Medieval Manuscripts And Modern Evangelicals: Lessons From The Past, Guidance For The Future -- By: Daniel B. Wallace

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 60:1 (Mar 2017)
Article: Medieval Manuscripts And Modern Evangelicals: Lessons From The Past, Guidance For The Future
Author: Daniel B. Wallace


Medieval Manuscripts And Modern Evangelicals:
Lessons From The Past,
Guidance For The Future

Daniel B. Wallace*

* Daniel Wallace is Senior Professor of NT Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, 3909 Swiss Avenue, Dallas, TX 75204. He delivered this presidential address at the 68th annual meeting of the ETS in San Antonio, TX on November 16, 2016.

Abstract: Paratextual and codicological material in medieval Greek NT manuscripts are rich mines that have been largely neglected by evangelicals. Five such features are touched on in this article: (1) the growing canon consciousness and emergence of the codex and their interrelationship; (2) subscriptions (scribal notes at the end of NT books, often reflecting very early traditions) and colophons (blessing, supplication, or mild complaint by a scribe at the end of his codex); (3) the significant but essentially ignored role of female scribes through the centuries; (4) the part that paratextual features in these MSS played in helping scribes to memorize scripture; and (5) the visual priority given to Scripture over tradition in MSS with commentaries.

Key Words: medieval manuscripts, NT canon, birth of the codex, subscriptio, ancient interpretation of NT, colophons, female scribes, memory, memorizing Scripture, MSS with commentaries, paratextual features, format and interpretation

The title of this message is “Medieval Manuscripts and Modern Evangelicals: Lessons from the Past, Guidance for the Future.”1 I am restricting this lecture to biblical manuscripts (MSS) and, more specifically, NT MSS. Limiting my discourse further, I will not be addressing textual variants but instead will be focusing especially on paratextual and codicological features—that is, layout, formatting, and extrabiblical notes.

Why this topic? What can evangelicals possibly learn from the handwritten books of the medieval period?2 These MSS are often deemed irrelevant without a hearing. Part of the reason for this presumed irrelevance may be the longstanding disdain for the first 1,500 years of church history within the broader evangelical community. As we are all aware, this situation has been changing for many decades among evangelical scholars. In our ecclesial gatherings, however, church history tends to begin with Luther, with an occasional glance at Augustine or Chalcedon.

And even on an academic level, when evangelicals do engage with the first one and a half millennia, we almost always limit ourselves to the writings of the Church Fathers.

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