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Hebrews 2:9 – Separated by Grace (Part 5)

by Stephen Hebert on Monday - 10 August 2009

in Biblical Studies, New Testament

Part five of the series “Hebrews 2:9 – Separated by Grace.”

Before considering Origen’s citations, however, let us review the methodological considerations relevant to the use of “patristic” citations. One of the issues associated with using patristic citations as text-critical evidence involves the notion of quotation in the ancient world. Those who seek to use patristic evidence must adequately address a host of issues in order to deem those citations useful.

First, the patristic author should be citing the text in such a way that the grammar of the citation is not greatly affected by the author’s employment thereof. If the author’s grammar requires that a different verbal form be used (for example, in indirect discourse or within a result or final clause), then the usefulness of the citation is diminished to the extent that it is now more difficult to ascertain what form of the verb the author’s text may have originally had. This is not to say that such usage yields a citation unprofitable for textual criticism, but it does complicate the argument to some degree.

Second, one has to take into account how close the patristic author is to the text. If the author can be shown to be quoting from memory rather than from a manuscript, the fruitfulness of the citation is diminished.

Third, there is the issue of critical editions of patristic works. It is well known that the editions prepared by Jacques-Paul Migne (Patrologia Latina and Patrologia Graecae) are often fraught with bad readings and errors. But as more and more critical texts become available, such as those in the Sources Chrétiennes series, this problem becomes less relevant.

Finally, there is the matter of translation. If, for example, a Latin author is quoting the text, then it must be clear which reading of the Greek manuscript produced the translation.1

If these four concerns about the author’s citation can be shown to be nonexistent, negligible, or irrelevant, then the patristic citation is important for text-critical arguments.


  1. For difficulties in going from a versional translation back to Greek, see Bruce Manning Metzger, The Early Versions of the New Testament: Their Origin, Transmission, and Limitations (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977). It should also be noted that the text-critical issues associated with patristic citations carry over into translations of those patristic authors. For example, many of Origen’s works have survived only in Rufinus’s Latin translation. We must ask ourselves all of the questions in the text above about both Origen and Rufinus. What text of Origen was Rufinus using? How faithfully does Rufinus translate Origen? Etc.

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