Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Medieval Scroll with Text from the Gospels

          Almost all manuscripts that contain text from the New Testament in Greek are codices, that is, hand-made books.  Even the earliest catalogued fragment, Papyrus 52, is from a codex.  However, a few scrolls containing Greek text from the New Testament exist.  One of them is the D’Hendecourt Scroll in the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection at the University of Chicago (known as Manuscript #125 in the collection, and as Talisman 7 in the old Gregory-Dobschutz identification-system) 
          This interesting item (which is not cited in the apparatus of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, and the existence of which is not acknowledged in the current Gregory-Aland identification-system) is an “apotropaic” scroll, that is, a scroll which, it was thought, endued its possessor with divine protection.  It contains text from Mark 1:1-8, Luke 1:1-7, John 1:1-14, and Matthew 6:9-13 (the Lord’s Prayer, complete with the doxology in verse 13  not Matthew 4:9-13 as is sometimes claimed).  It also contains the Nicene Creed and Psalm 68, in Greek.  When it was in pristine condition it probably included the opening verses of the Gospel of Matthew.
Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 1077, a small
manuscript made to be worn as a charm,
contains text from Matthew 4:23-24.
          The use of small scrolls containing excerpts from the beginnings, or near the beginnings, of the Gospels, as protective amulets or charms, was mentioned by the patristic writer John Chrysostom, who served in Antioch, and then Constantinople, in the late 300s/early 400s.  The church generally discouraged the use of such charms, but their production continued nevertheless.  Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 1077 is also a talisman (probably made in the 500’s), albeit much smaller that the D’Hendecourt Scroll.  
          The scroll in the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection is one of two known portions of the same manuscript.  A longer portion is at the Pierpont Morgan Library (in New York), and it contains additional material, including Psalms 35 and 91, and invocations to Saints George (the dragon-slayer), Demetrius, Daniel, Eugenius, Artilektos, and Theodore, plus the story of King Abgar, interpolated with an unusual form of the Epistula Salvatoris – instructions (exemplified in the scroll) about how to write an inscription for divine protection.  The portion at the Morgan Library also features a colophon which informs the reader that the scroll was made in the 1,694th year after Alexander, which yields a date of A.D. 1383.  Both portions also contain illustrations.
          Casual observers might be forgiven if they assume that the Gospels-text in a scroll made less than a century before the invention of printing must be the ordinary Byzantine Text.  Upon examination, its text agrees more closely with the Byzantine Text than with any other text-type, but it has some interesting variants.  In Matthew 6:12, the D’Hendecourt Scroll reads “αφιομεν” (agreeing with Codices D, E, L, W, Θ, and 565), which is a little different from the Byzantine reading αφιεμεν and also distinct from the Alexandrian reading αφηκαμεν.  (The early patristic writing called the Didache, as well as Clement of Alexandria (in Stromata, Book 7, ch. 13), support αφιεμεν.  The parallel in Luke 11:4 reads αφιομεν.  Usually.)   In Mark 1:1-8, the text of the d’Hendecourt Scroll runs as follows, with its most notable feature in verse 2.  (Red bold text indicates a disagreement with the Nestle-Aland text; green bold text indicates a disagreement with the Byzantine Text; purple bold text indicates a disagreement with them both.  Transpositions are not indicated.)       

Researcher Glenn Peers offers
some additional analysis of the scroll
in two papers accessible
online at Academia.
1Αρχη του ευαγγελιου Ιυ Χυ υιου του Θυ 2ως
γεγραπται εν τω Ησαια τω προφητη ιδου
εγω αποστελλω τον αγγελον μου προ προσω
που σου ος κατασκευασει την οδον σου εμ
προσθεν σου  3Φωνη βοωντος εν τη ερημω ε
τοιμασατε την οδον Κυ ευθειας ποιειτε τας
τριβους αυτου · 4Εγενετο Ϊωαννης  βαπτιζων
εν τη ερημω και κηρυσσων βαπτισμα μετα
νοιας εις αφεσιν αμαρτιων. 5Και εξεπο
ρευοντο προς αυτον πασα η Ιουδαια χωρα
και οι Ιεροσολυμιται και εβαπτιζοντο παν
τες εν τω Ιορδανη ποταμω υπ αυτου εξομο
λογουμενοι τας αμαρτιας αυτων . 6Ην δε ο
Ϊωαννης ενδεδυμενος τριχας καμηλου.  και
ζωννην δερματινην περι την οσφυν αυτου.
και εσθιων ακριδας και μελι αγριον·  7Και ε
κηρυσσε λεγων ερχεται ο ισχυροτερος μου οπι
σω μου ου ουκ ειμι ικανος κυψας λυσαι τον
ιμαντα των υποδηματων αυτου. 8Εγω μεν ε
βαπτισα υμας εν υδατι · αυτος δε βαπτι
σει υμας εν πνι αγιω : ~    

An icon at Saint Catherine's
depicts king Abgar of Edessa
being shown the cloth that bore
the image of the face of Christ.
So does an illustration on the
scroll-portion at the Morgan Library
          The presence of an Alexandrian reading followed by so many Byzantine readings suggests that the D’Hendecourt Scroll was produced at an intersection of competing transmission-streams – a place where the Byzantine Text was prevalent but the influence of other text-streams remained significant, even in the 1300’s.  Georgian and Arabic text on the scroll also provide a clue regarding its provenance.  While it is not impossible that the scroll was made in Trebizond (where Eugenius was especially revered), its earliest known provenance is Egypt.  In addition, a small Coptic amulet-text  British Library Or. 4919(2) – also combines, albeit in an extremely concise way, the beginning of the Epistula Salvatoris and the opening verses of each Gospel.
          The most likely point of origin is Saint Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula – the same place where Constantine Tischendorf found Codex Sinaiticus in the safe custody of monks (who were, contrary to Tischendorf’s story, certainly not burning its pages).  The motifs in one of the pictures on the D’Hendecourt Scroll (in the portion at the Morgan Library) are similar to a scene in an icon at Saint Catherine’s, in which Abgar is presented with the cloth that bore the image of Christ’s face. 
          The story about King Abgar, the letter he wrote to Jesus, and the letter that Jesus wrote (or dictated) back to him accompanying a cloth upon which Jesus had transferred the image of His face, was very well-circulated.  It was mentioned by Eusebius of Caesarea in his 
Ecclesiastical History;  in Eastern Christendom it formed part of the fifth-century composite-work known as the Doctrine oAddai, and in the West an excerpt from it is preserved in a British book made in the early 800’s.)
          The D’Hendecourt Scroll thus combined two motifs that were considered to induce divine protection upon the person carrying them:  the opening verses of the Gospels, and the story of the correspondence between Jesus and Abgar, augmented by the protective inscription of symbolic letters displayed on the scroll.  Although produced as the equivalent of a lucky charm, it has some textual value, and its text should not be ignored in discussions of Mark 1:2 and Matthew 6:13. 

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