Saturday, September 28, 2013
Synopsis of the Pauline Letters
J.P. Ware, Synopsis of the Pauline Letters in Greek and English (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2010).
This is not exactly a book review, just a blog post to say that I have found this book much more useful than I originally thought it would be when I got it a couple of years ago. I confess that when I first got a copy of this book I wasn't really convinced that it was going to be that helpful; but I have found myself turning to it very often in the last year or so.
So the other day I was reading 1 Thess 1.1 (as one does); and I noticed that in NA28 the full version of the 'grace and peace to you', i.e. the following bit 'from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ' is noted in the apparatus with the reference (2Th 1,2). I thought to myself (as one does), 'surely that addition doesn't come from 2 Thess 1.2 specifically, but from the fairly common usage throughout Paul's letters'. So I picked up the Synopsis and confirmed my suspicions - there is no particular reason for thinking of this as a scribal harmonisation to 2 Thess 1.2, once could as easily have said Rom 1.7; 1 Cor 1.3; 2 Cor 1.2; Eph 1.2; Phil 1.2 or Philm 3.
Then when I was reading 1 Thess 1.2 I noticed the NA text lacks UMWN. I thought to myself, 'well that is probably a harmonisation to Pauline usage elsewhere too, despite there being no hint in the apparatus'. Since the Synopsis was already there on my desk I checked and found the parallels(with UMWN) in Rom 1.9.
These two examples have to do with thinking through harmonisation type variants, but the book is more useful for finding parallel content in Pauline letters in the study of Paul's thought. E.g. all the greetings sections of Paul's letters, or all the times Tichycus appears, or all the signatures, or all the times Paul discusses a topic or theme.
I like the fact that the texts are given in Greek and English (in diglot format) - quick access with details here. I like that there is a critical apparatus to the Greek text. I like the fact that every bit of all thirteen letters is printed (and that some passages are printed many times in connection with each of the major themes). I also like that fact that relevant passages from Paul's preaching or activity in Acts are also included. I like the fact (once I got used to it) that the index comes at the start of the book. I like the fact that by and large interpretive and critical judgements don't intrude on the usefulness of the book.
A couple of design compromises should be mentioned: firstly, although it is called a Synopsis, the texts are not actually laid out synoptically (thinking of something like Aland's Synopsis), so wording parallels (or differences) don't leap out at the reader. Associated with that is that there is not much blank space. This book is more for reference than for colouring, underlining, note taking, and all the other fun things you can do with a gospel synopsis.