Over the past three centuries, there are a plethora of scholars who have published introductory handbooks on textual criticism, but there are far fewer who have thoroughly researched and published on the history of New Testament editions, collating them, and setting forth the principles of comparative textual study. And fewer still are those who have compiled critical editions of their own. Samuel Prideaux Tregelles may very well be the only scholar to have done all three and more. And in the Samuel Prideaux Tregelles Collection (2 vols.), two of his incredibly important works are available digitally for the first time.
The name Tregelles is known in Old Testament studies for his translation of Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament. But it was his New Testament efforts, particularly in textual criticism, that gave him a solid place in the history of biblical studies. It was an unfortunate accident of history that his work in textual criticism and his published text has, up to very recently, not received the hearing it deserves.
In delineating the history of textual criticism, scholars have tended to describe the nineteenth century in a linear manner that finds its climax in The New Testament in the Original Greek edited by Westcott and Hort. This, combined with the fact that the massive critical edition edited by Tischendorf was published just after that of Tregelles, prevented the work of Tregelles from receiving the full recognition it deserved. But with the publication of the German Bible Society's still-in-progress Novum Testamentum Graecum: Editio Critica Maior, the entire perspective of nineteenth century textual criticism and Tregelles' important role has completely changed. Textual critic David C. Parker, in comparing the new Editio Critica to Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, and Westcott and Hort, notes that of these editions, Tregelles' work has the fewest number of differences with the text of the new edition. Moreover, he observes,
Tregelles anticipated the Editio Critica Maior in nearly every place where the latter disagrees with Westcott and Hort. Only in the two readings at [James 5:4] do Tregelles and Westcott/Hort agree against the new edition.
For this reason, Tregelles' discussions of text critical methodology deserve our renewed attention. And with the Samuel Prideaux Tregelles Collection (2 vols.) for Logos Bible Software, the scholarship of this first-class scholar is made more accessible than ever, completely indexed and searchable with quick access to the Biblical texts, the papyri, and other text-critical resources.
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It will be superfluous, to those who are acquainted with the character of Dr. Tregelles’ previous biblical labors, to say that his work has been done with scrupulous fidelity and accuracy.
—Henry Alford, Greek Testament
The fact that Tregelles comes so well out of this comparison with [the texts of] Lachmann, Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort, and the Editio Critica Maior suggests that we need to reconsider the usual view of nineteen century textual criticism as a linear development culminating in The New Testament in the Original Greek. It may be that we have overlooked the significance and standard of Tregelles' achievement.
—David C. Parker
Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, born in 1813, was a giant of Biblical scholarship during the 19th century. His scholarly endeavors cover the whole gamut of Biblical and theological study, from Hebrew grammar and lexicography, to New Testament textual criticism. Most well-known for his work in textual criticism, he is one of only a handful of scholars to have produced a complete critical edition of the Greek New Testament single-handedly. His efforts laid the foundation for much of the text critical work of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, for scholars such as Westcott and Hort, Eberhard Nestle, Kurt and Barbara Aland, and Bruce Metzger. Known for his vast knowledge on virtually any topic, it is said that he was "able to shed a light upon any topic that might be introduced," but that asking could be dangerous because, "doing so was like reaching to take a book and having the whole shelf-full precipitated upon your head." He died in 1875 just following the completion of his tour de force critical edition, The Greek New Testament, Edited from Ancient Authorities, which was seen to publication after his death by Fenton J. A. Hort in 1879.
Note: Over the years many have wondered about the correct pronunciation of Tregelles' unique surname. The name is of Cornish origin and is pronounced with stress on the second syllable: Tre-gel-les.