We like to work from a critical text, don’t we? And rightly so; a text established in a scholarly manner, from a proper analysis of the witnesses and due consideration of the style of the author and the period is a good thing.
But an awful lot of texts don’t exist in that form. So … how usable are those pre-critical texts?
Today I compared the text of excerpts of Eusebius from Jerome’s Commentary on Matthew, published by Angelo Mai in the 1820’s from, no doubt, some older edition, with the latest critical text in the Sources Chretiennes. I was struck by the lack of differences.
Differences there were. An ergo for an igitur, a quum for a cum. A late antique peccatricibus is given by SC for Mai’s peccatores — but the sense is the same. Indeed I couldn’t find an instance where the text changed meaning.
I did find that Mai had punctuated his excerpts inadequately. He didn’t indicate omissions properly. Where he introduced the “Magi” as the subject of a verb, to clarify the sense, he didn’t indicate that he had added this word. But what he did quote really differed little if at all from the SC text except in details such as above.
I am rather heartened by this. I had expected worse.
It will be interesting to do the same exercise with Ambrose’s Commentary on Luke, where again Mai quotes excerpts and the SC is the critical text, and see what the results are.