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Aug , 2010

Epp on Von Soden

Excerpt from: Eldon J. Epp, Gordon D. Fee, Studies in the Theory and Method of NT TC, (Eerd., 1993)

Page Index

Review: Epp on Von Soden
    Introduction - scope of von Soden's work
    Pericope Adulterae - one basis for von Soden's Groupings

Epp on Von Soden

Theory and Method of NT TC

"Sheer quantity [of MS evidence] accounts for part of the problem. While there are presently 81 Greek Papyri of the NT and 266 Uncial MSS, there are at least 2,754 miniscules (Aland 1967:183). ... This means that textual critics have for generations been confronted by this burdensome mass of MSS, and yet - with one noticable exception - they have failed or been unable to prosecute a broad-scale methodological effort directed toward the sorting and classification of this massive and intractable complex.

The one exception of course, was the work of Hermann von Soden, which appeared between 1902 and 1910 as part of the voluminous prolegomena to his critical edition of the NT.

Von Soden's Text-types

It is well known that von Soden classified all the textual witnesses under one of three recensions or text-forms, I, H, K. Beyond this broad grouping, von Soden further subdivided the K, I forms into such groups as
K l, K i, K x, K r-;
I α, I η,
with further subgroups,
I ι
with subgroups,
I φ
with subgroups,
I β
with subgroups,
I ο I π I σ I κ
with subgroups, and
I r

The details of these classifications and subclassifications for the Gospels may be found in some 500 large and closely packed pages of volume 2 in the 3-volume prolegomena (712-893 [=K]; 1041-1358 [=I]), and the enormity of von Soden's achievement can be grasped when it is recognized that he classified, under the I, K text-forms, more than 1260 miniscules of the Gospels out of the nearly 1350 known to him.

A count of Gospel miniscules as of 1963 comes to about 2000, which means that von Soden classified approximately 63% of all the Gospel miniscules available to us now. Yet, as will appear presently, von Soden's specific classifications did not always have a sufficient basis, nore were they always determined by a uniform or consistent method.

In spite of this qualification and regardless of what may be said of the details of von Soden's group-classifications, it is nonetheless abundantly clear that his work has, since his day, formed the basis for all classification of Miniscule MSS, and his groupings and their symbols have, almost without exception, been employed whenever a new MS has been classified; moreover, it may also be stated that, in general terms, von Soden's groupings, wherever tested, have held up remarkably well in the face of analysis.

This statement, as already intimated, needs to be qualified in precise terms later, and it is essential also to emphasize that this affirmation of the general validity of Von Soden's judgements on groups should by no means be understood as approval of his broader textual theory involving the I - H - K text, or as approval of the symbols by which he designated the smaller groups, if these symbols are understood as he intended them - that is, within the context of and in accordance with his textual theory.

In other words, what has stood the test of time is the general integrity of the individual, smaller groups, and only that; the identifications with certain text-forms or recensions, or the indications of intra- and inter-group relationships which the group designations convey, are open to serious question on many points, but the isolation, homogeneity, and independent existence of most of his small groups and often also of his subgroups as individual groups have become contributions of abiding value.

When this has been said, several questions immediately come to the forefront: What precisely is von Soden's system or method for arriving at groups? On the basis of von Soden's work, could suitable representatives of each group, and thus suitable representative miniscule MSS of the NT as a whole, be selected quickly and conveniently from the mass of MSS for the use in a critical apparatus? Do his groupings readily lend themselves to testing at any desired point, and do they provide for the easy classification of newly found and previously unclassified MSS?

The Pericope Adulterae

(Jn. 7:53-8:11)

The answer to the first question carries with it the answer to the other two: apparently von Soden began to investigate, in a systematic fashion, the test of the μοιχαλις (= μ) or Pericope Adulterae [Jn. 7:53-8:11], and he produced a stemma consisting of seven textual forms derived from the original of the pericope. This analysis may well have provided the clue for his procedure in grouping MSS 4, but only a very few groups which were arrived at on the basis on the μοιχαλις fall into the same groupings under his I, K text-forms. 5

Apart from the μοιχαλις then, von Soden apparently had neither a systematic nor a consistent means for arriving at his groupings; certainly he did not have a rigidly consistent or a rigidly systematic method, or if he did it is no longer obvious in his work, for even a superficial examination of his data shows at once that MSS were collated in varying places and with various degrees of completeness.

For instance, some MSS were collated word for word and completely; some only in one Gospel or two (and not always the same one or two); some only in one chapter of one or more Gospels, others in several chapters; some closely related MSS were collated in entirely different passages; some groups were identified on the bases of a few selected chapters in Mark (as was the group), but other groups on the basis of broader or different samplings; and, finally, some MSS were collated only "cursorily" in longer or shorter passages. Indeed, if there was any consistent system of collation and sampling in von Soden's study, it is perhaps now only to be seen in the fact that certain chapters of the Gospels appear frequently in the lists of collated passages, for example, Matthew 1, 5, 15, 21; Mark 10, 11, 12; Luke 7, 8; John 6, 7, and so forth.

Thus, while von Soden left us with a series of groups and with lists of MSS which were strong and pure or weak and mixed members of those various groups, he did not leave us with either clear-cut principles or precise means for understanding, describing, or identifying the distinctive characteristics of a given group, nor did he leave with us a ready and convenient method for classifying any given additional miniscule MS. (if it should be suggested that the critical apparatus of his text-volume provides such a means for identifying group-readings and then classifying further MSS, it is sufficient, in reply, merely to point to the incompleteness and inconsistency in the citation of MS evidence and to the extensive inaccuracy of his apparatus. Moreover, von Soden's apparatus in the Gospels contains the evidence of only about 100 miniscule MSS representing the numerous I groups, of merely five miniscules of the K l group, and of no specific miniscules of the K i, K x, K r groups.)

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