Sunday, August 18, 2019

093: A Byzantine Fragment of Acts from the 500s in Egypt

            Today, let’s take a close look at part of 093 – a small fragment that contains text from Acts 24:22-26, and text from First Peter 2:22-3:7.  (I will focus here especially on the text from Acts.  093 is a palimpsest with an interesting history:  it was among the approximately 193,000 fragments that had been stored in the Genizah of the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo over the course of centuries.  (The story of how researchers Charles Taylor and Solomon Schechter discovered this immense collection of materials and, in 1896-1897, arranged for its transportation to Cambridge University for continued study, can be found online.) 
            Charles Taylor published a transcription of the text from Acts in 093 in 1900, along with a short summary of the text from First Peter, and some other texts.  He also noted that the upper writing on the palimpsest consisted of Hebrew extracts from the Bereshith Rabbah (ch. 45, 47,and 98). The lower writing contains most of Acts 24:22-26 on one page in two columns of 24 lines each.  The text on the verso is mostly illegible but Taylor made out words from the tops of the two columns:  from Acts 24:26, οτι χρηματα / δοθησεται, and from Acts 24:27, ελαβεν διαδο / χον ο Φηλιξ  / Πορκιον Φη / στον.  (This manuscript is identified in the catalog of Joseph van Haelst as item 487; in the Taylor-Schechter Collection it is in Collection 12, 189 and 208.  For a while, 093 was identified with the siglum ﬥ.)
Green lines:  093 disagrees with Alex.
Red lines:  093 disagrees with Byz.
            The smattering of text on the verso does not allow much insight regarding the type of text of Acts that 093 contains, inasmuch as the Alexandrian Text and the Byzantine Text are in exact agreement in those parts of Acts 24:26 and 24:27.  When we turn to the much more extensive text on the recto, however, there can be no doubt:  093’s text of Acts is Byzantine:  except for its inclusion of the contracted sacred name Ιν after Χν in verse 24, and the reading λαβων instead of μεταλαβὼν in verse 25, the text from Acts in 093 agrees perfectly with the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform.  (The Textus Receptus differs from RP2005 in this passage in two places; the TR includes αυτου after γυναικι in 24:24, and reads δε between αμα and και in 24:26.)
            Meanwhile, 093 disagrees with the Nestle-Aland compilation at the following seven places:
● 1.  In verse 22, there is a word-order variant:  ανεβαλετο αυτους follows Φηλιξ, instead of the Alexandrian reading in which ανεβαλετο δε αυτους precedes ὁ Φηλιξ.
● 2.  In verse 22, after οδου, 093 reads ειπων, not ειπας.
● 3.  In verse 23, before τω, 093 reads τε. 
● 4.  In verse 23, after τηρεισθαι, 093 reads τον Παυλον instead of αυτον.
● 5.  In verse 23, before αυτω, 093 reads η προσέρχεσθαι.
● 6.  In verse 24, before γυναικι, 093 does not read ιδία. 
● 7.  In verse 25, after μέλλοντος, 093 reads εσεσθαι.

            Two points are illustrated by this evidence. 
            First, contrary to the much-repeated claim that the Textus Receptus is a late medieval compilation (as opposed to an essentially early form of the text with a relatively small stratum of late medieval readings), 093 confirms that the Byzantine Text of Acts – at least, Acts 24:22-26 – existed in the 500s, around a thousand years before Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza made their compilations.
            Second, there is some reason to suspect that apparatuses in some widely used Greek New Testaments cannot be trusted to present evidence in an even-handed way in cases where Byzantine readings receive early support:  
                 Of the seven reading in Acts 24:22-26 that are supported by 093 and the majority of Greek manuscripts, the Nestle-Aland apparatus (in NA27) fails to record four of them (#2, 3, 4, and 6). 
                 In the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th ed.) only one variant-unit is covered in the verses that are extant in 093:  the contest between Ιν Χν and just Χν in 24:24.  In this case the theoretical mechanics of the “expansion of piety” have been rejected in favor of strong early support (including support from 093) for the longer reading. 
                 ● In the apparatus of the Tyndale House edition of the Greek New Testament, only one textual contest in the passage that is extant in 093 is mentioned:  the contest in Acts 24:24 between the inclusion or non-inclusion of ιδια before γυναικι, and the inclusion or non-inclusion of αυτου after γυναικι.  The reading found in 093 is mentioned as a reading supported by C* L P 1424, but 093’s support is not mentioned.  The compilers of the Tyndale House edition of the Greek New Testament apparently never looked at 093.  (A list of consulted witnesses in an appendix of THEGNT does not mention 093, although over a dozen manuscripts younger than 093 are listed.)   
            Third – provisionally accepting the classification of the fragmentary text from First Peter 2:22-3:7 as Alexandrian – it was possible for a Byzantine text of Acts to appear in the same manuscript as an Alexandrian text of First Peter in Cairo, Egypt.  While it cannot be demonstrated that 093 was produced in Egypt, the presence of an Alexandrian text of First Peter in the manuscript favors this possibility, and the presence of 093 among the genizah’s fragments also indicates that the Byzantine Text of Acts in the 500s was used in a broad range of territory. 

            093 is not the only manuscript with texts from the New Testament that was discovered in the Cairo Genizah.   A few palimpsests were discovered to have material from the New Testament in their lower writing, in Palestinian Aramaic; these texts were studied, and published, by the scholarly sisters Agnes Smith Lewis and Margaret Dunlop Gibson, with assistance from J. R. Harris – including a palimpsest-fragment with Palestian Aramaic text from John 14:25-15:16.  The Syriac specialist G. H. Gwilliam published the contents of five palimpsest-fragments (assigned to the 700s) in 1893, containing text from chapters 4 and 5 of Numbers, and from Colossians 4:12-18, First Thessalonians 1:1-3 and 4:3-15, Second Timothy 1:10-2:7, and Titus 1:11-2:8.  Michael Sokoloff and Joseph Yahalom brought such investigations up to date in 1979, and expanded upon them, in a detailed essay in Revue d’Histoire des Textes, “Christian palimpsests from the Cairo Geniza.”  (Fragments of manuscripts of the Hexapla from the Cairo Genizah, by the way, can be viewed at the Greek Bible in Byzantine Judaism website.)

            A few other palimpsest-fragments in the Cairo Genizah contain some New Testament passages.  (One fragment contains Syriac text from Second Corinthians 3:2-15; another fragment contains Syriac text from chapters 3 and 4 of First Thessalonians.)  The lower writing on yet another fragment consists of the remains of an early (600s or 700s?) Greek uncial lectionary, now catalogued as lectionary 1276, a.k.a. Taylor-Schechter 16.93, containing excerpts from Matthew 10:2-15 and John 20:11-15.  We may take a closer look at lectionary 1276 in a future post.

Readers are invited to double-check the data in this post.


  1. Very interesting and great work (as usual)! The holding back of pertinent evidence (usually Byz.) within our Textual Apparatus' needs to stop already. -MMR

  2. Dear Conservative New Testament scholar or apologist: I am conducting a survey on topics related to the authorship of the Gospels. Would you kindly participate?

    1. Do you agree with this statement by conservative NT scholar Richard Bauckham that a significant majority of NT scholars rejects the eyewitness/associate eyewitness authorship of the Gospels:

    “The argument of this book [“Jesus and the Eyewitnesses”]–that the texts of our Gospels are close to the eyewitness reports of the words and deeds of Jesus–runs counter to almost all recent scholarship. As we have indicated from time to time, the prevalent view is that a long period of oral transmission in the churches intervened between whatever the eyewitnesses said and the Jesus traditions as they reached the Evangelists [the authors of the Gospels]. No doubt the eyewitnesses started the process of oral tradition, but it passed through many retellings, reformulations, and expansions before the Evangelists themselves did their own editorial work on it.” p. 240

    Your answer: Yes or No

    2. If you agree with Bauckham’s statement that “almost all recent scholarship” believes that the texts of our Gospels are NOT close to the eyewitness reports of the words and deeds of Jesus, do you believe that this scholarly consensus is due to an objective evaluation of the evidence, or due to a bias against the supernatural, as some conservative Christian apologists allege (see here)?

    Your answer: Evidence or Bias

    3. If you believe that the scholarly consensus on the authorship of the Gospels is due to a bias against the supernatural, how would you explain the fact that most Roman Catholic scholars, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and many moderate Protestant scholars such as NT Wright, who every much believe in the supernatural and the bodily resurrection of Jesus, also reject or question the eyewitness/associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels? (see here)

    Your answer:

    Thank you very much,


  3. Dear liberal Gary,

    I'll answer yours if you answer my three:

    1. Do you not believe there exist wicked powers working to cause men to lose their faith?

    2. Do you not think these forces would seek to influence so called neutral scholarship's textual and higher criticism methodologies towards a bias away from the supernatural?

    3. Have you read the Gospel of John and forgotten the parts about eye witness testimony?