When the new NA28 Greek New Testament was first released I was eager to thumb through it and examine the revised apparatus as well as the text-critical alterations that were introduced to the text. In the introduction the editors have helpfully included a chart listing all the passages in which the wording of the 28th edition differs from the wording of the 27th edition. This made finding the changes easy.
Soon after I started reading through it I discovered that there was also a difference in punctuation. This was not mentioned in the introduction. Now I am aware that all of our earliest extant manuscripts contain very few, if any, punctuation marks. As far as I am aware, there was not yet a standardized system of punctuation which could be universally accepted and enforced. Consequently, the documents from this period which do have punctuation marks are not always consistent in the ways they apply them.
So when we are thinking about how sentences and clauses are put together we often have to make decisions about which modern punctuation mark appropriately expresses the thought of the original text. Sometimes it may not make a big difference in the meaning of the sentence. Sometimes it may create a world of difference. For example, in Romans 9:5 the choice between a comma and a full stop (a period) can mean the difference between wether Christ or the Father is referred to as God (θεος). A quick comparison of just a couple English versions demonstrates the difference:
RSV: “…to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ. God who is over all be blessed for ever. Amen.”
NIV: “…Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.”
In the RSV there is a full stop between clauses and so “God” is read as a reference to the Father. In the NIV there is a comma between clauses and so “God” is read as a reference to the Messiah. Big difference!
Now this particular verse, although a good demonstration of the significance of punctuation, is not actually affected by the changes introduced in the NA28. The only changes that have been introduced, that I am aware of, are found in the General Epistles. I have gone through 2 Peter for a starter and catalogued all the differences in punctuation from NA27 to NA28. Here it is: Punctuation Comparison of NA²⁷ & NA²⁸ in 2 Peter
It shall be left for another day to determine the exact significance of each new punctuation mark.
Great article! I find the linked PDF very useful! Do you know of any other listings of NA27/NA28 punctuation differences, and any listings of NA28 and UBS5 punctuation differences?
Thanks Jim. I’m glad it is useful. I am not aware of any other listings of punctuation differences between those two texts. I’ve been intending to continue that project at some point. I may wait until the NA29/UBS6 comes out later this year.