Saturday, April 1, 2017

News: Early Text of the Pericope Adulterae Found in Book-binding

The cover of a fragmentary
copy of Selenographia (1647)
          Although manuscripts of the New Testament continue to be discovered in remote monasteries, the axiom,“The best place to discover a New Testament manuscript is a European library” has been proven to be correct once again:  an early fragment containing the pericope adulterae has been found in Denmark, after being recycled centuries ago to be used as material in the binding of a printed book.
          About a year ago, at the Forsknings Bibliotek Christiania in Copenhagen, Denmark, assistant librarian Kirk Walkeek noticed an old book as he was conducting a routine inventory-check.  Upon examination, it was found to be “beskadiget,” a fragment of a damaged book; almost all of its pages were missing.  When whole, it had been a 1647 copy of astronomer Johann Hevelius’ Selenographia (subtitled sive, Lura [sic] descriptio), but now it contains only a few pages, which feature Hevelius’ description of a device to view obscured objects through the use of mirrors and lenses.
          At the same time Walkeek was undertaking the library’s inventory-check, professor Dr. Kris Jodi was at the library, and had just completed multi-spectral imaging of dozens of old book-bindings, searching for signs of recycled manuscripts.  Multi-spectral imaging technology, similar to x-rays, has already yielded the discovery of numerous manuscripts (see, for example, here and here and here).  Dr. Jodi’s experimental work is taking the technology a step further:  using Photomagnetic Hyperspectral Ultraviolet Light Scans, several images of a binding are made; each one is “tuned” to detect specific ingredients in ancient ink.  From these images, an aggregate image is formed, thus allowing the ink on hidden pages to be revealed without the pages themselves being visible. 
A mutilated Latin fragment embedded in the binding:
John 7:50-8:5a on recto; John 8:5b-12 on verso.
(Superimposed over the book-cover.)
         Walkeek, noticing that the binding of the Selenographia fragment was somewhat  bulky, presented it to Jodi, who scanned it using the PHULS scanning-tools.  The result:  the discovery of a page from an ancient Latin copy of the Gospel of John, containing text from 7:50-8:12.  This includes the pericope adulterae, which many commentators regard as a later addition to the text because it is absent from a number of early manuscripts.  This page, trimmed to 23.5 x 15.5 centimeters, was probably one of many discarded pages from a damaged copy of the Gospels that were reused as binding-material.  The center of the page has been cut away, but the rest of the text, on both sides of the page, has survived.
          Paleographical analysis of the script indicates that the codex from which the fragment was taken was produced in the 700’s, possibly in Northumbria.  It resembles the Vulgate but has some affinities with a form of the earlier Old Latin text, which is notable for its inclusion of the pericope adulterae.  A full analysis is scheduled for publication later this year in a special Danish edition of the German journal Zeitschrift des Lachens.


Daniel Buck said...

This is interesting: an entire page of a manuscript - the very page containing the PA - was cut out. Now, where have we seen this before?

Tommy Wasserman said...

Maybe in the English edition of the Journal of Laughter?

Daniel Buck said...

Actually, I was thinking of manuscripts like Codex Veronensis.

Daniel Buck said...

Oh, boy. James, you put a LOT of work into this one. I don't know how it could be topped.
I guess it's pretty clear I'm not a Lutheran theologian. But, still, the April tag should have been clue enough.