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[Synoptic-L] Re: Latin or Greek in the Roman Church

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  • David Inglis
    ... [snip] ... Leonard, I m not sure whether you would consider the following evidence of early use of Latin by Christians in Rome, but I certainly think it
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 9, 2002
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      Leonard Maluf wrote:
      > larry.swain@w... writes:
      > << I would be interested in hearing from those who
      > posit a Latin translation earlier than 180--some evidence please. >>
      > Like you, I would certainly be interested if anyone else can come
      > with an argument (or rather evidence) for an earlier use of Latin in the
      > Christian community of Rome.


      I'm not sure whether you would consider the following evidence of early use
      of Latin by Christians in Rome, but I certainly think it points towards the
      very early existence of at least part of the NT in Old Latin. My evidence
      revolves around the origins of the Western text-type, so I apologize for the
      'TC' slant of his posting. I would be interested in any views regarding the
      information below (including corrections where necessary).

      The Western text-type is undoubtedly very old, as it is found in the Old
      Latin (3rd century), Old Syriac (5th century) and Old Armenian versions, and
      can also be traced back into the 2nd century, when it was used in Greek form
      by Marcion, Tatian, and Tertullian. The Gothic version (4th century) shows
      Western influence, including having the gospels in what is known as the
      'Western' order: Matthew, John, Luke, and Mark. The Western text is also
      said to be very close (even including the same clerical mistakes) to the
      text quoted by Irenaeus. Some readings go back even further, as shown by
      Polycarp's letter to the Philippians (ca. 110-120 AD) in which he quotes
      Acts 2:24, using the same text as found in Bezae.

      Perhaps surprisingly, the Western text-type has very little support from the
      extant Greek MSS. The prime examples are Bezae (Gospels and Acts), and
      Claromontanus, Augiensis, and Boernerianus (Paul's letters), all of which
      are Greek/Latin diglots. In addition, the Western text-type is found in
      Washingtonensis (ca. 400 AD, Mark 1:1 to 5:30 only) and in the fragmentary
      papyri P29, P38, and P48 (Acts). One point of note is that the Western text
      does not exist in Greek for either the catholic epistles or Revelation. As
      far as we can tell, only the Gospels, Acts, and Paul's letters ever existed
      in this form. Whatever early 'process' or series of events were responsible
      for the creation of the Western text-type, it does not seem to have involved
      Greek variants of either the catholic epistles or Revelation.

      What are the origins of the Western text-type?

      Because the Western text-type has early support in both Greek and Latin, we
      need to determine which came first, and perhaps the best place to start is
      with the Greek/Latin diglots. Strangely, none of these MSS has a Greek text
      that is an exact translation of the Latin, nor vice versa. In all cases the
      texts show signs that either one language was edited after having been
      translated from the other, or that they were both simply copied from earlier

      It is likely that Augiensis (9th century) was copied from a MS containing
      parallel Greek and Latin columns in which the Latin did not match the Greek
      (which has various missing passages), but instead was closer to the Vulgate.
      In contrast, Boernerianus (also 9th century) was probably copied from a MS
      containing interlinear Greek and Latin, in which the Latin was nearly, but
      not quite, a strict translation of the Greek. The Greek is almost identical
      to the Greek of Augiensis, even to having the same missing passages.

      In Claromontanus (6th century) the Greek and Latin texts (on facing pages)
      are similar, but again neither is a direct translation of the other. It is
      sometimes assumed that the Latin pages were translated from an earlier Greek
      text that was similar to the Greek pages of Claromontanus, but it could have
      happened the other way round - the Greek could have been translated from a
      Latin original. Which leaves us with Bezae, in which the Greek and Latin
      are very close, but again neither is a direct translation of the other.
      While it appears that in some places the Latin has been altered to conform
      to the Greek, in other places the Greek has been altered to conform to the

      All of this means that we cannot tell from the evidence of the diglots which
      form of the Western text came first: the Latin or the Greek. It is
      reasonable to assume that one started life as a translation of the other,
      but which one was first? Note that for any suggestion to be viable, it must
      account for (or at least allow for) the following differences:
      · The Western form of Acts is approximately 10% longer than other
      · Although some parts of the Western form of Luke are longer than the
      non-Western forms, other parts (e.g. chapter 24) are significantly shorter;
      · Although the Western form of Revelation and the catholic letters
      exists in the Old Latin, there is no evidence that it exists in Greek.

      These differences between the New Testament books essentially rule out any
      overall 'common' process. Instead, they suggest that the Gospels, Acts,
      Paul's epistles, catholic epistles, and Revelation all went through
      translation/editing processes that had various unique elements. The usual
      supposition is that the Western text (as found in the Old Latin MSS) was
      created in order to meet the needs of early Latin speaking Christians, but
      if so, then one of following must have taken place:
      · The earliest Latin version was a faithful translation of the
      original (non-Western) Greek, and was later edited to take on it's Western
      · The Greek text was edited to take on it's Western form, and the
      Latin text was then translated from it;
      · The Western Latin variants were introduced during the process of
      translating from the non-Western Greek, and the Western Greek variants were
      then created by translating the Latin back into Greek.

      The main problem with the first of the above suggestions is that there is
      simply no evidence of any Latin form of the New Testament prior to the Old
      Latin form. Indeed, the very name 'Old Latin' indicates that the universal
      view is that this was the earliest form. I believe we can therefore easily
      rule this out as a possibility.

      The second suggestion also creates problems, since if a Western form of the
      Greek text existed prior to the creation of the Old Latin from it, then we
      should expect to find very early evidence of Western Greek text that
      pre-dates the Old Latin. Arguably some evidence does exist, in the form of
      the text used by some of the early Church fathers, but this is tenuous.
      However, this suggestion runs foul of the fact that, as far as we know,
      there was never any Western Greek form of Revelation and the catholic
      epistles to translate from, and therefore some other process must account
      for the Old Latin form of at least these particular books.

      The third suggestion is also a possibility, but it too has problems. In the
      first place, accounting for the differences between the Latin and Greek
      forms of Luke in comparison with the differences in Acts implies a rather
      'free' translation process. Secondly, the 'back-translation' process from
      Latin to Greek would under this suggestion only have taken place for the
      Gospels, Acts, and Paul's letters, and provided the text used by Polycarp,
      Marcion, Tatian, Tertullian, Cyprian, and Irenaeus, and later found in Bezae
      and the other diglots.

      Of the three possibilities, the first two look to have insurmountable
      problems, and only the third (despite it's problems) seems able to account
      for the situation as we find it today. However, under this scenario the Old
      Latin necessarily pre-dates the Western Greek form, and therefore can
      reasonably be said to have been in existence by around the end of the 1st
      century AD at the latest.


      Dave Inglis
      3538 O'Connor Drive
      Lafayette, CA, USA

      Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
      List Owner: Synoptic-L-Owner@...
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