Diatessaron Primacy

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One implication of Huller’s picture, out of very many, is that there is now a historical context for the conclusion of several scholars that our set of four Gospels was edited and promulgated as a single publication in Greek in four parts in Greek in Rome round about 170 A.D. (The decisive evidence is given by Trobisch, though he was anticipated to some extent by von Campenhausen and others). What came before that was a single Gospel, much longer than any one of the later four. This is universally referred to as simply “the Gospel”. This single Gospel was obviously not exactly the same in content or wording from one sect to another. (This is not part of Trobisch’s argument. His concerns are elsewhere. I refer mainly to Huller’s proof, but also indications by Plooij and Boismard and von Campenhausen). One of these long Gospels, the Gospel of the Hebrews, was re-edited by Tatian. Presumably he turned the dialect from Western Aramaic to Syriac, though he might have used the Hebrew original, which is known to have been accessible later on to Jerome. Where needed there were some additions from the new Canonical Four, as well as some limited adjustment of the wording to them. What the book was called when it was not simply called “The Gospel” we don’t know. A confused statement by Epiphanius seems to show that it was still called the Gospel of the Hebrews, though this is no more certain than anything else from this befuddled cleric. This edition by Tatian was at some time given the slightly misleading name “the Diapente” which later turned into the erroneous name “the Diatessaron”. It is known that in Rome the Four were used for all serious theological writing and Tatian’s edition (translated from Syriac into Latin) was used for the composition of the liturgy and all teaching and preaching. In Syria old habits remained and Tatian’s edition was used for all purposes, including learned commentary, for a long while. A second long Gospel (given the Siglum P by Boismard) was used by Justin Martyr. As it shows up in the quotations in Efrem that are not from the Diatessaron, it was presumably recast from Western Aramaic into Syriac. It survives in full, though condensed in some places, in a Middle English translation from French from Latin from Syriac recast from Western Aramaic. We now have answers to the twin baffling questions, why are the present Canonical Four in Greek, without a Hebrew or Aramaic original; and what happened to the Hebrew and Aramaic. This is not the place to set out the evidence for these statements about the history of the editing of the Gospel. I just say, read Huller’s arguments, along with the arguments of the other scholars mentioned. Read Huller’s integration of all this with his picture of the rise of a self-conscious “Catholic Church”, part of a new officially promoted threefold pattern, itself following on from an earlier attempt at unifying the population of Palestine-Syria. You might still be unconvinced, but you will have to work hard before saying so. This example is only one part of Huller’s cohesive theory. Each other aspect will demand the same degree of hard work to refute.

Dr. Ruairidh (Rory) Bóid Honorary Research Associate Centre for Religion and Theology School of Historical Studies Monash University (Melbourne)

Source: http://frommessiahtopariah.blogspot.com/2007/04/rory-boid.html