Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Augustine's Text of John: Patristic Citations and Latin Gospel Manuscripts by Hugh Houghton

We are pleased to announce the recent publication of Hugh Houghton's monograph Augustine's Text of John: Patristic Citations and Latin Gospel Manuscripts by Oxford University Press.

The data, description and review below is from the OUP online catalogue(also order page):

Price: £50.00 (hardback)
ISBN-13: 978-0-19-954592-6
Publication date: 4 September 2008
336 pages, 216x138 mm
Series: Oxford Early Christian Studies

What sort of Bible did Augustine have? How did he quote from it - and was he accurate? Do Augustine's biblical citations transmit readings not found in any surviving manuscripts? This book is part of a major project on the Old Latin versions of the Gospel according to John, and uses Augustine as a test-case to examine the importance of the evidence provided by the Church Fathers for the text of the Gospels. The early history of the Latin Bible is reconstructed from Augustine's comments in his treatise De doctrina christiana (On Christian teaching). Details are assembled from sermons, letters, and other writings to show how Augustine and his contemporaries used the Bible in the liturgy of the Church, public debates, and in composing their own works. Augustine's own methods of citing the Bible are analysed, and features are identified which are characteristic of citations produced from memory rather than read from a gospel codex. The second part of the book is a chronological survey of the biblical text in Augustine's works, showing how he switched from using the older versions of the Gospel to the revised text of Jerome, which later became known as the Vulgate. Finally, a verse by verse commentary is provided on all the significant readings in Augustine's text of John, assessing their significance for the history of the Latin Bible, and in some cases the Greek tradition as well. Details are also given of Augustine's exegesis of particular verses of the Gospel, making this an indispensable handbook for biblical scholars and church historians alike.

"Houghton demonstrates to the twenty first century reader, accustomed to printed texts, copyright and immediate access to almost any text anywhere in the world, the impact which oral culture had upon Christian exegesis and use of Scripture. The first four chapters constitute a wonderfully lucid, step by step initiation into the discipline, art and practice of textual criticism, which enable the reader (whatever their previous knowledge or experience) to follow the author with enthusiasm and interest into the serious work of textual criticism which takes place in the remaining two-thirds of the book. The chapter on Augustine's exegesis deserves special mention: it is an outstanding treatment of a somewhat neglected area in Augustine studies." - Carol Harrison


  1. Is this a collation of Augustin's text or is it just a general survey with examples?

  2. Wieland, I have not yet seen the monograph, but I have seen the dissertation on which it is based, and that is an amazing piece of work, including an exhaustive appendix, "Complete listing of all citations of John in the works of Augustine." The dissertation was over 600 pages, whereas the monograph is 336 pp. so I suppose things have been left out in this publication. Mabye Hugh can give you a better answer (if he is reading this).

  3. Dear Tommy,

    Thanks for your kind comments; I seem to be featuring rather a lot in your blog at present!

    The book is actually 424 pages (with full indexes), but even that doesn't permit me to include a complete list of citations, let alone their text. Besides, print form is not the most appropriate way to present all the data, since some people will be interested in individual works and others in particular verses.

    What I have done in the book is to provide a general introduction showing how Augustine used codices (to determine his reliability as a source for the text), then looked at individual works, and finally provided a verse-by-verse commentary. It's not a collation, not least because (as I show in the book) Augustine used different text types in different works.

    The commentary is designed so that it can be read now alongside a copy of the Vulgate, which should enable the reader to work out Augustine's different readings. Those with access to the Brepols Vetus Latina Database with images of the Beuron citation cards will be able to compare it to the entries there.

    However, once the Vetus Latina Iohannes edition is published (for which all the citations are being transcribed into a database), I hope that the commentary will serve to explain the use of Augustine in the apparatus.

    There is more information about all this in the preface to the book: tolle, lege!

  4. I hope many institutions of higher education buy it.