Contemporary textual critics attend to a variety of pressing questions. No longer restricted to the quest for the “original” text of the NT, current practitioners pursue a number of interrelated issues. Topics like scribal activity, theological variation, the nature and scope of the NT canon, and the sociohistorical worlds of scribes and their manuscripts are now commonplace in text-critical discussions. The definition of what a textual critic is (and does) has been broadened to include the pursuit of questions once considered peripheral to the discipline.
These questions are not new. Writing at the threshold of the early Byzantine era, Andrew of Caesarea displays an awareness of competing variants, comments on their theological significance, and condemns scribes who atticize the Greek manuscripts of the Bible. Andrew’s Commentary on the Apocalypse appears to reflect the same integration of issues that characterizes contemporary text-critical research, albeit from the perspective of the seventh century. Andrew’s handful of text-critical exempla speaks directly to a discipline that probes the relevance of scribal activity and challenges contemporary assumptions about its significance. In particular, Andrew’s assessment of textual variation confounds modern sensibilities. Andrew embraces textual variants that produce a semantic difference in the reading of the Apocalypse and excoriates scribes who make stylistic changes. Andrew’s Commentary on the Apocalypse offers a distinctively Byzantine appraisal of variants that enriches our understanding of textual variation and contributes to current discussions about its significance for textual criticism.
This article was originally presented as a paper in the New Testament Textual Criticism Section at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Boston, Massachusetts, November 21, 2008. I gave a thorough report of that presentation with a nice image of the presenter, a summary of the paper along with my comments.