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The Gospel of John in the Harklean Version: An Edition Based upon the Earliest Witnesses

Mod.: Prof. R.P. Craig MORRISON

A critical edition of the Harklean version of the four gospels has long been a desideratum in the field of New Testament textual studies, but the complexity of the textual features of this version and the obscurity of its transmission history have long impeded the creation of such an edition. The Harklean version not only marked the apex in the trajectory of the accommodation of the Syriac translation to the Greek original but itself constituted a crucial project for the Syriac-speaking world. Thus, while the signs in the text, the variant readings in the margin, and many other paratextual features have long called for a thorough investigation, the task seemed too demanding for an appropriate presentation in an edition.

This critical edition of the Gospel of John is a continuation of Samer Yohanna’s work on the Gospel of Mark, a diplomatic edition of MSChaldean 25 from Ankawa (formerly preserved in Alqosh). The use of this manuscript has permitted a presentation of a broader view of the complex history of the Harklean version. Since the development of the Harklean text is still not fully understood and the oldest witnesses to the Harklean version of the gospels have lacunae, MS Chaldean 25 appeared to be the most reasonable choice.

The chief contribution of this edition is to make the full data of the main Harklean witnesses available to the reader. The edition presents the data from 22 manuscripts for the Harklean lemma, critical signs, and marginal notes. This edition will be particularly helpful for assessing the importance of individual Harklean readings in the broader context of textual criticism of the New Testament. Other marginal notes and paratextual features are also presented in this edition, and several corrections to the Harklean text in the Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels are proposed. Furthermore, certain insights into the connections between the Harklean manuscripts and the “Syriac Masora” tradition are offered. One particular additional contribution is also an updated understanding of the later revision of the Harklean version in the so-called Dionysius stage. This stage has generally been understood as an accommodation of the Harklean version to the standard Byzantine text type. However, the present edition shows that this process was far more complex than is usually argued. (Among the issues that were discovered are: 1. an updated understanding of the idiosyncrasies of even the oldest Harklean manuscripts; 2. at least a partial de-byzantinization at work in some manuscripts; and 3. an additional “pre-Dionysius stage” in which only some of the transformations occurred.) As a result of this research, a broad category of the byzantinization of the Harklean version should be now approached in a more nuanced way, and the “Dionysius stage” should be treated rather as a modern approximation of the complex processes to which these manuscripts have been subjected over the centuries.