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Portions of this review appeared in Southwestern Journal of Theology, Volume 50, no. 2 (Spring 2008): 253-254.

Review: Stuttgart Electronic Study Bible on CD-ROM, Version 2.0

By James R. Wicker


Stuttgart Electronic Study Bible (SESB) Version 2.0Stuttgart Electronic Study Bible. CD Rom. Version 2.0. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems. $324.95.

Serious textual study of the Bible must involve the science and art of textual criticism. This pursuit uses the critical apparatuses, and the Stuttgart Electronic Study Bible 2.0 (SESB2) greatly enhances this examination by providing the apparatuses in electronic form. This invaluable resource provides both OT and NT modern critical apparatuses. So far, other electronic software products offer only old (Tischendorf’s) or incomplete modern apparatuses.

Textual Criticism

What is textual criticism (also called lower criticism) of the Bible? It is the important and fascinating science and art of comparing the many ancient OT and NT manuscripts available today to determine what is the closest text to the original (the autograph). This continuing study bears much fruit through the study of ancient biblical papyri, manuscripts, translations (such as the Latin and Syriac), lectionaries, and quotations by Church Fathers. In this pursuit one takes a given passage of Scripture and looks for any variants in the extant copies, as noted in the textual apparatus. The person then examines the external evidence (date, geographical location, and genealogical affiliation of the copies) as well as the internal evidence—deciding why the scribe wrote the variant, such as to clarify or elaborate on a passage.

Textual criticism uses the textual apparatus in the Greek and Hebrew Bible texts. Textual apparatuses are shorthand notes that tell what the variant textual readings are and where they occur. So, without examining the apparatus one cannot knowledgably examine the question of the genuineness of such passages as Judges 16:13-14; Matthew 6:13b; Mark 11:26; 16:9-20; Luke 23:34a; 24:12, 36b, 40; John 7:53-8:11; Acts 8:37, and Romans 16:24—to mention some of the better-known disputed passages—most of which are noted in modern translations with brackets or marginal notes. One must examine the apparatus to determine which is the correct reading for Genesis 4:8; Psalm 2:11-12; 22:1, 16; Malachi 2:16; Matthew 15:6; 27:24; Mark 3:14; Luke 6:1; 8:26; John 10:29; and 1 John 5:7-8, to mention a few texts with variant readings.

For instance, in Luke 22:17-20 there are six different readings (counting the Latin versions as a separate reading) of this Last Supper passage. Here is a simple summary of an evaluation using textual criticism. The six readings are: (1) vv. 17, 18, 19, 20, (2) vv. 17, 18, 19a, (3) vv. 19, 17, 18, (4) vv. 19a, 17, 18, (5) vv. 19 + part of 20a, 17 + part of 20b, 18, (6) vv. 19, 20. Reading #1 is the only one that includes all of verses 17-20, and it is the preferred reading due to both external and internal evidence. The United Bible Society 4th edition Greek New Testament (UBS4) gives this reading a B rating (meaning the translation committee is almost certain it is the correct one). Externally, it has the oldest papyri and manuscripts (e.g., p75, א, A, B) as well as the best geographical distribution and genealogical relationships of its texts. In the six readings are basically three choices of the order of the elements: (1) cup, bread, cup, (2) cup, bread, or (3) bread, cup. Only reading #1 has cup, bread, cup as the order. It has the best internal evidence because it is the more difficult reading (with two cups) and it helps explain the other readings. The other readings likely had scribes omitting the first or last cup, not realizing the first cup is the Passover cup and the second cup (the one after the bread) is the cup of the Eucharist.

With the pop-up explanations and powerful search features, such as the KeyLink, of the Libronix Digital Library System (LDLS), the SESB2 opens up textual criticism to English-only Bible students, allowing them to examine the Greek and Hebrew texts. Granted, purchasing the SESB2 will not automatically make the buyer an expert in textual criticism, but it will provide the tools and fast electronic search features to take this study to a level paper tools cannot do. However, it would help the novice to textual criticism to read an explanatory book such as A Student's Guide to Textual Criticism of the Bible, by Paul D. Wegner, for an introduction to this fascinating discipline.

SESB2

The SESB2 is available only in the Libronix format, so it seamlessly links with all of the powerful features and tools of the LDLS. The SESB2 is an indispensable tool—long anticipated prior to its first version, and much improved in version two.

Version 2.0 of the SESB adds fifteen resources to version 1.0. This textual critic’s dream package comes with the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS) with critical apparatus and the WIVU morphological and syntactical tags, the Biblia Hebraica Quinta (BHQ—the fifth major critical edition of the Hebrew text) (Megilloth, Ezra, & Nehemiah so far) with apparatus, a morphologically-tagged Septuagint with the CCAT-database, the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece 27 (NA27) with apparatus and Gramcord morphological tags, the UBS4 with apparatus, the Biblia Sacra Vulgata, and the Gospel of Thomas in Greek, Coptic, English, and German. In addition, there are the following modern Bible versions: English (NIV and NRSV), Greek (1), German (3), French (4), Dutch (5), Norwegian (4), and Danish (1), as well as four original language dictionaries (including the Septuagint: Lust; NT: Barclay Newman, which is the small one at the end of the UBS4).

The UBS4 is a wonderful addition to the SESB2, and its two apparatuses and footnotes are in this electronic version in pop-up text boxes: (1) the textual apparatus, (2) discourse segmentation apparatus, and (3) cross reference footnotes. As with all apparatuses in the SESB2, these apparatuses are easily searchable by doing an Advanced Search for items in specific fields (i.e., “Papyrus Manuscript,” “Uncial Manuscript,” “Church Fathers,” etc.). However, the textual apparatuses for the NA27, BHS, and BHQ are in separate resources, making them easier to view than the UBS4 text apparatus.

There are several clear advantages to dealing with the apparatus electronically rather than in the print edition. First, click on a colored manuscript abbreviation for a pop-up box with helpful information (full name, date, location, and contents) or click on a symbol for a pop-up name and explanation—which is a helpful, time saving tool. Second, click on a red hypertext apparatus number or verse reference to jump directly to that spot—speeding up the search. Third, conduct a Speed Search or a Find for every occurrence of Hebrew or Greek words or phrases, manuscript numbers, or names in an apparatus or other selected resources—an invaluable tool that alone is worth the price of admission. Fourth, jump from the text to the Perseus online database for non biblical uses of the Greek or Latin words.

The SESB2 offers additional helpful features. The Lemma Search provides a fast and fun method of finding texts with concentrations of words related by semantic domain, such as Paul’s household codes, Jesus’ teachings about family, or extended passages dealing with musical instruments. Its unique way to search for a specified number of inflected word forms in a particular verse range makes for a quick and simple task that would be otherwise be arduous to set up in a typical morphological search—even if prepared by a graphical query. Of course, the task becomes easier if one has an electronic copy of Louw-Nida (i.e., with kinship domains under 10.14-10.48). However, it would be nice to be able to import all of the words from a particular semantic domain into the search box of the Lemma Search in one command.

The BHS Search of the WIVU database allows the next generation of electronic Bible study: syntax searching. One can search the OT at the phrase level (type, determination, and function) and clause level (type and phrase) in addition to the morphological search at the word level. Delimiting the search to certain types of phrases and clauses and for particular syntactical structures enables one to do searches that otherwise would be impossible or result in numerous false hits in a morphological search. This tool has great potential. It may get overlooked due to its complexity, but it is worth the time to learn how to use it (the Syntax Demonstrations CD Rom available from Logos provides helpful training). Still, many users may be lost as to how to conduct meaningful searches without a syntax tree diagram or clausal outline as a guide, such as the Andersen Forbes Phrase Marker Analysis Hebrew Bible and the Lexham Clausal Outlines of the GNT (both available in Libronix format).

As great as this product is, here are some ways to increase its usefulness and accessibility: (1) add a German and an English book on textual criticism, such as A Student's Guide to Textual Criticism of the Bible (mentioned above), (2) add A Textual Commentary on the Greek NT, 2nd edition, by Bruce M. Metzger (available for individual purchase), (3) offer the apparatuses for the UBS4 as a separate resource so one can view it in a separate screen, (4) add apparatuses for the LXX and Vulgate, and (5) add a constituency tree analysis of the WIVU syntax tagging of the entire OT.

Searchable electronic textual apparatuses for the OT and NT have long been a dream of serious Bible students and scholars. The SESB2 has made this wish come true while adding syntactic searches for the OT. The SESB2 is an excellent and essential product—far superior to its paper counterparts.

The minimum system requirements are: Microsoft Windows 98 or later, Pentium 133 MHz, 64 MB memory, CD Rom reader, 60 MB hard drive, and 800 x 600 screen resolution.


© 2008. Used by permission.