Thursday, November 29, 2018

Hand to Hand Combat: B, Aleph, and 1295 in Luke 2:1-12


            How much more reliable are ancient manuscripts than medieval manuscripts?  Today, as the Christmas season approaches, we will look into that question by comparing Luke 2:1-12 – a passage about the birth of Christ – in the forms in which it appears in Codex Vaticanus (early 300s), Codex Sinaiticus (mid-300s), and minuscule 1295 (800s).   
            Minuscule 1295 is a Gospels-manuscript housed at the National Library of France, accessible online as Supplement grec 1257.  Let’s compare its text of Luke 2:1-12 to the same passage in the Nestle-Aland compilation (27th ed.).  (The usual ground-rules for hand-to-hand combat are in play:  contractions of sacred named don’t count as variants; transpositions are noticed but not counted (unless a change to the text other than transposition occurs); kai-abbreviations and similar features are not counted as variants; bracketed word in the NA text are considered to be part of the text.  Calculations are made for all variations, and for non-trivial variations.)       


Minuscule 1295 Compared to NA27

1 – no variations
2 – 1295 reads η after αυτη (+1, -0)
3 – 1295 reads ιδιαν instead of εαυτου (+5, -6)
4 – 1295 reads Ναζαρετ instead of Ναζαρεθ (+1, -1) 
4 – 1295 reads πολην instead of πολιν (+1, -1)
5 – 1295 reads μεμνηστευμένη instead of εμνηστευμένη (+1, -0)
5 – 1295 reads γυναικι after αυτω (+7, -0)
6 – 1295 reads επλισθησαν instead of επλησθησαν (+1, -1)
7 – 1295 reads ανεκληνεν instead of ανεκλινεν (+1, -1) 
7 – 1295 reads τη before φάτνη (+2, -0)
8 – no variations
9 – 1295 reads ιδου before αγγελος (+4, -0)
10 – no variations
11 – 1295 reads εστι instead of εστιν (+0, -1)
12 – 1295 does not have και before κειμενον (+0, -3)      

This yields the following raw totals:  24 non-original letters are present and 14 original letters are absent, yielding a total of 38 letters’ worth of deviation from NA. 

When trivial variations are removed from the equation, six variants remain:
            2 – 1295 reads η after αυτη (+1, -0)
            3 – 1295 reads ιδιαν instead of εαυτου (+5, -6)
            5 – 1295 reads γυναικι after αυτω (+7, -0)
            7 – 1295 reads τη before φάτνη (+2, -0)
            9 – 1295 reads ιδου before αγγελος (+4, -0)
12 – 1295 does not have και before κειμενον (+0, -3)          

Thus, if trivial variations are set aside, 1295’s text of Luke 2:1-12 contains 19 non-original letters, and is missing 9 original letters, for a total of 28 letters’ worth of corruption.

Now let’s see how Codex Vaticanus did:

Vaticanus Compared to NA27

1 – B reads εξελθε instead of εξελθεν (+0, -1)
2 – B reads Κυρεινου instead of Κυρηνιου (+2, -2)
3 – no variations
4 – B reads Γαλειλαιας (+1, -0)
[4 – B reads Δαυειδ, twice, but this is not reckoned in the calculations because the word is normally contracted.]
5 – B reads εγγυω instead of εγκυω (+1, -1)
6 – no variations
7 – B reads ετεκε instead of ετεκεν (+0, -1)
7 – B reads ανεκλεινεν instead of ανεκλινεν (+1, -0)
8 – no variations
9 – B reads σφοδρα instead of φοβον μέγαν (+6, -10)
10 – no variations
[11 – B reads Δαυειδ, but this is not reckoned in the calculations because the word is normally contracted.]
12 – B does not have το before σημειον (+0, -2)

This yields the following raw totals:  11 non-original letters are present, and 17 original letters are absent, yielding a total of 28 letters’ worth of deviation from NA.  

When itacisms and similar minor orthographic variants are removed from consideration, only two variants remain:
            9 – B reads σφοδρα instead of φοβον μέγαν (+6, -10)
            12 – B does not have το before σημειον (+0, -2).

Thus, when trivial variations are set aside, Vaticanus’ text of Luke 2:1-12 has 6 non-original letters, and is missing 12 original letters, for a total of 18 letters’ worth of corruption. 

And now for the examination of the text of Codex Sinaiticus in Luke 2:1-12:

Sinaiticus Compared to NA27

1 – À reads εκιναις instead of εκειναις (+0, -1)
1 - À reads Αγουστου instead of Αυγουστου (+0, -1)
1 - À reads απογραφεσθε instead of απογραφεσθαι (+1, -2)
2 – À reads αυτην instead of αυτη (+1, -0)
2 - À reads απογραφην instead of απογραφη (+1, -0)
2 - À transposes so as to read εγενετο πρωτη
3 – À does not have παντες (+0, -5+)
3 - À transposes so as to read εκαστος απογραφεσθε (+1, -2)
3 - À reads εαυτων instead of εαυτου (+2, -2)
4 – À reads την before πολιν (+3, -0) 
5 – À reads απογραφεσθαι instead of απογραψασθαι (+2, -2)
6 – À reads τεκιν instead of τεκειν (+0, -1)
7 – À reads επι instead of εν (+2, -1)
8 – À reads ποιμαινες instead of ποιμενες (+2, -1)
[9 – À reads Θυ instead of Κυ, but the correction may have been made while the codex was still in production.]
9 - À reads επελαμψεν instead of περιελαμψεν (+2, -4)
10 – À reads αυτοις instead of αυτους (+1, -1)
10 – À reads φοβισθε instead of φοβεισθε (+0, -1)
11 – À reads εστιν instead of εσται (+2, -2)
11 - À reads πολι instead of πολει (+0, -1)
12 – À reads ημιν instead of υμιν (+1, -1)
12 – À reads σημιον instead of σημειον (+0, -1)
12 – À reads ευρησεται instead of ευρησετε (+2, -1)
12 – À reads εσσπαργανωμενον instead of εσπαργανωμενον (+1, -0)
12 – À does not include και κειμενον (+0, -11)
12 – À reads επι instead of εν (+2, -1)

This yields the following raw totals:  25 non-original letters are present, and 42 original letters are absent, yielding a total of 67 letters’ worth of deviation from NA.

When itacisms, transpositions, and minor orthographic variants are removed from consideration, eleven variant-readings remain:
            ● 2 – À reads αυτην instead of αυτη (+1, -0)
            ● 3 – À does not have παντες (+0, -5)
            ● 3 - À reads εαυτων instead of εαυτου (+2, -2)
            ● 4 – À reads την before πολιν (+3, -0) 
            ● 7 – À reads επι instead of εν (+2, -1)
            ● 9 - À reads επελαμψεν instead of περιελαμψεν (+2, -4)
            ● 10 – À reads αυτοις instead of αυτους (+1, -1)
            ● 11 – À reads εστιν instead of εσται (+2, -2)
            ● 12 – À reads ημιν instead of υμιν (+1, -1)
            ● 12 – À does not include και κειμενον (+0, -11)
            ● 12 – À reads επι instead of εν (+2, -1)

Thus, when trivial variations are eliminated, Sinaiticus’ text of Luke 2:1-12 has 16 non-original letters, and is missing 28 original letters, for a total of 44 letters’ worth of corruption. 

And now, let’s go to the podium!

Vaticanus took the gold in this contest – which is not surprising, considering how highly it was esteemed when the Westcott-Hort compilation of 1881 – the grandmother of the modern Nestle-Aland compilation – was assembled.  Vaticanus’ text has 28 letters’ worth of deviations from NA, and the only significant variants – in v. 9 and v. 12 – constitute only 18 letters’ worth of corruption.

1295 goes home with the silver:  its text of Luke 2:1-12 has 38 letters’ worth of deviations from NA, and its six non-trivial variants constitute 28 letters’ worth of corruption (four added words, one word-substitution, and one omitted word). 

Sinaiticus takes the bronze:  À has 67 letters’ worth of deviation from NA in the text of Luke 2:1-12; its eleven significant variants constitute 44 letters’ worth of corruption.  This does not say much for the reliability of the copyists who worked in Sinaiticus’ transmission-stream:  compared to the copyists in 1295’s transmission-stream, the copyists in Sinaiticus’ transmission-stream managed to produce a text of Luke 2:1-12 that had almost twice as much corruption, in less than half the time.  We may safely conclude – if the Nestle-Aland compilation is considered a very close approximation of the original text – that the age of a manuscript is no guarantee of accuracy, at least as far as this passage is concerned.

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Post-script:  A Brief Textual Commentary on Luke 2:1-12
Luke 2:1-12 - the text of the
Complutensian Polyglot (1514)
with a few alterations.

1295’s text of Luke 2:1-12 differs from the passage in the Byzantine Textform only in regard to itacisms and the spelling of the word “Nazareth.”  We have used the Nestle-Aland compilation in the preceding comparison, for the sake of convenience – but its accuracy is not granted automatically.  Let’s briefly investigate the six significant differences in Luke 2:1-12 between 1295 and Vaticanus – which happen to also be the six significant differences between the Byzantine Textform and the Nestle-Aland compilation in this passage. 

● Luke 2:2 –η should be read after αυτη.  The reading in the Alexandrian Text is a simple case of haplography.

● Luke 2:3 – Between ιδιαν πολιν and εαυτου πολιν, the former has a parallel, though distant, in Matthew 9:1; no evident impetus exists to change from ιδιαν to εαυτου.         

● Luke 2:5 – The inclusion of γυναικι has a clarifying effect.  The Peshitta does not support the inclusion of this word.    

● Luke 2:7 – The word τη before φάτνη was removed because some early scribes considered it question-raising, inasmuch as Luke’s narrative has not mentioned a stable or animals; nor is a reason given to expect just one manger to be in the place where Mary gave birth.  Observe how the KJV and NKJV do not translate the word, although the Textus Receptus includes it.  

● Luke 2:9 – The recurrence of the word ιδου (here, and in 2:10) seemed too repetitive to an early copyist.  There is no impetus to add the word, especially so close to its appearance in 2:10.  Inclusion is supported not only by A D K Δ but also by the Old Latin, Vulgate, and Peshitta. 

● Luke 2:12 – Byz, A, K, et al do not have και before κειμενον.  The word is a natural expansion in the Alexandrian text.   

(A text identical to the Byzantine Textform, except for the readings recommended in verses 2, 3, and 5, would be closer to the Nestle-Aland compilation than the text in any of the three manuscripts considered today.)


Readers are invited to check the data in this post, and to explore the embedded links to additional resources.





3 comments:

Wayne Steury said...

Thanks for your work. This was interesting.

Daniel Buck said...

"A text identical to the Byzantine Textform, except for the readings recommended in verses 2, 3, and 5, would be closer to the Nestle-Aland compilation than the text in any of the three manuscripts considered today."
I'm not clear on what readings you are recommending, and why.

James Snapp said...

Daniel Buck,

More clearly, then:
In Luke 2:2, η should be read after αυτη.
In Luke 2:3, εαυτου should be read.
In Luke 2:5, γυναικι is not original.
In Luke 2:7, τη before φάτνη should be read.
In Luke 2:9, ιδου should be read.
And in Luke 2:12, και should not be read.