Book Review: A Gospel Synopsis of the Greek Text of Matthew, Mark and Luke

bezaevaticanusgospelsynopsisTitle: A Gospel Synopsis of the Greek Text of Matthew, Mark and Luke: A Comparison of Codex Bezae and Codex Vaticanus

Editors:  Jenny Read-Heimerdinger and Josep Rius-Camps

Series: New Testament Tools, Studies and Documents

Bibliographic info: xxi + 630 pp.

Publisher: Brill, 2014.

Buy the book at Amazon or direct from the publisher

With thanks to Brill for the review copy.

While most (all?) current synopses of the gospels typically employ the Nestle-Aland edition of the Greek text, this volume displays the synoptic gospels using the texts of Bezae (D/05) and Vaticanus (B/03). It does so, however, three times, with each iteration placing the synoptic gospels in a different order (so that each of the three gospels gets a turn as being the principal gospel in the comparison). Thus, in Part I the synopsis goes Matthew-Mark-Luke, then in Part II it goes Mark-Matthew-Luke, and in Part III it goes Luke-Matthew-Mark.

The gospels are displayed in parallel columns on the page, with the text of Bezae and Vaticanus on opposite pages (Bezae on the left-hand pages and Vaticanus on the right-hand pages), thus there are six columns on the two pages opened before you (with the left-most column on each page containing the text of the principal gospel and the second and third columns having the parallel text of the other two gospels).

There are instances in Bezae where the extant manuscript lacks the Greek text, so in these instances the Latin of Bezae has been translated into Greek (and marked out to the reader by its placement in parentheses). And in instances where the Greek and Latin of Bezae is missing, the editors utilized the text of Sinaiticus (A/01) which is printed in red ink.

There were a couple oddities I noticed in the text of Bezae, one being the omission of Mark 16:9-20 (which is attested in Bezae), and the second being that the Pericopae Adulterae is placed after Luke 20:19 (which is not attested in Bezae). So I’m not sure what that is all about.

The layout used in this synopsis has its pros and cons. One thing in its favor is that the text is written out in short lines, which I find helps a great deal in comparing the columns. A shortcoming I noticed is in how the gospel text is divided into pericopae that sometimes seem arbitrary as to where they are divided and some of which are too long. Another weakness is that the pages do not contain chapter and verse numbers at the top of the columns (which helps in a pinch if you’re flipping through the book trying to find a specific passage).

This synopsis is valuable as there is no other published synopsis comparing Bezae and Vaticanus (as far as I am aware). This is, however, at the same time a drawback. For in limiting this synopsis to two specific manuscripts, it isn’t going to be terribly helpful if your hoping to utilize it for getting a broader understanding of text-critical issues, which is only further compounded by the fact that this synopsis lacks a critical apparatus.

Ultimately, this synopsis gives the reader the ability to compare and contrast two specific instantiations of the text of the synoptic gospels in the early church. I can see why this may be a desired and much needed alternative to the usual synopsis which employs a carefully reconstructed eclectic text that was not actually used in the church.

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