The UBS Greek Text and Degrees of Doubt

For those unfamiliar with the Textual Apparatus of the United Bible Societies (UBS) Greek text, the preferred student’s text of choice in America’s seminaries, a brief introduction to notation of the reading selected for the text is presented. This material, personally, was enlightening considering the boldness of the editors, Metzger, Martini, Wikgren, Black and Aland to describe the relativity of any chosen reading. Intuitively, the believer knows, that this process cannot be the process through which God’s written word comes to the Church.

On pages x and xi of the Introduction, under heading 1. The Evaluation of Evidence for the Text, we read the following:

“By means of the letters A, B, C, D, enclosed within “braces {  } at the beginning of each set of textual variants, the Committee has sought to indicate the relative degree of certainty, arrived at on the basis of the internal considerations as well as of external evidence, for the reading adopted as the text. The letter A signifies that the text is virtually certain, while B indicates that there is some degree of doubt. The letter C means that there is considerable degree of doubt whether the text or the apparatus contains the superior reading, while D shows that there is a very high degree of doubt concerning the reading selected for the text.”

My Greek language professor said you determine the D reading by “a flip of a coin.” This is fun stuff in an academic environment where the Greek text is not considered Scripture but just another learning tool to translate. While publishers make the case for a novel vernacular alternative to the King James Bible, Academia makes jokes about the Greek text the same way one would about any common textbook.

Underlying the relative versions adopted by Multiple Version Onlyism is a relative Greek text, including the D reading where there is a “very high degree of doubt concerning the reading selected for the text in the text,” determined, so to speak, “by the flip of a coin.”

Published by Dr. Peter Van Kleeck, Sr.

Dr. Peter William Van Kleeck, Sr. : B.A., Grand Rapids Baptist College, 1986; M.A.R., Westminster Theological Seminary, 1990; Th.M., Calvin Theological Seminary, 1998; D. Min, Bob Jones University, 2013. Dr. Van Kleeck was formerly the Director of the Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, Grand Rapids, MI, (1990-1994) lecturing, researching and writing in the defense of the Masoretic Hebrew text, Greek Received Text and King James Bible. His published works include, "Fundamentalism’s Folly?: A Bible Version Debate Case Study" (Grand Rapids: Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, 1998); “We have seen the future and we are not in it,” Trinity Review, (Mar. 99); “Andrew Willet (1562-1621: Reformed Interpretation of Scripture,” The Banner of Truth, (Mar. 99); "A Primer for the Public Preaching of the Song of Songs" (Outskirts Press, 2015). Dr. Van Kleeck is the pastor of the Providence Baptist Church in Manassas, VA where he has ministered for the past twenty-one years. He is married to his wife of 43 years, Annette, and has three married sons, one daughter and eighteen grandchildren.

2 thoughts on “The UBS Greek Text and Degrees of Doubt

  1. “…the preferred student’s text of choice in America’s seminaries…”

    I would add that it is “the preferred student’s text” because it is “the preferred seminaries’ text.” I am relatively sure that many first year Greek students come to it, as I did, with little knowledge of such things. Furthermore, teachers may compare a translation in the KJV to the text in the UBS with no instruction or warning that said text did not even exist when the translators were at work in 1611. I figured out what was going on after awhile — not too long, I suppose, within that year, but too long in that should not be something the learner has to figure out on his own. Hopefully, some teachers and seminaries may be a bit more honest. Anyway, as soon as I found out, I got a TR ordered from the Trinitarian Bible Society. I didn’t know much (and still don’t), but at least I could say, “Now, wait a minute,” when there was an obvious textual difference.


    1. Thanks Robert for the comment. My experience is a little different. I attended school with students who already had some precommitment or even allegiance to the professors and institution, (because of family or ecclesiastical connections) which frankly, from my independent Baptist background I did not, and do not understand. After our Sophomore year, my classmates became apologists for the critical text, something else, when I was 18, I couldn’t understand. Even then, 1975, my dad said, “Two things that are different cannot be the same,” so why, I asked myself, are my professors telling us that two things that are different are the same? I was too young and ill equipped to get my arms around the ramifications of what I was being taught. None of what was happening at “Bible College” made sense to me. Everything I was learning undermined what I was taught at home and at church. I guess, in my experience, those students wanted to embrace the preferred seminaries’ or college’s text and make it their own. When you mention more honest teachers and schools, it would be great, but in my experience, the critical position is settled and to deny that is to place their teaching career in jeopardy. After learning my Greek out of the UBS 3rd ed., by time I entered Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, I had my TR in hand and have ever since. Thanks again Robert! Blessings!


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