Bang goes my weekend

The Society of Biblical Literature, in conjunction with the Logos bible study software, has released a new critical edition of the Greek New Testament, under a liberal license than allows its free downloading and the construction of derivative works.

This is significant because it means a modern critical edition is available for doing computational linguistic analysis legally. (I confess I’ve been working with a data-set based on the NA27 edition, of dubious legality).

So I expect that someone will syntactically tag it pretty soon. If not, and I get there first, I’ll have a go.

It isn’t uniformly good news, however. The work is based on a set of sources including “a reverse engineering of the greek text behind the NIV” – which means that the NIV translators made certain decisions about what the greek text might have originally been as they did their work. And these decisions are elevated to the level of a source. That sounds worrying to me, given that the NIV is quite explicitly an evangelical translation created for confessional use. Also the apparatus is a bit more primitive than we’re used to: more reminiscent of the older versions of Nestle Aland.

As for the very technical specific decisions made, well I’m nowhere near detailed enough to pass comment. Others seem to be making roughly positive noises however.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Bang goes my weekend

  1. John Clavin

    Myself and many atheists, believe that the New Testament is like a science fiction novel inspired by the life of the very human prophet Jesus Christ.
    My naive question is, that by studying the NT and all it’s translations, is one concerned with the science fiction story and what went on in the heads of the authors, or is one trying to decipher the story to learn more about the actual human being Jesus Christ?
    In many of the discussions on this website I am confused on this issue.

  2. Ian

    It is a good question John. I have both motivations for studying the bible.

    1. Historical. I am interested in what actually happened. The historical Jesus, the early church, the communities that wrote the text, and so on. There were early church communities, there was (I think) a historical Jesus figure. It is interesting to try and reconstruct them from a book which, as you say, is so totally peppered by mythology and conventional narrative forms.

    2. Theological. I am interested in the stories as they are used today by Christians. This is particularly interesting, because it baffles me to a large extent. I genuinely am surprised how anyone who has actually read the bible can see it as some divinely inspired holy book. I am interested in the way that sophisticated thinkers have used its ideas, and the stories that arise. I think theology is a language game – it has its own rules and its own conventions, and it is interesting to see what you can do with those. I am happy to play along with the game, and see where that goes. But I’m also totally conscious that, if you adopt absurd premises, then the conclusions will have no bearing on reality.

    So I think I occupy both points at different times.

    A third motivation of this site was from my participant in various other blogs and online communities, where I would have little throw-away comments about a particular passage or episode in church history. This is my place to be a bit more long-form about that.

  3. Ian

    I probably have a third motivation, and that is to do interesting things with the text. I have a set of code for analysing the greek text which I’ve written over several years. I enjoy doing little linguistic analyses. For this motivation it wouldn’t matter what the corpus was, but the greek NT has been analysed more than any other I think, so I can build higher on the shoulders of giants.

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