Sunday, January 22, 2017

John 7:53-8:11: Why It Was Moved - Part 3

            In the first post of this series, we saw why, in two Greek manuscripts of John, the section about the adulteress appears before John 7:37 instead of in its usual location after 7:52:  the copyists of those two manuscripts thus turned the lection for Pentecost (John 7:37-52 + 8:12) into one continuous block of text, simplifying things for the Scripture-reader in the worship service. 
Georgian script from the
Gospel of John
(Georgian MS 28 at the BnF).
            In the second post, we learned about the notes which precede the pericope adulterae in a small group of manuscripts after the end of the Gospel of John.  We saw that in minuscules 1 and 1582, the note mentions that the passage had previously been present in a few copies in Eusebian Section 86 (which we know as John 7:45-8:18).  A misunderstanding of such a note accounts for the insertion of the pericope adulterae following John 7:44 (that is, at the beginning of Section 86) in three medieval Georgian copies. 
          This brings us to consider the form of text used by the Georgian copyist who inserted the pericope adulterae at the beginning of Section 86:  the arrangement in the chief manuscripts of family 1.  Family 1 is a cluster of manuscripts which share, to different extents, a particular assortment of textual variants.  One of those textual variants, displayed in minuscules 1, 1582, and about 25 other manuscripts, is the presence of the pericope adulterae at the end of the Gospel of John instead of after John 7:52.  Another feature of minuscules 1 and 1582 (as described previously) is the presence of an introductory note before the pericope adulterae (for details, see the previous post) which states that the passage had been found in the text after John 7:52 and was excised from there to be deposited at the end of the Gospel.
            Let that sink in.  Consider the implications:
            First:  the manuscripts which have the pericope adulterae at the end of John’s Gospel are not independent witnesses; they echo an ancestor-manuscript that had the pericope at that location, along with an introductory note. 
            And second:  the introductory note asserts that the reason why the pericope adulterae was at that location was due to a decision, in light of its absence in most manuscripts and the non-use of the passage by some commentators of the late 300’s and early 400’s (specifically, John Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, and Theodore of Mopsuestia), to remove it from the place where it had been found in a few manuscripts, after John 7:52.  In other words:  the flagship-manuscripts of the group of manuscripts in which John 7:53-8:11 is found after the end of John’s Gospel attest that the passage was found in the text of a few manuscripts after John 7:52, before being extracted and relocated. 
            Although the manuscripts with the pericope adulterae at the end of John are medieval (1582 was produced in the mid-900’s by Ephraim the Scribe, who was also responsible for the important minuscule 1739), they echo a form of the text which is much earlier.  The relocation of the pericope adulterae to follow John 21 preceded the production of these manuscripts by centuries.  This is shown by a comparison to the Palestinian Aramaic version.
            In the Palestinian Aramaic version (formerly called the Jerusalem Syriac, or the Palestinian Syriac – the script is Syriac but the language is Aramaic), which is extant in a collection of lectionary-manuscripts, there are two unusual features involving the treatment of the pericope adulterae.  (Although it was described by Agnes Lewis and Margaret Gibson in the 1890’s in the course of their publication of the contents of two Palestinian Aramaic lectionary manuscripts from 1104 and 1118 (collated with a third manuscript at the Vatican Library from 1030), not much notice seems to have been taken of this witness in recent studies of the pericope adulterae.)  It might be best to simply describe the Palestinian Aramaic evidence before offering some analysis:
            ● In the manuscript at the Vatican Library, the 200th lection consists of John 8:1-11. 
            ● In all three manuscripts, the 48th lection begins at John 7:37 and ends with John 8:2.
            ● In the manuscript at the Vatican and in one of the others, a heading-note appears following John 8:2:  “The Gospel of John was completed in Greek in Ephesus.”  In the third manuscript, after John 8:2, a note reads, “The Gospel of John was completed by the help of Christ.”  John 8:3-11 is not in the text of the two manuscripts from Saint Catherine’s monastery. 
            As the textual critic J. Rendel Harris discerned in the 1890’s, the heading-note that follows John 8:2 is a particular kind of note:  a subscription, that is, a note which copyists sometimes added when they reached to the conclusion of the text they were copying.  (Some medieval Greek manuscripts of the Gospels have similar notes, stating that the Gospel of Matthew (or Mark, or Luke, or John, whichever one the note follows) was completed a certain number of years after the ascension of Christ, or that the copyist gives thanks to God for the grace to finish the task of copying the Gospel, or, occasionally, a short sentimental poem.)    
            We can make some interesting deductions from this evidence.
            First:  this note shows that somewhere in the ancestry of the Palestinian Aramaic text, continuous-text manuscripts of the Gospel of John had these notes after the end of John 21:25.      
            Second:  After this note in those ancestor-manuscripts, John 8:3-11 was written. 
            Third:  this implies that prior to the production of the Palestinian Aramaic lectionary, copies of John existed in which John 8:3-11 had been relocated to the end of the Gospel of John.
            Fourth:  in ancestor-manuscripts of the Palestinian Aramaic lectionary, John 8:3-11 was relocated to the end of the Gospel, not as a critical decision based on a consideration of its absence in various copies or its non-use by revered patristic commentators, but as a means of doing the same thing that the copyists of minuscules 225 and 1138 did when they moved John 7:53-8:11 to a location before John 7:47:  joining together the components of the Pentecost lection as a single block of text.  In the Palestinian Aramaic lectionary itself, however, the Pentecost-lection apparently consisted of John 7:37-8:2, rather than John 7:47-52 + 8:12.    
            There is evidence that the Pentecost-lection had similar contours (but with 8:12 included) in a Greek transmission-line:  in Codex Λ (039), produced in the 800’s, the υπερβαλε (“skip forward”) symbol is at the end of John 8:2 rather than at the end of 7:52.  Codex Λ also has asterisks in its margin alongside John 8:3-11 (but not alongside 7:53-8:2).  Also, in minuscule 105 (Codex Ebnerianus), John 8:3-11 is likewise found at the end of the Gospel of John.   And in 18 other Greek manuscripts (such as minuscule 759), John 7:52 is followed by 7:53-8:2 but the remainder (8:3-11) is absent. 
            The cause of these phenomena is not difficult to perceive:  when continuous-text copies of John were supplemented with marginalia to signify the beginnings and ends of lections, asterisks or similar marks were put alongside (or at the beginning and end of) the portion of John which was to be skipped in the Pentecost-lection.  In most cases, the portion to be skipped consisted of all of John 7:53-8:11, but in an alternate form of the Pentecost-lection it was 8:3-11. 
            Subsequent copyists, when making manuscripts based on such exemplars, either relocated the marked verses (as a means of simplifying things for the lector) or else they misunderstood the marks as if they meant that the marked verses should not be perpetuated in subsequent copies.  (Adding another layer of complexity, in some copies, the υπερβαλε and αρξου symbols were inserted at the beginning of 7:53 and at the end of 8:11, respectively, but asterisks were added alongside 8:3-11 to signify the extent of the lection for the feast-day of Saint Pelagia (Oct. 8).)               
            So:  although the note in minuscules 1 and 1582 offers an explanation of the relocation of the pericope adulterae to the end of John, when we see the same treatment of John 8:3-11, that explanation is not altogether satisfactory, and might be subsequent to its author’s discovery of an exemplar in which John 7:53-8:11, unaccompanied by such a note, was found at the end of the Gospel of John.  Perhaps the annotator merely offered what he thought must have been the reason for the relocation.  In any case, it is evident that the Greek manuscripts that have John 7:53-8:11 after John 21, and the Greek manuscripts that have John 8:3-11 after John 21, and the Palestinian Aramaic lectionaries’ ancestor-copies, and the Greek manuscripts in which John 8:3-11 is absent, all imply that when the pericope adulterae was moved, it was moved (or, most of it was moved) from its location following 7:52.   It is also evident that the relocation happened long before the production-date of any of the witnesses that attest to it.

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