Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Joan Hart-Hasler: Bede’s Use of Textual Criticism in his Exegesis: The Retractatio in Actus Apostolorum

Late in life, following the lead of St Augustine, Bede wrote his second commentary on Acts, calling it the ‘Retraction’.  Bede’s  Retractatio in Actus Apostolorum is a work of exegesis, but not of the kind one usually encounters in a medieval interpretation of a biblical book.  In its preface, Bede, alluding to his earlier commentary, says “I will now write on the same volume [Acts] a little book of reconsideration, desiring especially to add to what had been less well said or to correct what seems to have been improperly said.  I have also taken care to note certain things in the Greek which have been set down differently, or with more or fewer words.”  The Retractatio’s avowed intention is to correct errors in the biblical text and misunderstandings of its meaning that Bede had discovered while working with various texts of Bibles, both Latin and Greek. Bede’s work, however, is not a list of errata but a commentary, endeavoring to uncover through the specific differences of words the genuine and full meaning of the early experience of the Apostles. My paper will illustrate how Bede utilizes the variations in different biblical texts, both Latin and Greek, to develop an exegesis of Acts that relies on a form of internal textual criticism for its understanding of the text it interprets.

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