Wolfgang Grünstäudl, David C. Parker, and the Unity of Acts and the Catholic Epistles

One of the interesting aspects of spending much of one’s time in the work of translation is that one can unexpectedly become somewhat knowledgeable about areas of research about which one had previously been rather poorly informed. For me this has been the case with regard to the topic of “canon,” which I dealt with in great detail when translating the BMSEC volumes of Jens Schröter and Christoph Markschies.

Against this background, I very much enjoyed reading Wolfgang Grünstäudl’s recent article Was Lange währt…: Die Katholischen Briefe und die Formung des neutestamentlichen Kanons, which was published in Early Christianity 7 (2016): 71-94In addition to giving me a much better understanding of the larger topic of the Catholic Epistles and the Formation of the New Testament canon (see esp. the helpful summary on pages 93-94), I found his critical interaction with David C. Parker regarding the grouping of Acts and the Catholic Epistles to be of particular interest, not least because Schröter had discussed this topic at some length in chapter 13 of From Jesus to the New Testament. Accordingly, this post will consist of a series of excerpts from this section of Grünsträudl’s article, beginning with a quotation from David C. Parker’s book An Introduction to the New Testament Manuscripts and their Texts, which Grünstäudl quotes on page 87 of his study. Reversing my usual order, I will alternate between the German original and the English translation of Grünstäudl’s article.

* For more information about Wolfgang Grünstäudl, see his webpage, academia page, and English publications.

Parker 2008, 285-286 (Quoted by Grünstäudl on p. 87): The evidence overall suggests a lack of a fixed practice before the seventh century at the earliest. On the other hand, the order of the seven Catholic letters is very uniform, especially among Greek manuscripts. The stage at which the eight writings were first counted together is, so far as the manuscripts attest, the fourth century. The fact that both 01 and 03, the two great Bible codices, treat them as a unity (manifest by the fact that they they disagree as to the order of the larger blocks) is our earliest example.

Grünstäudl 2016,  88: Während die ersten beiden Punkte gerade aufgrund der von Parker präsentierten Daten evident sind, bedarf der dritte eine Präzisierung. Zuerst ist zu beachten, dass rein rechnerisch sechs Möglichkeiten bestehen, Apostelgeschichte, Corpus Paulinum und Katholische Briefe zwischen dem Tetraevangelium und der Johannesevangelium anzuordnen, wovon nicht weniger als vier Apostelgesichte und Katholische Briefe in unmittelbarer Nachbarschaft sehen. Zwei dieser vier Varianten finden sich in den zwei erhaltenen Unzialhandschriften des 4. Jahrhunderts wieder, was abgesehen vom geringen Umfang des Befundes noch nicht als eine signifikant auffällige Verteilung anzusprechen ist.

Translation (wmc): While the first two points are evident precisely on the basis of the data presented by Parker, the third is in need of clarification. First, one must pay attention to the fact that from a purely statistical perspective there are six possibilities of arranging Acts, Corpus Paulinum, and Catholic Epistles between the tetra-gospel and Revelation, of which not less than four place Acts and Catholic Epistles directly next to each other. Two of these four variants are found in the two uncial manuscripts of the fourth century, which, apart from the small extent of the findings, cannot yet be spoken of as a significantly conspicuous distribution.

Grünstäudl 2016,  87: Im Zusammenhang damit wird man sich auch nicht der Agumentation Parkers anschließen können, die bei unterschiedlicher Anordnung der neutestamentlichen Corpora unterschiedlicher Anordnung der neutestamentlichen Corpora übereinstimmende Abfolge Apostelgeschichte – Katholische Briefe in Sinaiticus und Vaticanus belege “that both 01 and 03 […] treat them as a unity”, da hier zwei methologisch zu trennende Ebenen, die Rekonstruktion redaktioneller Strategien hinter jeweils einem Manuskript und der Vergleich der Manuskripte miteinander, vermengt sind.

Translation (wmc): In connection with this one probably also cannot adopt Parker’s argumentation that the coinciding sequence Acts – Catholic Epistles in Sinaiticus and Vaticanus alongside a different arrangement of the New Testament corpora shows/attests “that both 01 and 03 […] treat them as a unity,” since two levels that must be separated, the reconstruction of redactional strategies behind a manuscript in each case and the comparison of the manuscripts with each other, are mixed together here. [* it is very difficult to translate “bei” in this sentence (as is often the case): “alongside” is not good but it is the best solution I could come up with.]

Grünstäudl 2016, 89: Fragt man auf der ersten dieser beiden Ebenen weiter, so sticht vor allem im Sinaiticus ein interesantes Detail des Layouts ins Auge. Setzen gründsätzlich alle in diesem Codex enthaltenen Texte dergestalt mit einer neuen Spalte ein, dass am Ende des vorangehenden Textes auch nach der zum Teil großzügig gesetzten subscriptio ein mehr oder weniger großer Spaltenabschnitt freibleibt, so fällt an vier Stellen der neutestamentlichen Schriften der nicht beschriebene Raum zwischen dem abgeschlossenen und dem nachfolgenden Text größer als nur der Teil einer Spalte aus. …

Translation (wmc): If one inquires further on the first of these two levels, espeically in Sinaiticus an interesting detail of the layout catches one’s eye. While basically all the texts in this codex begin with a new column in such a way that at the end of the preceding text, also after the sometimes generously placed subscriptio, a more or less large column section remains empty, in four places of the New Testament it is conspicuous that the space that is not written on between the text that is concluded and the following text is larger than only a portion of a column. …

Grünstäudl 2016, 90: … In neutestamentlichen Bereich heben sie das Johannesevangelium besonders hervor, während der Block von Römer- bis Barnabasbrief (Corpus Paulinum, Apg, Katholische Briefe, Offb, Barn) auf den ersten Blick als “ein weitgehend amorphes Gemenge” erscheint.

Translation (wmc): … In the New Testament sphere they especially set off the Gospel of John, while the block from Romans to the Barnabas (Corpus Paulinum, Acts, Catholic Epistles, Revelation, Barnabas), at first glance appears to be “a largely amorphous mixture.”

Grünstäudl 2016, 90: Nichtdestotrotz ist eine Schrift innerhalb dieses Blockes noch einmal durch freigelassenen Raum agbehoben: die Apostelgeschichte. Nach vorne ist dies dadurch realisiert, dass nach dem Ende des Philipperbriefes auf L 85/B 6r (zweite Spalte) sowohl der Reste der Seite als auch L 85/B 6v freigelassen wurde, die Apostelgeschichte somit erst nach zwei freien Spalten und einer freien Seite auf L 85/B 7r (erste Spalte) einsetzt. … Am Ende der Apostelgeschichte (L 88/B 1r [dritte Spalte]) wiederum ist eine ganze Spalte freigelassen, sodass der Jakobusbrief auf L 88/B 1v (erste Spalte) beginnt und die Lücke zwischen Apostelgeschichte und Jakobusbrief somit den Umfang einer ganzen Spalte – wie zwischen Barnabasbrief und Hirt des Hermas – umfasst.

Translation (wmc): Nevertheless, one writing within this block is set off again by space that is left empty: Acts. In the front this is realized by the fact that after the end of Philippians on L 85/b 6r (second column) both the rest of the page and L 85/B 6v was left empty; thus, Acts only begins after two empty columns and an empty page on L 85/B 7r. … At the end of Acts (L 88/B 1r [third column]) a whole column is again left empty, so that James begins on L 88/B 1v (first column) and the gap between Acts and James thus encompasses the scope of a whole column – as between Barnabas and Shepherd of Hermas.

Grünstäudl 2016, 90-91: Ist diese durch Leerräume markierte Stellung der Apostelgeschichte im Sinaiticus als solche bereits bemerkenswert, so sind dadurch überdies die Katholische Briefe von ihr optisch in einer Art und Weise abgehoben, die dem Eindruck einer festgefügten Einheit doch entgegensteht.

Translation (wmc): If this position of Acts in Sinaiticus marked by empty spaces is already noteworthy as such, then, beyond this, the Catholic Epistles are thereby set off from it optically in a way that militates against the impression of a firmly entrenched unity.

Grünstäudl 2016, 91: Kann der Blick auf die Textverteilung im Sinaiticus die These, beide großen Unzialhandschriften des 4. Jahrhunderts behandelten Apostelgeschichte und Katholische Briefe als eine Einheit, gerade nicht stützen, so enthält der wahrscheinlich bereits dem 5. Jahrhundert zuzurechnenden Codex Alexandrinus ein sehr klares Indiz für eine solche Zusammenordnung. Nach dem Judas brief (f. 84v) findet sich als Kolophon nicht nur das zu erwartende ΙΟΥΔΑ ΕΠΙΣΤΟΛΗ, sondern überdies die Ergänzung ΠΡΑΞΕΙΣ ΤΩΝ ΑΓΙΩΝ ΑΠΟΣΤΟΛΩΝ ΚΑΙ ΚΑΘΟΛΙΚΑΙ, was nun tatsächlich ein deutlicher Hinweis darauf ist, dass die Redaktion dieses Codex Apostelgeschichte und Katholische Briefe als eine Einheit verstanden wissen wollte.

Translation (wmc): If the examination of the text-division in Sinaiticus precisely does not support the thesis that the two great uncial manuscripts of the fourth century treated Acts and Catholic Epistles as a unity, then Codex Alexandrinus, which should probably be assigned already to the fifth century, contains a very clear indication of such a grouping together. After the Letter of Jude (f. 84v) there appears as colophon not only the expected ΙΟΥΔΑ ΕΠΙΣΤΟΛΗ but, beyond this, the addition ΠΡΑΞΕΙΣ ΤΩΝ ΑΓΙΩΝ ΑΠΟΣΤΟΛΩΝ ΚΑΙ ΚΑΘΟΛΙΚΑΙ, which is indeed a clear indication that the redaction of this codex wanted Acts and Catholic Epistles to be understood as a unity.

In view of the subject matter of this post, let me conclude by congratulating Darian Locket on the recent publication of his new book Letters from the Pillar Apostles: The Formation of the Catholic Epistles as a Canonical Collection!

For my other Luke-Acts posts, see here.

For my other “canon” posts, see here.

For a complete list of my blog posts, please see here.

For interviews with me on my work, see here.

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German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! I hope to be able to write at least one Monday blog post each month. Best, Wayne

Francis Watson, Christoph Markschies, and the ‘Canon’ of Clement of Alexandria

Like my post on Francis Watson, Jens Schröter, and the Sayings Collection Genre of the Gospel of Thomas, today’s post belongs to the “I’d like to see someone else write about this” genre. In other words, I am writing it with the hope that it will stimulate someone to explore the matter further in the form of a class paper, conference paper, or article. In short, I think it would make an interesting project to compare what Francis Watson and Christoph Markschies say about Clement of Alexandria’s ‘canon’ in Gospel Writing and Christian Theology and its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire with a view to the place assigned to Clement in their overall conceptions. As an invitation to explore this topic further, I have chosen one quotation relating to a specific point that they interpret differently and one quotation that sheds light on how Clement fits within their overall conception.

Quotation 1: Clement’s Knowledge of the Gospel of the Egyptians

Markschies (CTaiI, 240-41): “If one reviews the citations from this writing in Clement of Alexandria, then it is conspicuous that Clement hardly has a detailed knowledge of the content of this text and thus evidently has not even read it in its entirety: φέρεται δέ, οἶμαι, ἐν τῷ κατ’ Αἰγυπτίους εὐαγγελίῳ; “But (these words) stand, so I believe, in the Gospel of the Egyptians”.

Markschies (KcTuiI, 271): “Mustert man nun die Zitate aus dieser Schrift bei Clemens Alexandrinus, so fällt auf, daß Clemens kaum näher kennt und ihn daher offensichtlich gar nicht zur Gänze gelesen hat: φέρεται δέ, οἶμαι, ἐν τῷ κατ’ Αἰγυπτίους εὐαγγελίῳ; “(Diese Worte) stehen aber, wie ich glaube, im Ägypterevangelium”.

Watson (GW,  425-426): “Clement’s allegorical interpretation is occasioned by his opponents’ similarly allegorical interpretation of another saying derived from the same source … It is, however, Clement, not Cassianus, who identifies GEgy as the source both of the Salome passage cited earlier and of the independent but thematically related saying cited here… In spite of his modest disclaimer, “I believe,” Clement has independent access to GEgy and can therefore cite the remainder of the Salome dialogue on his own initiative and not in response to Cassianus”

Quotation II: Clement’s Place in the History of the Canon

Watson (GW, 435-436): Clement’s citational practice represents a moment of transition between the earlier nonspecific appeal to “the gospel” and the emergence of four “gospels” differentiated by the names of their purported authors. Yet there is no consciousness of innovation in his single Irenaeus-like reference to “the four gospels handed down to us,” nor is it explained how this “handing down” has taken place or how it differentiates one set of gospel texts from others. One factor may simply be relative familiarity… As  ever some books achieve a wide circulation whereas others are known only within limited circles or areas. If, hypothetically, two gospel texts are popular in Alexandria whereas only one of them is known in Rome, then the consensus about the one will seem to give it an ecclesial sanction that the other lacks. The fourfold gospel is an attempt to articulate, formalize, and enforce a convergence around a common usage. Clement himself articulates this perceived convergence, but shows no interest in formalizing or enforcing it. Indeed, he refers to it only in passing and in a single passage that does not reflect his citation practice as a whole. Nevertheless, an emerging trend may retrospectively be identified in this single passage, especially if we look back at Clement and his contemporaries from the perspective of Eusebius, the first great historian of the Christian canon.

Markschies (CTuiI, 245; cf. 246): We can now summarize our observations on Clement of Alexandria: it can scarcely be disputed that this highly educated free teacher used a ‘canon,’ a normed collection of authoritative biblical texts, as the corpus from which he derived his fundamental axioms. Therefore, it appears to be precisely not the case that Clement represents a vague concept of the biblical and New Testament ‘canon.’ Rather, he deals in a relatively great scope with divinely inspired writings but distinguishes once more from these a narrower ‘canon’ of especially inspired biblical texts. One should not designate such a concept of graded canonicity as “vague” but exactly the opposite, as particularly considered.

Markschies (KcTuiI, 276; cf. 277): Nun können wir unsere Beobachtungen zu Clemens Alexandrinus zusammenfassen: Es läßt sich schwer bestreiten, daß dieser hoch gebildete freie Lehrer einen ‘Kanon’, eine normierte Sammlung autoritativer biblischer Texte als dasjenige Corpus nutzte, dem er seine fundamentalen Axiome entnahm. Es scheint daher gerade nicht so, daß Clemens ein vages Konzept des biblischen und neutestamentlichen ‘Kanons’ vertritt, sondern einerseits in relativ großem Umfang mit göttlich inspirierten Schriften rechnet, davon aber noch einmal einen engeren ‘Kanon’ besonders inspirierter biblischer Texte unterscheidet. Ein solches Konzept gestufter Kanonizität sollte man nicht als “vage”, sondern gerade im Gegenteil als besonders reflektiert bezeichnen.

For my other Watsonposts, see here.

For my other Markschiesposts, see here.

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German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! I hope to be able to write at least one Monday blog post each month. Best, Wayne

T. Michael Law, Jens Schröter, and Christoph Markschies on the Muratorian Fragment

In a previous Law-Markschies-Origen post, I mentioned how much I had profited from reading T Michael Law’s book When God Spoke Greek in conjunction with my work translating Jens Schröter’s book Von Jesus zum Neuen Testament From Jesus to the New Testament and Christoph Markschies’ book Kaiserzeitliche christliche Theologie und ihre Institutionen Christian Theology and its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire, and I conveyed then my desire to devote a few more posts to a comparison of these works on select points. Continuing that discussion, this post will compare how these three works treat the question of the dating and character of the Muratorian Fragment. But before doing so, let me congratulate T Michael Law for his new appointment as Research and Teaching Fellow in the School of Divinity at St Andrews (starting Dec 1)!

I. T. Michael Law

WGSG, p. 183n.9: “The Muratorian fragment should probably be dated later than the traditional second-century date.”

II. Jens Schröter

FJNT, p. 285n60: “I will not deal here with the question of the dating of the Muratorian Fragment, which has come under discussion since Sundberg 1968; 1973; as well as Hahnemann 1992. The attempt to date it late has not established itself, for which reason I continue to start from the traditional placement around 180-200. For fundamental criticism of the late dating, cf. Verheyden 2003. Cf. further Ferguson 1982; 1993; Stanton 2004, 68-71.”

VJNT, p. 310n60: “Auf die seit SUNDBERG, Revised History; Ders., Canon Muratori, sowie HAHNEMAN, Muratorian Fragment, in die Diskussion geratene Frage der Datierung des muratorischen Fragmens gehe ich hier nicht ein. Der Versuch der Spätdatierung hat sich nicht durchgesetzt, weshalb ich weiterhin von der traditionellen Ansetzung um 180-200 ausgehe. Zur grundsätzlichen Kritik der Spätdatierung vgl. VERHHEYDEN, The Canon Muratori. A Matter of Dispute, in: Auwers, Canons, 487-556. Vgl. Weiter FERGUSON, Canon Muratori; STANTON, Jesus and Gospel, 68-71, sowie die Rezension der Untersuchung Hahnemans von FERGUSON.”

Selective grammatical analysis: In translating “gehe ich hier nicht ein”, it seemed preferable to use the future with a view to English style. Likewise, “deal with” seemed to read better than “go into” in this case. Instead of “established itself” the verb “durchgesetzt” could alternatively be translated as “prevailed”.

III. Christoph Markschies

Christian Theology and its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire (wmc, forthcoming): “The text, which is better designated as Fragmentum Muratorianum or Muratori, is, in reality, not a “list” with a mere listing of biblical books at all, but a fragment without its original beginning and conclusion, which—if one considers its literary form—can be linked only with great difficulty to an ancient literary genre. … Whatever option one settles on, the most recent debate over the dating of the highly fragmented text should at least urge caution both for those who—like Harnack—see in the Fragmentum Muratori an official list translated from the Greek with which the Roman church in the second century wished to impose its conception of a canonical New Testament on to the Christianity of the empire and for those who are completely convinced of the late dating of the text. The majority of the arguments still speak for a dating around 200 CE, although the exact historical background and the precise literary form of the text remain unclear.”

Kaiserzeitliche christliche Theologie und ihre Institutionen (pp.  229 and 234; cf. 228-236): “Bei dem besser als Fragmentum Muratorianum bzw. Muratori bezeichneten Text handelt es sich in Wirklichkeit gar nicht um eine ‚Liste‘ mit der bloßen Aufzählung biblischer Bücher, sondern ein Fragment ohne seinen originalen Anfang und Schluß, das – betrachtet man seine literarische Form – nur sehr schwer mit einem antiken literarischen Genre zu verbinden ist. … Wie man auch immer optiert: Die jüngste Debatte über die Datierung des stark fragmentierten Textes sollte mindestens die zur Zurückhaltung mahnen, die – wie Harnack – im Fragmentum Muratori eine aus dem Griechischen übersetzte offizielle Liste sehen, mit der die römische Kirche im zweiten Jahrhundert ihre Vorstellung von eine kanonischen Neuen Testament in der Christenheit des Reiches imponieren wollte, oder von der Spätdatierung des Textes vollkommen überzeugt sind. Die Mehrzahl der Argumente spricht nach wie vor für eine Datierung um 200 n. Chr., obwohl der exakte historische Hintergrund und die präzise literarische Form des Textes unklar bleiben.”

Selective grammatical analysis: Instead of translating “Bei dem … Text … es geht um” as “In/With/In the case of … the text … it is a matter of/the concern is with/we are dealing with” I have adopted the simplifying translation “The text … is …” (for further discussion of the translation of Es geht um see here). The difficult phrase “nur schwer zu verbinden ist” has the force of “can be linked only with great difficulty”. I am uncertain how to translate “Wie man auch immer optiert”, but “Whatever option one settles on” is perhaps more precise than “whatever one decides”. Although the German version has “die zur Zurückhaltung mahnen, die … oder von …”, I have translated “oder” with “and” with a view to English style and repeated  “on those” in order to clarify the sense.

IV. Substantive Analysis:

For me, it seems that there are two points to draw from this post. First, while it seems to be the case that the majority of scholars continue to favor an early date for the Muratorian Fragment (ca. 180-200), it would probably go too far to speak of a “consensus” in relation to this point, since Sundberg, Hahnemann, T Michael Law, and other scholars have advocated a later date for this text. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the debate about the dating of the text should not be allowed to overshadow a second point of (perhaps greater and more significant) uncertainty, namely the uncertainty surrounding the classification of the genre or form of the text, which, due to its fragmentary character, arguably should not be classified too quickly as a “canon list”, which is not to say that this possibility should be ruled out too quickly either.

For other posts/links relating to the Muratorian canon, see e.g., Bart Ehrmann, C. E. HillLarry Hurtado, Michael Kruger.

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German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! In an effort to provide a sense of regularity and predictability for this blog’s readership, I plan on writing a new post each Monday. So hopefully I will ‘see’ you again in a week’s time. Best, Wayne.