During the later Middle Ages a number of Old Testament texts were completely or partially translated from Latin into Old Norse. However, it is unlikely that a complete Norse Bible translation ever existed during the medieval period. The Old Norse texts from the Old Testament have become collectively known as Stjórn and are edited in two synoptic volumes by Reidar Astås (d. 2013). Astås devoted his academic career to the study of Church History with a focus on the Old Norse Bible. His main publications include Et Bibelverk fra middelalderen: studier i Stjórn (Novus, 1987) and a partial English translation: An Old Norse Biblical Compilation: Studies in Stjórn (P. Lang, 1991).
Volume 1 provides a general orientation of the Stjórn texts including their content, dating and potential models (pp. xvii–xxxiii). The text has four layers (Stjórn I–IV); each differs in terms of source use and the method of compilation (p. xviii). The contents were redrafted or abridged according to the editorial programme of the compiler. The main source for all layers is the Vulgate. Stjórn I is the youngest translation of the Bible text Genesis 1.1–Exodus 18.27 and is woven with commentaries, which suggests that the author had access to a fairly extensive library and based the work on historical bibles from Europe (p. xviii). Stjórn II contains an abridged version of the Mosaic law while Stjórn III is a rendering of the books from Joshua to Kings. Stjórn II–III both appear to be expressions of a so-called 'Dominican project' [End Page 181] in terms of theology and source use (p. xxxii). Stjórn IV is a translation of Joshua from Peter Comestor's Historia Scholastica.
Astås then provides an overview of the fourteen manuscripts that are used for the edition as well as four additional late medieval manuscript fragments that contain parallel material (pp. liii–lvi). This is followed by a summary of the fourteen early modern manuscripts (c. 1600–1800) that contain Stjórn (pp. lvii–lxii) but which were not utilized because they are often based on the medieval manuscript AM 226 fol. and therefore offer little independent text for use in the critical edition (pp. lvii–lviii). Astås then delivers a close examination of the main manuscripts: AM 226, AM 227 fol. (connected to the court of King Håkon Magnusson, d. 1319), AM 228 fol., and AM 229 I fol. The editor also includes an explanatory list of the sources used by the translators/compilers (pp. cxxiii–cxxviii) and a list of further readings (pp. cxxix–cxlvi).
This critical edition is based upon C. R. Unger's version (1853–62), though it does include some additional material. Where Unger used AM 226 fol. and AM 228 fol. as his main sources, Astås also includes AM 227 fol. as the basis for the edition. The principles of translation are clearly presented in the introductory material and the layout of the edited text is reasonably straightforward once the system of markup is understood (p. cxlviii). For example, italics are used for marking suspensions, contractions and truncations, while bold type is used to indicate writing in red in the manuscript. Number references to the Vulgate are also given in bold. In cases where the manuscripts are difficult to read the editor does not infer new readings but instead relies on Unger with supplementary notes. Astås also exercises editorial privilege by selecting when elements like new lines, illustrations, and marginal comments and doodles enlighten the text. The edited text itself is divided between the two volumes. The second half of the first volume includes Stjórn I (the prologue, Genesis and Exodus: pp. 1–453), Stjórn II (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy: pp. 455–521), and Stjórn III and IV (Joshua) are printed in parallel from p. 522 onwards. The second volume is devoted to Stjórn III: Judges, Ruth...