Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Codex Regius (019) - The Manuscript-King of France

The first page of Mark
in Codex L.
          Many of the manuscripts currently in the National Library of France – the Bibliothèque nationale de France – were once part of the royal library.  It is for this reason that Codex L (019), a Gospels-manuscript from the 700’s, is known as Codex Regius – the royal book.  A strong case can be made that Codex L is the most important New Testament manuscript in France.  Its text and its history are both highly interesting.
          Although it is sometimes claimed that the scholars of the 1500’s only had access to relatively young and unimportant manuscripts, that is not the case.  Codex L is a very important manuscript of venerable age, and its readings were cited by Stephanus in the notes of his 1551 Greek New Testament; it was identified as witness ηʹ, that is, #8.  This manuscript has long been recognized by the compilers of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece as a member of the elite group of “Consistently cited witnesses of the first order” for all four Gospels – one of only eight uncial manuscripts that share this status.  Its uncial text is written in two columns per page, with many initials decorated in red, green, and blue.    
          In the Gospel of Matthew, L’s text initially looks like nothing very unusual; for the first 17 chapters, it is essentially Byzantine.  Around Matthew 17:26, however, its character abruptly becomes Alexandrian, as if, somewhere in its ancestry, a copyist began to conform an Alexandrian manuscript to the text of a Byzantine exemplar, but gave up at this point.  This makes its agreements with the Byzantine Text in the remaining portion of the text (agreements such as the inclusion of Luke 22:43-44 and John 5:4) all the more weighty.  (For more information see Robert Waltz’s description of the codex at the newly updated Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism.)  
The Alexandrian
addition in Matthew 27:49.
          Codex L features a distinctly Alexandrian reading at Matthew 27:49 that states that Jesus was pierced with a spear before He died.  This reading, also supported by Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, has been consistently ignored by the annotators of most modern English translations, even though it has far more Greek support than the famous abrupt ending of Mark.  In the ESV and CSB, there is no mention of this variant.  It is no wonder that so many evangelicals consider it is a good idea to prefer the Alexandrian Text over the Byzantine Text, and regard Vaticanus and Sinaiticus as superior manuscripts, when they are kept in the dark about errant passages such as this one embedded in the Alexandrian Text.             Codex L also agrees with À and B by lacking the story about the adulteress after John 7:52.  However, there is more to the picture:  after John 7:52, the copyists of Codex L left “memorial space” in the manuscript, signifying that although their master-copy did not contain the absent passage, the copyists recollected its presence in another manuscript, or in other manuscripts.  (Someone later drew a doodle in part of the blank space.)
          Codex L represents two opposite testimonies regarding John 7:53-8:11 – on one hand, its main exemplar apparently did not have these verses; on the other hand, the copyists clearly knew the passage and wanted future readers to know that they knew.  (Alas; we cannot know whether or not Codex L contained the pericope adulterae at the end of the Gospel of John.  Codex L’s last extant page ends in John 21:15.)
The blank space in Codex L
between John 7:52 and 8:12.
          Codex L’s most famous feature involves the ending of the Gospel of Mark.  Codex L’s scribes inserted a row of “>” marks below the first column of a page, where Mark 16:8 ends (with the letters το γαρ on the final line, which happens to be a feature shared by À and B).  At the top of the next column, a framed note says, Φερετε που και ταυτα, that is, accounting for an itacism in the first word, “Some have this too.”  This is followed by the paragraph known as the Shorter Ending.  Here is the exact text of the Shorter Ending as it appears in Codex L, line by line:

Πάντα δὲ τα παρη / γγελμενα τοῖς / περι τον πετρον / συντομως ἐξη /
γγιλαν – Μετα / δὲ ταῦτα καὶ αὐτος / ο ΙΣ, ἀπο ἀνατολης / και ἀχρι δυσεως / ἐξαπεστιλεν δι / ἀυτων το ϊερον / καὶ ἀφθαρτον κη / ρυγμα – της αἰω / 
νιου σωτηριας – .

After Mark 16:8, the Shorter
Ending appears,
preceded and followed
by notes, followed by 16:9.
          Unlike the text of the Shorter Ending found in Codex Ψ (which includes the word εφανε – appeared –  after Jesus’ name), the fragment 099, some Sahidic manuscripts, Bohairic MS Huntington 18, and the Ethiopic version (which support εφανε αυτοις – appeared to them), Codex L does not specify that Jesus appeared to the apostles.  In this respect, although Codex L, as a manuscript, is centuries younger than the fifth-century Old Latin Codex Bobbiensis (which has the reading adparuit, i.e., apparuitappeared), the text of the Shorter Ending in Codex L appears to echo an earlier stage of the Shorter Ending’s existence.
          After the Shorter Ending, a framed note in Codex L says, εστην δε και ταυτα φερομενα μετα το εφοβουντο γαρ – that is, “There is also this, appearing after efobounto gar.”  After this, the first part of verse 9 begins, filling the last two lines of the column; the first line is written in red, with a large initial “A” colored with red and green.  The next two pages contain Mark 16:9b-20, with distinctive variants which confirm what the notes already show:  not only does Codex L display a distinctly Egyptian treatment of the ending of Mark, but the text of verses 9-20 here is in a distinctly Egyptian form, with readings that set it apart from the other text-types. 
         Here are some non-Byzantine readings in Mark 16:9-20 in Codex L:
9 – L reads παρ’; Byz reads ἀφ’.
11 – L reads Εκεινοι; Byz reads Κἀκεινοι.
14 – L omits αυτοις (probably a simple parableptic error); Byz reads αυτοις.
16 – L adds ο before βαπτισθεις; Byz does not.
17 – L reads ακολουθησει ταυτα; Byz reads ταυτα παρακολουθήσει.
17 – L omits καιναις; Byz reads καιναις.
18 – L reads και εν ταις χερσιν; Byz does not.
18 – L reads ἀρωστους; Byz reads ἀρρώστους.
19 – L omits ουν; B reads ουν.
19 – L reads ΚΣ ΙΣ (i.e., Lord Jesus); Byz reads Κύριος (i.e., Lord).

Mark 16:9b-17a
          Inasmuch as these readings were not derived from the Byzantine text of verses 9-20, the implication is that they attest to a local form of the text in Egypt.  And inasmuch as the text of the Shorter Ending in Codex L precedes the form attested by Codex Bobiensis (from the early 400’s), we are probably looking at an Egyptian text from the late 300’s on any given page of Mark, Luke, and John in Codex L.  Although, as a manuscript, Codex L is a few centuries later than Codex Sinaiticus, in terms of their texts, Codex L’s text, in general, is only a few decades later than Codex Sinaiticus, where Codex L is free of scribal errors that originated with its copyist.  Codex Regius is truly worthy of royal status among Greek manuscripts of the Gospels.
          Here are some additional details about this manuscript which may come in handy for those who wish to study it further.  (Digital page-views can be accessed at the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, and the images of Codex L there have all been conveniently indexed.  A PDF of the manuscript can also be downloaded from the BnF website.)  It is missing a few pages, which contained Matthew 4:22-5:14, Matthew 28:17-20, Mark 10:16-20, Mark 15:2-20, and John 21:15b-25.  Also, some of its pages are bound out of order, so when you look through the digital images, the pages containing John 5:29b-7:34a appear in Matthew, after Matthew 14:8a (and before Matthew 18:10b), and the pages containing Matthew 14:8b-18:10a appear in John, after John 5:29a (and before John 7:34b). 
Mark 16:17b-20,
the subscription,
and the beginning of
the chapter-list
for Luke.
          Codex L has some interesting meta-textual (or para-textual) features, too.  Chapter-lists precede Matthew, Mark (incomplete, due to the loss of a leaf), and Luke, but not John.  The numerals for the Eusebian Sections and Canons appear in the margins, but they contain lots of mistakes, as if the person who added them was not quite sure what he was doing.  The manuscript also contains αρχη (start) and τελος (stop) symbols to signify the beginnings and ends of lections.  Red crosses accompany some lections that were particularly important.  A foot-index (similar, in concept, to individual lines of a line-by-line canon-table) comes and goes.  And, in the upper margins, most of the chapter-titles have survived, written in red.  The scribe frequently added embellishments to capital letters at the beginnings of sections, especially alpha, epsilon, kappa, omicron, and tau.  In a few places, the middle bar of the large initial epsilon is transformed into a forearm; the large initial at the beginning of Luke is a good example of this.
          Finally, one more feature of Codex L may be mentioned:  its division of the text into sentences.  Although Codex L is by no means unique, the correspondence between its sentence-divisions, and our modern verse-divisions, is rather impressive.  On page after page, they square up remarkably well.  It is tempting to think that when Stephanus established our modern-day verse-divisions in the 1550's, it was after a careful consultation of the sentence-divisions in this manuscript at Paris.


BallBounces said...

I love this blog -- keep doing what you're doing!

Darrell Pack said...