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  • The Epistle to Diognetus (with the Fragment of Quadratus): Introduction, Text, and Commentary ed. by Clayton N. Jefford
  • Mike Holmes
Clayton N. Jefford, editor
The Epistle to Diognetus (with the Fragment of Quadratus): Introduction, Text, and Commentary
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013
Pp. x + 281. $185.00.

This volume is the first major English-language commentary on Diognetus in more than half a century. Like its predecessors in the series, it offers an introduction (126 pages), text and translation on facing pages (66 pages), and commentary (64 pages), followed by a bibliography and two indices (ancient sources; modern authors).

The introduction covers well the expected topics: general background; authorship, date, and provenance; structural elements; integrity and purpose; theology and themes; relationship to Scripture; the document’s (minimal) Wirkungsgeschichte; and conclusions. Throughout Jefford combines a very thorough overview of previous scholarship with a clear delineation of his own views. Most notable is his own detailed hypothesis regarding the formation of the document. Jefford views Diognetus as a complex composite document, rather than the work of a single author; proposes that the earliest stages date from the mid- to late second century and the latest from the late second or early third; and suggests that chs. 11–12 reflect an Alexandrian milieu. Moreover, he suggests that it reflects three stages: (1) oral recitation produced a “primitive narrative” lying behind chs. 1–10; (2a) a written text incorporating this oral stage was (2b) expanded by the “addition of oral traditions and editorial remarks”; and (3) the addition of chs. 11–12, alteration of ch. 10 to accommodate the addition, and incorporation of additional oral traditions and editorial modifications into chs. 1–10. Jefford closes the introduction to this document, regarding which so many things remain unknown or uncertain, with an apt quotation: “Sometimes attaining the deepest familiarity with a question is our best substitute for actually having the answer” (B. Green, The Elegant Universe, 365). Few will doubt that Jefford’s introduction leaves the reader with a deep familiarity with the document’s many questions.

The text (like other modern editions) is based on three transcripts (one now lost) of the sole manuscript known to preserve Diognetus, all of which were made prior to its destruction in 1870. That manuscript was difficult to read at points, and so the three transcripts sometimes differ, and the exemplar from which it was copied had a number of difficulties in it. Consequently, at numerous points Jefford (again, like other modern editors) adopts an emendation to the transmitted text. The extensive critical apparatus presents a very full record of the transcripts and early editions along with the many proposed emendations (and often a list of those who have adopted them). Even better, the critical apparatus is supplemented by 21 pages of detailed textual notes that discuss the editor’s textual choices and/or offer additional information. In all, this part of the volume is very well and thoroughly done.

The translation, which “seeks to stay true to the syntax and structure of Diognetus when such may be readily reflected in English,” generally attains its goal (though there are sections such as ch. 6, where the range of variation in translating [End Page 483] the repeated kai Christianoi phrase is surprising, as are the differences between the punctuation of the Greek and English). Sometimes variation in lexical choice obscures connections (e.g., “dishonored” p. 145 [5.14] and “demeaned” p. 161 [11.3] for the same Greek verb), and there is the occasional odd-sounding phrase (e.g., “rinse yourself” of prejudices p. 137 [2.1]; pottery intended for “infamous purposes” p. 137 [2.2]; “virtuously oversee” p. 161 [11.1]).

The commentary is devoted primarily to explicating the flow and intellectual/rhetorical context of the arguments and content of Diognetus, with the occasional more technical note (e.g., on the title of the work) or justification of the editor’s analysis or rendering. E. H. Blakeney, Horacio E. Lona, H. I. Marrou, and Henry G. Meecham are the most frequent dialogue partners, although Jefford draws effectively on a wide range of recent scholarship.

Given the evident strengths of this volume, it is distressing to report...


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