Non-Roman fonts used: SPTiberian, SPIonic

François Bovon. Luke 1: A Commentary on the Gospel of Luke 1:1-9:50. Translated by Christine M. Thomas. Hermeneia. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002. (Originally published as Evangelium nach Lukas: 1. Evangelisch-katholischer Kommentar, 1989.) Pp. xxxvi + 441. ISBN 0-8006-6044-7. US $59.00.

1. According to the Preface, Bovon published the German original of this commentary in 1989. The translation into English in 2001 was not used to update the discussion with scholarship published since 1989, but from a text-critical perspective this is not a great loss.

2. The general layout of the commentary is pleasant to both eye and mind. I love the design of the Hermeneia volumes with the broad square pages, the two columns, the different fonts, and lucid section demarcations (though the wrong running titles on the uneven pages of the Introduction are a minor slip). And who can object to the inclusion of two plates of P75 on the front and end papers? Each section of the Gospel is first translated and printed in bold typeface, after which the analysis of the section is followed by a verse-by-verse commentary.

3. With only twelve pages of text (a quarter of which is bibliography), the Introduction to the Gospel is relatively short. Surprisingly, one will not find any discussion on the date of the composition of the Gospel, but perhaps we will have to wait for this until Bovon has finished the complete commentary (the third volume up to Luke 19:27 was published in German in 2001). The Introduction opens with a statement on the text of Luke, "Luke's two volumes are both a concrete and an abstract entity." The text of these volumes was affected by copyists in the second century, who, despite their good intentions, managed to conceal the original shape of the text. Also the work of theologians who tried to purify the work by abridgement (Marcion) or harmonisation (Tatian) was not particularly helpful. The reception of Luke's work into the canon did not prevent the two volumes of the single work from being separated, and thus no single manuscript presents Luke's work according to its original form and intention.

4. Bovon reflects other well-known positions when he summarises his view on the history of textual transmission: The Alexandrian text developed, like the Western text, in the second century; the Byzantine text comes from the fourth; the existence of the Caesarean text is still an open question. The sources of variant readings are copyists' mistakes, the influence of oral tradition or the other Gospels (esp. Matthew), recensions, and tendencies in theological development or ecclesiastical sensibilities.

5. The section on text concludes with the identification of six principal problems in the textual criticism of Luke, of which only the logion on the Man Working on the Sabbath (Luke 6:4) falls within the material covered by the present volume, and with a short bibliography. (Metzger's Textual Commentary, 1975 [first published in 1971] is the first edition and not the third--though the commentary is on the third edition of the UBS text; the IGNTP Luke volumes are present only through the bare mention of the title New Testament in Greek.) In a footnote, Bovon adds to these six passages another twenty-eight, of which only Luke 5:39 is dealt with in this volume. So let us first take a look at Bovon's treatment of these two instances.

Luke 6:4 (5)

6. Though the Introduction presents the canonicity of the logion on the Man Working on the Sabbath as one of the main textual problems, Bovon is very concise in his discussion. The transposition of verse 5 after verse 10 by Bezae is in accordance with Marcion; the insertion of the scene is "largely considered apocryphal because its existential distance from the Sabbath regulations and the Law is only understandable from the perspective of a later time." No real surprises here and, I think, no real problem either.

Luke 5:39

7. The main question here is whether the saying that people will prefer the old wine above the new is to be included in Luke or not. Again, Marcion is involved (too much authority given to the Old Testament) and a few Western witnesses (D it) omit also, but in the commentary on this verse Bovon limits himself simply to mentioning the omission by these witnesses and Marcion's reasoning. Again, no surprises and, this time, not even any real discussion.

8. The way Bovon deals with Luke 5:39 is typical of his treatment for many variants in the Greek text of Luke: He restricts himself to just mentioning the variation in the textual tradition without re-engaging in the process of establishing the original text. Admittedly, the commentary may well be the result of many such struggles, but if so, it has not left many traces. This should not lead to the conclusion that there is no interaction with the Greek text. On the contrary, the author does show great sensitivity for Lucan style and takes great pains to point out the linguistic subtleties in Luke's redaction of his sources. Also, Bovon shows a respectable feel for specific Lucan emphases within the lexical meanings of words and expressions.

9. It is a pity, though, that the author did not bring his expertise in Lucan Greek to bear on the textual criticism of the Gospel more than he did. It would have been an invaluable contribution to the field if we had a study resulting in a Greek text of Luke based predominantly on style. In the two examples mentioned above, Bovon rejects the Western interpolation in Luke 6:4 because of theological reasons and the omission of Luke 5:39 because of MS attestation. It is not reasonable to expect an exegete to be familiar with all the individual niceties of individual MSS and transmissional problems, but an exegete who has studied a particular author for years certainly has something to tell the text critic when it comes to style and dictum.

10. All this does not mean that Bovon has no surprises from a text-critical perspective or that he uncritically follows the Nestle-Aland text. The following examples may serve to illustrate this.

Luke 1:21

11. The issue here is only one of word order: en tw xronizein en tw naw auton attested by B L W C Y 565 pc versus en tw xronizein auton en tw naw attested by ) A C D Q 0130 f1.13 Byz. Bovon chooses the latter reading, noting that N-A goes "too far with the principle of the lectio difficilior." His preferred word order is "better in attestation and style."

Luke 1:30b-33

12. Though the issue here is only one of typography, it is not an unimportant one. Bovon sees no rhythmic prose in the answer of the angel to Mary and therefore judges the stychometric arrangement of these verses in N-A to be deceptive.

Luke 6:1

13. The problems regarding en sabbatw deuteroprwtw are complex, the main problem being how to relate the various readings to one another. Bovon's discussion of the problem is remarkably extensive and results in his putting forward his own solution. He cautiously suggests that the original reading might have been en sabbatw deuterw prwi. If only for the audacity of proposing a conjectural emendation, Bovon should be lauded. The circumstances certainly allow for an emendation: a very confused textual situation and none of the existing variants is completely satisfactory. Also, the second element prwi is attested independently in the web of variants, albeit only through a single MS as the Latin mane (Codex Palatinus, siglum e, fifth century). As Bovon himself acknowledges, the problem with this suggestion is that Luke does not like the word prwi and avoids it when he finds it in Mark. However, the advantage of the emendation for the narrative is that the early time of the day explains the hunger of the disciples. In the opinion of this reviewer, a further advantage is that one does not have to twist himself into turns in order to account for the word deuterw--it takes considerably more effort to explain its incorporation into the text than its disappearance (for the first see Metzger's Textual Commentary s.l.), although each variant that retains a form of deuterw has the same benefit.

Luke 7:45

14. The critical issue in Luke 7:45 is whether the verb eiserxomai is in the first or third person singular ("from the time I came in" versus "from the time she came in"). Bovon translates, with N-A, the first person singular, but he seems far from certain. The third person is "more comprehensible, " and the opinion of Hans Drexler, who considers the restoration of the original third person unavoidable ("Die grosse Sünderin Lucas 7,36-50," ZNW 59 [1968], 159-173), is given without criticism. According to a footnote, Joachim Jeremias' hypothesis of an Aramaic original (in which a first singular is identical to the third feminine singular) is questioned by Joseph Fitzmyer, but at this point Bovon leaves the discussion and expresses no firm opinion. (See also Bovon's remarks on 3:22--the voice from heaven--where he accepts, almost reluctantly, the N-A text.)


15. One other aspect of the commentary deserves mention, and that is Bovon's handling of the so-called minor agreements, the verbal agreements between the Gospels of Matthew and Luke that have long constituted the Achilles' heel of the Two Document Hypothesis (which forms the basis for Bovon's commentary). Streeter is known for his attempts to solve these agreements by means of textual criticism. The discussion over the years between the British scholars Michael Goulder (who rejects the Two Document Hypothesis in favour of the view that Luke used both Mark and Matthew) and Christopher Tuckett (who has stated that to suppose a primitive, unattested corruption is "a small price to pay") has often continued along similar lines. As far as I could detect, Bovon never assumes a cross-fertilisation between the two Gospels that has not left any trace in the MS tradition; almost always he uses oral tradition rather than documentary interaction as an explanation for the minor agreements.

16. For a text critic the amount of space devoted to discussion of variants, and the choice of variants that are discussed (or omitted), will not be completely satisfactory (so, for example, one will not find a discussion or even a mention of the omission of "daily" in Luke 9:23, "let them take up their cross"), but generally speaking the reader is made aware of the most crucial problems in the text of Luke.

17. From a text-critical perspective Bovon's commentary is solid in the sense that he does not ignore textual criticism or play down the significance of the actual wording of the Greek text. As shown above, Bovon sometimes even comes up with surprising and original viewpoints, showing that he does not follow the modern tendency to accept uncritically the N-A text as the new textus receptus. Often, however, there is hardly any discussion of variants that are mentioned, and no original Greek text of Luke is presented. This is a pity, given Bovon's familiarity with Lucan style and vocabulary. But the creation of an independent text is, alas, something that is likely to remain a rarity among commentators of any biblical book, given the enormous range of readings one has to be aware of, the sheer mass of secondary literature to be covered, and the time constraints imposed by publishers and institutions.

© TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 2003.

Dirk Jongkind
St. Edmund's College
Cambridge University