Thursday, November 30, 2017

Meet Lectionary 261

          In 1753, a French ambassador whose last name was Desalleurs – and who had been stationed at Constantinople – presented a gift to King Louis XV:  a Greek Gospels-lectionary, now known as Lectionary 261.  (At the National Library of France, where it resides, it is known as Supplemental Greek manuscript 37.)  This is no ordinary lectionary; it is finely illustrated, not only with headpieces for each Evangelist, but with many other small illustrations in the margins.  It contains Gospels-lections for both the Synaxarion – the calendar that is annually reset at Easter – and for the Menologion – the feast-days that are affixed to specific unchanging days of the calendar.  According to Scrivener’s Plain Introduction, fourth edition (1894), its pages measure 13 inches high and 10 and 7/8ths inches wide.
A headpiece in Lectionary 261,
featuring the Evangelist Luke.
            Lectionary 261 has been assigned a production-date in the 1000’s or 1100’s (see, however, the detail about its colophon).  Its text, written in two columns on each page, appears to be an excellent representative of the Byzantine Text.  To give some idea of the quality of its text, let’s have a quick round of hand-to-hand combat! – Lectionary 261 versus Papyrus 75 in John 2:14-22; go! 

Papyrus 75 deviates from the Nestle-Aland compilation at the following points in Luke 2:14-22:

2:14 – P75 has τας before βοας (+3)
2:15 – P75 has ως after ποιησας (+2)
2:15 – P75 has τα κερματα instead of το κερμα (+3, -1)
2:15  P75 has ανεστρεψεν (+1)
● 2:  P75 has οτι (+3)
● 2:  P75 does not have υμιν (-4)
● 2:  P75 uses an underlined μ as a numeral instead of writing out τεσσερακοντα.

            Setting aside the use of a numeral, that means that in John 2:14-22, Papyrus 75 has 12 non-original letters, and is missing 5 original letters, for a total of 17 letters’ worth of textual corruption.  (If we were to penalize P75 for using a numeral, its total deviation from NA27’s text would consist of 30 letters’ worth of corruption.  But we won’t.) 
            In comparison, the text of Lectionary 261 has the following deviations from NA27:

2:15 – Lect 261 has ανεστρεψεν (+1)
2:16 – Lect 261 has πολουσι instead of πολουσιν (-1)
2:16 – Lect 261 has ποιητε instead of ποιετε (+1, -1)
2:17 – Lect 261 has δε after εμνήσθησαν (+2)
2:18 – Lect 261 has ειπον instead of ειπαν (+1, -1)
2:20 – Lect 261 has ειπον instead of ειπαν (+1, -1)
2:20 – Lect 261 has τεσσαρακοντα instead of τεσσερακοντα (+1, -1)
2:20 – Lect 261 has ωικοδομήθη instead of οικοδομήθη (+1, -1)
2:22 – Lect 261 has ω instead of ον (+1, -2)

            Thus Lectionary 261 has 9 non-original letters in John 2:14-22, and is missing 8 original letters, for a total of 17 letters’ worth of textual corruption – even when the orthographic variation involving τεσσαρακοντα is included (which isn’t quite fair to Lectionary 261, because P75’s scribe did not spell out the word).  This means that in this particular passage, the text of Lectionary 261 is as accurate as the text of Papyrus 75.  In addition, while in Lectionary 261’s transmission-line the word δε was added in verse 17, and ω was substituted for ον in verse 22, the alterations in the text of Papyrus 75 included the insertion of three words, and the omission of one word.  Or to put it another way:  based on this small sample, the text from the ancient Egyptian papyrus looks like it has been edited, whereas the text from the medieval lectionary looks like it has only been subjected to very minor orthographical and grammatical tweaking.          
In John 2:15, P75 agrees
with the Byzantine Text and
disagrees with Codex Vaticanus
            Another thing worth noticing:  the Byzantine reading at the end of verse 15 – ανεστρεψεν – is supported not only by Lectionary 261 but also by Papyrus 75.  Is this ancient vindication of the Byzantine reading making an impact on critically edited texts of the New Testament?  A little:  ἀνέστρεψεν was adopted by Michael Holmes for the SBLGNT, but the recently released Tyndale House GNT still reads ἀνέτρεψεν, and this must have been deliberate, since the starting-point for the Tyndale House edition was the compilation made in the 1800’s by Samuel Tregelles, who adopted ἀνέστρεψεν. 
            Lectionary 261 does not have the story of the adulteress in its Synaxarion-section; the lection for Pentecost flows without interruption from the end of John 7:53 to the beginning of John 8:12, with which it concludes.  That is not unusual.  In the Menologion-section, however, the lection for Saint Pelagia’s day (October 8) is present, as John 8:3-11, with κατείληπται in verse 4, and with Και at the beginning of verse 5, and with ειπον εκπειράζοντες and εγραφεν in verse 6, and other unusual readings.  Mark 16:9-20 is included as the third of eleven readings in the Heothina-series, pertaining to Christ’s resurrection.  Luke 22:43-44 is not only included but is accompanied by a small illustration depicting Christ praying and being visited by the angel.
            After the last page of the Menologion, which is sloppily expanded by a later hand, a different scribe has added a lection from Matthew 14:1-13.  This is followed by several lines of some sort of colophon, with a date which someone seems to have calculated as 1232.
In a passage from Matthew 25,
Christ teaches about readiness.
          Lectionary 261’s text is by no means its only noteworthy feature.  Artistically, it is far above average.  Its copyist’s minuscule script is a model of efficiency and neatness; corrections in the margin are rare (one occurs in the text of Luke 8:47 where the copyist accidentally skipped from one αὐτῷ to the same word further along in the verse).  Occasionally (and especially in titles in the Menologion) a half-uncial script is used.  Many of the lection-headings appear to be written in gold, and in the first lection after the lection for Pentecost, following a large headpiece featuring the Evangelist Matthew, Matthew 18:10, 8:11, and 8:12a are written in gold before the rest of the lection continues on the next page.
            The Samaritan woman, Lazarus, Zacchaeus, the wise and foolish virgins, and the rich young ruler are among the many characters who appear in small illustrations in the margins throughout the Synaxarion-portion.  Occasionally the colorful initials are transformed into portraits of Christ.  Some Bible-readers prefer their text to be unadorned, and yet these bright initials brings to mind a happy closing thought – that what began as letters on a page may, when welcomed, implanted, and applied, end up as Christ in you. 

[A PDF of Lectionary 261 can be downloaded at the Gallica website.]  

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