Eberhard W. Güting and David L. Mealand. Asyndeton in Paul: A Text-critical and Statistical Inquiry into Pauline Style. Studies in the Bible and Early Christianity, no. 39. Mellen, 1998. Pp. xiv + 203. ISBN 0-7734-8369-1. US $89.95.

1. This interesting volume is divided into an introduction and three parts. The introduction (pp. 1-23) discusses asyndeton in relation to ancient rhetoric and modern linguistics, goes on to describe the text-critical methodology that will be followed, and then finally summarises the place of asyndeton within Paul's style. The kind of criticism that is adopted is a reasoned balance of external and internal criteria. It begins with the former, but it acknowledges the presence of error in even the best manuscripts: 'We need to analyse the tendencies of particular texts, and of groups of manuscripts, in order to recognize attempts to improve the text grammatically or stylistically' (p. 8). The authors follow Zuntz in accepting that the critic's task is to recover the oldest available text of the Corpus Paulinum (p. 9) (Zuntz 1953: 12). There is some direct overlap with Zuntz's work, since the book examines the text of Romans and 1 and 2 Corinthians (Zuntz concentrated on 1 Corinthians and Hebrews). In addition, a few other passages are discussed; for example, 1 Thess. 5.3 (p. 38).

2. The first section (pp. 25-66) is concerned with the text-critical part of the book's title. It is called (in the running titles, though it is nameless in the table of contents) 'Asyndeton, text and style'. The first part of this states the main thesis of the section, that 'In nearly all instances secondary particles have asserted themselves in the shorter syntactical units presented by the tradition' (p. 25). If I understand what is written here aright, there is also a tendency in the tradition to turn 'long and more complex sentence structures' into 'short energetical sentences' (p. 25). These tendencies are then analysed in nineteen passages. The study then turns to a number of specific uses of asyndeta in Paul: in 'argument and statement', 'instructions referring to alternatives', 'paraenetic paragraphs', 'interrogative sentences', 'the interrogative formula <grc>ouk oudate;</grc>', 'serial elements', and 'contrasted elements'. There is then a brief (one page) summary of the section.

3. The careful analysis which is conducted uses examples where the text is sure, in order to establish it where it is not. In addition, the tendencies of particular manuscripts can be a guide in certain places. For example, P47 has a tendency to omit conjunctions. The consequence is an approach which both expands our knowledge of Paul's prose style and helps to resolve a number of textual problems.

4. On occasion, conjecture is preferred. For example, at Rom. 11.13 we have the variants <grc>de</grc>, <grc>gar</grc> and <grc>oun</grc>. It is argued that an original asyndeton, used for emphasis and to introduce a new topic, has been lost in the tradition (p. 28f). It is certainly not a bad argument that the multiplicity of variants suggests difficulty with the text for both scribes and readers, and the same argument is used to conjecture asyndeton at Rom. 14.3 (p. 44). On other occasions a single witness is followed, as at 1 Cor 11.4f, where the omission of the second <grc>de</grc> by P is preferred. These are often bold decisions, and the reader of this review will not be surprised to learn that the preferred reading often departs from the text of modern editors, such as the Nestle-Aland.

5. One has to read this work in a particular way. The discussions are generally very brief--somewhere between 90 and 100 variants are specifically analysed beyond being mentioned. This sometimes leads to difficulty in following the argument, which can be sparingly expressed, or sometimes almost hinted at rather than set out. There is little space for discussing alternative points of view or counter-arguments. The way of reading that is required is therefore that we simply have to follow this approach, and do the further analysis and comparison for ourselves afterwards. It is an invitation to criticism of a kind that asks one to work quite hard.

6. The second section is called (again only in the running titles) 'Numerical Data on Asyndeton'. It provides a range of helpful tables, charting the frequency of asyndeta of different types in the different epistles, the loss of asyndeta through the introduction of secondary particles, the frequency of secondary particles in the mss P46 Aleph A B C D F G and in each of the three letters, the frequency of secondary asyndeta, the degree of agreement between the mss, and then the frequency of the loss and gain of each particle in each of the main mss. Finally, the authors return from the findings of these figures to deal with several passages where it had not been possible to reach a decision, using the tendencies of the documents to decide for a particular reading.

7. The second section ends (pp. 102-105) with some general conclusions: that the tradition began by losing particles and introducing asyndeta (tradition of P46 D). This is halted by the time we get to B Aleph. But in the text represented by the bilinguals F G it continues. Subsequently, there is a trend towards 'a more syndetic style' (p. 103). This can be traced from P46 through B Aleph and A C and down to the Textus Receptus, which has by far the highest number of secondary particles. The tendencies of individual mss are then described.

8. There are one or two queries to be raised with regard to this section. In the first place, it seems difficult to describe these trends as both general and the habits of individual scribes. If P46 tends to lose particles, this may be part of a trend, or it may be a habit on the part either of the scribe or of one of his immediate predecessors. It could only be both if it were demonstrated that P46 were typical, and that is not done.

9. Secondly, the statement that the mss 'which resist secondary asyndeta so well, do betray a tendency to add secondary particles' (p. 104) has taken me a lot of time to puzzle out. Does it mean that 'mss which rarely omit particles more often add them'?, and if so, does that simply mean, 'There are more particles in some mss than in others'?

10. One also wishes that a rather wider selection of mss could have been used. That three of them are from the Graeco-Latin bilingual tradition, whose relationship is well-known (see especially Frede 1964), is rather restricting. It would have been helpful to have perhaps one or two more other majuscules from the end of their era, and certainly to have the information on 1739. It would also be helpful to know whether there are any hints from the papyrus and parchment fragments of these letters.

11. There is an appendix to Section Two, a presentation of the tendencies of the mss to add the particles <grc>gar</grc>, <grc>de</grc>, <grc>kai</grc> and <grc>oun</grc>, by Correspondence Analysis. I am not competent to comment on this.

12. The third section (pp. 111-171) comprises lists of asyndeta in the mss, divided into different kinds, and indicating whether the authors consider each instance to be primary or secondary, followed by a list of the 61 places where they disagree with the Nestle-Aland text. These lists will be especially useful for reference, whether one is studying the text or Paul's style.

13. Finally, there is a bibliography, and there are indexes of biblical citations, ancient authors, modern authors and topics.

14. It is sincerely to be hoped that exegetes and grammarians as well as textual scholars will read and ponder this material. Even if they do not agree with every conclusion, they need to know about the textual history of asyndeton in Paul and to be able to make informed decisions. This book performs the valuable task of leading the reader into the topic and forcing the exercise of those critical faculties which are blunted by over-dependence on the printed text.

© TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 1999.


Frede, Hermann J. 1964. Altlateinische Paulus-Handschriften. Vetus Latina, Aus der Geschichte der lateinischen Bibel, no. 4. Freiburg: Herder.

Zuntz, Gunther 1953. The Text of the Epistles: A Disquisition upon the Corpus Paulinum. The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy 1946. London: The British Academy.

D. C. Parker
Reader in New Testament Textual Criticism and Palaeography
Department of Theology
University of Birmingham