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The New Testament in Greek. IV The Gospel According to St. John, Vol. 1, The Papyri.

The New Testament in Greek. IV The Gospel According to St John. Volume One. The Papyri. Edited by W. J. Elliott and D. C. Parker. Pp. xi + 420. 48 plates. (New Testament Tools and Studies, 20.) Leiden: Brill, 1995. ISBN 90 04 09940 9. Gld. 220/$142.

As former Executive Editor of the IGNTP volume containing the apparatus criticus to the Gospel according to St Luke, I was gratified to learn, first as reader for the Oxford University Press, and now as reviewer of the finished work produced by E. J. Brill of Leiden, that it had been decided to publish the data of the papyrus manuscripts of the Gospel according to St John in a preliminary volume. I was surprized to observe on receipt of this publication that the Oxford University Press had decided against undertaking this work. I knew from their enquiry that another consultant had argued against the proposal. It was nevertheless wholly justifiable to anyone who had shared in the work on Luke, or who had engaged on similar work. I am glad that wiser counsels prevailed at length, albeit elsewhere, and congratulate Brill for their willingness to publish this important work in the text-critical field.

A number of problems of presentation of the papyrus evidence had been encountered in preparation of the Luke volumes. These particularly concerned questions of lacunae in these often fragmentary witnesses and the attendant difficulties of putative original readings, our knowledge of which could be only deduced from length of lines or questions of palaeography. Although different stratagems of printed presentation were devised at different times by the committee, no final satisfactory solution was found for this complex of questions. As I perceived in the final publication (ten years after my own retirement from the work), many changes had again come about over that period, and not always for the best. I am glad to see this difficult area dealt with separately for this gospel, and I believe that in this volume the Committee and its editors have shown how the problems of presentation may best be solved.

The volume before us seeks to give information about lacunae, space available for the rest of the text, and possible restorations as proposed, in order to avoid including the whole detail of this in the full apparatus. In this aim, I suggest, the committee and the editors of this volume have succeeded, although perhaps some residual questions may be found which use of the material now before us will identify. But this volume represents a long step forward, and has an identity and consistency beyond its function in reference to the eventual apparatus of the whole textual witness to the Gospel.

The material is presented in the following way. After an introduction instructing us in the use of the book, we have first a selective bibliography listing works containing either the text of the papyri or detailed studies of decipherment or reinterpretation. There follows a list of the twenty-three extant papyri, with their present locations and catalogue numbers. The editors treat as two separate witnesses, different fragments of the gospel found in the manuscript previously classified as one under the siglum 44 (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Inv. 14.1.527). It has been judged that two quite distinct hands are to be discerned here. Thus throughout the volume we find the sigla P44A and P44B, where appropriate. The editors also note that some material from P75 is not included which the editors of Nestle-Aland 27 have cited, but to which they themselves have had no access.

Next is given a list of the datings proposed for each papyrus by scholars ranging from the first editors to the authors of recent discussions and handbooks. The earliest dating is in the first part of the second century, the latest in the eighth century. The content of the manuscripts is next set out chapter by chapter in charts of histograms by which means both extent of text in each papyrus and overlap with other papyri are clearly presented. No chapter lacks some representation in at least two papyri, and remains of some chapters are found in as many as five. No papyrus however contains the whole text of the gospel without lacunae.

Each papyrus in listed order is given a full diplomatic presentation, based on the editors' collation of photographs, controlled where possible by the study of the manuscripts themselves. Only after these procedures were earlier editions examined and compared. Acknowledgement is made in the introduction to a number of scholars who also contributed information and opinion. The exception to this basic editorial procedure was in the case of the two Johannine papyri of the Bodmer collection, P66 and P75. The availability of careful transcriptions and full photographic record in the editions to hand were deemed to obviate the need for a new treatment in these two instances.

The legible text of each papyrus is printed in upper case with bold face. Notes indicate where original editors have read differently. New material has been added to the record Of P45 from fragments recently identified and transcribed by Skeat and McGing. Serious problems have confronted the editors in working on two papyri in the Pierpont Morgan library, P59 and P60 (P. Colt 3 and 4). Some leaves have deteriorated, while others have been misplaced, or have through other causes remained inaccessible. At the end of the volume a series of plates enable the user to make comparison of the textual presentation. Most of the papyri are given photographic representation in full, exceptions being again P66 and P75, represented each by a single plate.

The major part of the volume is given to the collation of these papyri against the Textus Receptus as represented in Lloyd's reprint of 1873, the collating base of the two volumes of the Gospel according to St Luke (Oxford University Press, 1984, 1987). A lemma is given verse by verse. Variations of the papyri alone are given. It should also be noted that no conjectures or restored readings propter spatium are included. To see what the editors or their predecessors made of unexpected vocables or of space available not clearly corresponding to the lemma, the user must return to the transcription of the single papyri. Needless to say, this collection is not designed for study of the wider affiliations of these manuscripts. For that, while awaiting the eventual complete apparatus criticus (and perhaps even after its publication), the user will need to go to a standard repertorium of readings. Tischendorf's eighth edition must still provide this, with supplementation from subsequent works to guide the user to more recent discovery.

In their introduction, the editors suggest that their work has three functions. Firstly, in its purely palaeographical role, it gives the text of these witnesses in the interpretation of the latest expert scholarship. By the mode of presentation, it avoids leading the reader to rely upon conjectures, but to judge textual situations from the extant material alone. Secondly, it enables us, `a century after the first New Testament Greek papyrus finds, and thirty years since the publication of the Bodmer papyri', to collect the material together and to see its significance. These two justifications for their work they state at the beginning of their introduction. The third they leave for its final paragraph.

This third justification is, as they would claim, the rebuttal of a view that the corpus has no coherence. They do not specify where such a charge has been levelled: perhaps the earlier advice to the Oxford press had this gist which has become known to them. Their remarks in this final paragraph are unfortunately laconic to the point of obscurity. They are ostensibly concerned at the charge that this body of material is artificially defined by concentration on the material of papyrus as a criterion of classification. If such a charge has been made, it was misplaced in its assumption that special value is accorded to the papyri as a group by singling them out for special publication. As we have intimated above, such treatment has a purely pragmatic origin and implies no peculiar evaluation of the texts presented by papyri. It is of some significance that the Institut fur Neutestamentliche Textforschung (whose members do not invariably agree with the principles and practices of the International Greek New Testament Project) concur with the practice here followed, and have published all papyrus manuscripts of the parts of the New Testament treated in the volumes of Das Neue Testament auf Papyrus published to date (Berlin 1986, 1989, 1994; ongoing). In other words, it seems to be a common practice in this field, and not linked to any particular theoretical stance.

It is incidental to this primary object of clear and full presentation that the papyri of this corpus, using the gospel of St John as it were a test-case, show the change from earlier text-types to later, amplifying for us the picture which other sources of information present. The work that lies before us is a text-critical venture, and needs no other justification than its success in this basic discipline, a success which cannot be denied. The editors venture to suggest that it may also have ramifications in `the study of early Christianity's social and hermeneutical complexities', and would justify the publication for that reason. If that is so, it is a bonus, an instance of how text-critical concerns and their resultant researches may illuminate a wide penumbra of adjacent fields. This is an excellent text-critical product which will advance the publication of a complete apparatus to the gospel, but may have additional value for scholars interested in adjacent fields, not only those which the editors suggest, but others, such as the history of the Greek language in the Roman and Byzantine periods.
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Author:Birdsall, J. Neville
Publication:The Journal of Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 1998
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