Thursday, May 15, 2008

Matthew According to Patristic Citations
Given that early church fathers often quote from the Gospel of Matthew it would be interesting to see what Matthew would read like when constructed entirely from such quotations. Our critical Greek text of Matthew (NA27) depends basically on fourth century manuscripts, however, reconstructing a text of Matthew according to patristic quotations would yield a much earlier text (although perhaps a less accurate text if the quotations of Matthew were drawn from memory and/or give a harmonized/mixed quotation influenced by other Gospels).

But I would still like to see what Matthew looks like when so reconstructed. Peter Head has recently pointed out (here & here in answering a question of mine on Synoptic-L restated here) that it is only for Luke's Gospel that we have extensive amounts of papyri text. Understandably textual criticism for the Gospels cannot usually give to patristic citations the same 'weight' (if much at all) as actual Gospel manuscripts but it would be an interesting experiment to see what Matthew looks like when having to rely solely on early (second to fourth century) citations. Of course, this would leave many gaps in such a reconstructed text since we would probably be lucky if altogether we got 50% of Matthew. I think such an experiment may benefit not only textual criticism but also studies in the synoptic problem.


Chris Weimer said...

This has kind of already been done. See Peter Kirby's e-catena page.

All the best,


Roger Pearse said...

It would be interesting; but less striking than perhaps we imagine. I remember being disappointed, when I scanned the English translation of the Western text of Acts, how little real difference it seemed to make, for any practical purpose.