Thursday, March 23, 2006

James Rendel Harris (forthcoming!)


James Rendel Harris, New Testament Autographs and Other Essays

Edited by Alessandro Falcetta

James Rendel Harris (1852–1941) was one of the most prolific and influential New Testament scholars of his time. He opened new paths in textual criticism, brought to light hitherto lost early Christian writings and gathered major collections of Syriac manuscripts and Greek papyri.

An introductory essay sketches Rendel Harris’s life and works, while the rest of the book collects published essays and unpublished lectures and letters written by Rendel Harris over a span of 50 years, providing an essential picture of his scholarship. The papers include a lively and first-hand account of the controversies over the Hort–Westcott Greek New Testament; the suggestion of using mathematical devices for reconstructing New Testament autographs; the finding of the only known Diatessaronic reading in a Greek New Testament; the account of Rendel Harris’s initial ‘discovery’ of testimonia collections and his two last daring essays on the topic; one of the first proposals of a wisdom hymn lying behind John's prologue; and, finally, an entertaining guide for the manuscript hunter.

The personal correspondence at the end of the volume throws light on the driving forces of Rendel Harris’s scholarship and on his own assessment of his work on the testimonia. The goal of his studies was to draw attention to new or little-explored topics and to provoke his colleagues to carry out fresh research on what they had overlooked. This collection aims at the same goal.

Alessandro Falcetta holds a PhD from the University of Birmingham and is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Fondazione per le scienze religiose Giovanni XXIII in Bologna.
Series: New Testament Monographs, 7
1 90504 8157 hardback
Publication April 2006 (not yet published)

c. 275 pp., £30 / ¤47.50 / $45



  1. Hopefully the other essays will be interesting. Reading Harris on NT Autographs was one of the great disappointments of my life. (Hyperbole again I guess. I was expecting something quite different from what was offered).

  2. I agree with Peter. The one on "NT Autographs" is very speculative, as are a number of his other articles; Harris examines the columns in Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, and tries to reconstruct what the papyrus exemplars looked like (by reaching papyrus exemplars, he assumed that he could reconstruct the lay-out of the "authographs"). In this process Harris utilized stichometry and statistics, and he tried to corroborate his results with text-critical problems, real and conjectured (following up his theses in a number of articles on stichometry, conflated readings, etc).

    In Jude, which is my main concern, Harris pointed to the haplography of Sinaiticus in Jude 12, where the scribe interpolated words from v. 16 (hOUTOI EISIN ...) copying four lines before detecting his error. Harris thought that it would be unlikely that a scribe would wander off with the eye from the top of the column to the bottom. However, when Harris had done his reconstruction of the papyrus exemplar (with S-form of layout of the columns) he could conclude that the scribe's eye had only wandered from the top of a column (with v. 12) to the top of next column (v. 16). This is of course possible, but Harris made to much of such examples.

    In an other article ("Conflated Readings of the New Testament," The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 6, No. 1 (1885), pp. 31-32, he explains that hAPAX in Jude 3 "crept into" vers 5, which is an unessecary conjecture made to fit in with Harris thesis.

    A summary of his basic method is found in "New Testament Autographs," Science, Vol. 1, No. 2. (Feb. 16, 1883), pp. 35-36.

    I know that Harris made significant contributions to the field of textual criticism, but they are not found among his works on the New Testament Autographs...