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Review of Nestle's Septuagint Studies

The Expository Times 11 (1899) 38-39



Von Professor D.Th. u Ph. Eberhard Nestle,
Stuttgart 1899.

This third instalment of Dr. Nestle's Septuagint Studies is not inferior in interest and importance to the first and second. The indefatigable author deals with two non-canonical texts which have hitherto received too little intention — the Prayer of Manasses and the Book of Tobit; and the points discussed are treated with characteristic precision and fullness.

1. For the editio princeps of the Προσευχὴ Μανασσή, Dr. Nestles refers us to Robert Stephen's Vulgate of 1540. In the Complutensian Polyglot the Prayer is given in Latin, with the note neque in hebreo, neque in greco habetur. The first edition of the ⅬⅩⅩ which contains it in Greek is that of Frick, which appeared at Leipzig in 1697.

The MS. evidence comes from two quarters. (a) The Psalter of the ⅬⅩⅩ is followed in Codd. A, R, T, and in more than half the cursive MSS used by Parsons, by a collection of liturgical odes; and among these the Prayer of Manasses sometimes at least finds a place. It stands eight in A and ninth in T. How many of the cursives contain it is unknown; the St. Victor MS. employed by R. Stephen appears to be the 13th cent. Græco-Latin Psalter, now Biblioth . Nat. Gr. 188 (S. Victor), in which it occurs, and Dr. Nestle points out that Coxe's catalogue mentions its presence in Barocc. 15, Cromw. 5, Laud 2. The whole question of the contents of the liturgical collection appended to the Greek Psalter awaits and deserves investigation at the hands of some competent scholar. (b) The Prayer is also found in Apostolical Constitutions, ⅱ. 22, where it is embedded in a narrative based on 2 Paral . ⅹⅹⅹⅰⅰⅰ. 12ff. This biblical context would seem almost to invite such an interpolation (cf. ⅴ.13 καὶ προσηύξατι πρὸς αὐτόν, v.18 ἡ προσευχὴ αὐτοῦ), and it is matter of no little surprise that no known MS. of the ⅬⅩⅩ places the Prayer here; for the Meerman Codex, cited by Parsons (add, et emend. ad fin. t. ⅱ), appears to be a MS, of the Constitutions, not of 2 Chronicles. It seems that the Prayer did not form a part of Paralipomena , as received by the Church from the Synagogue. By a natural inference we are led to regard it as a Christian composition, and it is possible that the Constitutions have preserved it in an earlier form that the appendix to the Psalter. Certainly this non-liturgical text of the Prayer has the advantage of exhibiting after v.7 a beautiful stanza which A T omit —

ὄτι σὺ εῖ, ὁ Θεός κατὰ τὴν χρηστότητα, τῆς ἀγαθωσύνης σοιι· ἐπηγγείλω μετανοίας ἄφεσιν τοῖς ἡμαρτήκοσιν, καὶ τῷ πλήθει τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν σου ὥρισας μετάνοιαν ἁμαρτωλοῖς εἰς σωτηρίαν.

These words have the ring of Christian rather than of Jewish thought, and, so far as they go, confirm our impression that the Prayer of Manasses, like the ὕμνος ἑωθινός – another of the Canticles which is found in the Constitutions, – had its origin within the Church, and has no claim to be regarded as a true part of the Alexandrian Greek Bible.

2. In dealing with the Book of Tobit Dr. Nestle addresses himself chiefly to the question of the relation which the Sinaitic text bears to that of the Vatican MS. He maintains the priority of א, and holds that the recension which is found in B A is a deliberate abridgment of the earlier form by a reviser who has worked over his text, not merely curtailing, but extensively modifying the vocabulary, somewhat after the manner in which the text of the Gospels and Acts are treated in Codex D.

Admitting the facts, the argument for the absolute priority of the text of Tobit is not quite convincing. When a book exists in two recensions, a longer an a shorter, it is usually possible to make a good case for the originality of either; and it does not appear to be certain that the shorter text of Tobit might not be successfully defended, if it found an able champion.

The question has just been treated on other lines by Dr. J. Rendel Harris in the American Journal of Theology, and his results seem to us more than probable. By a comparison of the two recensions with the story of Ahikar, the Book of Jubilees, and other ancient texts, he shows that `the Sinaitic Tobit is nearer to the original Hebrew, or else it has been corrected from the Hebrew (or some version depending on the Hebrew) so as to present a better text than that of the Vatican text, though not necessarily a better text of the Septuagint.' I.e. the Vatican text may be nearer to the true ⅬⅩⅩ than the Sinaitic, although the Sinaitic is nearer to the Hebrew original.

To us there seems to be a real though slight indication of the Alexandrian origin of the B recension in the desire which it manifests to banish the demon (8,3 ) to Upper Egypt, and to its remoter parts. The Sinaitic text is less careful in this matter, as a comparison will show.



ὅτε δὲ ὠσφράνθη τὸ δαιμόνιον τῆς ὀσμῆς ἔφυγεν εἰς τὰ ἀνώτατα Αἰγύπτου.

Καὶ ἡ ὀσμὴ τοῦ ἰχθύους ἐκώλωσεν, καὶ ἀπέδραμεν τὸ δαιμόνιον ἄνω εἰς τὰ μέρη Αἰγύπτου.

If א retains ἄνω, he does not know what to make of it; ’up the country‘ is perhaps the meaning which occurs to him. Fritzsche's third text corrects εἰς τὰ ἄνω μέρη Αἰγύπτου , but B A stand alone in the suggestive ἀνώτατα.

It has not been possible to touch upon more than a few of the chief points discussed by Dr. Nestle. Every earnest student of the Greek Bible will do well to possess himself of the pamphlet. Each of its thirty-five pages will add something to his knowledge.

Eberhard Nestle born: May 1, 1851 in Stuttgart, died March 9, 1913 in Stuttgart