Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Judith Lieu on Roth’s Text of Marcion & the Value of Patient Reading

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Judith Lieu, whose own book on Marcion was published earlier this year, has a good review of Dieter Roth’s recently published The Text of Marcion’s Gospel (Brill). The whole review is worth reading, but here is the conclusion in which she extols the virtue of patiently listening to even “recalcitrant and often unhelpful” textual witnesses:
Roth concludes his analysis of the sources with a reconstruction of Marcion’s Gospel... Some will feel disappointed by Roth’s resolute refusal to indulge in imaginative reconstruction or speculation, or even to do more than hint at what conclusions he thinks might be drawn regarding the history of Marcion’s Gospel. They would, however, do well also to take note that he makes no claim to recover Marcion’s Gospel as the latter produced it, but only the earliest recoverable form of its text — a mantra now familiar more generally in studies of the New Testament text.
This is a book for specialists: readers will have to be able to follow Roth as he works directly and meticulously through his Greek and Latin sources, avoiding explanation of the implications of variations in word order or tense, and as he discusses the textual history and variants of specific verses. In the cautious conservatism of its conclusions it is also unlikely to attract the popular attention through publicity and blogs [except the really good ones, of course. —Ed.] gained by other more assertively daring reconstructions, whose conclusions may be swiftly adopted and used to rewrite the history of the past with as much confidence as have been applied to the more conventional hypotheses of New Testament origins. Yet in age which favors the rewriting of past master-narratives and embraces imaginative reconstruction, it is important that the call to heed the recalcitrant and often unhelpful witness of the textual sources be heard, and that we be reminded that hearing demands time, close attention, and linguistic skills that are too quickly being lost or dismissed as irrelevant. Few readers of Marginalia may go on to read The Text of Marcion’s Gospel, but hopefully they will recognize and defend the sort of scholarship which it represents. [Read the rest here.]
I have only read the beginning and end of Roth’s book, but it looks like all that Lieu says it is.

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