A Very Short Review of Carl P. Cosaert’s, “The Text of the Gospels in Clement of Alexandria”

Author: Carl Cosaert serves as Dean of the School of Theology and professor of Biblical Studies at Walla Walla University (Seventh-Day Adventist). He served as a pastor for ten years before earning his PhD in 2005 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill under Bart Ehrman as his dissertation advisor. Cosaert has recently written a commentary on Galatians and has several forthcoming commentaries as well as a contribution in the Andrews Study Bible. (https://www.wallawalla.edu/academics/areas-of-study/theology/faculty/)

Purpose and thesis: Cosaert’s purpose in writing is to examine and trace the transmission history of the NT text through the collation, analysis, and evaluation of Clement of Alexandria’s Gospels citations. According to Cosaert, Clement’s citations exhibit (with some variation and early Byzantine mixed throughout) a Primary Alexandrian influence for John and Matthew and a Western influence for Mark 10 and Luke.

Review: In The Text of the Gospels in Clement of Alexandria, Cosaert begins by introducing the reader to the church father and his text, describing Clement’s setting in Alexandria, his educational and ecclesiastical backgrounds, and his massive importance for textual studies due to the sheer number of biblical references in his works. Cosaert evaluates Clement’s hermeneutical affinities and their impact on how he cited biblical passages from both OT and NT. He then compares these biblical citations with Clement’s citations of secular Greek writers (chapter 1). The bulk of Cosaert’s book is comprised of an apparatus (chapters 3 and 4) comparing Clement’s text in all four Gospels with “representative textual witnesses” in the Primary Alexandrian, Secondary Alexandrian, Byzantine, Caesarean, Western text families, and other church fathers (48, 52). Cosaert then performs a quantitative analysis of his findings using a modified form of the methods devised by Colwell-Tune, Ehrman, Richards, and Racine (chapter 5).

In order to refine the analysis of each group’s textual affinities, Cosaert applies Ehrman’s Comprehensive Profile Method to the text of each grouping of Gospel citations (253; chapter 6). He then examines the results of the data and draws conclusions relating to the prevailing text (or lack thereof; 305) in Alexandria at the time of Clement’s writing (chapter 7). His analysis points to a “textual fluidity” vacillating between two major textual streams—Primary Alexandrian and Western—and “a consistently high rate of agreement” between the Alexandrian Fathers (Origen, Athanasius, Clement, Didymus, and Cyril; 309-10, chapter 8).

Cosaert has produced a fine study on the text of the Gospels in Clement and contributed to the work of Ehrman, Holmes, and others in drawing out the pertinent data from nearly every conceivable resource. His insights detailing Clement’s philosophical and hermeneutical points of view (the “divine voice,” 22) in chapter 2 are particularly helpful in determining genuine citations and why they differ from the Gospel texts (as opposed to the precise citations in the Pauline epistles; 28). His apparatus is indispensable for text-critical work in Clement and the other Alexandrian Fathers, and his conclusions are drawn logically and directly from the results of his research. If a weakness can be found it is perhaps Cosaert’s lack of reference to Gospel manuscript equipment, paleographical elements, and codicology, though these issues may be beyond the scope if this book.

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