Rius-Camps, Josep, and Jenny Read-Heimerdinger. The Message of Acts in Codex Bezae: A Comparison with the Alexandrian Tradition. Vol. 1: Acts 1.1-5.42: Jerusalem. JSNTS 257. London: T & T Clark, 2004. Pp. xii + 377. ISBN 0-8264-7000-9. US $170.
1. This book is the first part of a planned commentary in four volumes on the Bezan text of Acts. Josep Rius-Camps (University of Barcelona) and Jenny Read-Heimerdinger (University of Wales) have already authored several books and articles on the textual problems of Acts. Both of them agree on the pivotal role of Codex Bezae in the textual history of Acts. Contrary to the more common opinion, they believe that, except for several smaller errors, Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis transmits the original text of the book of Acts. Herein they even go beyond the ideas of scholars like M.-E. Boismard and others, who claim that the so-called "Western" text of Acts is more authentic than the Alexandrian one. Rius-Camps and Read-Heimerdinger argue that the theological message of the Bezan text is much more consistent and coherent than that of the Alexandrian text, which usually is preferred by textual critics. In this context the authors describe the difference between both texts by applying the metaphor of two photographs as an example: while the vivid picture of the events told in the Bezan text is compared to a coloured photo, the Alexandrian text just seems to be "black and white." In opposition to Eldon Jay Epp (Epp 1966, Epp 2003), Rius-Camps and Read-Heimerdinger contend that the Bezan text of Acts does not show an anti-Jewish bias, but is written from the perspective of an author who was well-acquainted with ancient Judaism. The author of the Bezan Acts uses the events told as a framework to present the inner journey of the apostles, "as they leave behind their traditional Jewish teachings and expectations and, with considerable difficulty, finally come to understand and accept the message of Jesus" (p. 1). The authors argue that the reason for the creation of the Alexandrian text was the Jewish perspective of the Bezan text plus its critical attitude towards the apostles, which became unacceptable at later times. So their thesis is mainly based on the grounds of a kind of internal textual criticism. Their main criterion seems to be that the more coherent and more vivid text must be the "better" and "older" one--a principle, which, I think, is at least problematic.
2. In their introduction the authors give a short overview of the different texts of Acts. Contrary to the Alexandrian text, they characterize the "Western" text not as a single type of text but as "a group of types" (pp. 5-6)--here at least one small error should be noted: Codex Glazier (mae G67) is not "still unpublished" (p. 7, n. 15) but was edited in 1991 by the late Hans-Martin Schenke (Schenke, ed. 1991). In a brief survey of studies on the book of Acts the authors rightly criticize the fact that many authors interpret Acts as if its text were firmly established. Additionally, the introduction provides some aspects of the background of the authors' linguistic analysis of the book and lists literary devices in the writings of Luke. Another part of the introduction addresses the connection between the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. The authors agree that both works were produced by the same author, who should not be identified with Paul's companion mentioned in Phlm 24; Col 4:5 and 2 Tim 4:11. Read-Heimerdinger/Rius-Camps argue that Acts should always be understood in its connection to Luke
In the Gospel, Luke presents the sayings and deeds of Jesus . . ., with Jesus acting as the model for his message. In Acts, Luke broadens the setting to show step by step how the message was lived out within actual communities who strove to imitate the model. The 'incarnation' of the message, as it could be called, was achieved with varying degrees of success which Luke points out and comments on. It is when all the obstacles to the implementation of Jesus' teaching, set up by the disciples and Paul in particular, have been removed, that Luke brings his work finally to a close . . . . Thus, Acts is a kind of extension of the gospel genre (p. 28).
3. In regard to the speeches of Acts the authors agree that these texts have been written by Luke, but they emphasize that Luke did not just express his own theological thoughts there. Instead, he does not always identify with the opinions expressed by the different characters of his book. Regarding the genre of Acts, the authors reject the idea that Acts could be seen purely as a kind of historical monograph. They rather interpret it as a continuation of the Gospel. Therefore, its genre "is primarily theological, with a historical reference point" (p. 41).
4. The commentary itself divides the text of Acts into several sequences. Each contains a synoptic Translation of both the Bezan text (left column) and the text of Codex Vaticanus (right column). A Critical Apparatus, covering a wide range of witnesses to the book of Acts, gives detailed discussions of each variant in the text. A Commentary section offers discussions of the problems of the text in great detail. Additionally, nine excursuses can be found throughout the text; at least some of them should be mentioned in more detail here. In Excursus 1, "The Restoration of Israel: Two Conflicting Plans," the authors discuss early Jewish expectations concerning Israel's restoration. They argue that the Bezan text of Luke-Acts shows a progression in the concept of Israel's restoration, which also involves several shifts in God's plans. One of these shifts is to be found at the end of the Gospel and at the beginning of Acts. Now the apostles' task is to testify of the Messiah to Jews and Gentiles, but they fail to comprehend this. They replace Judas, maintaining the importance of the Twelve. But according to the plan of Christ, who does not want to restore Israel through the Church, the Twelve have already lost their importance as representatives of Israel (see also Excursus 3, "The Replacement of Judas and Its Consequences," pp. 136-139). Read-Heimerdinger and Rius-Camps also find many extremely interesting intertextual connections between the Bezan text of Acts and Old Testament texts and characters. I am not sure whether all these findings were really intended by the ancient author, but--in any case--these observations show how a careful reading of biblical texts can produce interesting dimensions of "sense." Excursus 2, for example, parallels the ascension of Jesus with accounts about Elijah, Excursus 5 points to connections between Joseph Barnabas and Joseph the son of Jacob, and Excursus 6 presents a discussion of the symbolic dimension of the word "field" mentioned in the Ananias and Sapphira story in its biblical context.
5. Although I still favour the more common thesis that the so-called "Alexandrian" text of Acts is the more original one (reasons can be found, e.g., in Delobel 2003), I appreciate this book very much. This is partly due to the fact that Read-Heimerdinger/Rius-Camps broadly discuss a lot of details, which are interesting for any study of the textual history of Acts. Mainly I was fascinated by the authors' many fresh readings and unusual interpretations of the book of Acts. I look forward to reading the second volume of this commentary.
Delobel, Joel 2003. "The Nature of 'Western' Readings in Acts: Test-Cases." In Recent Developments in Textual Criticism, ed. W. Weren and D.-A. Koch, 69-94. Assen: Van Gorcum.
Epp, Eldon Jay 1966. The Theological Tendency of Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis in Acts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Epp, Eldon Jay 2003. "Anti-Judaic Tendencies in the D-Text of Acts: Forty Years of Conversation." In The Book of Acts as Church History, ed. T. Nicklas and M. Tilly, 111-146. BZNW 120. Berlin: De Gruyter.
Schenke, H.-M., ed. 1991. Apostelgeschichte 1,1 - 15,3 im mittelägyptischen Dialekt des Koptischen (Codex Glazier). TU 137. Berlin: Akademie.
Tobias Nicklas Radboud University of Nijmegen
© TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 2006.