Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Lectionary 35: A Neatly Written Treasure

The beginning of the lection for the
Feast of the Transfiguration (Mt. 17:1ff.)
in Lectionary 35.  (Facsimile)
        Lectionary 35 is a beautifully written Greek uncial lectionary from the 900’s.  It is part of the Vatican Library’s manuscript collection, and is cataloged there as Vat. gr. 351.  Unlike full Synaxarions or Menologions (the main two kinds of lectionaries – for the movable days, calculated from Easter, and for the celebrations assigned to specific dates– Lectionary 35 contains a total of only 25 lections:  the twelve major feasts (the Δωδεκάορτον), ten of the eleven morning-time Resurrection lections (the Heothina series), and lections for Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday.  
          Each lection is preceded by its own headpiece – framing the title on three sides, north-east-west.  Most of the headpieces are simple frames, but they vary; some have braids and others are more ornate.  Gold, green, and blue are the main colors.  Within the headpieces, each lection-title is written in golden ink.  The main text is written in a very dark brown (almost black) ink.  Initials at the beginnings of lections are large, multi-colored (mainly gold) and simply decorated; the initial tau sometimes has a face, and sometimes is entwined by a serpent (probably to suggest the typology of John 3:14-15).  Smaller initials are red. 
          Red markings appear throughout the manuscript to assist the lector.  The text is Byzantine with some itacistic variants.  A four-petal blossom-symbol separates sentences.  There are no margin-notes, and, as far as I could tell in my brief examination of the manuscript, no corrections.   
          According to Scrivener, Lectionary 35 measures 13 and ¼ inches tall and 9 and ⅞ inches wide.  Even though the lettering is exceptionally large, with only 10 or 11 lines on each page, the margins are wide on all outer sides. 
          The letter-forms are designed to maximize legibility.  Look at the facsimile for examples of the “hammock mu,” the “cocoon nu,” and the “spaded omega.”
          The extant pages of Lectionary 35 are in remarkably clean condition; damage is minimal.  Possibly the copyist’s failure to include Heothina #6 caused the manuscript to be set aside shortly after its production, and it was never supplemented.          
          Digital images of Lectionary 35 ( 351) are online at the website of the Vatican Library.  The beginnings of each of its lections can be seen via the following index of links:
The Major Feasts:

The Morning-time Series on the Resurrection:
(Heothinon #6 - Luke 24:36-52 - is missing.  Apparently it was accidentally skipped during production.
       Jn. 20:1 (#7) (87v)

Lections for Easter-week
       Mt. 26:1 (Maundy Thursday) (120r).  The text continues through 131v (which is the last page with text; the last line ends near the end of Matthew 26:72).

           In Lectionary 35, as in most lectionaries which include lections for Easter-time, the lection for Maundy Thursday combines passages in a way which, in a roundabout way, may be highly relevant to the study of two major textual variants:  John 7:53-8:11 and Luke 22:43-44.  Lectionary 35 is a convenient lectionary to use to show this combination due to its remarkable legibility.  
          After Mt. 26:20, the text jumps smoothly to John 13:3 and continues through John 3:17.  Then the text jumps back to Matthew 26:21 and proceeds from there.
          After the end of Mt. 26:39, the text jumps to Lk. 22:43.  After the text of Luke 22:43-45a, kai anastas apo ths proseuchs (And rising up from prayer), the text jumps back to Mt. 26:40 (at ercetai).           The jump to and from John 13:3-17 (the Foot-washing lection) is interesting because it shows that the transplantation of a passage such as John 7:52-8:11 may be due to the influence of the lection-cycle, rather than to the passage’s status as a “floating anecdote” from a non-Scriptural source (as is frequently claimed).  
          In manuscript 225 (made in 1128), John 13:3-17 appears in the text of the Gospel of Matthew following Mt. 26:20.  This adaptation, in which a passage was transplanted from its usual location to a different location, made the lector’s job a little easier when, instead of using a lectionary, he was reading from a continuous-text copy of the Gospels; the lector would not have to jump around the text so much.  (The copyist of 225 also moved John 7:53-8:11 to follow John 7:36, so that it would precede, rather than interrupt, the Pentecost-lection.)  Likewise the transplant of John 7:53-8:11 (to the end of the Gospel of John, or to the end of Luke 21, or to a location before or after the lection for Pentecost (that is, either after Jn. 7:36, or after Jn. 8:12) does not necessarily imply that it was ever a “floating anecdote” but, instead, that its dislocation was the result of the format of the Pentecost-lection, in which the lector read John 7:37-52 and then skipped the next 12 verses, and resumed by reading Jn. 8:12.
          The dislocation of Luke 22:43-44 into the text of the Gospel of Matthew (after Mt. 26:39) in the family-13 group of manuscripts is similarly explained as a transplant provoked by lection-usage for one of the major feasts.  Taking this a bit further, one may deduce that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the absence of these two verses in some of the earliest manuscripts of Luke is a side-effect an adaptation in a very early lection-cycle. 
           It is possible that insights into early lection-cycles may explain other textual variants.  Although lectionaries are sometimes considered relatively minor witnesses to the New Testament text, it seems clear that significant insights may be gained by the study of manuscripts such as Lectionary 35. 

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