There are various Greek New Testaments that translators use to produce Bibles in other languages: the Received Text (or Textus Receptus), the Majority Text, and eclectic or critical texts such as the Nestle-Aland and the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament.
The original New Testament manuscripts written by Luke or Matthew or Peter no longer exist. Today, we have copies (full and partial) of the originals ranging over a wide period of time and geography. Sometimes the copyists made mistakes. If the mistakes were not recognized in time, they were reproduced in the next generation of copies. The eclectic text of the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament is an attempt to examine all the available Greek texts and determine what is most likely the original wording.
While the thought of “mistakes” in the text and “reconstructing” the original wording of the Bible may sound frightening to some believers, there are relatively few instances where the exact wording is unclear. In only a tiny minority of those cases is the actual meaning affected, and in no case is any major doctrine changed. Some of the copyist errors are self-evident. For example, in one manuscript, John 1:30 says, “After me comes air” (Codex L). The correct reading, found in other manuscripts, is “After me comes a Man” (NKJV). The difference in Greek is one letter, so it is easy to see how the copyist of Codex L made the mistake.
Another textual variant is found in Philippians 1:14:
Reading 1: “. . . bold to speak the word without fear”
Reading 2: “. . . bold to speak the word of God without fear”
Reading 3: “. . . bold to speak the word of the Lord without fear”
Here, there is a difference in wording, but there is no difference in meaning and certainly no difference in doctrine. Whether we’re speaking of “the word of God,” “the word of the Lord,” or simply “the word,” the meaning of the verse is the same.
The United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (often referred to as the UBS Greek New Testament or UBS GNT) is an eclectic text based on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, published in the United States by the American Bible Society. The UBS Greek New Testament is more user-friendly than the Nestle-Aland and is usually the choice of Bible translators, students, and pastors. User-friendly features of the UBS GNT include fewer words on the page, larger fonts, English subject headings, Old Testament quotations in bold, and only the most important cross references listed.
The United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament is often published with a glossary in the back. It has a basic critical apparatus, but a more extensive apparatus has been published separately for those who want more information. The UBS GNT has 20 to 25 percent more pages than the Nestle-Aland, but it is also normally less expensive by about 40 percent. The UBS GNT is the most widely used version of the Greek New Testament.