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Reviewed by:
  • Acts of Paul: The Formation of a Pauline Corpus by Glenn E. Snyder
  • Benjamin L. White
Glenn E. Snyder
Acts of Paul: The Formation of a Pauline Corpus
Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2/352
Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013
Pp. xii + 317. €79.00.

The continued delay of the publication of the critical edition of the Acta Pauli in the Corpus Christianorum Series Apocryphorum has not deterred major work on the “Acts of Paul” from appearing, including now Glenn Snyder’s important project, which is an apologia for a paradigm shift in our thinking about the origins and development of this body of literature. Rather than starting with the assumption, as does the current paradigm, that when Tertullian refers to an Acta Pauli (De baptismo 17) he has in mind an early, extended narrative of Paul’s ministry from Syria to his martyrdom in Rome, Snyder offers an alternative, minimalist reading of the patristic and manuscript evidence. He argues that various smaller pieces of Pauline tradition first circulated on their own, often under the same name, and only later came to take the form of the reconstructed text that is being prepared by the editors of the CCSA. If 3 Corinthians (discussed [End Page 484] in Chapter Four) was a discrete text that was inserted into the Acta Pauli, why, in principle, might it not also be the case for the Martyrdom of Paul (Chapter One), the Ephesus Act (Chapter Two), and the Acts of Paul and Thecla (Chapter Three)? Snyder asks us to “no longer think in terms of abstract wholes; we must divide and conquer” (17). After working through the relevant evidence for these smaller traditions, Snyder explores (Chapter Five) the fragmentary, yet longer, P. Hamb. (4th c.) and P. Heid. (6th c.). He then offers his own story (Chapter Six) of “three distinct strands of narrative material” (20) that only over the course of several centuries became fixtures of these longer Acta Pauli, although they continued to circulate on their own as well (cf. the helpful diagram of his theory of transmission in the Appendix).

This monograph, a thoroughly revised version of Snyder’s dissertation written under the supervision of the late François Bovon at Harvard, covers a lot of ground in masterful fashion. In addition to the close examination of the manuscript and patristic evidence for his minimalist reading, Snyder wades through a number of other difficult questions, like the relationship between the canonical Acts and the abstracted Acts of Paul, as well as the genre of the Acts of Paul and Thecla. Snyder’s thesis forces all of us who study this literature to stop and think about our frameworks for approaching the transmission of early Pauline traditions. If he is right—and paradigm shifts, as Kuhn has famously argued, do not appear without a great deal of opposition—then he has effectively undercut an entire century’s way of seeing.

For this reviewer, however, important questions must be resolved before Snyder’s thesis is ultimately convincing. For instance, the manuscript evidence is sometimes read too minimally without justification. The earliest manuscript evidence for the independent circulation of the Martyrdom of Paul (or its larger “Passion Narrative” form) comes from the fourth century. In P. Hamb., the MOP is preceded by the Ephesus Act and Paul’s ministry in Corinth, as Snyder notes. What Snyder does not discuss is that in the similarly dated fragmentary triad of P. Mich. 1317, P. Mich. 3788, and P. Berol. 13893, the page numbers πε (85) and πϛ (86) have been preserved. This begs the question of what might have been included in the 84 manuscript pages prior to the MOP. Snyder seems to ignore the possibility that they contained, among other things, earlier portions of the larger Acts of Paul. His minimalist reading of the patristic evidence does not work as easily, then, with the manuscript tradition. Thus, Snyder is on shaky ground in comparing the case of the MOP to that of 3 Corinthians, which we do know was circulating separately based on P. Bod. X (3rd c.). We do have, however, other long texts (Acts of Peter and Acts of Andrew), which even Snyder...


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pp. 484-486
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