less significance for translators and other readers, are no longer retained in the Commentary.

Other adjustments have also been made. For example, the implications of recent discussions concerning the so-called Caesarean text are reflected at various places in the Commentary. Further bibliographical items have been added here and there, particularly in connection with the expanded discussion of problems relating to the two main types of text in the book of Acts.

As was true in the earlier edition of the Commentary, textual discussions are usually supplied with the citation of only the more important manuscript witnesses. In some cases this information differs slightly from the citation given in the apparatus for those passages in the fourth edition of the Greek text. For example, certain later Greek uncial manuscripts as well as evidence from the Gothic version, which are no longer cited in the fourth edition of the text volume, continue to be cited here. On the other hand, additional minuscule manuscripts as well as evidence from the Old Church Slavonic version, which are now included in the apparatus of the fourth edition, are not repeated here. For a statement of the different principles followed in selecting witnesses to be cited in the third and the fourth editions, see the Introduction to each edition.


Princeton Theological Seminary
September 30, 1993

Page Scans and Screenshots

Page scan of the print version and screenshots of the Libronix DLS version.


James 2:19-25 in the print Commentary and Libronix edition.

Hebrews 11:11-23 in the Libronix edition. Note the faithful reproduction of the Greek uncials. The font used is based on the letterforms from Codex Sinaiticus.


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