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H. P. S. Bakker. Towards a Critical Edition of the Old Slavic New Testament: A Transparent and Heuristic Approach. Ph.D. diss., University of Amsterdam, 1996. Pp. xii+188.
1. This study represents a significant advance in the knowledge of the textual history of the Old Slavic Gospels and Apostolos. Presented with a winning shrewdness and humour, it shows the author's development as he applies traditional methodologies and then analysis of the particular tradition with which he deals. He describes this as the 'Lachmannian circle': the process in which 'I continuously re-examine my original conceptions' in the process of examining individual witnesses and readings, and 'formulating "working models"' (p. 53). The methodological matters which Bakker covers extend beyond those surrounding the creation of an original/working text to the formation of an apparatus criticus, the use of computers, the nature of the Old Slavic translation(s) and the morphological and syntactical issues of the language. This book is worth reading, for the author's aim is, as he puts it, to be 'transparent', both in his theory and in his working practices (including use of the computer). He sets out to show not only how his interpretation of the evidence has been formulated and revised, but also how he has made it into evidence. We can see where he begins before he examines the material, and we can follow him through collation, analysis and grouping of the witnesses to the latest point he has reached, his preliminary conclusions. It is a journey that looks over two countrysides: on the one hand are Slavic scholars who do not understand textual criticism; on the other, New Testament textual critics who have little or no expert knowledge of matters Slavonic. To the former group he explains textual criticism. To the latter, his reconstruction of the textual history, and of its relationship to Greek texts, will be of particular interest. It is with the latter that the remainder of this review will be concerned. But it is first necessary briefly to describe the contents of the dissertation.
2. The four sections are titled 'Preliminaries', 'Framework', 'Application' and 'Conclusions'. The first two have already been published as "The Set-Up of a Critical Edition of the Old Slavic New Testament," Anzeiger für slavische Philologie 23 (1995): 55-108. We learn that this work is part of the beginnings of the 'Amsterdam Project', in which the author is collaborating with Johannes van der Tak in preparing a critical edition of the Old Slavic NT. The discovery of two hitherto unknown mss of the Apostolos was the starting point of this enterprise. The lack of any substantial body of critical studies of the Apostolos and the distance in time since Josef Vajs' editions of the Gospels (Evangelium sv. Matous\e: Text rekonstruovany8 [Prague: Sumptibus Academiae Velehradensis, 1935]; Evangelium sv. Marka: Text rekonstruovany8 [Prague: Sumptibus Academiae Velehradensis, 1935]; Evangelium sv. Lukás\e: Text rekonstruovany8 [Prague: Sumptibus Academiae Velehradensis, 1936]; Evangelium sv. Jana: Text rekonstruovany8 [Prague: Sumptibus Academiae Velehradensis, 1936]) make such work essential.
3. It is with a survey of the status quaestionis that the work begins. In addressing the Slavists, Bakker justifies Vajs' reconstruction of a text on eclectic principles, arguing wittily that 'if one considers Vajs' contribution to the development of procedures rather than his rulings in specific cases, I would call for immediate repeal of his sentence of exile' (p. 15).
4. The third section provides the textual meat of the study and the bulk of the work of the doctorate. Bakker provides three 'operational editions'. The first is of a number of Gospel lections (Matt 2:1-12; 3:13-17; 9:9-13; 15:21-28; 20:1-16, 22:2-14; Mark 10:32b-45; Luke 1:24-38; 6:1-10, 31-36; 11:1b-13; 12:32-40; John 6:40-44). These have been selected because they are the contents of some recently discovered leaves of the Euchologium Sinaiticum (ES), an eleventh century ms. Fourteen witnesses are cited (this includes printed sources down to Vajs). The following section presents the Apostolos lections in ES: Acts 1:1-5; Rom 12:1-3; 1 Cor 15:39-45; 2 Cor 4:6-15; 6:16-7:1; 9:6-11; Gal 4:4-7; Eph 4:1-7; 5:8-19; Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7; Heb 2:11-18; 12:1-10. Eleven mss have been used for this. In addition, Bakker has collated a number of Greek witnesses: 1889 1891 619 623 625 689 751 840 881 1118 1151 1159 1188 1279 1298. These are occasionally cited. The final edition is of Acts 17-20, using the same witnesses.
5. In keeping with the quest for transparency, a useful commentary is integrated into the apparatus. I have not had access to materials for checking the accuracy of Bakker's collations.
6. The preliminary conclusions which Bakker draws from his work are novel. I shall not attempt to summarise them--the book must be read for that. But his reconstruction of an original literal translation which gradually became freer, and of fairly frequent revision of passages against Greek mss, is valuable. Students of the transmission of the text will be particularly interested by the lack of evidence for other than Byzantine readings in the Gospels (contra Vajs) and by the fact that the Apostolos lectionary text seems to be derived from the Byzantine continuous text. A point of some importance, which may shed light on a number of other interesting issues, is that the Greek mss which served as Vorlagen for the version seem to have been South Italian in origin. Bakker quotes a suggestion of Alphonse Dain (Les manuscrits, 3rd ed. [Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1975]) that they were majuscule mss discarded in Italy after the transition to minuscule. Bakker does not appear to consider it possible to decide whether the earliest recoverable text of the Gospels is that with which tradition credits Cyril and Methodius. He is more confident that the text of the Apostolos does not derive from them.
7. The omission in this volume which I regret is that of a proper description of the ms witnesses. The oversight is not accidental: Bakker refers to a 'Handschriften-Fetischismus' in Slavic studies that 'can obscure the fact that most MSS--despite great differences in spelling and specific readings--share something important with other MSS, namely their text ("manuscripts are unique, texts not usually")' (p. 6). 'What is needed foremost, is critical comments on specific readings' (p. 7). And in the final section he quotes with approval a dictum of Günther Zuntz (from The Text of the Epistles [London: Oxford University Press, 1953]) on the evaluation of variant readings.
Every variant whose quality and origin has ... been established must serve as a stone in the mosaic picture of the history of the tradition, for there is next to no other material from which it could be built up. At the same time the evaluation of individual readings depends to a large extent upon their place within this picture. This is another instance of that circle which is typical of the critical process; it is fruitful and not a vicious circle. The critic may, indeed he must, aim at a comprehensive picture of the whole tradition; he reaches this goal by an untiring dedication to detail [Zuntz, 157; Bakker, 13].It is this traditional eclecticism, with the assistance of Colwell in the grouping of witnesses (he cites particularly from "Hort Redivivus: A Plea and a Program," in Transitions in Biblical Scholarship, ed. J. Coert Rylaarsdam, pp. 151-156 [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968]), that Bakker adopts. His 'Step 2: Characterising Scribes and Manuscripts' (Chapter 6) is a stage that might easily not receive the thorough attention which it deserves, especially given the way in which Slavic studies have developed.
8. To the two groups to whom I referred at the end of the first paragraph of this review should be added a third. Bakker is also concerned with the text and language of versions in contemporary use, and in this vein he offers some suggestions at the end of the study to Bible translators. He suggests that the history of the text continues, and indeed one has to be careful in interpreting one passage in which he speaks of earlier printed texts, as well as the edition of Vajs, in continuum with the manuscript evidence (p. 85). One has to keep in mind where the one begins and the other ends. Bakker is well aware of the living role of the text in the churches where it is used. In this respect, as so often in the discipline, the importance of thorough text critical work may be seen to extend far beyond scholarly debates.
9. This is a piece of work which shows the author not just to have learned his trade thoroughly but to have already made a significant step towards providing an excellent and greatly needed edition.
© TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 1997.
D. C. Parker Department of Theology, University of Birmingham