|The first page of Mark
in Codex L.
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
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.)
addition in Matthew 27:49.
Codex L represents two opposite testimonies regarding John
|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
preceded and followed
by notes, followed by 16:9.
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; Byz reads ουν.
19 – L reads ΚΣ ΙΣ (i.e., Lord Jesus); Byz reads Κύριος (i.e., Lord).
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).
and the beginning of
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