It’s time for another round of hand-to-hand combat! Since it’s almost Christmastime, our combatants will square off in Luke 2:1-18, a passage which contains the accounts of the birth of Christ and the angels’ visit to the shepherds who were keeping watch over their flocks. The competitors in today’s contest are the famous Codex Bezae (D, 05) – which nowadays is usually assigned to the early 400s – and GA 2370, a remarkably small minuscule Gospels-manuscript from the late 1000s, one of several Greek New Testament manuscripts at the Walters Art Museum (the manuscript is also known as Walters 522).
Before proceeding, let’s consider a few details about 2370:
● 2370 is a nearly complete copy of the four Gospels; the last verse on its last (damaged) page is John 21:3.
● The story of the adulteress is included (7:53 begins on page-view 521, numbered as fol. 253 at the top and as 248 at the bottom). However, the pages from 247a (numbered as 242 at the bottom) (beginning in John 6:32) to 261 are secondary; the main copyist’s work resumes on 262a (page-view 539) in Jn. 10:14. A few of the secondary pages were inserted upside-down.
● Each Gospel is accompanied by a picture of the Evangelist, and an icon-like headpiece. For Mark, the headpiece is a portrait of Christ (with hardly any pigment surviving); for Luke, the headpiece is an icon representing the birth of John the Baptist; Zachariah stands in the margin, and Luke is represented in the initial. For John, the full-page portrait shows John dictating to Prochorus, and the headpiece is a portrait (fairly intact) of Christ.
● A detailed description of 2370 can be found in Georgi R. Parpulov’s Catalogue of Greek Manuscripts at the Walters Art Museum, which the author dedicated to the memory of his beloved grandfather, Konstantin Tzitzelkov.
This contest may provide a convenient test of the idea that the oldest a manuscript is, the better its text tends to be. If the assigned production-dates for these two manuscripts are correct, then the copyists in the transmission-line of GA 2370 had more than twice as much time as the copyists of in the transmission-line of Codex D to make additions, omissions, and other mistakes in the text. Let’s compare their contents and see which text is more accurate, using as our standard of comparison the Tyndale House Greek New Testament.
As in earlier rounds of Hand-to-Hand Combat, a few ground rules are in play. A point is assigned to each manuscript for each non-original letter in its text, and a point is also assigned to each manuscript for each original letter that is absent from its text. Transpositions are mentioned, but do not result in any points unless there is an actual loss of a letter or letters. Nomina sacra (i.e., sacred-name contractions) and other contractions in and of themselves are not considered variants, unless the contraction is of a word that is not in the original text. Movable-nu differences are not noted in this comparison.
Luke 2:1-18 in GA 2370
1 – no variants
2 – has η after αυτη (+1)
3 – has ιδιαν instead of εαυτου (+5, -6)
4 – no variants
5 – has μεμνηστευμένη instead of εμνηστευμενη (+1)
5 – has αυτου instead of αυτω (+2, -1)
5 – has γυναικι before ουση (+7)
5 – has εγκύω instead of ενκύω (+1, -1)
6 – no variants
7 – has τη before φατνη (+2)
8 – no variants
9 – has ιδου before αγγελος (+4)
10 – no variants
11 – no variants
12 – does not have και before κείμενον (-3)
13 – no variants
14 – has ευδοκια instead of ευδοκιας (-1)
15 – has και οι ανθρωποι after αγγελοι (+13)
15 – has ειπον instead of ελάλουν (+5, -7)
16 – has ηλθον instead of ηλθαν (+1, -1)
17 – has διεγνώρισαν instead of εγνώρισαν (+2)
18 – no variants
Thus, when we look over 2370’s text and compare it to the Tyndale House edition of the Greek New Testament, as if the Tyndale House edition is the original text, 2370’s text of Luke 2:1-18 contains 45 non-original letters, and is missing 20 original letters, for a total of 65 letters’ worth of scribal corruption.
Now let’s look at the same passage in Codex Bezae, which is estimated to be at least 500 years older than GA 2370. In a couple of places, there is a correction in the manuscript; to keep things simple I removed these variants from consideration after making mention of them.
Luke 2:1-18 in Codex Bezae (D, 05)
1 – no variants
2 – transposes to εγενετο απογραφη πρωτη
3 – has πατριδα instead of πολιν (+6, -4)
4 – has Ναζαρεθ instead of Ναζαρετ (+1, -1)
4 – has Ιουδα instead of Ιουδαίαν (-3)
4 – has καλειτε instead of καλειται (+1, -2)
4 – transposes the last phrase of v. 4 and the first phrase of v. 5
5 – has απογράψεσθαι instead of απογράψασθαι (+1, -1)
6 – has ως instead of εγενετο before δε (+2, -7)
6 – has παρεγείνοντο instead of εν τω ειναι αυτους εκει after δε (+12, -19)
6 – has ετελέσθησαν instead of επλήσθησαν (+4, -3)
7 – no variants
8 – has δε after ποιμενες instead of και before ποιμενες (+2, -3)
8 – has χαρα ταυτη instead of χωρα τη αυτη (+1, -2) [correction in MS]
8 – has τας before φυλακας (+3)
9 – has ϊδου before αγγελος (+4)
9 – does not have κυρίου (ΚΥ) after δοξα (-6, or -2 if counted as contracted sacred name)
10 – has υμειν instead of υμιν (+1)
10 – has και before εσται (+3)
11 – has υμειν instead of υμιν (+1)
12 – has υμειν instead of υμιν (+1)
12 – has εστω after σημειον (+4)
12 – does not have και κείμενον (-11)
13 – has στρατειας instead of στρατιας (+1)
13 – has αιτουντων instead of αινουντων (+1, -1) [correction in MS]
15 – no variants
15 – moves οι αγγελοι to follow απηλθον
15 – has και οι ανθρωποι before οι ποιμενες (+13)
15 – has ειπον instead of ελάλουν (+5, -7)
15 – has γεγονως instead of γεγονος (+1, -1) [correction in MS]
15 – has ημειν instead of ημιν (+1)
16 – has ηλθον instead of ηλθαν (+1, -1)
16 – has σπευδοντες instead of σπευσαντες (+2, -2)
16 – has ευρον instead of ανευρον (-2)
16 – does not have τε before Μαριαμ (-2)
16 – has Μαριαν instead of Μαριαμ (+1, -1)
17 – does not have τουτου (-6)
18 – has ακουοντες instead of ακουσαντες (+1, -2)
18 – has εθαυμαζον instead of εθαυμασαν (+2, -2)
Thus, when we look over Codex D’s text of Luke 2:1-18, and compare it to the Tyndale House edition of the Greek New Testament, as if the Tyndale House edition is the original text, D’s text of this passage contains 76 non-original letters, and is missing 86 original letters, for a total of 162 letters’ worth of scribal corruption.
Can we make the score – only 65 letters’ worth of corruption in 2370’s transmission-line over 900 years, but 162 letters’ worth of corruption in Codex D’s transmission-line over 350 years! – a little closer by removing trivial spelling-related variants from consideration? If we overlook the variant-units that involve the spelling of Ναζαρετ in verse 4, καλειται in verse 4, εγκύω in verse 5, απογράψασθαι in verse 5, the corrected reading in verse 8, υμιν in verses 10, 11, and 12, στρατιας in verse 13, the corrected readings in verses 13 and 15, ημιν in verse 15, ηλθαν in verse 16, Μαριαμ in verse 16, and εθαυμασαν in verse 18, Codex D’s text of Luke 2:1-18 still contains 62 non-original letters, and is still missing 74 original letters, yielding a total of 136 letters’ worth of scribal corruptions.
Thus we see that 2370, a medieval minuscule that is not mentioned in the textual apparatuses of the Nestle-Aland, UBS, or Tyndale House compilations (or any other textual apparatus that I know of), contains a text of Luke 2:1-18 that is, at minimum, twice as accurate as the text of Luke 2:1-18 in Codex Bezae.
In addition, in at least four places in this passage, I suspect that the Tyndale House edition of the Greek New Testament contains a corruption.
● First, the spelling of ενκύω (εγκύω in NA, in Tregelles, in Scholz, in Baljon, in Souter, in Holmes’ SBLGNT, and in Byz) in 2:5: what justifies the adoption of this anomaly?
● Second, there is the contest involving the final word of Luke 2:14. Regarding this I have offered an analysis previously, vindicating the reading ευδοκια which is the basis for the phrase (and carol-lyric) “Peace on earth, good will to men.”
● Third, in verse 9, ἰδού is broadly attested by A D Κ Θ Byz 157 1424 OL Vulgate Pesh, and should be retained. Contrary to Metzger’s proposal that it is difficult to imagine why copyists would have omitted “behold,” it is not hard at all to reckon that they felt over-beholden, in light of the recurrence of the same term in v. 10 (and in 1:20, 1:31, 1:36, 1:38, 1:44, 1:48, and in 2:25). The word ἰδού is omitted in 2:25 by D and N; it is also omitted by D in 6:23, 7:12, and 8:41, 9:39 (where ℵ also omits), 10:25, 23:15, and 24:13. The same phenomenon is on display at Lk. 17:21 and 19:19 in 157, and at 22:21 in f13, and at 23:29 in P75, D, and f13, and in 24:49 in P75 and D. (Readers may also compare how the word “Behold” has disappeared from some English versions, even though ἰδού remains in their base-text.)
● Fourth, in verse 15, it is easy to notice that the words καὶ οἱ ἄνθρωποι are vulnerable to accidental parableptic loss, situated between οἱ ἄγγελοι and οἱ ποιμένες, especially when ἄνθρωποι is written in contracted form (και οι ανθοι οι). Tregelles included these words in his Greek New Testament, albeit in brackets. Burgon’s brief comments on this passage (in Causes of Corruption, page 36) remain forceful.
Finally, especially in light of the approach of the Christmas season, a feature in 2370 draws our attention: the headpiece for the Gospel of Matthew is a Nativity icon – or what is left of one. Mary and the baby Jesus are depicted in the center of the picture; when the icon was pristine, the red paint around Mary represented her red bed-mattress. Joseph and other characters are also in the picture. Above the picture is the heading for the lection assigned to the Sunday before Christmas (for the Holy Fathers). In the outer margin next to the main picture are representations of Abraham and David. This small manuscript was apparently used by some very devout readers, whose kisses gradually took away most of the pigment.
Readers are invited to double-check the data in this post.