In my previous two posts I discussed how I was asked to do a new edition of the Apostolic Fathers for the Loeb Classical Library. In the previous post I mentioned several difficulties confronting anyone doing a bi-lingual edition of a text. Among other things, there is the problem of knowing what to print as the text to be translated. The problem is that (a) we do not have the original texts of any of the Apostolic Fathers (just as we do not have the originals of any book of the New Testament, or of the Hebrew Bible, or, well, of any book from the ancient world) and (b) the copies we have all differ from one another. And so which copies do we trust?
For each of the apostolic fathers there are different sets of problems along these lines, because these writings were not circulated, before the 17th century, as a group, but separately, for the most part. And so, manuscripts that have the Letters of Ignatius do not also have the Martyrdom of Polycarp; and those that have the Didache do not have the epistle of Barnabas; and so on (with a few exceptions). Sometimes we have a good number of manuscripts to compare and contrast with one another, sometimes not. The worst situation is with the letter to Diognetus, which was not known to exist until a 260 page manuscript was accidentally discovered by a young cleric in 1436 in a fish shop in Constantinople – apparently the manuscript was being used to wrap up fish for sale! But it was destroyed by a fire in 1870 when Strasbourg’s municipal library was destroyed by fired during the bombing of the city in the Franco-German war. Luckily it had been copied and studied before then!
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