In my last installment, we looked at old English Bibles, and I encouraged you to consider purchasing one yourself. This time and next we’ll be looking at old copies of Greek New Testaments.
Every respectable NT student should have the standard fare of Greek texts on his or her shelf: Merk, Bover, Souter, Vogels, Westcott/Hort, etc.
In addition to this, I strongly encourage that serious students purchase a copy of volumes 1-2 of Constantin von Tischendorf‘s celebrated Novum Testamentum Graece: Editio Octava Critica Maior.
I have three sets (one is unmatched).
Tischendorf (1815-1874) was an elite scholar who traveled and published extensively. His eighth edition, published between 1869 and 1872, remains the standard critical edition for Bible scholars (singular readings are defined by Tischendorf’s apparatus). Whereas first editions are often thought the most valuable, it is Tischendorf’s eighth that is particularly prized. This 2-volume set goes for $800-$1,000. Naturally, you should avoid reprints.
In contrast to Tischendorf is his contemporary, Samuel Prideaux Tregelles (1813-1875). This Plymouth Brethren Christian was a working class version of Tischendorf. His fulltime career was in ironworks, but he devoted his spare time (and passion) to the Greek New Testament. Tregelles’ single-volume 1879 complete NT (don’t fall for the piecemeal precursors–make sure you’re getting the complete NT) is less available on the market than Tischendorf’s eighth edition. For this reason, you’ll be hard pressed to find a copy for under $500.
I’ve had the privilege of examining (and photographing) F.F. Bruce’s personal copy of Tregelles that he donated to Tyndale House, Cambridge. But a few years ago, I purchased my own copy.
As it turns out, it wasn’t just any copy.
A classic in Greek New Testament studies is a Greek-English dictionary written by J. Henry Thayer in the late nineteenth century. Having co-authored a Greek-English lexicon myself, I’m fond of anyone who has been through a similar experience.
When my copy of Tregelles arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the original owner was none other than J. Henry Thayer himself! This very copy of Tregelles had been used by Thayer for the production of his famous lexicon.
Next time, we’ll look at some more valuable Greek New Testament editions, as well as my ongoing wish list.