NA 28 - The First Digital Critical Edition of the Greek New Testament.
This final paper was primarily connected with a series of Power Point slides, which makes it difficult to summarize here. The INTF should consider publishing an introductory volume or CD for the CBGM, NA 28, and related projects that includes the visual presentations that were part of this conference. Such a volume would help articulate the finer points of the CBGM to specialists, and serve as a helpful introductory volume to new users of the NA text. I could imagine taking one or two class periods in an intermediate level NT Greek class to walk students through some of this same information.
Wachtel started by pointing out that the digital NA 28 is not exactly the "first" digital or online edition of the Greek New Testament, as there are several out there currently available for use. I think it is worth pointing out though that the projected digital NA 28 has been designed on such a grand scale that it will set a new bar for online Biblical Studies resources. The innovative thing about the NA 28 is that in all actuality, its content is and always has been digital. The print format, akin to the NA 27, is simply a reader-friendly format of its digital source. The INTF has brought the NT into the information age by monopolizing on this new status of written "texts" that by now is standard in the publishing industry. And as they have shifted what would normally just become a printed repository of these digital databases (the printed NA 28) into an online, flexibly searchable, and endlessly clickable resource, the claim that it is in some sense the "first" online critical Greek New Testament does hold water.
The NA 28 Prototype
The current prototype gives one a basic sense of the permanent design. It turns all words, variants, and other such isolated bits of information that make up the critical apparatus into XML entities that pop-up when clicked. Imagine for a moment looking at the entry in the critical apparatus for 1 John 1:4 in the NA 27 and being able to instantly access all the relevant information about its variants in several different ways. This is what the digital NA 28 is all about. One can click on each word and look at all of its extant variants in a column on the right. One could then click on a particular manuscript that features a reading for 1 John 1:4, such as the 04 manuscript, and on a new screen pops up the relevant section of 1 John 1:4 (1 John 1:2-10 in this case) directly transcribed from the 04 original manuscript. Wnat to see the reading of 03 on 1 John 1:4? No problem. Click it and up pops Vaticanus. And once in this screen, one can click on any word in the Vaticanus transcription to find out how it compares to other manuscript witnesses.
This is just one example of the flexibility of the entire system. Currently, only 1 and 2 John are available in a sample format, but we are definitely looking at a new generation of Greek New Testament publishing. Ultimately, one will be able to select what windows are on the screen, and thus tailor the system to their research needs. The timing of when this will be completely available is uncertain, and it may be sold as part of a package with the printed NA 28 edition.
A secondary resource also available online, is the Transcripts section of the database. In order for the NA 28 prototype to function, it must have the text of every NT manuscript transcribed directly into it. For the INTF, this transcription process takes place in three stages, and all single inscriptions are done intially by two different people. What we are then left with is (for the sake of argument) an accurate transcription of all of our fragments in a searchable format.
The Transcriptions database is searchable in two main ways. One can first search verse by verse through the NT and look at all the manuscript variants of a particular text. In this new window, one can either then access the actual transcription of each manuscript for this verse or look at a collation of the original spellings of the variants related to the verse. Another way to use the Transcriptions database is simply to click on the drop down "Manuscript Descriptions" menu on the main page of the database. From this menu one can select a manuscript and look at a detailed description if its content, size, location, and even a related bibliography. Eventually, the INTF would like for this information to occupy one side of the page while having an actual digital image of each manuscript on the other. This would also be possible then for each verse as well. Want to see the transcription of p64 next to an actual image of the fragment? No problem, just click it. This image would come directly from the servers of its host institution.
There are several other potential projects linked to these two databases, such as an online textual commentary, searchable groups of patristic citation, more paleographical notations, and the integration of a Greek Lexicon. Syriac, Coptic, and Latin resources could also become available. I am not sure what the timeline on all this is, but I can not imagine it is in the near future.
There is a final way in which the digital NA 28 can be concieved of as the "first" of its kind. Apparently, the final database will be available as part of the printed edition of the NA 28. This may involve an access CD or a code that provides access to the database, but either way the printed and online editions will initially exist as different formats of each other. What happens though in the future when the INTF decides to alter particular readings (such as happened between the NA 27 and Editio Critica Maior), or happens upon additional manuscript sources for a particular verse? Naturally, the digital nature of the online version will make it easy for such changes to occur.
Yet, this poses an interesting problem for the print edition, as such changes would render it relatively obselete in relation to its online twin. Perhaps the key feature of the NA 28 does not necessarily just involve the incredible flexibility of its digital component. Rather, when I put my money down on the counter for the printed NA 28 I will not actually paying for a text, but for the scholarship behind the text. And I will be paying to have access to the scholarship that may uncover new readings or manuscripts that will then be available in the online database. Buying the NA 28 will be more of a subscription than a purchase.
Again, the timeline on all of this is a bit fuzzy. Strutwolf quipped that he hopes to see the Editio Critica Maior done in his lifetime. As he is older than I, that means I have a very good chance at using all these resources some day. This paper concluded the conference, and I hope that the Center for the Study of Christian Origins will have another day conference of this sort next year.