The Original Versus the Received Text with Special Emphasis on the Case of the Comma Johanneum

Margalit Finkelberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Questioning the legitimacy of critical inquiry into a text qua text, rather than as mediated through the lens of reception, is the most salient characteristic of the epistemological challenge posed to traditional philology by reception theory. The assumption which underlies this attitude is that scholarship is a variety of reception and is therefore subject to the same laws. Yet, while no one would deny that a text can only be kept alive through the medium of reception (a view that can be traced back to Plato’s Phaedrus), one may at the same time doubt whether this exhausts the gamut of possibilities at our disposal. The availability of philological methods inaugurated by the humanists does not allow us to treat the axis ‘text-reception’ as the only available one. I argue that it should be supplemented by the axis ‘text-scholarship’, which runs parallel to it. While reception is a spontaneous process of the text’s adaptation to changing historical circumstances, scholarship is a critical activity which addresses the text as an object of study in its own right. To illustrate my point, I discuss the relevant evidence supplied by the Jewish, Greco-Roman and early modern interpretative traditions with special emphasis on the notorious case of the Comma Johanneum, which in my opinion effectively highlights the fundamental tension between the original and the received text.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-197
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of the Classical Tradition
Issue number3
StatePublished - 3 Oct 2014


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