Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Harmonization in manuscripts of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) has been recognized as a textual phenomenon since at least the late second century. This dissertation constitutes the first major catalogue of assimilated readings and provides evidence for the nature of harmonization in the earliest period of the development of the text of the New Testament.

Harmonization occurs whenever a scribe copying a Gospel by hand introduces a textual variant that reflects the influence of parallel material from another Gospel or gospel tradition. The body of this dissertation is a text-critical analysis of every harmonizing variant in the forty-four incomplete Greek manuscripts of the Synoptic Gospels from the second through the fifth century and in Codex Vaticanus, the earliest manuscript containing the complete text of all three Synoptics. Variants that are found in only one manuscript (singular readings) are used to profile individual scribal personalities hidden in the fragments. Readings that appear in multiple manuscripts (comparative readings) are used to describe the general phenomenon of harmonization.

Over the course of hearing, reading, and copying gospel material, a single Gospel or version of a saying or story solidified into the scribe’s “cognitive exemplar,” that is to say, the “horizon of expectation” by which he read the text before him. As the scribe copied, his cognitive exemplar was sometimes in agreement with and sometimes in disagreement with his physical exemplar. The material in his cognitive exemplar occasionally became the source of substitutions, additions, omissions, and transpositions in the copy he was creating. In most cases, these alterations occurred “reflexively” or “automatically.” As the scribe copied one Gospel, the text itself recalled parallel material latent in the scribe’s horizon of expectation and in his general familiarity with alternative versions of sayings and stories. Far from diminishing the unique character of the individual Synoptics, harmonizing readings are testaments to the dynamic, living text of the Gospels in the first five Christian centuries.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.