Textual History and Reception History

Exegetical Variation in the Apocalypse

In: Novum Testamentum
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  • 1 Dublin City University, Ireland

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This article explores the possibility of examining reception history within the textual history of the New Testament, focusing on the book of Revelation. Both intentional alterations located in particular manuscripts and reading practices gleaned from slips of scribal performance are indicative of reception. Attempts to facilitate a certain understanding of a locution constitute acts of reception embedded in Revelation’s early textual history. The article concludes by analysing the social dynamics of the milieus in which exegetical textual alterations were tolerated, suggesting that the work of informal scribal networks provides modern researchers access to evidence for reception.

  • 1

    D.C. Parker, The Living Text of the Gospels (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997) 2.

  • 2

    See J.K. Elliott, New Testament Textual Criticism: The Application of Thoroughgoing Principles: Essays on Manuscripts and Textual Variation (NTSup 137; Leiden: Brill, 2010) 145-155; Juan Hernández Jr., “Scribal Tendencies in the Apocalypse: Starting the Conversation,” in Jewish and Christian Scripture as Artifact and Canon (lsts 70; ed. C.A. Evans and H.D. Zacharias; London: T&T Clark, 2009) 248-250; Markus Lembke, “Beobachtungen zu den Handchriften der Apokalypse des Johannes,” in Die Johannesoffenbarung: Ihr Text und ihre Auslegung (abg 38; ed. M. Labahn and M. Karrer; Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2012) 19-69; Martin Karrer, “Der Text der Johannesapokalypse,” in Die Johannesapokalypse: Kontexte—Konzepte—Rezeption (wunt 287; ed. J. Frey, J.A. Kelhoffer and F. Tóth; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012) 43-78; Tobias Nicklas, “The Early Text of Revelation,” in The Early Text of the New Testament (ed. C.E. Hill and M.J. Krueger; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) 225-238.

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  • 4

    B.F. Westcott and F.J.A. Hort, The New Testament in the Original Greek (vol. 2; London: Macmillan, 1896) 282. Cf. also E. von Dobschütz, Eberhard Nestles Einführung in das griechische Neue Testament (4th ed.; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1923) 5 (“immer von der Voraussetzung ausgehen, daß der Text verderbt sei und wiederhergestellt werden müsse”), and F.H.A. Scrivener, A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament (4th ed.; 2 vols.; London: George Bell, 1894) 1.16.

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  • 5

    H.C. Hoskier, Concerning the Text of the Apocalypse (2 vols.; London: Bernard Quaritch, 1929) 1.198. This is a rather mild rebuff in light of his analysis that it would be better if the scribe of 1894 had not been born (1.613).

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  • 9

    D.C. Parker, “Scripture is Tradition,” Theology 94 (1991) 15 concludes that the existence of free text forms (e.g. Codex Bezae) “indicates that to at least some early Christians, it was more important to hand on the spirit of Jesus’ teaching than to remember the letter,” commenting further that “material about Jesus was preserved in an interpretive rather than exact fashion.” See also J.J. Brogan, “Another Look at Codex Sinaiticus,” in The Bible as Book: The Transmission of the Greek Text (ed. S. McKendrick and O. O’Sullivan; London: British Library, 2003) 24-27. Not all agree that scribes were able to understand or interested in comprehending the text they were copying: e.g. B. Aland, “Welche Rolle spielen Textkritik und Textgeschichte für das Verständnis des Neuen Testaments? Frühe Leserperspektiven,” nts 52 no. 3 (2006) 303-318 (esp. 305). Surely this issue must not be absolute in either direction: some scribal attitudes toward wording were freer, while others evidence a dogged adherence to precise replication. We should envision a gradation of scribal attitudes toward Vorlagen, the reality differing from scribe to scribe.

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  • 11

    See Kim Haines-Eitzen, Guardians of Letters: Literacy, Power, and the Transmitters of Early Christian Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000) 106-107.

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  • 14

    Cf. K. Junack, “Abschreibpraktiken und Schreibergewohnheiten in ihrer Auswirkung auf die Textüberlieferung,” in New Testament Textual Criticism: Its Significance for Exegesis (ed. E.J. Epp and G.D. Fee; Oxford: Clarendon, 1981) 277-295 (esp. 290-295).

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  • 18

    Christopher Tuckett, “The Early Text of Acts,” in The Early Text of the New Testament (ed. C.E. Hill and M.J. Kruger; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) 174 (emphasis original).

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  • 22

    Hernández, Scribal Habits, 49.

  • 24

    Hernández, Scribal Habits, 77. Cf. also Bernhard Weiss, Die Johannes-Apokalypse: Textkritische Untersuchungen und Textherstellung (tu 7; Leipzig: Hinrichs’sche, 1891) 61.

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  • 27

    Weiss, Johannes-Apokalypse, 61.

  • 28

    Cf. Hernández, “Codex Sinaiticus,” 107-108.

  • 29

    Karrer, “Varianten und Theologie,” 373-398.

  • 30

    D.C. Parker, An Introduction to the New Testament Manuscripts and Their Texts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008) 244 suggests that the change reflects Constantine’s practice of locating priest around the imperial throne.

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  • 33

    Cf. Hernández, “Codex Sinaiticus,” 107-108.

  • 36

    So Malik, “Earliest Corrections,” 5.

  • 38

    Ibid., 11.

  • 40

    See N. Gonis et al., The Oxyrhynchus Papyri (vol. 66; London: British Academy, 1999) 10-37 and the evaluation of D.C. Parker in “A New Oxyrhynchus Papyrus of Revelation: P115 (P. Oxy. 4499),” nts 46 (2000) 159-174. The manuscript was originally 14.5 × 22 cm with a writing area of 12.5 × 18.5 cm (possibly bound into a codex) and contains Rev 2:1-3, 13-15, 27-29; 3:10-12; 5:8-9; 6:4-6 and 8:3-15.7 with gaps.

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  • 41

    Parker, “Oxyrhynchus Papyrus,” 160.

  • 42

    Ibid., 163.

  • 46

    Cf. Hernández, Scribal Habits, 108.

  • 47

    Cf. Royse, Scribal Habits, 375.

  • 51

    See Haines-Eitzen, Guardians, 30-35.

  • 55

    Kim Haines-Eitzen, “The Social History of Early Christian Scribes,” in The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis (nttsd 42; 2nd ed.; ed. B.D. Ehrman and M.W. Holmes; Leiden: Brill, 2014) 489.

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