Sunday, June 5, 2011

Metzger on the Lucianic Recension

Although we don't subscribe to Metzger's text-critical theories, he does a good job of summarizing the evidence regarding Lucian, and his recension of the Old and New Testaments:


The earliest references to Lucian are two brief and highly favorable estimates which Eusebius includes in his Church History. Here Lucian is described as a presbyter of Antioch, "whose entire life was most excellent (aristos)" (VIII.xiii.2), and as "a most excellent man in every respect, temperate in life and well-versed
in sacred learning" (
Later in the fourth century Jerome makes three references to Lucian which differ considerably in temper and appreciation of his work. The differences are no doubt to be accounted for by considering the several contexts and Jerome's immediate purpose in referring to Lucian. On the one hand, when Jerome is comparing his own work as reviser of the Old Latin text with similar work by others in Greek, he is rather severe in his judgment of Lucian. Thus in his Preface to the Four Gospels, which takes the form of an open letter addressed to Pope Damasus and which was composed perhaps about the year 383, he refers somewhat contemptuously to the "manuscripts which are associated with the names of Lucian and Hesychius, the authority of which is perversely maintained by a few disputatious persons."  
Continuing in the same vein Jerome condemns the work of Lucian and Hesychius as infelicitous:  
"It is obvious that these writers could not emend anything in the Old Testament after the labors of the Seventy; and it was useless to correct the New, for versions of Scripture already exist in the languages of many nations which show that their additions are false." (1a)
 Subsequently, in the Preface to his translation of the books of Chronicles, Jerome makes a more temperate allusion to the work of Lucian and other Biblical scholars. In referring to the diversity of the editions of the Greek Old Testament, he declares that three are current in various parts of the Empire:
"Alexandria and Egypt in their [copies of the] Septuagint praise Hesychius as author; Constantinople to Antioch approves the copies [containing the text] of Lucian the martyr; the middle provinces between these read the Palestinian codices edited by Origen, which Eusebius and Pamphilus published."(1)
In his valuable Lives of Illustrious Men, written soon after A.D.
392, Jerome is still more generous in his description of Lucian. Here, in a biographical sketch devoted to the martyr from Antioch, he characterizes him as "a man of great talent" and "so diligent in the study of the Scriptures that even now certain copies of the Scriptures bear the name of Lucian." (2) 
What is of special importance is the declaration that copies of the Scriptures (and not just of the Septuagint, as Jerome is sometimes quoted) passed under the name of Lucianea.

Information of the widespread use of Lucian's recension of the Psalter is contained in Jerome's letter to Sunnias and Fretela (about A.D. 403). These two Gothic churchmen had inquired of Jerome why his own Latin Psalter (the so-called Roman Psalter) differed so frequently from the Septuagint. In his reply Jerome points out that they have been misled by their edition of the Septuagint, which varied widely from the critical text of Origen given in the Hexapla
and used by himself. Jerome writes:
"You must know that there is  one edition which Origen and Eusebius of Caesarea and all the Greek commentators call 'Koine'[common], that is common and widespread, and is by most people now called Lucianic; and there is another, that of the Septuagint, which is found in the manuscripts of the Hexapla, and has been faithfully translated by us into Latin." (3)
 Here Jerome distinguishes the Lucianic text from that of the Hexapla, and indicates that the former met with such universal acceptance that it received the name of the Vulgate or common text. 
Later testimonies refer to Lucian's competence in Hebrew. For example, Suidas and Simeon Metaphrastes (in the Passio S. Luciani martyris) assert that "he translated [literally, renewed] them all [i.e. the books of the Old Testament] again from the Hebrew language, of which he had a very accurate knowledge, spending much labor on the work." (4)

Though Lucian may have consulted Hebrew in connection with his revision of the Septuagint, this statement is obviously exaggerated in the manner of hagiographers. 
More sober, and doubtless nearer to the truth of what Lucian
attempted to do, is the description of pseudo-Athanasius in his
Synopsis sacrae scripturae:
"Using the earlier editions [i.e. of Aquila, Theodotion, and Symmachus] and the Hebrew, and having accurately surveyed the expressions which fell short of or went beyond the truth, and having corrected them in their proper places, he published them for the Christian brethren." (5)
Among testimonia of uncertain origin there is an unequivocal statement that Lucian concerned himself with the New Testament as well as the Old.  Under the date of October 15, the Menaeon of the Greek Church (this is a liturgical volume which includes short accounts of saints and martyrs to be read on their festivals) states that Lucian made a copy with his own hand of both the Old and New Testaments, written in three columns, which afterwards belonged to the Church in Nicomedia.(6)  Substantially the same information in a more extended hagiographical context is contained in the Synaxarium ecclesiae Constantinopolitanae for October 15. (7)

 This list of testimonies may be brought to a close with a reference to the condemnation of Lucian in the so-called Decretum Gelasianum, where mention is made of "Evangelia quae falsavit Lucianus, apocrypha, Evangelia quae falsavit Hesychius, apocrypha" (v, iii, 8-9).  It is generally agreed that this statement rests upon a misunderstanding of the critical remarks of Jerome. (8).

By way of summarizing ancient testimonies concerning Lucian's textual work, we find that his contemporaries generally regarded him as an able scholar, entirely competent to undertake such a recension. As a native Syrian he could, of course, have consulted the Syriac version; he also appears to have had some acquaintance with Hebrew. As would have been expected, he made use of previous Greek translations of the Old Testament, and sought to adjust the Greek to the underlying Hebrew text. But we are told nothing as to the amount of revision which he undertook in either Old or New Testament text, the nature of the manuscripts which he consulted, the relation of his work to the Hexapla, and other similar matters. For information bearing on such problems, we must turn to the manuscripts which have been thought to contain the Lucian recension."
(Metzger, Chapters in the History of NT TC,
"The Lucianic Recension" (1963) p. 3 - 8)

mr. scrivener

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