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The Rhetoric of NA28©: “Do You Really Expect God’s Word for Free?”

December 28, 2012

We are as excited as J. R. Daniel Kirk, Larry Hurtado, and Jared Calaway that the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament is available for purchase both in English versions (for the critical apparatus and such) and in German. And as excitedly, we give a hat tip to Joel Watts for announcing yesterday – “Read the NA-28 online. You can read it here” and to Abram K-J for noting the “New NA28 Greek New Testament text is free online…. The full text of the new NA28 Greek New Testament is available online for free. No critical apparatus (that will probably be for-pay only), but it’s nice to be able to easily access the text now. You can go here to do that.”   We give the same tip of the hat to Jared for giving the news yesterday too – “You can now read the newest Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament (number 28) online here.  The only problem is that it does not show the critical apparatus on the bottom of each page nor the cross-references in the margins.”

I just wanted to say a couple of things about the public announcement of the online NA28©.  First, that announcement by the German Bible Society (aka Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft) is quite rhetorical both in the German and in the English versions.  Second, the rhetoric is to manage our expectations on a number of scores.

Let’s look at the announcement as it’s expressed in the initial paragraph of Lizenzrechte or the Licensing Policy.

The German reads as follows:

Gottes Wort ist ein Geschenk für die Menschheit, von dem viele erwarten, dass es kostenlos zu sein hat. Allerdings ist die Erforschung der biblischen Texte zeitintensiv und teuer. Das Novum Testamentum Graece in der 28. Auflage (NA28) ist das Ergebnis langjähriger Arbeit vieler Wissenschaftler. Deshalb ist der Text durch das Urheberrecht geschützt. Das gilt sowohl für den Haupttext als auch für alle anderen Teile der Ausgabe wie den wissenschaftlichen Apparat.

The English reads (exactly the same if slightly differently) as follows:

The Word of God is a free gift to everyone. But research and development are expensive. The Novum Testamentum Greace (Nestle-Aland) is the result of lengthy and painstaking work by many scholars. This is why their work is protected by copyright. This applies not only to the base text (also called the ‘initial text’) but also to all other parts of the edition such as the textual apparatus.

Both versions of this announcement seem to start the first sentence with the exact same subject:  Gottes Wort and The Word of God.  But the rhetoric has already begun as we readers read these words.  There is presumption.  There are unstated assumptions.  These, in fact, are what the German and English writer(s) of this announcement are beginning with.  The first assumption is that we all agree what Gottes Wort must be, what The Word of God is.  Certainly “it” is inclusive of Das Novum Testamentum Graece, that is, of The Greek New Testament.  And, moreover, in addition, we would then all likely agree that “Das Novum Testamentum Graece in der 28. Auflage (NA28),” or “The Novum Testamentum Greace (Nestle-Aland)” in this 28th edition, is actually the Greek New Testament that is The Word of God.  So, if you and I can be very clear about this together, we are finding that there are unstated assumptions, that there is some presumption.

Now, let’s get technical about this.  Contemporary scholars of classical rhetoric call what the writers of the announcement of the online NA28 are doing the construction of an enthymeme.  What’s called an enthymeme is also called a rhetorical syllogism.  As rhetoric scholar George A. Kennedy defines what Aristotle defined, “the rhetorical syllogism” is not a “dialectical syllogism.”  No.  The latter “consists of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion.”  But the former, the rhetorical logic, merely consists of premises that simply “are usually probable rather than certain, and one premise often be assumed as known to the audience.” Kennedy, with Aristotle, goes on: “An enthymeme thus often omits one premise.”  Here’s that in fuller context from the 57th page of A New History of Classical Rhetoric:

That fuller context might be helpful because it gives the classical “dialectical syllogism” example of “All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; therefore Socrates is mortal.” And it also contrasts this with “rhetorical syllogism” versions of that:  “‘Socrates is mortal, for all men are,’ or ‘If Socrates is a man, he is mortal.'”

So, with all of that out of the way, let’s go back to that initial sentence of the first paragraph of the online announcements of the Licensing Policy of the online NA28©.

Gottes Wort ist ein Geschenk für die Menschheit, von dem viele erwarten, dass es kostenlos zu sein hat.

The Word of God is a free gift to everyone.

Now we see that in German there is more than there is in English.  The German gets right into the assumption (erwarten) by many in all humanity that The Word of God is without cost (that is, Gottes Wort – many of all mankind expect – is to be kostenlos).  The English elides these more explicit presumptions.  The English is slightly more rhetorical.  At least the English translation makes more of an enthymeme.  All men (and all women) are given a gift that is free.  [You, dear reader, are included in “everyone”].  Therefore, you yourself get this very free gift [that you are expecting, as many others of the everyone of Humanity does.] [You would think that The Word of God is your very own free gift given also just to you.]

And then, of course, there’s the next premise to counter the rhetorical-syllogistic bundle of presumptions of the first premise.  In German, it begins with “Allerdings.”  In English, it begins with “But.”

Allerdings ist die Erforschung der biblischen Texte zeitintensiv und teuer.

But research and development are expensive.

Again, the German is a little more explicit (if Erforschung is also understood as not only research but also development); the German translates into English more explicitly as something like this:  “Mind you, it’s the effort of the study of biblical texts that is time consuming and expensive.”  The English version provided, nonetheless, just makes the assumption that the writer and readers will agree:  “[All kinds of] research and development are expensive”  [“Biblical New Testament Greek Text research and development is one kind of R&D]  [Expense = time & money]

Then the next and presumably final premise – in both German and English – draws out or at least somewhat touches on or counts on the unstated assumptions of the previous premise.  The final premise reads as follows, of course:

Das Novum Testamentum Graece in der 28. Auflage (NA28) ist das Ergebnis langjähriger Arbeit vieler Wissenschaftler.

The Novum Testamentum Greace (Nestle-Aland) is the result of lengthy and painstaking work by many scholars.

The German writer and readers presumably agree that langjähriger includes not only length of time but also the painstaking lengths of the many (i.e., the vieler).  The pre-conclusion point is driven home:  [there is much time, much expense, much long time, much lengthy expensive work done by many many many people, and not only regular people either, educated ones, specialists, not only artists but also scientists, real scholars doing the work that not many of you readers could do, real specialized work done for you, Divine and Holy work, work with God’s Word, the very Word of God, yes to you, to everyone, to all humanity, “free” … Allerdings].

Therefore, we are prepared for the definitive conclusion.  The rhetoric is finally persuasive.  We are likely to agree:

Deshalb ist der Text durch das Urheberrecht geschützt.

This is why their work is protected by copyright.

There is more, of course.  Another qualifying sentence to close the paragraph, another set of paragraphs of other enthymemes and syllogisms and rhetoric and logic.  The point to this point, the point of this conclusion, nonetheless is that what you and I freely get in NA28© is Gottes Wort or The Word of God online with certain costly restrictions shared.  The implied Rhetorical Question of the online NA28©:  “Do you really expect God’s Word for free?”

(PS – Here’s a little parenthetical Post Script on this blog post.  By it, I’m sharing my own mere conclusion, stated at the end.

On the very same PC by which I’m reading the new online NA28, I’m reading a KindlePC version of the NA27 alongside the ESV with a little more generous allowance of copying by the copyright.  That Kindle version cost me around $8 US.  For the free online NA28, of course, we’ve read this permission statement — which gives more free freedom to members who work as missionaries (my emphases below):

Small portions of the text (up to 100 consecutive verses) can be quoted without requesting a licence. They should just be accompanied by the following notice:

Greek Bible text from: Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th revised edition, Edited by Barbara Aland and others, © 2012 Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart.

If you intend to use larger parts of the text or even the entire New Testament, you need written permission prior to publication. All requests should be sent to:

Mrs Beate Schubert
German Bible Society
Balinger Strasse 31 A
70567 Stuttgart

Email: schubert(at)

All licence requests are treated equally. However, special terms are available to members of the United Bible Societies which require the text for missionary activities.

Now, here’s that NA27/ESV statement, in some freeer contrast (again with my emphases):

Nestle-Aland, Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th Revised Edition, edited by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, and Bruce M. Metzger in cooperation with the Institute for New Testament Textual Research, Münster/Westphalia, © 1993 Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart. Used by permission. Permissions notice: The ESV text may be quoted (in written, visual, or electronic form) up to and inclusive of one thousand (1,000) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided that the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible nor do the verses quoted account for 50 percent or more of the total text of the work in which they are quoted.

Publication of any commentary or other Bible reference work produced for commercial sale that uses the English Standard Version (ESV) must include written permission for use of the ESV text. Permission requests that exceed the above guidelines must be directed to Crossway, Attn: Bible Rights, 1300 Crescent Street, Wheaton, IL 60187, USA. Permission requests for use of the anglicized ESV Bible text that exceed the above guidelines must be directed to: HarperCollins Religious, 77-85 Fulham Palace Road, Hammersmith, London

Crossway is a not-for-profit publishing ministry that exists solely for the purpose of publishing the Good News of the Gospel and the Truth of God’s Word, the Bible. A portion of the purchase price of every ESV Bible is donated to help support Bible distribution ministry around the world.

Now, my own simple opinion is just this:  to speak of one’s version or translation or textual apparatus or collection of texts as “God’s Word” and then to call it God’s gift, God’s free gift, and then to require payment for it beyond certain arbitrary if legal free sharing allowances – to speak this way – requires rhetoric.)

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Dana Ames permalink
    December 29, 2012 9:41 am

    Happy New Year to you, Kurk, and all the BLT writers-

    One thing I began to notice several years ago, with my extremely meager Greek knowledge, was that in the NT the phrase “word of God” almost always refers to Jesus; if the writers want to indicate the OT, they use graphe.

    Neither in the Orthodox Church is the phrase “Word of God” indicative of scripture. More commonly it is translated “God the Word” and always indicates Jesus, as per Jn 1. When talking about graphe, it is scripture or the bible, or the prophets, psalms, etc.


  2. December 29, 2012 9:58 am

    Happy New Year to you, Dana! Thank you for your comment. It’s useful, I think, to read Greek in community, and I very much appreciate your sharing with us what the Orthodox Church tends to do with the phrases you highlight here. The more I read Greek, the more meager my knowledge of it I confess. How terms become bounded and narrowed and technicalized, if you will, is of huge interest to me, nonetheless, especially when certain groups of interpreters will use their interpretations to exclude others. “Word” itself is an interesting word, and when it’s “logos” or ὁ Λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ, then to apply that to texts that one includes essentially and what one does not include necessarily as “The Bible” seems to be a very troublesome thing to do. As you point out, not all readers read this that way. The ways of knowing, our epistemologies if you will, and our philosophies of language and our practices with translation seem to be the key issue.

  3. lamont permalink
    December 31, 2012 12:26 pm

    The dialectic syllogism that seems most apparent:

    The Word of God is a free gift to everyone;
    this newly translated text is the Word of God;
    therefore this newly translated text is a free gift to everyone.

    Obviously, one or more premise(s) are not true.

    What they are engaging in is deliberate confusion, bordering on harry frankfurt’s bullshit.

  4. December 31, 2012 12:43 pm

    Your comment went to spam because of your language here not your opinion. I think you may have seen mine expressed at the end of my post — those writers for the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft are using a rhetorical syllogism to persuade readers that there have to be copyrighted restrictions on the good work of so many, even if they (or any of us) all agree that it’s Gottes Wort. The dialectic syllogism you suggest is more logic than rhetoric.

  5. james jordan permalink
    November 25, 2013 3:36 pm

    The Textus Receptus is free. Seems the only reason they keep coming out with a new Greek text all the time is to get your money. Its not like anything of substance ever changes in their new Greek text. They are NOT going to take out the Gnostic interpolations like Ephesians 2:8-9 and Philippians 2:13 despite these being missing in the earliest manuscript of the Pauline epistles (P46); they don’t even mention that in the apparatus. So just stick with the Textus Receptus and it will be free. You can also remove interpolations yourself for free with a magic marker.


  1. Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament 28th Edition Online for Free
  2. Keep ‘em coming back with the December Biblical Studies Carnival | Words on the Word
  3. NA28 editions (ESV, NRSV, REB) « BLT
  4. The NA28-NRSV-REB text | BLT

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