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The old Georgian Acts of the Apostles: A Progress Report1

  • J. W. Childers (a1)


Over the years textual critics have given great attention to the New Testament text of the Acts of the Apostles. Like all New Testament texts, it merits particular attention, but especially because its textual tradition is enriched by the principal representative of the so-called ‘Western’ text, the Greek Acts of Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis. The presence of this defining element of the ‘Western’ text has made the Acts of the Apostles an exceptionally fertile environment for the production, evaluation, and refinement of theories about the history of the Greek New Testament text. The favoured status of the Greek Acts extends to the ancient versions as well. Even the Old Georgian version of Acts has been grouped with ‘Western’ witnesses – F. C. Conybeare studied a few chapters of one manuscript of the Georgian Acts and concluded that it had many ‘Western’ readings.



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2 Conybeare, F. C., ‘The Old Georgian Version of Acts’, ZNW 12 (1911) 131; see Arthur Vööbus, , Early Versions of the New Testament (Papers of the Estonian Theological Society in Exile 6; Stockholm: Estonian Theological Society in Exile, 1954) 195–6.

3 See Birdsall, J. Neville, ‘The Georgian Versions of the Acts of the Apostles’, Text and Testimony. Essays on New Testament and Apocryphal Literature in Honour of A. F. J. Klijn (ed. Baarda, T. et al. ; Kampen: J. H. Kok, 1988) 41–2.

4 See Molitor, Joseph, ‘Die Bedeutung der altgeorgischen Bibel für die neutestamentliche Textkritik’, BZ 4 (1960) 3953; Metzger, Bruce M., The Early Versions of the New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon, 1977) 182214; Birdsall, , ‘Georgian Studies and the New Testament’, NTS 29 (1983) 306–20.

5 By the mid-fifth century, at least some books of the Bible had been translated into the Georgian language. Some Georgian lectionary fragments date from this period (Tarchnishvili, P. Michael, Geschichte der kirchlichen Georgischen Literatur [Studi e testi 185; Vatican City: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1955] 313–14). The translation of Acts cannot have been long after these. Tarchnishvili argues that it could not have taken place in the fifth century, but must have occurred before the end of the sixth (‘À propos de la plus ancienne version géorgienne des Actes des Apôtres’, Muséon 69 [1956] 359). See also Kluge, Theodore, ‘Über das Alter der georgischen Übersetzung des Neuen Testaments’, ZNW 11 (1910) 166;Salia, K., ‘Georgian Literature from Its Beginnings to the Present Day’, Bedi Kartlisa 30 (1975) 89.

6 The phenomenon of multi-stage recension within the New Testament versional tradition is well-known, not least of all with regard to the Old Georgian gospels – see Lang, David, ‘Recent Work on the Georgian New Testament’, BSOAS 19 (1957) 8390;Molitor, Joseph, ‘Das Neue Testament in der georgischer Sprache’, Die alten Übersetzungen des Neuen Testaments, die Kirchenväterzitate and Lektionare (ed. Kurt, Aland; Arbeiten zur neutestamentlichen Text-forschung 5; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1972) 327.

7 See Metzger, , Early Versions, 190–4. The most recent general survey, which happens to have been conducted by an expert on the Georgian New Testament, treats the Georgian versions in connection with the Armenian under the category of translations based on the Old Syriac (Birdsall, , ‘The Recent History of New Testament Textual Criticism’, ANRW 26 [1992] 1.124–7).

8 Abuladze, Ilia, The Acts of the Apostles according to the Old Manuscripts (Monuments of the Old Georgian Language 7; Tbilisi: Mecniereba, 1950), in Georgian.

9 See the discussion below on Tarchnishvili's, , ‘À propos de la plus ancienne version géorgienne des Actes des Apôtres’, Muséon 69 (1956) 347–68.

10 Garitte, Gérard, L'ancienne version géorgienne des Actes des Apôtres (Bibliothèque du Muséon 38; Louvain: University, 1955).

11 For a systematic enumeration of the oldest manuscripts, see Outtier, Bernard, ‘Essai de répertoire des manuscrits des vieilles versions géorgiennes du Nouveau Testament’, Langues orientales anciennes philologie et linguistique 1 (1988) 173–9.

12 The table is intended to be as comprehensive as possible. Lectionaries and other kinds of collections which have excerpts from Acts are not included. Also, it may be assumed that other late witnesses exist whose contents are not described clearly enough to determine positively that they contain Acts – this is especially true of the earliest catalogues which are in the process of being replaced by the Georgians.

13 Dates appear according to year when known, by century when dated on palaeographical grounds.

14 In a number of cases data is not available in sufficient detail to determine whether a text belongs to the recension of Giorgi or Eprem. These manuscripts are marked by the uncertain, ‘Giorgi?’, since his recension is the most popular and widespread.

15 Garitte also presents a brief lectionary collation and a small part of Athos, Iveron no. 42, which he transcribed from photographic plates and is collated fully by Abuladze. Also on the Sinai manuscripts, see Garitte, , Catalogue des manuscrits géorgiens littéraires du Mont Sinai (CSCO 165; Louvain: L. Durbecq, 1956) 152–4, 189–97.

16 S.407 and S.1398. See Metreveli, E., ed., Description of Georgian Manuscripts. Former Collection (S) of the Society for Spreading Education amongst the Georgians (Mecniereba: Tbilisi 1959–73) 1.509–10, 2.185 (in Georgian).

17 A.34, A.137, A.584, and A.677. See Kekelidze, K., Baramidze, A., Metreveli, E., ed., Description of Georgian Manuscripts. Former Collection (A) of the Ecclesiastical Museum (Mecniereba: Tbilisi, 1954–1986) 1.1.102–4, 1.2.161–2 (in Georgian); and Zhordania, T., Janashvili, M. G., ed., Opisanie rukopisei Tiflisskago Cerkobnago Muzeya (Izdanie Cerkobnago Muzeya 9, 12–13; Tbilisi: 1903, 1908) 2.97–8, 151 (in Russian).

18 It is given the number 176 – I designate it Kutaisi 176. See Nikoladze, E., ed., Description of Manuscripts of the Kutaisi State Museum of History (Mecniereba: Tbilisi, 1953) 1.331–2 (in Georgian).

19 Athos, Iveron no. 42.

20 Abuladze provides only a very brief description of the manuscript (Acts of the Apostles, 031). It appears to be one of those which Prince Giorgi Avalov presented to the Asiatic Museum of the Russian Academy at the beginning of the 19th century, formerly of the Jerusalem collection (i.e. Tsagareli no. 140 – see Tsagareli, A., ‘Professor Tsagareli's Catalogue of the Georgian Manuscripts in the Monastery of the Holy Cross at Jerusalem’, JBL 12 [1893] 168–79;Blake, Robert P., ‘Catalogue des manuscrits géorgiens de la bibliothèque patriarcale grecque à Jérusalem’, Revue de l'orient chrétien 23 [1922–1923] 345, n. 1).

21 S.2572. See Metreveli, , Description of Georgian Manuscripts. Former Collection (S) 4.94–5.

22 H.664 and H.971. See Kekelidze, K., Baramidze, A., Abuladze, I., ed., Description of the Georgian Manuscripts of the State Museum of Georgia. Former Collection (H) of the Museum of the Society of Georgian History and Ethnography (Mecniereba: Tbilisi, 1948–51) 2.116, 333 (in Georgian).

23 A.46, A.482, and A.909. See Kekelidze, K., Baramidze, A., Metreveli, E., Description of Georgian Manuscripts. Former Collection (A), 1.1.126–7, 2.1.208–10; and Zhordania, T., Janashvili, M. G., Opisanie rukopisei Tiflisskago Cerkobnago Muzeya, 3.164–70, 217–8.

24 Q.86. See Abuladze, , ed., Description of the Georgian Manuscripts of the State Museum of Georgia. New Collection (Q) of the Museum of Manuscripts (Tbilisi: Mecniereba, 1957–8) 1.98–9 (in Georgian).

25 One (A.956) was not assigned a date by its cataloguer M. G. Janashvili. Neither did he provide a sample of the text. The efforts of Georgian scholars in Tbilisi to re-catalogue manuscripts A.1–1040 reached A.500 in 1986.

26 For the Athos manuscripts see Blake, R. P., ‘Catalogue des manuscrits géorgiens de la bibliothèque de la laure d'iviron au Mont Athos’, Revue de l'orient chrétien 29 (1933–4) 117–18, 235–7, 261–2. Athos Iveron no. 78 is undated, but Blake remarks that it is ‘dans la version et de la même main de saint Georges l'Athonite (vers 1050)’.

27 For Jerusalem georg. 19 see Blake, , ‘Catalogue des manuscrits géorgiens de la bibliothèque patriarcale grecque à Jérusalem’, Revue de l'orient chrétien 23 (1922–3) 395. Blake was able to find no manuscript in Tsagareli's earlier enumeration which corresponds to this one. For Jerusalem georg. 129 see ibid., Revue de l'orient chrétien 25 (1925–6) 135. Jerusalem georg. 76 was copied at the Holy Sepulchre in ‘the thirty-second year of the reign of the Turks’, or AD 1549 if the era to which the colophon refers began in the year of the conquest of Suleiman I (AD 1517) – see ibid., Revue de l'orient chrétien 24 (1924) 409. Jerusalem georg. 115 was copied in Tbilisi by Nikolozi Chachikasshvili but wound up in Jerusalem – see ibid., 425–6.

28 Ibid., 416. See Tsagareli, , ‘Catalogue’, 170.

29 Tsagareli, , ‘Catalogue’, 170.

30 Blake, , ‘Catalogue des manuscrits géorgiens de la bibliothèque patriarcale grecque à Jérusalem’, Revue de l'orient chrétien 24 (1924) 426.

31 Athos, Iveron no. 42 and no. 78.

32 Jerusalem georg. 19, 115, and 129.

33 See Childers, J. W., ‘Corrigenda to Gérard Garitte's Edition of the Old Georgian Acts’, OrChr 77 (1993) 243–8.

34 See Tarchnishvili, , Geschichte, 2734;Khintibidze, E., ‘Byzantine-Georgian Literary Contacts’, Bedi Kartlisa 36 (1978) 278–9.

35 Lang, David M., ‘Recent Work on the Georgian New Testament’, BSOAS 19 (1957) 89, 93;Tarchnishvili, , ‘La plus ancienne version géorgienne des Actes des Apôtres’, 364.

36 The designation simply distinguishes the texts, without presuming anything about their chronological relationship.

37 See the discussion below on Tarchnishvili's, , ‘À propos de la plus ancienne version géorgienne des Actes des Apôtres’, Muséon 69 (1956) 347–68.

38 The lacunose Kutaisi manuscript, number 176, is of the same recension.

39 Birdsall, , ‘Georgian Versions of Acts’, 40–5.

40 Tarchnishvili, , Geschichte, 131–2.

41 This material is preserved in A.584 (see Abuladze, , Acts of the Apostles, 021–5).

42 Tarchnishvili, 36, 126–31, 154–62.

43 Ibid., 182–6.

44 See Abuladze, , Acts of the Apostles, 02830; also Tarchnishvili, , Geschichte, 186.

45 Abuladze reproduces the colophon (Acts of the Apostles, 022).

46 The majority of variations corresponding to ‘the Greek’ are in line with the Byzantine tradition. Some are not (see the illustrations below). However, the general orientation of progressive recensions toward a Greek standard is clear, although the matter of precisely describing the content of that standard remains open. It appears to have been basically equivalent to the Byzantine text, or ‘the majority of medieval Greek manuscripts’ (Birdsall, , ‘The Georgian Versions of Acts’, 45).

47 Throughout this study, the Greek text and apparatus of NA27 provide the bases for comparison to the Greek.

48 However, in each of the following cases the readings of 105 have proved to be identical to those attriubted to (‘Majority Text’).

49 ‘Yιòν θεο⋯ also occurs in 74vid, 614, bomss. Cf. Kilpatrick, G. D., ‘Acts vii.56: Son of Man?’, TZ 21 (1965) 209; id., ‘Again Acts vii.56: Son of Man?’, TZ 34 (1978) 232 (reprinted in Elliott, J. K., ed., The Principles and Practice of New Testament Textual Criticism: Collected Essays of G. D. Kilpatrick [BETL 96; Leuven: University, 1990] 415–16, 417–18).

50 Including some Greek manuscripts and the following versions: it, vgcl, and syh (see the apparatus of NA27).

51 Certain variations in this passage in the Greek tradition and other versions (see the apparatus of NA27) are unrelated to the peculiar expansion in the Georgian.

52 Greek manuscript 105 has a slight variation in word order: λούσαντεςδ⋯αὐτ⋯νἔθηκαν⋯νύπερῴῳ (cf. NA27).

53 Gani's Acts is divided into forty sections, as it is in the bulk of the Greek manuscripts. In almost every instance, points of division correspond with those in the Greek. In contrast, the κεφάλαια of Bani and the Sinai and Ani groups are quite different from those in the Greek manuscripts and are distinct from each other.

54 See Birdsall, , ‘Georgian Versions of Acts’, 45.

55 This reading is found in Athos Iveron, no. 42, the Sinai and Ani groups, no doubt reflecting an exegetical tradition which appears in Chrysostom On the Priesthood 4.7 and elsewhere. Of further interest to the history of exegetical traditions are the marginal notes which occur in several manuscripts of the Gani and Doni type. E.g. the note at Acts 1.12 which explains, ‘a Sabbath-walk is one mile or 2000 cubits’ (A.584, A.137, A.677, Jerusalem georg. 129). Other notes explain the rationale behind specific instances of Giorgi's editorial work (Acts 20.28 – see Birdsall, , ‘Georgian Versions of Acts’, 41) and the Alexandrian custom of marking ships with figures representing gods (Acts 28.11).

56 Sinai and Ani share this reading.

57 Sinai and Ani have the same reading.

58 See Metzger, (Versions, 194–6) for a general discussion.

59 Along with Ani and the Sinai text.

60 The examples selected for illustration may leave the impression that the earliest Old Georgian version had a definite ‘Western’ character, as Conybeare thought (see ‘Old Georgian Version of Acts’, 131; Vööbus, , Early Versions, 195–6). This is not necessarily so (Birdsall, , ‘Georgian Versions of Acts’, 41–2;Ropes, James Hardy, The Beginnings of Christianity, Part 1, vol. 3, The Text of Acts [London: MacMillan, 1926] clxxxiii). Exemplary readings have been chosen arbitrarily for the purposes of this study and cannot on their own suggest conclusions regarding the textual affinities of the Old Georgian version.

61 E, Ψ, 6, 33, 36, 323, 614, 945, 11 75, 1739, al.; h, t, syp.hmg, co, Irlat.

62 Tarchnishvili, , Geschichte, 33.

63 So designated because of the frequent occurrence of the letters Xan (fifth-seventh centuries) and Hae (eighth-ninth centuries), in ways considered superfluous in most Georgian writing of later years. See Shanidze, Akaki, Grammatik der altgeorgischen Sprache (Schriften des Lehrstuhls für altgeorgische Sprache 24; Tbilisi: University, 1982) 11.

64 See Molitor's, J. collections, Monumenta Iberica Antiquiora: Textus Chanmeti et Haemeti ex Inscriptionibus, S. Bibliis et Patribus (CSCO 166; Louvain: L. Durbecq, 1956); and Birdsall, , ‘Khanmeti Fragments of the Synoptic Gospels from Ms.Vin.Georg. 2’, OrChr 55 (1971) 6289.

65 Tarchnishvili, , ‘La plus ancienne version géorgienne des Actes des Apôtres’, 358–9.

66 See ibid., 355.

67 Molitor claims the Sinai text ‘hat vorwiegend geo2–Charakter’, but does not elaborate on his position (‘Das Neue Testament in georgischer Sprache’, 317).

68 Observing that the relationship of the Sinai text to Ani and Bani is unclear, Birdsall conjectures that ‘the monks of Sinai developed a text of their own’ (‘Georgian Versions of Acts’, 40).

69 Viz. ‘certain’ (ertsa). They do however provide the definite article which curiously does not occur in C, D, E, Ψ, 33, 1739 and the Byzantine text.

70 Agreeing with codex Bezae, the Middle Egyptian codex, and partially with codex L and others (which omit κυρίου).

71 Cf. Birdsall's study, ‘The Old Syriac Gospels and the Georgian Version: the Question of Relationship’, to be published as part of the proceedings of the last Symposium Syriacum.

1 This research has been sponsored by the International Project on the Text of Acts, based at Abilene Christian University, Abilene, Texas. For a report on current text-critical interest in the book of Acts, see Carroll D. Osburn, ‘The Search for the Original Text of Acts: An International Text-Critical Project’, JSNT 44 (1991) 39–55.

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The old Georgian Acts of the Apostles: A Progress Report1

  • J. W. Childers (a1)


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