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Konstantin von Tischendorf, 1815-1874, Neutestametliche Textforschung Damals und Heute.

By Kurt Aland. Pp. 47. (Sitzungsberichte der Sachsischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, 133/2.) Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1993. ISBN 3 05 002459 3. Paper DM 24.

Invited by the Saxon Academy of Sciences to give a public lecture in 1994, Kurt Aland gives in the opening sentences of this,

its printed form, moving testimony to his deep emotion in returning to the part of his country from which thirty-five years previously he had been forced to flee. He had thought first of all to take as his subject the survey of New Testament textual criticism in the 150 years elapsed since Tischendorf's first edition of the Greek New Testament. But in his preparations he discovered, in the archives of the Institut fur Neutestamentliche Text-forschung, a copy of Tischendorf's letters to his wife Angelika between the years 1859 and 1869. This gave him the opportunity to change his plan. Now he had material by which he could put an end once for all to the calumnies upon Tischendorf's honour which have been repeated since the discovery of the Codex Sinaiticus and the transference of its major part to Russia. Ihor Sevcenko's publications of 1964 were particularly in Aland's sights. He gives various excerpts from the letters in the course of his discussion. These, then, with Aland's comments and excerpts from Tischendorf's detractors and defenders, constitute three quarters of the body of the lecture.

Aland claims that Tischendorf's revelations of his experiences, intentions, and perplexities to his wife provide a complete exoneration of all charges which have been laid at his door. I will not repeat Aland's arguments in detail, but content myself with the impression made by these materials now set before the public. A picture is to be derived from these excerpts of an eager young scholar who has just made a remarkable discovery. He is eager to publish his findings and to use the codex to verify his earlier collations. The possibility of a presentation of the manuscript as a present to the Tsar arises at a later point in the course of negotiations with representatives of the monastery. The complexities of the ecclesiastical politics in which he finds himself involved are clearly beyond his previous experience, and even more so is the complex protocol with which he has at length to contend at the Imperial court. It would be necessary to correlate the evidence here given with that of the earlier discussions to arrive at any final conclusion. Matters of national and confessional allegiance were deeply involved both in the events themselves, and in the background and presuppositions of the subsequent debates.

No final judgement can be given by the reading of this lecture alone. In addition to the other materials, the whole corpus of these recently discovered letters will need to be assessed. The lecturer speaks of `coming upon' them, (`vorfand'), in a typewritten copy. Of the originals and any previous history, such as even the provenance of the modern copy, he says nothing in this lecture. A preliminary impression alone can be registered. This is of Tischendorf as a scholar, enthusiastic firstly for the field of research he has made his own, and the securing of access to the treasure he has discovered. His actions are sometimes impetuous and his trust in the various officials with whom he must treat are sometimes naive, but it is hard to ascribe to him, on this showing, criminal cunning or intentional dishonesty. I bring away the conviction that Aland has made at least a prima facie case for Tischendorf's defence. Yet, without further access to Sevcenko's indictment, or the many other relevant documents at first- and second-hand, it would be premature to register any final assessment of this delicate and sensitive historical issue.

The rest of the lecture, less than ten pages, is, as I presume, the skeleton of the lecture as first conceived. Aland seeks to assess the place of Tischendorf in the history of modern textual criticism, following this by a survey of that history up to the present day. This takes the form of a series of vignettes of the progress of theory and practice from the first editors of printed editions of the New Testament to the epoch of Nestle-Aland 27 and the Greek New Testament 4. Tischendorf's discoveries played an important role in the realization of theory adumbrated by Bentley and Lachmann. Aland seems to suggest that Tischendorf himself might have made an edition as influential as that eventually achieved by Westcott and Hort, had he been given access to the Codex Vaticanus sufficiently early and fully.

From this point on, the lecture takes on the form of a summary of material already given to us some years ago in the introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism by Kurt and Barbara Aland. The same emphases, lacunae, and occasional prejudices are to be perceived. He still must criticize theoretical faults of Hort (e.g. the concepts of a `Neutral text' and of `Western noninterpolations'), or once more pillory the International Greek New Testament Project's apparatus to Luke for its collation against a form of the Textus Receptus. It would appear that his cast of mind did not allow him to accept readily the theories of others, nor even to see the problems which those theories (or alternatively, presentation of material) were designed to resolve. This is more to be regretted now that the lecture, by the circumstance of Aland's death, has become his last word. For Aland has done us many services, and had no need to disparage the reputation of his predecessors or his colleagues in order to enhance his own. There are in these few closing sentences many good and worthwhile remarks.

The stress lies very much upon the work continued by Aland, the hand edition begun by Eberhard Nestle. The importance of this edition, its worldwide influence, and the value of its select apparatus criticus are stressed. With this there can be no dispute. Aland laments the small number of textual critics now at work in spite of the vast increase in materials. With this too we agree, but it is lamentable too that he criticizes these few for concentration on minutiae. Yet such discussions as he must have in mind deal with units of which the whole is made, and often in a discussion of one or more minutiae, a principle will be exemplified. Every textual critic will share his disappointment that elsewhere within New Testament studies there is little knowledge or use of the conclusions of our research and debate. His positive remarks about the values of von Soden's work will also attract agreement from those who have studied those tomes, `so often instructive', as Kirsopp Lake wrote.

He sets out a hope of attaining a text of the first or second century, but intimates as little as in his previous work the theoretical basis on which such hoped-for attainment of an ultimate goal will be achieved. Little if anything is said of versions and their place, although in that regard Tischendorf could have been adduced as an example of the publication of versional materials, at least of Latin, and of the full, accurate and judicious use of such materials (together with that from the Fathers) in his critical apparatus.

The lecture then will have its greatest value in the attention which it gives to the corpus of Tischendorf's letters to his wife during his travels, and especially in the period when the Codex Sinaiticus was the centre of his studies and negotiations. But its closing remarks, summary as they necessarily are, and sometimes debatable, do not advance his great contributions beyond the point reached in earlier work. Its publication so close to his death gives us nevertheless the opportunity to salute his memory for his many services in his chosen field, and to express gratitude for the new historical material here brought to our view.
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Author:Birdsall, J.N.
Publication:The Journal of Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 1997
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