Thomas Hill, Cornell University

title.none: Liuzza, The Old English Version of the Gospels

identifier.other: baj9928.9610.005 96.10.05

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Thomas Hill, Cornell University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1996

identifier.citation: Liuzza, R. M. ed. The Old English Version of the Gospels, Vol. I. Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press for The Early English Text Society, 1994. Pp. lxxviii, 202. $-49.95. ISBN: ISBN Cloth- 0-19-722306-0.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: Bryn Mawr Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 96.10.05

Liuzza, R. M. ed. The Old English Version of the Gospels, Vol. I. Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press for The Early English Text Society, 1994. Pp. lxxviii, 202. $-49.95. ISBN: ISBN Cloth- 0-19-722306-0.

Reviewed by:

Thomas Hill, Cornell University

The conventions of the Early English Text Society (EETS) series coupled with the fact that this is only the first of two volumes limit the potential scope of this review significantly. Liuzza provides an introduction which is concerned with the codicology and paleography of the mss of The Old English Version of the Gospels, and the history of previous editions of these texts; he offers a brief summary of the aims and goals of the present edition. Liuzza then presents the text of The Old English Version of the Gospels in a format that follows that of the mss together with variant readings. Since as Liuzza himself remarks "the present edition, while it differs from Skeat and Bright in many matters of detail, format and editorial policy, has nevertheless nothing in it of a revolutionary character" (p. xvi), there is in one sense relatively little for a reviewer to comment on unless he has checked Liuzza's transcription and editing against the mss. I have not, but I have checked a few chapters of Liuzza's edition of the gospel of John against Bright's 1904 edition, and while there are considerable differences in the way in which Liuzza presents the text, I did not note many major substantive differences. One difference which is of some interest is that Bright corrected scribal misreadings of the Aramaic and Hebrew place names of the gospel according to the "correct" Vulgate versions of these names whereas Liuzza lets the errors stand. One can see the logic of either editorial move, but Liuzza's decision to give prominence to these scribal errors might well illuminate onomastic problems in other OE texts. In any case a new scholarly edition of these texts has long been a desideratum, and we now have the text and a paleographical introduction of an edition which promises to be scholarly and accurate -- scholars interested in OE prose and in the intellectual and ecclesiastical history of the period will be grateful to Liuzza for having undertaken a laborious but important task.

A few comments are in order. While Liuzza's decision to retitle these texts as The Old English Version of the Gospels rather than as The West-Saxon Gospels (as they have been titled for over a century) is defensible, it is a decision which is bound to cause confusion to students and to scholars in related fields. Well established titles -- even if they are not wholly accurate, have their utility. One thinks of The Mabinogion or The Edda, titles which are "wronger" than The West-Saxon Gospels is, but which have been retained out of deference to convention and bibliographical pietas. Scholars working in the field can make the adjustment easily enough, but someone whose main interest is in one of the other medieval vernacular languages and who is interested in the OE Biblical translations for comparative purposes is going to have to learn that The Old English Version of the Gospels and The West Saxon Gospels are in fact the same text. Putting the established title on the title page in parentheses after the new title would be a bit awkward, but it would be a convenience which would save some future scholars trouble and conceivably avoid error.

Again, Liuzza follows the mss in presenting the text of the Gospels in paragraphs without setting the Gospels out by chapter and verse. This editorial decision is a legitimate one since the mss present the text continuously, and Liuzza does indicate verses by superscript number, but the editorial practice followed by Bright of setting out the text verse by verse is convenient for the casual reader. Since familiar Biblical texts are good texts for beginning students of OE to read to increase their fluency in the language, and since such students are unlikely to be able to afford the two- volume EETS edition which will presumably cost $100.00 or so, a further desideratum would be a cheap students' edition of one or more of the gospels set out by chapter and verse. At any rate, Liuzza is certainly to be congratulated on an auspicious beginning of an important scholarly project -- literary scholars and historians interested in OE Christian literature and culture will be grateful for this volume and will anticipate with real interest the volume of commentary which is forthcoming.