Reviews of

Studies on the Intersection of Text, Paratext, and Reception

In Brill, Charles E. HILL, Gregory R. Lanier, J. Nicholas Reid, Manuscript Studies, Manuscripts, Matthew Burks, Textual Criticism on April 8, 2022 at 7:35 pm

2022.04.05 | Gregory R. Lanier and J. Nicholas Reid. Studies on the Intersection of Text, Paratext, and Reception: A Festschrift in Honor of Charles E. Hill. Texts and Editions for New Testament Study 15. Leiden: Brill, 2021. pp. xxvii + 414.

Review by Matthew Burks, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

This book is a festschrift dedicated to Charles Hill on his 65th birthday. Dr. Hill currently holds the title of Professor Emeritus at the Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. The broad range and purpose of the book is to update each of the fields of Hill’s interest and earlier research to “bring together the latest research on each of these subfields and explore how they can and should inform each other” (p. xi).

Hill offered an excellent blueprint for how one can traverse the various areas of study in the field of Early Christianity, bridging the gaps between textual criticism, Gospel reception, and paratextual features of ancient manuscripts. This volume in the “Texts and Editions for New Testament Study” series supplies essays on these three areas.

The work divides into two parts. Part one gives essays on the Text and Paratext. Seven chapters from top scholars in the field make up this part of the book. Chapter one, by Peter Head, discusses scribal behavior through the lens of punctuation and paragraphs in one manuscript (P66/P.Bod.II). Head concludes the scribe of P66 used punctuation inconsistently in the manuscript. Yet the placement of diareses within corrections, copying non-sensical diples, and large-scale delimitations suggest the scribe followed the exemplar. Furthermore, users of the manuscript also show types of improvements (i.e., a type of correction to the punctuation) in the manuscript. Head summarizes, “if users add punctuation as they make sense and read a text, then to that extent the punctuation cannot be regarded as part of the textual tradition” (p. 27).

Chapter two, written by Gregory Lanier and Moses Han, discussed the “Text and Paratext of Minuscule GA 1424: Initial Observations.” This chapter begins a discussion of the text of a minuscule and the Byzantine tradition and a discussion of paratextual features in this manuscript, concluding that value is found in focusing on both of these features of a manuscript. As the authors state, the manuscript is not a “complete Byzantine” witness but reveals some interesting readings in the Gospels away from typical Byzantine readings. Also, the scribe and editors of the manuscript reveal a high knowledge of “textual criticism” when looking through the marginal notes, corrections, and obeli found in the manuscript.

Peter Malik penned chapter three, “Marginal Paratexts in GA 2323: a Thirteenth-Century Witness to the Medieval Reception of Revelation.” The chapter offers further introductory and concluding remarks from a German article by Malik and Edmund Gerke.[1] Malik concludes the paratext in GA 2323 reflects commentaries from Andrew of Caesarea and others such as Oecumenius, Arethas, and unknown ancient commentators. The marginalia, Malik argues, originated likely from an exemplar rather than the scribe of GA 2323.

In chapter four, J. Nicholas Reid discusses writing and writers from the Ancient Near East and how this helps understand the similar practices in the New Testament, showing how ideas about ancient literacy, ancient scribal culture, and scribal training affect the accuracy of “textual transmission.” Text critics pursue understanding the original text and the transmission history but must also come to understand “creative transmission” styles of ancient scribes, editors, and users of ancient manuscripts.

A long-held dictum in the field of textual criticism states that one is to prefer the shorter reading when thinking through internal criteria of variant readings. Peter Gurry, in chapter five, pushes back on this “canon” among internal criteria. Through NT examples, Gurry argues that editors of critical Greek New Testaments have failed to consider homoeoteleuton adequately as a potential cause for shorter readings in manuscripts. Gurry echoes Malik’s thoughts on the subject matter: “the language of length ought to be dropped from our terminology altogether; rather, different types of variation need to be treated on their own terms” (p. 138).[2] Longer readings are the better reading when they best explain the creation of other readings. 

Chapter six, titled “Codex Bezae as Repository,” comes from Jennifer Knust and Tommy Wasserman. The authors show how Codex Bezae was used in the centuries after its creation by Greek-speaking Christians in the margins of the manuscript. The manuscript continued to be used as a “repository” for other manuscripts and important liturgical functions. A full listing of the titloi in Codex Bezae as an appendix to the chapter is a helpful tool of primary source research (pp. 162–69). 

Stanley Porter concluded Part One with a chapter titled “What is a Text? The Linguistic Turn and Its Implications for New Testament Studies.” Porter uses the chapter to examine the idea of the “linguistic turn” and how the implications of this turn have affected the interpretation of texts (p. 175). The chapter serves as a helpful state of research for linguistics across various disciplines. Porter’s ultimate point of the chapter is “to illustrate how the linguistic turn is deeply embedded in the major intellectual disciplines within which NT scholars function” (p. 195). 

 Part two of the work devotes six chapters to focus on areas on the Text, Canon, and Reception. In chapter eight, Michael Kruger argues that “this bi-covenantal infrastructure was woven into the theological fabric of Christianity from the beginning” (p. 201). Then, Kruger surveys first and second-century sources to show that Christians understood God’s revelation to have two distinct parts. Next, Peter Gentry discusses an early text in chapter nine, MasPsa, and its supposed role (or lack thereof) with the history of the Hebrew Psalter. Gentry argues in this chapter that there was a standard Hebrew text of the OT along with a variety of other “pluriform” texts; this is the best explanation for the “rewritten Scriptures at Qumran,” according to Gentry” (p. 250). 

In chapter ten, Peter Williams researches explicit quotations in scholarly editions of the NT and translations. Williams notes the anachronistic use of quotation marks but nevertheless shows similar practices in antiquity. Then, Williams discusses four passages (John 1:15, John 3:10–15, John 3:27–30, and Galatian 2:14) to show the problem of quotations in editions. Although the use of quotation marks in current Bibles is less than a century old, Williams concludes that examining early manuscripts shows the misuse of quotation marks in current Bibles. Therefore, Williams states, “the practice of using quotation marks in Bibles should be abandoned” (p. 277). 

Paul Foster discusses Polycarp and his theology and reception history in chapter eleven. Foster dialogues with Hill’s monograph From the Lost Teaching of Polycarp, interacting with two major claims from Hill’s work:[3] (1) that “some of the oral teaching of Polycarp still exists, imbedded in Irenaeus’ book Against Heresies, and is still recoverable” and (2) that “another case for identifying some of Polycarp’s teaching, in the anonymous work known as the Epistle to Diognetus” (p. 279).[4] Foster continues the dialogue around Polycarp’s claims and ideas in teaching through the letter of Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians. Foster concludes that Polycarp is understood best as an “ecclesial theologian, or as a practice-based Christian thinker” (p. 311).

In chapter twelve, Richard Bauckham discusses a reference to John the Elder as Bishop of Ephesus, found in Apostolic Constitutions 7.46. Bauckham concludes that the “CA List [Constitutiones apostolorum] provides evidence, independent of Eusebius, of a John in Asia, a prominent Christian leader in the latter part of the first century, who was not John the son of Zebedee, one of the Twelve apostles” (p. 337). The concluding chapter of the work comes in Chapter thirteen. James Barker seeks to fit the Acts of John within the Johannine Corpus. Among patristic citations, manuscript evidence, and a sociology of readings to show how the Acts of John fit into the larger corpus. Ultimately, Barker shows that “the text’s [Acts of John] purportedly heterodox and heretical tendencies could be curbed precisely by reading the Acts alongside the Gospel, Epistles, and Apocalypse, the combination of which finally composed a complete Johannine corpus” (p. 374). 

All the necessary caveats stand for a collected work of essays. Nevertheless, this broad range of studies in this work reveals the massive work that Dr. Hill has done in merging these three areas of study in Early Christianity. Each chapter gives an excellent bibliography. The work concludes with a complete bibliography of Dr. Hill’s work also. Lanier and Reid, the editors of this work, compiled a beneficial volume that provides excellent research on three fascinating fields in early Christianity. The three fields surveyed all attest to the breadth of Dr. Hill’s academic career and the excellent work he has produced. 

Matthew Burks
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary 
matthew.h.burks [at] gmail.com


[1] Peter Malik und Edmund Gerke, “Marginalglossen in GA 2323: Edition und Übersetzung” in Studen zum Text der Apokalypse III, Darius Müller and Marcus Sigismund, eds. ANTF 51. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2020.

[2] Gurry expands on the theory of this hypothesis in his article, “The Text of Eph 5.22 and the Start of the Ephesian Household Code,” NTS 67.4 (Oct 2021): 560–581. 

[3] Charles E. Hill, From the Lost Teaching of Polycarp, WUNT 186, (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006). 

[4] Hill, From the Lost Teaching of Polycarp, 2–3. 

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