Monday, March 30, 2015

Biblia Graeca - Read the Ancient Canon of Scripture as the Early Church Did - (Review)

Biblia Graeca (Rahlfs-Hanhart Septuagint and NA28 Greek NT in One Volume)

The Septuagint rides a wave of steadily increasing renewed interest and renewed prestige. On both a popular and scholarly level, there is renewed appreciation for the Greek Bible as the Bible of the Early Church, both the LXX and the Greek New Testament. So much about early Christianity cannot be understood without an adequate grasp of these documents. The New Testament alludes to the Septuagint, and the great Patristic authors (including the Latins who knew their languages) cannot be adequately appreciated until one understands how the Greek Bible shaped their perception of the Christian kergyma and conception of the praxis of the Christian life.

There has been a detectable need to publish a volume that brought the texts of the Greek Bible together: LXX and New Testament. True, we have had editions of both, however, we haven't had the two brought together into a complete textual world. Biblia Graeca fills this noticeable void and affords us the opportunity read the ancient canon of Scripture as the Early Church did.

The text itself is drawn from Hanhart's light revision of Rahlfs' venerable text of the Septuaginta and the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece.

Hanhart's revision of the Septuagint is assuredly modest. Rahlfs' now widespread text remains in the greater part unchanged, the most noticeable revision being in the area of accent marks and corrections to errors in the previous edition. The Ralfs-Hanhart is not the text-critical reference point of Septuagint studies - nor was it meant to be. One will have to consult the multi-volume (and considerably expensive) Göttingen editions for a major research tool. Hanhart has kept with Rahlfs' originally intention of providing a volume to students and pastors (and I would presume anyone so interested) that is both affordable and usable. This said, you will find the Rahlfs-Hanhart edition utilized for most class lectures and readings. Additionally, you will find it is the popular reference point for the Greek text among clergy, educators and anyone with the requisite background in Greek. The Ralfs-Hanhart text attempts to establish the earliest form of the Septuagint, as any critical text should.  Limitations being noted, it remains a work of textual scholarship and it is the most accessible scholarly edition of the LXX.

The 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland New Testament will be the most appealing point for many prospective readers. The Nestle-Aland is the standard bearer for critical editions of the Greek New Testament. This edition hosts approximately 30 changes to the catholic epistles best upon the best manuscript evidence, the integration of the most recently discovered papyri, and a more disciplined critical apparatus.

The actual construction of the book represents a return to form of the scholarly editions of Hendrickson/Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft. The "scholarly Bibles" have always been notable for nearly incomparable internal construction featuring sewn binding, archival paper, well designed ribbons, clean typeface, etc. However, some recent publications have suffered due to the cover material. The cover material seems to have been addressed for this volume; it is firmer and the binding appears stronger at the hinges. For a book that will likely be consulted on a regular basis, this is an absolute essential. Regarding the size, the volume has an appropriate heft to it, but it is by no means unwieldy or difficult to travel with.


There are very few editions that I would say are essential. Biblia Graeca is one of those rare volumes that merit inclusion in the library of anyone with serious interest in Early Christianity or Biblical Studies. If you have learned Biblical Greek or are going to learn it, Biblia Graeca is an indispensable volume, especially if you want to immerse yourself in the linguistic context of the Early Church. The great advantage of the volume is its ability to provide the reader with a ready reference to the text behind the New Testament. It is one thing to know what text a given part of the New Testament refers to. It is another to be able to immediately read the text alluded to in the New Testament. What one has in one hands is, all things considered, the cultural linguistic world of the Early Church. 

Most sincere thanks to the publisher for sending me this complementary review copy. The review copy was provided to me free of charge with no expectation other than an honest and fair review.


  1. Nice review!

    Regarding this: "This said, you will find the Rahlfs-Hanhart edition utilized for most class lectures and readings."

    If the complaints of some Septuagint scholars are any indication (and true), this is also the edition most utilized by a larger-than-expected number of NT scholars!

  2. Thank you.

    I think New Testament scholars are used to having a fairly reliable manual edition - once you're accustomed to that mode of operating, it just kind of carries over with the Rahlfs-Hanhart edition.

    It seems that it ought to be possible to get the Rahlfs-Hanhart edition on something of a regular update schedule. At the very least, a new edition every ten years so that takes account of the larger critical editions. Granted, this may require breaking with the original format established by Rahlfs to a greater degree...and who knows how much time would get bogged down by production.

    It might be worth it in principle, but there's that old saying, "if ain't broke..." I'm not entirely sure I agree with certain LXX scholars that the differences are so extensive so as to make the Rahlfs-Hanhart functionally useless. In fact, I think it carries out the mission established by Rahlfs fairly well - it puts a functional and (all things considered) sound edition of the LXX in the hands of the pastor, scholar, student, etc.