Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Falluomini on The Gothic Version of the Gospels and the Pauline Epistles


I have just received Carla Falluomini’s fine monograph on The Gothic Version of the Gospels and the Pauline Epistles: Cultural Background, Transmission and Character published by De Gruyter in the ANTF series (vol. 46), edited by D. C. Parker and Holger Strutwolf.

In the first chapter, “Wulfila and his context,” Falluomini re-examines the historical and cultural context of the Gothic version. She concludes that “the territories in which Wulfila lived, north and south of the Lower Danube, were characterised by the coexistence of several cultures and languages” which is reflected in “Wulfila’s triangual education, in his alphabet devised on the basis of Greek and Latin letters and runes, and in the vocabulary of his version, which includes Greek and Latin terms.” The Behind his translation lay both a missionary purpose, as well as an attempt to elevate Gothic to the rank of other languages, which in extension would reinforce the ethnic and religious identity of his people from the mid-fourth century and later.

The second chapter deals with the witnesses to the version. For the Gospels: Codex Argenteus, the Ambrosianus C, the Gissensis; For the Pauline Epistles (excl. Hebrews): Codex Carolinus, Ambrosianus A+ and Ambrosianus B. In addition, a few other witnesses testify to the circulation and usage of the version:  the tablet of Hács-Béndekpuszta (now lost), the recently discovered Codex Bononiensis (see our earlier reports here and here), the Gotica Vindobonensia in Gothic script and the Gotica Parisina in Latin script.

Falluomini concludes that Codex Argenteus is an example of a high class of book production (indeed, Sweden’s foremost book treasure). The elegant bilingual Carolinus and Gissensis are less accurate in their writing, but, nevertheless, are also the products of well organized scriptoria. Argenteus, Carolinus and Ambrosianus A+ share a number of paleographical innovations. Falluomini thinks Ravenna is the most probable place for their production.

The codicological analysis in chapter three shows, among other things, that the Gothic MSS were used in liturgy. On the other hand, the existence of glossed MSS (Argenteus and Ambrosianus A+) indicates that the biblical text was also read and used outside of liturgical contexts (this is mentioned in ch. 2). Further, Falluomini identifies a close relationship between Gothic and Latin scribes, suggesting that there were scriptoria “where Goths and Romans worked side by side.”

The fourth chapter deals with linguistic and stylistic features. First of all, the Gothic version is very literal, following a Greek (lost) Vorlage. Thus, it is often possible to determine the underlying Greek text; a good thing for textual criticism. At the same time, Wulfila tried to be intelligible to his audience. However, some of his loan words or creations may have been difficult to understand for the Goths, but they “may have found a kind of justification in the aura of mystery surrounding the new cult.” It is also possible, Falluomini adds, that the translation formed a Sondersprache which was different lexically and syntactically from the common Gothic language. The presence of glosses in Gothic MSS may reflect that some words were obsolete. On the other hand, the sixth century Codex Bononiensis, probably part of a sermon or liturgical prayer, contains citations from the Gothic version suggesting that the Wulfilian Gothic was understood and in use.

In the fifth chapter, the author discusses the Greek Vorlage and the Gothic textual transmission. A large part of this chapter reviews the history of research in this area. The Gothic text agrees primarily with the Byzantine text type. Some readings, however, agree with the “Western” or Alexandrian texts. The “Western” readings may either have been present in Wulfila’s Greek Vorlage, or, as the dominant theory suggests, they entered into the version during its transmission through a revision on the basis of the Latin version(s). The role of the Latin version(s) in the Gothic transmission is a complex problem. Falluomini discusses three possibilities: (1) Wulfila used a Latin model in addition to a Greek Vorlage; (2) the Gothic text underwent a double process of Latinisation (first at the time of translation, and subsequently in the west during the copying of Gothic MSS; (3) the original translation was subject to Latin influence only in the western milieu.

Falluomini rejects the hypothesis that all the non-Byzantine readings are post-Wulfilian. However, some changes did occur in the subsequent transmission, typical to scribal activity (rather than redaction): additions/omissions of words, insertion of marginal annotations and harmonisation to parallel passages. Further, she concludes that there is nothing that contradicts the possibility that Wulfila used a Latin exemplar in addition to the Greek Vorlage, “as an aid to render some difficult expressions of the Greek text, particularly in the Epistles.”

In the sixth chapter, the author goes on to discuss the readings of the Gothic version in relation to the Byzantine text and offers her own textual analysis . If the Byzantine text is seen as a slowly developing tradition (faster in the Gospels than in the Pauline Epistles), then the non-Byzantine readings of the Gothic versions may be interpreted as conservative elements “reflecting a mid-fourth century Greek text in which the process of standardization was still far away.” This is an important conclusion which has implications for the future study of the Byzantine text.

Among other things, Falluomini’s textual analysis lists 44/116 (38%) non-Byzantine readings in Matthew and 147/335 (44%) non-Byzantine readings in John. The greatest part of these readings are shared with “Western” witnesses. On the other hand, only 8/116 (7%) of the readings in Matthew and 19/335 (6%) of the readings in John are supported exlusively by “Western” witnesses. In Romans there are 63/120 (53%) non-Byzantine readings and 40/82 (49%) in Galatians. Further, there are 14/120 (12%) readings in Romans attested only by “Western” witnesses, and 17/82 (21%) in Galatians.

Falluomini suggests that the following readings can be attributed to Wulfila: (1) readings supported by Byzantine MSS; (2) non-Byzantine readings which are not “Western” (and therefore not suspected to reflect Latinisation); (3) non-Byzantine readings supported not only by “Western” witnesses. Thus, doubts remain when Gothic readings agree only with Latin witnesses, with or without the support of Greek “Western” witnesses (D F G). Further, she concludes that, since the Gothic version is so literal, it is particularly valuable for tracing the history of the oldest stage of the Byzantine text.

There are two appendices. Appendix I lists all significant readings of the Gothic Gospels of Matthew and John, and in Romans and Galatians. Appendix II contains a table of the main codicological features of the Gothic MSS; information about the Long Ending of Mark; and a transcription of the so-called praefatio to the Codex Brixianus.

The author is to be congratulated for this fine work!

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