The Sahidic Coptic Collection presents every New Testament book in its Sahidic Coptic translation. It features three volumes designed to give the NT Greek scholar the tools necessary to tap this important resource. This includes the entire New Testament in the Sahidic dialect of Coptic, the NT in Greek from Egyptian sources, and a Sahidic lexicon. All this make the Sahidic Coptic Collection an invaluable resource for the serious study of these important texts.
Sahidic was the leading dialect of pre-Islamic Coptic, and is the dialect in which most known Coptic texts are written. The first written instances of the dialect occurred around 300 A.D., including translations of Biblical texts. The spelling of written Sahidic became standardized by the 6th century, and almost all native Coptic authors wrote in the dialect. Whereas texts in other Coptic dialects are usually translations of other Greek works, the Sahidic dialect is the only one with a large body of original literature and non-literary texts. And since Sahidic shares most of its features with other dialects of Coptic, has few peculiarities not shared with other dialects, and has a considerable corpus of known texts, it is usually the dialect studied by students of Coptic.
While Koine (common) Greek was still the lingua franca of the Roman world, the New Testament was translated in three languages: Latin, Syriac, and Coptic. Scholarly attention has usually been given to the first two languages. However, the Coptic New Testament texts, and especially those written in the Sahidic dialect, are arguably far more rewarding to study.
For starters, both the Latin and Syriac are representative of the Western textual family, which is generally considered inferior. Sahidic, on the other hand, ranks with the best papyri and the "B" Uncial (Vatican Library 1209) as representative of the Proto-Alexandrine textual family, which is generally recognized as the best and earliest group of manuscripts. Furthermore, the Old Latin and Syriac are represented by two extant manuscripts each, which can be dated as being from before the fifth century (400 AD). All four are of the Gospels only. Sahidic manuscripts dating from the same period are more numerous, more complete, and represent many more books of the Bible.
Textual criticism and historical interpretation favor the Sahidic texts as well. In regards to textual criticism, Kurt and Barbara Aland (in The Text of the New Testament) suggest that, “Important as the Latin and Syriac versions may be, it is of far greater importance to know precisely how the text developed in Egypt.” As for historical interpretation, the coptologist J. M. Plumley observes that since “in certain passages [Sahidic] preserves very ancient traditions of interpretation, it ought to be of considerable interest to the scholar working on the history and development of Christian doctrine.”
Lastly, while English is related to Latin, in some important respects it is quite similar to the Sahidic. Where Greek has the definite article (the) but no indefinite article (a, an) and Latin and Syriac have no articles at all, Sahidic has both the definite and indefinite articles. Moreover, Sahidic article usage is quite similar to English.
Considering all this, the dialects of the Coptic language are a valuable, albeit greatly untapped, resource for New Testament researchers and translators. More detailed examples on the importance of studying Sahidic Coptic can be found at the Logos Blog.
The need for a new edition of the Sahidic New Testament has long been recognized. However, the most recent version available in print was George Horner’s now antiquated seven-volume edition, released from 1898 through 1905. Recognizing the lack of a readily available Sahidic NT, the Packard Humanities Institute created a computer database version. The PHI’s edition applied to Horner’s work the many manuscripts that came to light after 1905, updating that edition with newer material.
In many ways, the PHI version improved on Horner's edition. However, the PHI Sahidic NT was never meant to be a critical text. It contained a number of inconsistencies deriving from its methodology and narrow goal. Ultimately, the resulting work lacked the usability desired by most serious scholars.
The text featured in the Sahidic Coptic Collection is based upon the PHI version. However, its view to usability based on consistency greatly enhances the PHI edition. Using pattern-recognition and analysis software, the Sahidic Coptic Collection text makes literally thousands of changes to the PHI version. In addition to comparing PHI with its source documents, additional documents have been collated with a view to giving a better representation of the overall tradition of the Sahidic version. All this makes the Sahidic Coptic Collection the best option for those wanting a usable and consistent edition of the Sahidic New Testament.