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Book Review: The Epistle to Digonetus (With the Fragment of Quadratus)

Book Review: The Epistle to Digonetus (With the Fragment of Quadratus)


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It has been over 60 years since a critical edition of The Epistle to Diognetus was published in English. That edition, by Henry Meecham, stood the tests of time well. But with the advent of Oxford University Press's Oxford Apostolic Fathers series, Clayton N. Jefford has produced a worthy successor. His volume, as with each volume in the Oxford Apostolic Fathers series, consists of three parts: Introduction, Text, and Commentary. The introduction provides the basis and framework for establishing the Greek text as well as the translation and commentary, and as such will be the primary focus of this review.

Jefford sets the context for his discussion well. Today, only one manuscript is known to contain this material, and it was subsequently lost in a fire. Only three early transcriptions of the text were completed and subsequent Greek editions are based on that material. Based on his evaluations of those transcriptions, Jefford concludes the manuscript itself was even harder to read and decipher and more lacunose than notes in modern editions lead one to believe. The result of this work is immediately apparent in the scope and detail of the apparatus provided for the Greek text. This is valuable information that has not been available in a single edition and is essential knowledge for those doing serious work involving this text.

Jefford next delves into provenance, which is difficult. There is no longer any existing manuscript witness, little is known about where it came from, and only qualified guessing can be done on any of these topics. There have been several possible authors suggested, all of them supposition. Intelligently argued, many of them, but all constrained to the incredibly small pool of names we actually know and settings we actually understand. Jefford does a good job navigating this tension and reviewing the options and the cases for and against them, even including more recent approaches, such as Charles Hill’s thesis of authorship which points to Polycarp. Jefford, cautious here as in his other work, mentions the possibilities, weighs in on some of them, but is rightly hesitant to point to a specifically named person as the author of this work.

The majority of scholars of early Christianity see Diognetus as two parts. Charles Hill has recently and somewhat persuasively argued that these two sections, despite the lacuna, are of the same author and they should be considered as a whole. Jefford upholds the consensus that the two parts are not directly related, using the more developed forms of arguments Hill has largely anticipated in his work asserting their unity. Regarding integrity, Jefford again hints of his development theory, noting that while the latter portion is an edition, he allows for extensive editorial action to conform the first section with the last section more seamlessly.

Regarding the relationship between Epistle to Diognetus and Scripture, Jefford provides an amazing array of intertextual possibilities. He interacts with Michael Bird's recent work on the relationship between Epistle to Diognetus and Paul's epistles, and also with the well-known reflection of Johannine language.

From here, Jefford moves from review of scholarship and development into positing his own ideas on Diognetus. Though his examination of structure, development, integrity, and relation to Scripture in the introduction, Jefford identifies material that he sees as largely secondary and not necessary for the core of the work. He isolates and removes this material, leaving just the core, which he considers “the rough form of what may once have been oral performance” (p.117).

Jefford has defended his proposal well, but this reviewer thinks suggestions like his prompt more questions than they solve. There are questions about any revisions or edits to the text and who might have made them. If oral, did the original author expand the edition for written publication? When did these editorial expansions happen, and why? What source did they come from? In Jefford's defense, he does frame his discussion well. He notes that his proposal is not a certain and he is more convinced of the generalities of it than any specifics he may elucidate in the discussion.

In sum, Jefford's edition has become the essential reference on all things having to do with The Epistle to Diognetus. Scholars working with it or with texts that may share some intertextual relation with it should take the time to consult and benefit from Jefford's work.

Bibliographical Information

Clayton N. Jefford. The Epistle to Diognetus (with the fragment of Quadratus): Introduction, Text, and Commentary . Oxford Apostolic Fathers. Oxford University Press, 2013. Pp. ix + 281. ISBN: 978-0-19-921274-3. $185.00 [Hardback].



About the Author:
Rick Brannan

Rick Brannan is information architect at Logos Bible Software. His research interests coalsce around the Bible, Apostolic Fathers, Hellenistic Greek, and technology. He is the general editor of the Lexham English Septuagint (2012), translator and editor of The Apostolic Fathers in English (2012), and editor of Greek Apocryphal Gospels, Fragments, and Agrapha (2013).

Website:
rickbrannan.com

Book Review: Polycarp's Epistle to the Philippians and the Martyrdom of Polycarp

Book Review: Polycarp's Epistle to the Philippians and the Martyrdom of Polycarp


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With essentially two volumes in one, Paul Hartog provides the entry for Polycarp’s writings in the Oxford Apostolic Fathers Oxford University Press series. For each of Polycarp’s writings, Hartog provides substantial introductions, Greek text with English translation, and commentary. This review consists of interaction with the introductory materials of both The Epistle to the Philippians and the Martyrdom, along with brief notes on the Hartog’s text and commentary.

Before the material on each writing, Hartog sets the tone with an overview of Polycarp the person, his genuine and falsely-attributed writings, and other early Christian literature about Polycarp. Much of the surviving literature about Polycarp is hagiographical in nature, and dubious in its preservation of historical fact. Yet the understanding of how the early church viewed Polycarp is within that material, so it has value for the historian and student of the early church. Other information about Polycarp which is more likely to be valid, such as Polycarp’s location—Smyrna, his status as bishop, and what can be ascertained of his relationship with the Apostle John as well as Irenaeus.

Hartog’s presentation follows the traditional order of composition, with The Epistle to the Philippians first. The introduction is split into 14 sections spanning over 50 pages. He starts with the historical setting and quickly moves into discussions of textual tradition, authenticity, unity of the epistle, and date. The larger questions today revolve around authenticity and unity of the letter. Hartog interacts with all major theories and their development, providing a map to existing literature through discussion in the text and footnotes.

Hartog continues with shorter sections on genre and style, occasion and purpose, and themes of the epistle. Following these is an extensive section on intertextuality. As many readers of Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians are quick to discover, the epistle’s language is infused with the language of the New Testament. Yet discerning and tracing the influence of the Bible on Polycarp’s writing is a difficult task. Hartog, well versed in this area due to his previous work on the relationship between Polycarp and the New Testament, provides an expansive overview to the issue of intertextuality in Polycarp’s letter.

Hartog rounds out the introduction with sections on Polycarp and Paul, theology, opponents, avarice and heresy, and influence. These sections provide necessary background to themes within the letter and the scholarly discussion on their significance.

Hartog’s edition, apparatus, and translation of Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians is presented next with Greek/Latin and English on facing pages. While the sigla in the apparatus are explained in the introduction, the structure and symbols of the apparatus (e.g. parentheses, angle brackets) are not. Each chapter and verse are given in their own paragraph in both edition and translation, which leaves the reader with no insight from the editor on where discourse-level segmentation such as paragraph breaks may occur.

Hartog’s introduction to The Martyrdom of Polycarp runs over 70 pages. He covers roughly the same sorts of introductory matters—authorship, recipients, text, authenticity, date, and historicity—as he did in the introduction to Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians. As with the previous introduction, the section on intertextuality functions as a boundary between historico-critical introductory matters and issues related to content and understanding of the document. This section also highlights the lack of any direct interaction between the Martrydom and canonical Christian texts.

The introduction continues with sections on theology, view of martyrdom, anti-montanism, Jewish-Christian tradition, legal issues, prayer, and influence. As with other sections, this material provides discussion on these issues among current scholarship with several citations for the motivated reader to follow.

The Greek text and apparatus of the Martyrdom is based on Dehandschutter’s critical text; the translation is Hartog’s. It, as well, has each verse (or section) as its own paragraph, leaving any higher level discourse segmentation such as paragraphing as an exercise to the reader.

Hartog’s commentary on both The Epistle to the Philippians and the Martyrdom lead the reader through respective texts, highlighting translation issues and text-critical issues. His interaction with the available literature is significant, providing discussion and reference to further sources through the footnotes at nearly every point possible.

The entire volume is meticulously researched. The bibliography and footnotes as well as the degree of interaction with German literature not readily accessible to most readers are the obvious strengths of this volume. These factors set Hartog’s work apart. Yet at several points this reviewer felt as if Hartog was focused more on presenting what each consulted source reported about a particular fact, feature, or problem and less focused on presenting what Hartog himself concluded regarding the same issue.

Bibliographical Information

Paul Hartog. Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians and the Martyrdom of Polycarp: Introduction, Text, and Commentary. Oxford Apostolic Fathers. Oxford University Press, 2013. Pp. xi + 402. ISBN: 978-0-19-922839-3. $275.00 [Hardback].



About the Author:
Rick Brannan

Rick Brannan is information architect at Logos Bible Software. His research interests coalsce around the Bible, Apostolic Fathers, Hellenistic Greek, and technology. He is the general editor of the Lexham English Septuagint (2012), translator and editor of The Apostolic Fathers in English (2012), and editor of Greek Apocryphal Gospels, Fragments, and Agrapha (2013).

Website:
rickbrannan.com