Reassessing the Text of Paul Available to John of Damascus

The text of Paul available to John of Damascus was not strictly—or even moderately—Byzantine. Perusing the Damascene citations in the critical editions might lead one to conclude that John of Damascus had access to a text whose character more closely resembled the Byzantine tradition than any alternative. However, the manuscript evidence for John of Damascus’s commentary on Paul’s letters as preserved in GA 018, GA 0150, GA 0151, GA 1506, and GA 2110 suggests two things which will be argued in this paper: (1) John of Damascus was responsible not only for his commentary on Paul (which he extracted largely from Chrysostom), but he likely penned the accompanying biblical text as well. This means that it may not be necessary to reconstruct the Damascene’s text merely from quotations found in his theological works; we have available to us the full text of Paul’s letters as transmitted by John of Damascus. (2) Of the five manuscript witnesses, GA 018 and GA 0151 contain the Damascene’s commentary alongside a highly edited biblical text—one that is almost uniformly Byzantine. It is likely that the biblical text as found in GA 0150, GA 1506, and GA 2110 represents the earlier form of the text that flows from John of Damascus. Since four of the five manuscripts were likely copied in the same century, it is likely that the archetypal text of the Damascene was actively and swiftly standardized into conformity with the Byzantine tradition. Therefore, quotations that accord with the Byzantine tradition against the non-Byzantine witnesses to John of Damascus on Paul (GA 0150, GA 1506, GA 2110) are suspect.