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Reuben J. Swanson, ed., New Testament Greek Manuscripts: Variant Readings Arranged in Horizontal Lines against Codex Vaticanus: Romans. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House/Pasadena: William Carey International University Press, 2001. Pp. xl + 391. ISBN 0-86585-070-4. US $37.95.

1. This is the seventh volume in the series to appear, after the four Gospels, Acts, and Galatians. Since it is the first that I have reviewed, I will take the opportunity to assess the overall concept of the edition as well as this volume.

2. To express it as simply as possible, the edition sets the text of Codex Vaticanus at the top and all other forms of text under it, in such a way that the common words always appear in a vertical line, with the attestation for each form placed to the right. Various kinds of information are supplied in further apparatus at the bottom of the page. The edition therefore departs from the format of base text with variants indicated in an apparatus below and instead gives the continuous text of all witnesses. The idea is an excellent one and helps us to get away from the problems of editions that convey the impression of an authoritative text with some disembodied and rejected differences noted at the bottom. The rationale for this was set out in the Gospel volumes under seven terse heads. In Acts a heading that applied only to the Gospels was dropped and replaced with a longer heading titled "Each manuscript was Scripture in an early Christian community" (Swanson's italics). This has been augmented here with a new section called "A Brief Critique of the Recent and Dominant Textual Critical Methodology" (pp. xxv-xxxi). Swanson has come to believe that "the very purpose and goal undergirding the discipline of textual criticism, that is, to recover the most reliable and earliest text of the ancient New Testament writings, is suspect and open to revision" (p. xxv). Using some examples, he presents what he calls "A new and more excellent way":

The principle is set forth here that the role of the critic is to present the material from the manuscripts in toto, since each of the manuscripts is a witness to the historical, sociological, religious, and theological situation in one or more Christian communities wherever and whenever that manuscript was penned (p. xxvii).
The theory is found in nuce in the earlier volumes, since the original seventh advantage, now the sixth, states that "each scribal witness in a certain sense is a unique presentation of testimony to Jesus Christ during the first fifteen centuries of our era" (p. xxv).

3. The belief presented is set out without any reference to similar views. It is rather surprising to read that the role of the critic is to present the material from the manuscripts "in toto." As it stands, this is claimed to be the only role of the critic. Does Swanson intentionally eliminate the task of analysing and interpreting? Presumably not, since he goes on to interpret the significance of several readings. It is to be hoped that this question will be clarified in a subsequent volume.

4. In other respects, the introduction is similar or identical to the earlier volumes. There is the same foreword by Bruce Metzger, followed by these sections:

  1. "An Historical Review of Text Editions"--The principal claim made here is that all current editions are based upon the Textus Receptus (it would be helpful to provide examples to substantiate the statement that "Remnants of the twelfth century minuscules used by Erasmus still remain the basis for some passages in all current critical editions" (p. xiv).
  2. The principles of the new edition: using a single manuscript text as the base text, with evidence based upon "the trinity of completeness, accuracy, and efficiency" (p. xv). Completeness means that the precise text of each witness is provided. As to accuracy, it is helpful to learn that "manuscripts have been read twice and even three times with additional checking of specific passages" (p. xvi). This is the minimum requirement. Efficiency is referred to later as user-friendliness.
  3. The witnesses selected for the current volume--For Romans, they are I cannot find any statement justifying the choice of witnesses. Some of the papyrus fragments not included are rather late, but why exclude P40, a third century witness more extensive as well as older than P10? Furthermore, is the selection of three related Graeco-Latin bilingual majuscules (06 010 012) necessary? Perhaps the choice is systematic, and one could work it out in time. Or perhaps it is either arbitrary or based upon some such practical consideration as the availability of microfilm. We should be told, and the provision of this information is an urgent desideratum for further volumes.
  4. A description of the edition and appendices.
  5. An apologia for the form of the edition.

5. A number of details in the introduction are irritating. Itacism is defined as "different spellings of words" (p. xx). Of course, it means spelling with different vowels. The reader is referred for a "full discussion" of nomina sacra to Metzger's Manuscripts of the Greek Bible. The section there is in fact a summary of some salient points in the far more thorough discussions of Traube, Paap, and others. We are told on the same page that Apparatus D cites "the chapter or section numbers from the margins as well as the Eusebian canon tables" (p. xxi). The last seven words could be helpfully omitted for all subsequent volumes, since they apply only to the Gospels. It is claimed that "each manuscript can actually be reconstructed electronically out of the data for independent study" (p. xx). If what is recommended is the creation of digital transcriptions of witnesses from this volume, then the advice is unwelcome. Any such transcription should be made from a manuscript or from a reproduction of it. I note that the information about sources is said to be taken from UBS3 (p. xvi), although it is stated in earlier volumes to be from UBS4. The edition of Nestle-Aland cited on p. xiv is the twenty-sixth (even in the time of the first volume, 1995, the twenty-seventh edition had been out for two years).

6. The underlying problem of some of these flaws is that there is inadequate differentiation between a general introduction to the whole edition and the introduction to an individual volume. The former should either be kept separately or omitted in subsequent volumes, leaving the field to a specific introduction to the specific features of the current volume.

7. The edition itself consists of five apparatus. The first, and largest, consists of the transcriptions. The second is a list of lacunae. The third gives information about lections (described as kefa/laia and ti/tloi), the fourth about section numbers. The fifth provides biblical references.

8. The edition has a number of appendices:

9. The information about lectionary incipits and other ancillary material, provided in Apparatus C and as the first appendix, is in theory a very welcome addition. Unfortunately, the presentation is not easy to follow. For one thing, it seems that two types of material, the lectionary apparatus and various systems of textual divisions, have been confused (perhaps because Euthalius' sections are called lections--in fact they are not lections for public reading). For another, it is not very straightforward to work out the various types of lections, for example, to distinguish between the Euthalian divisions and the shorter Byzantine sections. For some reason there is duplication between the apparatus and the appendix, at least once with minor changes: we find peri krisewj written as a single word in the apparatus to 2.12, but correctly in the appendix. A scattering of typos and forms that look improbable suggest that the editor is not an authority in this field of Byzantine bibliography, and it is unlikely that this part of the book will become more useful on better acquaintance. If future volumes were to adopt a presentation that separated out the material, there would be a great improvement.

10. It should be observed that Swanson refers to the Vatican section division as "singular and unique" (p. xxi). In fact, this MS has two systems in Paul, one with continuous numbering throughout the corpus, the other with separate numbering for each epistle. The effect is masked in Romans, but in Swanson's Galatians they are interspersed.

11. A prime consideration in assessing a work of this kind has to be its accuracy. So far as earlier volumes go, I had noted in checking readings of Codex Bezae in the Gospels that Swanson appeared to have used Scrivener's transcription of the manuscript, since errors by Scrivener are reproduced. A comparison between Lake's (Codex 1 of the Gospels and its Allies) and Swanson's transcriptions of minuscule 1 revealed that Swanson was usually correct where they differed (personal communication from Dr A. Anderson). For Romans, I checked several chapters in Codex Alexandrinus, using the reduced collotype facsimile. I noted that at chapter 1 verse 13 kaqw\j is cited in full, when the first letter is missing, and that the lacuna in the following verse is also unreported. The same was found at 5.5 and 6. In neither chapter did I find any other kind of error. Given the practical difficulties of compiling an apparatus in this manner, these look like good results. It would, by the way, be interesting to be told how the editor worked from individual transcriptions (or collations?) of eighty manuscripts to produce the end result--interesting, not only from the point of view of understanding how this edition is made and where problems might arise, but also for increasing textual critics' shared experience of data-gathering and presentation.

12. One particularly interesting section is the list of variant readings not cited in NA27 and UBS4 which Swanson considers to be significant. It is his view that these editions do not contain "the most significant and meaningful possible" variants (p. 288). This thought had occurred to me too, although in a slightly different form. I suggest that the terms "significant and meaningful" have to have their points of reference defined. The readings we have are ones that have been meaningful to scholars hitherto because of their significance for defining textual relations and their role in debates among textual critics and exegetes. It is inevitable that as interests change, different readings will become centres for discussion. It is unlikely that all the readings of importance to textual scholars interested in the approach now favoured by Swanson will be present in critical editions. No doubt this will change.

13. There are some interesting parallels between Swanson's work and current digital editing. Both in the IGNTP and in Münster, methods are being developed that depend on full transcriptions of the witnesses and apparatus critici with several possible formats, including a lineated one not wholly dissimilar to the type favoured by Swanson. The digital transcriptions also reproduce the text precisely.

14. How easy is the edition to work with? The introduction several times claims to be "user-friendly." It has to be said that while the editor may state this as a goal, it is for the user to determine whether or not it has been achieved. This user's answer is that the main apparatus takes a little getting used to. Apart from Vaticanus, the place of every witness will vary line by line. The eye will pick out a letter for a majuscule easily enough, but a minuscule number may not be so easy to find. As I have said, the sections covering the Auszeichnungschriften are rather difficult to use.

15. In summary, this is an interesting and imaginative project, with much to commend it. The main purpose, to provide usable transcriptions of a significant number of witnesses, has been achieved. One could not use it as one's main reference work, but using it alongside other editions will only enrich our understanding of the Greek manuscript tradition.

© TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 2003.

D. C. Parker
Centre for the Editing of Texts in Religion
The University of Birmingham