Friday, April 15, 2016

Kephalaia: The Ancient Chapters of the Gospels

          The University of Chicago, the British Library, and the Vatican Library are just a few of the institutions with important collections of New Testament manuscripts that can be viewed online.  Many more digital photographs of manuscripts are available at the website of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts.  Often when one views a manuscript-page, there is more to see than just the text; many manuscripts have other features, the significance of which might not be obvious right away.  Today we will explore a feature which is frequently found in New Testament manuscripts:  their kephalaia – the headings of the ancient chapters.   Specifically, we will review the kephalaia of the Gospels.
          In the original manuscripts of the Gospels, there were no chapter-divisions.  Today in English Bibles, Matthew has 28 chapters, Mark has 16 chapters, Luke has 24 chapters, and John has 21 chapters.  In many Greek Gospels-manuscripts, the division is very different:  Matthew has 68 chapters; Mark has 48, Luke has 83, and John has 18 or 19.  Often, before each Gospel, copyists wrote a list of the chapters’ numbers and titles (titloi), which served as a table of contents.  Within the text of the Gospel itself, on the page where a chapter began, a copyist wrote the chapter’s number and name at the top of the page; these are the kephalaia (headings), usually written in red.  When more than one chapter began on the same page, copyists would write the second kephalon in the lower margin.
Most of the Kephalaia-list for the
Gospel of Mark in the medieval
Exoteicho Gospels (2396).
          In some manuscripts, the headings have not survived:  either in the final stages of the manuscript’s production, or later when the manuscript was rebound in a new cover, the pages were trimmed.  It is not unusual to see cases in which the page-trimmer has cut off some, or all, of the uppermost parts of the pages where the kephalaia had been.
          There are some aspects of the kephalaia which one might not expect.  For example, each Gospel does not begin with chapter 1.  The opening portion of each Gospel was treated as a preface, and did not receive a chapter-number.  Thus the first chapter in Matthew begins at 2:1, and the first chapter in Mark begins at 1:23.  Also, the ancient chapters vary wildly in size.  Chapter 40 of Luke consists of only two verses, while some of the chapters in John include more than one of our modern chapters.  Almost all of the chapters begin with the word περι, which means about, and typically this word is abbreviated in the list of titloi and in the kephalaia as πε, sometimes with one letter above the other.
          Also, most of the chapters in John are relatively huge compared to most of the chapters in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  It may be that the chapter-divisions in the Synoptic Gospels were prepared first, and that at least part of their purpose was to give readers the means to easily locate each Gospel’s account of some of the same events.  This would explain why many of the chapter-titles in Matthew are repeated in Mark and/or Luke.  (For example, kephalaia 31, 32, 33, 34, and 35 of Matthew are the same as kephalaia 21, 22, 34, 25, and 26 of Mark.)  The contents of John were, for the most part, not divided into smaller portions because for long stretches, there are no close parallels overlapping the text, until the reader comes to a point in the narrative where the contents of the other Gospels overlapped. 
The last page of the Kephalaia-list
for the Gospel of Mark in Codex L.
        Another intriguing aspect of the ancient chapter-divisions is that the individual events involving Christ’s Passion do not receive special attention.  One would suppose that if the little episode in Luke 4:40-44 merited treatment as a distinct chapter, so would episodes surrounding Jesus’ arrest, trials, and crucifixion.  But except for three chapters in Luke, we do not encounter this.  It is as if the ancient-chapter divisions were designed with the assumption that they would be supplemented by other materials (possibly the Easter-time liturgy, and the Heothina readings about Christ’s resurrection, which sub-divide the parts of the text that are not divided into separate units in the kephalaia-series).
          The chapters do not always begin at exactly the same place, and the chapter-titles sometimes vary in detail.  (Sometimes, when manuscripts share variations in the chapter-titles, they also share variations in the Gospels-text.  The kephalaia in members of the family-13 group of manuscripts are particularly distinct.)  The longer the heading, the more likely it was to be shortened by copyists.  Perhaps the most drastic difference in titloi-lists occurs in lists of the ancient chapters of the Gospel of John; in some manuscripts the story of the adulteress constitutes a chapter-unit.
          The following list (compiled with information from Greg Goswell, Reuben Swanson, and other sources) gives the number (in normal numerals and in Greek characters), location, and name of each ancient chapter in the Gospels.  (In the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, the beginnings of the ancient chapters are represented by italicized numbers in the inner margin.)

Chapters in Matthew
1          α          2:1       The magi
2          β          2:16     The slaughter of children
3          γ          3:1       John first proclaims the kingdom of heaven
4          δ          4:17     The teaching of the Savior
5          ε          5:1       The Beatitudes
6          ϛ          8:1       The leper
7          ζ          8:5       The centurion
8          η          8:14     Peter’s mother-in-law
9          θ          8:16     Those healed of various diseases
10        ι           8:19     The man who was not allowed to follow
11        ια         8:23     The rebuke of the waters
12        ιβ         8:28     The two demoniacs
13        ιγ         9:2       The paralytic
14        ιδ         9:9       Matthew
15        ιε         9:18     The daughter of the synagogue-ruler
16        ιϛ         9:20     The woman with the flow of blood
17        ιζ         9:27     The two blind men
18        ιη         9:32     The mute demoniac
19        ιθ         10:1     The instruction of the apostles
20        κ          11:2     Those sent by John
21        κα        12:9     The man with the withered hand
22        κβ        12:22   The blind and mute demoniac
23        κγ        12:38   Those who request a sign
24        κδ        13:3     The parables
25        κε        14:1     John and Herod
26        κϛ        14:15   The five loaves and two fish
27        κζ        14:22   Walking on the sea
28        κη        15:1     The transgression of God’s commandment
29        κθ        15:22   The Canaanite woman
30        λ          15:29   The healed crowds
31        λα        15:32   The seven loaves
32        λβ        16:5     The leaven of the Pharisees
33        λγ        16:13   The questioning in Caesarea
34        λδ        17:1     The transfiguration of Jesus
35        λε        17:14   The one who was moonstruck
36        λϛ        17:24   The inquiry about the didrachma
37        λζ        18:1     Those who say, ‘Who is greatest?’
38        λη        18:12   The parable of one hundred sheep
39        λθ        18:23   The debtor who owed 10,000 talents
40        μ          19:3     Those who asked about divorcing one’s wife
41        μα        19:16   The rich man who questioned Jesus
42        μβ        20:1     The hired workers
43        μγ        20:20   The sons of Zebedee
44        μδ        20:29   The two blind men
45        με        21:1     The donkey and the colt
46        μϛ        21:14   The blind and the lame
47        μζ        21:18   The withered fig tree
48        μη        21:23   The chief priests and elders who questioned the Lord
49        μθ        21:28   The parable of the two sons
50        ν          21:33   The vineyard
51        να        22:1     Those invited to the marriage-feast
52        νβ        22:15   Those who asked about the poll-tax
53        νγ         22:22b The Sadducees
54        νδ        22:34   The questioning lawyer [or, The lawyer]
55        νε         22:41   The questioning of the Lord [by the Pharisees]
56        νϛ         23:1     The woes against the scribes and Pharisees
57        νζ         24:3     The end-times
58        νη        24:36   The day and the hour   
59        νθ        25:1     The ten virgins
60        ξ          25:14   Those who received the talents
61        ξα        25:31   The coming of Christ
62        ξβ        26:6     She who anointed the Lord with ointment
63        ξγ         26:17   The Passover
64        ξδ        26:26   The sacramental supper
65        ξε         26:48   The betrayal of Jesus
66        ξϛ         26:69   The denial of Peter
67        ξζ         26:75   The remorse of Judas
68        ξη        27:57   The request for the body of the Lord

Chapters in Mark
1          α          1:23     The demoniac
2          β          1:29     Peter’s mother-in-law
3          γ          1:32     Those healed of various diseases
4          δ          1:40     The leper         
5          ε          2:3       The paralytic
6          ϛ          2:14     Levi the tax-collector   
7          ζ          3:1       The man with the withered hand
8          η          3:13     The choosing of the apostles    
9          θ          4:3b     The parable of the sowing        
10        ι           4:35     The rebuke of the wind and the sea [or, the rebuke of the waters]
11        ια         5:2       Legion  [f13:  he who had Legion]
12        ιβ         5:22     The daughter of the synagogue-ruler
13        ιγ         5:25     The woman with the flow of blood
14        ιδ         6:6b     The instruction of the apostles  
15        ιε         6:14     John and Herod
16        ιϛ         6:34     The five loaves [or, the five loaves and two fishes]
17        ιζ         6:47     Walking on the sea      
18        ιη         7:5       The transgression of God’s commandment       
19        ιθ         7:24     The Phoenician woman
20        κ          7:31     The mute man
21        κα        8:1       The seven loaves
22        κβ        8:15     The leaven of the Pharisees
23        κγ        8:22     The blind man
24        κδ        8:27     The questioning in Caesarea
25        κε        9:2       The transfiguration of Jesus
26        κϛ        9:17     The one who was moonstruck
27        κζ        9:33     The discussion of who is greatest
28        κη        10:2     The questioning Pharisees [about divorce]         
29        κθ        10:17   The inquiring [of Jesus by a] rich man
30        λ          10:35   The sons of Zebedee
31        λα        10:46   Bartimaeus
32        λβ        11:1     The colt           
33        λγ        11:12   The withered fig tree
34        λδ        11:22   Forgiving evil
35        λε        11:27   The questioning of the Lord by chief priests and scribes
36        λϛ        12:1     The [parable of the] vineyard
37        λζ        12:13   The answer [or, test] about the poll-tax
38        λη        12:18   The Sadducees
39        λθ        12:28   The scribes
40        μ          12:35   The question of the Lord
41        μα        12:41   The two mites
42        μβ        13:3     The end-times
43        μγ        13:32   The day and the hour
44        μδ        14:3     She who anointed the Lord with ointment
45        με        14:12   The Passover
46        μϛ        14:17   The prophecy of the betrayal
47        μζ        14:66   The denial of Peter
48        μη        15:42   The request for the body of the Lord
Chapters in Luke
1          α          2:1       The registration
2          β          2:8       The shepherds abiding in the fields
3          γ          2:25     Simeon
4          δ          2:36     Anna the prophetess
5          ε          3:1       The word comes to John
6          ϛ          3:15     Those who questioned John
7          ζ          4:1       The temptation of the Savior
8          η          4:33     The man with the demonic spirit
9          θ          4:38     Peter’s mother-in-law
10        ι           4:40     Those healed of various diseases
11        ια         5:1       The catch of fishes
12        ιβ         5:12     The leper
13        ιγ         5:17     The paralytic
14        ιδ         5:27     Levi the tax-collector
15        ιε         6:6       The man with the withered hand
16        ιϛ         6:13     The selection of the apostles
17        ιζ         6:20b   The Beatitudes
18        ιη         7:2       The centurion   
19        ιθ         7:11     The son of the widow
20        κ          7:18     Those sent by John
21        κα        7:37     She who anointed the Lord with ointment
22        κβ        8:4       The parable of the sower
23        κγ        8:22     The rebuke of the waters
24        κδ        8:27     Legion [or, the man who had Legion]
25        κε        8:41     The daughter of the synagogue-ruler     
26        κϛ        8:43     The woman with a flow of blood
27        κζ        9:1       The sending of the twelve
28        κη        9:12     The five loaves and two fishes
29        κθ        9:18     The questioning of the disciples
30        λ          9:28     The transfiguration of Jesus [or, of the Lord]
31        λα        9:38     The man who was moonstruck
32        λβ        9:46     Those who discussed who was greatest
33        λγ        9:57     The man who was not allowed to follow
34        λδ        10:1     The seventy who were appointed
35        λε        10:25   The inquiring lawyer
36        λϛ        10:30   The man who fell among thieves
37        λζ        10:38   Martha and Mary
38        λη        11:1     Prayer
39        λθ        11:14   The man with a demon of muteness
40        μ          11:27   The woman who shouted from the crowd
41        μα        11:29   Those who asked for a sign      
42        μβ        11:37   The Pharisee who invited Jesus
43        μγ        11:46   The woes against the lawyers
44        μδ        12:1     The leaven of the Pharisees      
45        με        12:13   The one who wished to divide the inheritance
46        μϛ        12:16   The productive land of the rich man
47        μζ        13:1     The Galileans and those in Siloam
48        μη        13:10   The woman who had a spirit of infirmity
49        μθ        13:18   The parables
50        ν          13:23   The inquiry about whether few will be saved
51        να        13:31   Those who spoke to Jesus because of Herod
52        νβ        14:1     The man afflicted with dropsy
53        νγ         14:7     Not loving the places of honor
54        νδ        14:16   Those invited to the banquet
55        νε         14:28   The parable of the building of a tower
56        νϛ         15:3     The parable about 100 sheep
57        νζ         15:11   He who departed into a distant country
58        νη        16:1b   The unrighteous steward
59        νθ        16:19   The rich man and Lazarus
60        ξ          17:11   The ten lepers
61        ξα        18:2b   The unrighteous judge
62        ξβ        18:10   The Pharisee and the tax-collector        
63        ξγ         18:18   The rich man who questioned Jesus
64        ξδ        18:35   The blind man
65        ξε         19:1     Zacchaeus
66        ξϛ         19:12   The man who went to receive a kingdom for himself
67        ξζ         19:13   Those who received the minas
68        ξη        19:29   The colt
69        ξθ        20:1     The chief priests and elders who questioned the Lord [or, Jesus]
70        ο          20:9     The vineyard [or, the parable of the vineyard]
71        οα        20:20   The question about the poll-tax
72        οβ        20:27   The Sadducees
73        ογ        20:41   The question about how Jesus is the Son of David
                                    [or, The Lord’s question to the Pharisees]
74        οδ        21:1     The woman [or, widow] with two mites
75        οε        21:5     The end-times
76        οϛ        22:1     The Passover
77        οζ        22:24   Those who discussed who is greatest
78        οη        22:31   The demand of Satan
79        οθ        23:11   The contempt of Herod
80        π          23:27   The lamenting women
81        πα        23:39   The repentant thief
82        πβ        23:50   The request for the body of the Lord
83        πγ        24:18   Cleopas

Chapters in John
1          α          2:1       The wedding in Cana
2          β          2:13     The cleansing of the temple
3          γ          3:1       Nicodemus
4          δ          3:25     The discussion about purification
5          ε          4:5       The Samaritan woman
6          ϛ          4:46b   The official       
7          ζ          5:5       The man who had been afflicted for 38 years
8          η          6:5       The five loaves and two fishes
9          θ          6:16     The walk upon the sea
[10       θ          7:53     The adulteress – with the remaining chapter-numbers renumbered accordingly]
10        ι           9:1       The blind man
11        ια         11:1     Lazarus
12        ιβ         12:2     She who anointed the Lord with ointment
13        ιγ         12:4     What was said by Judas           
14        ιδ         12:14   The donkey     
15        ιε         12:20   The Greeks who came
16        ιϛ         13:2     The foot-washing         
17        ιζ         15:26   The Helper
18        ιη         19:38   The request for the body of the Lord


Daniel Buck said...

when a title mentions a Man or Men, are these translations of gender-specific Greek words?

James E. Snapp, Jr. said...

Daniel Buck,
Not in all cases. If you would like to compare the Greek chapter-headings to the English renderings, just click the embedded link on Greg Goswell's name; a PDF should open in which he analyzes the chapter-headings in Codex Alexandrinus.

Mike Arcieri said...


have you looked at von Soden's Introductory volumes regarding the kephalai divisions and their accompanying titles?

James Snapp said...

Mike Arcieri,
I looked into Swanson's presentation of the kephalaia and noticed some variations. Probably a more thorough analysis is justified than what I have presented here, so this post should be considered introductory.