One of the combatants in today’s hand-to-hand combat is Codex Vaticanus. There are thousands of codices – handmade books – in the Vatican Library, and in the library’s catalog, this one is Greek Codex #1,209. It is so important for New Testament textual research that it has become known as the Codex Vaticanus (B, 03). Its production-date has been assigned to the early 300’s. Wieland Willker has prepared a webpage which describes Codex Vaticanus and analyzes its contents.
Codex B was first catalogued at the Vatican Library in 1475. (It may have been transferred to the Vatican Library as part of the estate of Cardinal Bessarion, who died in 1472.) Some of its readings were known to Erasmus, the compiler of the first published Greek New Testament in the 1500’s. It was cited (from John ) in the preface to the 1582 Rheims New Testament. Hort considered Codex B to be the most important manuscript in existence when he and Westcott produced the Revised Text which challenged the Textus Receptus as the base-text of English versions of the New Testament. Many textual critics still agree with that assessment.
Besides containing (despite considerable damage) most of the Greek Old Testament (including most of the apocryphal books), Codex B also contains text from every New Testament book except First Timothy, Second Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Revelation. The Gospels are arranged in the familiar order, Matthew-Mark-Luke-John. Then Acts appears, followed by the General Epistles. After the Epistle of Jude, the Epistles of Paul begin, but First Timothy, Second Timothy, Titus, and Philemon are not present; Hebrews follows immediately after Second Thessalonians. The last extant page of Hebrews ends midway through . This is followed by supplemental pages (which have their own identification-number, GA 1957), added long after the initial production of the codex, in minuscule script, containing the rest of Hebrews and the book of Revelation.
The chapter-divisions in the Gospels in Codex Vaticanus are almost unique (it does not have the Eusebian Canons and Sections). The chapter-divisions in the Pauline Epistles are also interesting, inasmuch as they are interrupted in such a way as to show that in the exemplar of the manuscript, the book of Hebrews followed the Epistle to the Galatians.
The production of Codex Vaticanus was undertaken by a team of two copyists, both of whom worked economically, writing three columns per page (except in the Books of Poetry, which are formatted in two columns per page), without adding grandiose ornamentation, and without deliberately placing a blank column between books – except at the end of the Gospel of Mark. (Incidental factors in the production of the codex led to three blank spaces in the Old Testament portion; for details about those factors see this earlier post clarifying some inaccurate claims by Daniel Wallace on this subject.)
Pages and pages could be written about the contents of this manuscript – the flagship manuscript of the Alexandrian Text. But today, we are focusing on a single chapter: First Peter chapter five – the battleground of today’s manuscript-duel. This passage can be found in Codex Vaticanus on page-view 1424 at the Vatican Library’s website.
|First Peter 5:6ff. in MS 496|
The intimidating task of challenging Codex Vaticanus has been accorded to minuscule 496. 496 was produced in the 1200’s or early 1300’s. It contains all of the New Testament books except Revelation. It was among the artifacts brought to Britain in the 1840’s by Major Charles Kerr MacDonald, who had conducted some explorations (including a visit to Saint Catherine’s monastery) in Egypt when he wasn’t busy searching for turquoise-mines. 496 is housed at the British Library as Additional MS 16184. Digital page-views of the manuscript are online; First Peter chapter five begins on fol. 191r.
It may go without saying that 496 is the underdog in this contest. Without further introductions, let’s get this fight underway. Instead of presenting each manuscript’s contents separately, I will present them side-by-side, one verse at a time, as they engage in a contest lasting fourteen rounds (or, rather, fourteen verses). Once again the Nestle-Aland compilation will be the standard of comparison. Nomina sacra contractions, as such ( and other normal abbreviations), will not be considered variants, and bracketed text in the Nestle-Aland compilation will be treated as part of the text.
1 – B has ουν instead of τους. 496 has ουν τους. B’s reading was in the text in NA27, but NA28 has
τους, in agreement with Papyrus 72 and Codex A. [B: +3, -4] [496: +3]
1 – 496 has ως instead of ο. [496: +2, -1]
2 – B does not have επισκοπουντες. 496 has this word, which is bracketed in NA. [B: -13]
2 – 496 has αλλ instead of αλλα. [496: -1]
2 – 496 has και before κατα θεον. [496: +3]
2 – B does not have κατα θεον. Papyrus 72 agrees with 496. [B: -8]
3 – 496 has τον κληρον instead of των κληρων. [496: +2, -2]
3 – 496 has γενομενοι instead of γινομενοι. [496: +1, -1]
3 – B does not have μηδ’ ως κατακυριεύοντες των κληρων αλλα τύποι γινόμενοι του ποιμνίου. [B: -58]
4– Both B and 496 agree with NA in this verse.
5 – 496 has δε οι after Ομοιως. [496: +4]
5 – 496 has υποτασσομενοι. [496: +13]
5 – B does not have ο before θεος. This letter is bracketed in NA27. [B: -1]
5 – 496 has διδωσι instead of διδωσιν. [496: -1]
6 – 496 has επισκοπης after καιρω. [496: +9]
7 – 496 has επιρριψαντες instead of επιριψαντες. B has επιρειψαντες. [496: +1] [B: +1]
7 – 496 has μελλει instead of μελει. [496: +1]
8 – 496 has καταπιει instead of καταπιειν. B does not have τινα, which is bracketed in NA27. [496: -1] [B: -4]
9 – B has τω before κοσμω. This word was bracketed in the text of NA27 but is not in the text of NA28. [B: +2]
9 – B has επιτελεισθε but it is corrected to επιτελεισθαι. This might be a first-hand correction so I have not included it in this comparison.
10 – 496 has στειριξει instead of στηριξει. [496: +2, -1]
10 – B has τω after εν, before Χριστω. 496 has Ιησου after Χριστω. [B: +2] [496: +5] NA27 had Ιησου in the text in brackets, but NA28 removes this word from the text entirely.
10 – B does not have θεμελιωσει. [B: -10]
11 – 496 has η δοξα και before το κρατος. [496: +8]
11 – 496 has των αιωνων before αμην. [496: +9]
12 – B has Σιλβανου instead of Σιλουανου. [B: +1, -2]
12 – 496 has εστηκατε instead of στητε. [496: +3]
13– Both B and 496 agree with NA in this verse.
14 – 496 and B both have πασι instead of πασιν. [B: -1] [496: -1]
14 – 496 has Ιησου αμην after Χριστω. [496: +9] NA27 had Ιησου in the text in brackets, but it is not in the text of NA28.
When we consider the corruptions in First Peter chapter 5 in Codex Vaticanus, we see that B contains 9 non-original letters, and is missing 101 original letters. The net total of the corruptions in First Peter 5 in B amounts to 110 letters’ worth of corruptions.
When we consider the corruptions in First Peter chapter 5 in 496, we see that it contains 66 non-original letters, and is missing 9 original letters. The net total of the corruptions in First Peter 5 in 496 amounts to 75 letters’ worth of corruptions.
Final score: B’s corruptions: 110 letters. 496’s corruptions: 75 letters. Winner: minuscule 496!
Yes, as unlikely as it may seem, in this particular chapter, a medieval minuscule with a transmission-stream about a thousand years longer than the transmission-stream of Codex B has the more accurate text, when NA28 is used as the basis of comparison. This victory of 496 is a stunning reminder that despite the fame of Codex Vaticanus, it does not run very far ahead of the Byzantine pack, even when the Nestle-Aland compilation is the standard of comparison. And in some passages, Codex B’s text falls behind. Even great champions don’t win them all.
[Readers are invited to double-check the comparison and the arithmetic.]