Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Explicit References to New Testament Variant Readings Among Greek and Latin Church Fathers

In December, Mike Holmes reported here that Amy Donaldson had successfully defended her thesis “Explicit References to New Testament Variant Readings Among Greek and Latin Church Fathers,” in partial fulfillment of requirements for the Ph.D. degree at the University of Notre Dame.

Holmes expressed his hopes that the dissertation (the catalog, in particular) be published sooner than later. Apparently, the complete dissertation in two parts was made publicly available soon thereafter in the database University of Notre Dame Electronic Theses & Dissertations (HT Wieland Willker). We can be very thankful to Amy for sharing her significant work in this way. I hope the study will still be published in print. In any case I am sure that it will be widely cited in years to come.

In his introduction to New Testament textual criticism, Eberhard Nestle stated a desideratum, later repeated by Bruce Metzger, for a collection, arranged according to time and locality, of all passages in which the church fathers appeal to New Testament manuscript evidence. Nestle began this project with a list of references; Metzger continued the work by examining the explicit references to variants by Origen and Jerome and expanding Nestle’s list. This dissertation picks up where Metzger left off, expanding and evaluating the list. The purpose is to contribute to patristics and New Testament textual criticism in two ways: first, by providing a helpful catalogue of patristic texts that refer to variant readings; and second, by analyzing the collected data with a focus on the text-critical criteria used by the fathers.

The dissertation begins by considering the social and historical backdrop of the early church, especially textual scholarship in antiquity and its patristic application to the Old Testament. The explicit references to variants are then examined, first by individual father (organized by Greek and Latin), then by variant (for the variants discussed by multiple authors). This information is then summarized in terms of literary genres in which the references occur and the criteria used to evaluate the variants. After a general assessment of New Testament textual scholarship by the early church (including recensional and scribal activity), patristic textual criticism is compared to modern practice to assess to what extent the church fathers engaged in textual criticism and what insights we can gain from them today.

The second volume contains the catalogue of explicit references to variants (each entry includes the variants and their textual evidence in modern critical editions, the Greek or Latin excerpt and English translation, and a brief discussion of the context). Passages that discuss textual problems but are not explicit references to variants are collected separately. In an appendix, the lists by Nestle and Metzger are compared alongside the list of texts in the catalogue, followed by another appendix on Bede, and a third appendix containing a brief biography and bibliography for each father cited in the catalogue.


  1. An interesting quote regarding the Lucian and Hesychian rescensions, speaking of Jerome:

    "He remarked on regional preferences for different Greek revisions: Hesychius in Alexandria, Lucian from Constantinople to Antioch, and Origen in Palestine."

  2. Tommy,
    Why do you hope it gets into print? Just for the privilege of paying $300 rather than downloading for free?
    How much longer will publishers actually print technical monographs?

  3. Pete, I confess that I rather download for free than pay $300, but as you know dissertations are often revised and published which can be good from other viewpoints.

    I suppose that a lot of technical stuff would be left out in the published monograph, but on the other hand an experienced editor may help the author to sharpen the arguments, and improve the text in various ways. Depending on the time frame a substantial part can be revised and new data added (Royse is the extreme example...). Response from readers can be taken into account.

    Moreover, I assume that published monographs are likely to get cited more often. Traditionally, I guess it has helped in the academic career to have your dissertation published ... but all this may change in the future.

    Now that Google scan publications scholars who don't want to pay xxx$, can still search and access vast amount of material.

  4. Amy,

    I do hope your generosity becomes contagious and others start making their works available for free on the Internet. If you want to make the largest possible impact with your work, make it available for FREE!! As for now, only a few scholars have access to such works, which keeps the masses out of the discussion and learning process.

  5. Here's a comment from a reader:

    Some form of the word "explicate" is used 16 times in Volume I. Is there a specific theological meaning to this word or is it just shorthand for "comment on?"

    Maybe people who pay $300 for a monograph expect it to be replete with pedantry.

  6. "Irenaeus makes note of the fact that in some copies of Revelation the number of the beast is 616 rather than 666 (Rev 13:18; §190).1 The latter he deems to be the correct reading, based on its presence in the best and oldest copies (en pasi tois spoudaiois kai arcaiois antigrafois)"

    I stand corrected. Preference for the "oldest and best manuscripts" is not a recent invention.

  7. Hi! Saw your blog and thought you might be interested in a brand new pre-publication from Logos Bible Software: http://www.logos.com/products/prepub/details/5995

  8. I'm a little late to this conversation, so this post may get overlooked, but I thought I'd reply about possible publication. I agree with the comment that this is a dissertation, and a published book or monograph goes through a much more rigorous editing and review process. As an editor myself, I am disappointed in how the dissertation process is structured in that it doesn't require, or leave much room for, further editing before the final approval of the dissertation. I do hope to publish at least parts of this work in some format in the future, in a more refined and scholarly way. In the meantime, however, I chose to allow the pdfs to be publicly viewable so that the catalogue in particular would be available for use. That is, after all, why I put all the time into creating it, so that people could use it for future research. Thanks to all who are interested in the work.