Thursday, October 17, 2019

Dirk Jongkind versus Reality: Vaticanus' Scribe

            Dirk Jongkind, editor of the Tyndale House edition of the Greek New Testament, is featured in a series of video-lectures and discussions hosted by the Forum of Christian Leaders (FOCL), with titles such as   
           ● Introduction to the Greek New Testament, and                    
           ● Greek Textual Criticism, and
           ●  Studying the Manuscripts

            In the last-named lecture (uploaded in November of 2017), which is only 23 minutes long,  Jongkind made some claims about Codex Vaticanus which invite clarification.
            The New Testament text in Codex Vaticanus, Jongkind stated, was made by a scribe who almost never made significant mistakes:  “When you’re copying a text, you’re going to make blunders.  The scribe responsible for this one hardly made any.”
            This claim should be considered alongside the observations made by Greg Paulson in his 2013 thesis at the University of Edinburgh, Scribal Habits in Codex Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Ephraemi, Bezae, and Washingtonianus in the Gospel of Matthew; on page  60 Paulson observes, “There are 97 singular readings in B in Matthew.”  [Let me break that down for newcomers:  “B” = Codex Vaticanus, and a singular reading is a reading which occurs in only a single manuscript.]    Paulson also notes that two of the readings attested exclusively by Codex Vaticanus are adopted into the Nestle-Aland compilation, in Matthew 9:3 and 26:53b.  In the Tyndale House compilation, B’s reading in 9:3 (ειπαν) is rejected in favor of ειπον, and B’s reading in 26:53b (μοι αρτι πλείω) is rejected in the Tyndale House compilation in favor of μοι αρτι πλείους.  Although I have not thoroughly consulted the Tyndale House edition to check the editors’ decisions in all 97 passages where Codex Vaticanus has a singular reading, it seems reasonable to expect that none of them were adopted.
            Most of B’s anomalous readings in Matthew are benign.  But the readings attested exclusively by Codex Vaticanus in Matthew include – just a sample here – the following:
            ● the insertion of εις την χώραν αυτων in 2:13 (repeated from 2:12)
            ● the omission of εργα at the end of 5:16
            ● the omission of μὴ δέξηται in 10:14
            ● the insertion of ουκ before αφεθήσεται (first occurrence) in 12:32
            ● the omission of και δίκαιοι in 13:17
            ● the omission of εις after αγαθου in 19:17
            ● the repetition of πληρωθη το ρηθεν δια του in 21:4
Sifting through three chapters from Mark and three chapters from Luke, more mistakes from Codex Vaticanus’ scribe are observed – and this does not include Vaticanus’ itacistic (vowel-switching) anomalies and unusual name-spelling:
In Mark chapters 6-8:
            ● 6:2:  B adds οι before πολλοι
            ● 6:17:  B* omits την γυναικα
            ● 6:20:  B omits και before συνετήρει
            ● 6:33:  B reads εγνωσαν instead of επέγνωσαν
            ● 6:38:  B transposes to εχετε αρτους
            ● 6:39:  B reads εν instead of επι
            ● 6:54:  B* omits αυτων
            ● 7:4:  B reads ραντίσωνται instead of βαπτισωνται
            ● 7:9:  B reads τηρητε instead of στήσητε
            ● 7:14:  B reads λέγει instead of ελεγεν
            ● 7:15:  B reads το κοινυν instead of ὁ δυναται κοινωσαι
            ● 7:24:  B reads ηδυνάσθη instead of ηδυνήθη
            ● 7:37:  B adds ως after πεποίηκεν
            ● 8:2:  B omits μοι
            ● 8:3:  B reads εισιν instead of ηκασιν
            ● 8:10:  B adds αυτος after εμβας
            ● 8:12:  B omits υμιν after λεγω
            ● 8:20:  B reads και λεγουσιν αυτω instead of οι δε ειπαν
            ● 8:25:  B reads εθηκεν instead of επέθηκεν
            ● 8:35:  B reads εαυτου ψυχην instead of ψυχην αυτου
            ● 8:37:  B adds ὁ before ανθρωπος
            ● 8:37:  B reads εαυτου instead of αυτου

In Luke 1-3:
            ● 1:37:  B* reads οτι ουκ αδυνατήσει twice.
            ● 2:9:  B omits φόβον μεγαν, reading, instead, σφόδρα
            ● 2:19:  B omits ταυτα after ρηματα
            ● 2:22:  B omits του after ημεραι
            ● 2:37:  B reads αφειστα instead of αφίστατο
            ● 2:47:  B omits οι ακούοντες αυτου
            ● 3:8:  B transposes to αξίους καρπους
            ● 3:17:  B reads αβέστω instead of ασβέστω
            ● 3:33:  B omits του Αμιναδαβ

            These are not exhaustive lists.  “His execution is very careful,” Jongkind said of the scribe who produced these readings.  It seems to me that while the scribe of Codex Vaticanus is certainly not the worst scribe ever (a title that must go to the scribe of Old Latin Codex Bobbiensis), his execution leaves something to be desired, and the claim that he hardly ever made blunders must be regarded as an exaggeration.

            In addition, near the end of his lecture on Studying the Manuscripts, Jongkind employed a slide which stated, “This Byzantine Text is the text printed by Erasmus and became the received text.”  That is the sort of oversimplification which Jongkind elsewhere warns his audience against making.
            There are over 1,000 significant differences between the Byzantine Text and the Textus Receptus.  Both the Byzantine Text and the Textus Receptus usually are supported by the majority of Greek manuscripts at points in Matthew-Jude where they disagree with the Nestle-Aland compilation, but the Textus Receptus has some readings which are only supported by a small number of Greek manuscripts (and in a few cases, by none).  A professor who continues to describe the Byzantine Text as if it is one and the same as the Textus Receptus, over a decade after the release of the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform, might be vulnerable to the charge of intentionally confusing and misleading his audience.

Readers are invited to check the data in this post.


  1. Interesting post. Personally I find Dr. Jongkind to be of a far to mild temperament (along side a very gentle personality) to be guilty of ”intentionally confusing and misleading his audience.". He comes across as very genuine and as his name insinuates,"kind". There may be a difference in perspective which is causing his overly sympathetic evaluation of cod. B. When consideration is given to the fact that: cod. א, P45 P66 and other early papyri, cod. D, the Lewis codex, Clement Alex. & Origen are valued as some of the most important witnesses to his preferred Text and subsequent readings. It becomes understandable how Dr. Jongkind came to consider the Vatican codex as a manuscript copied by a scribe who "hardly made any""blunders". Let's be honest, cod. B has less "blunders" than those mentioned above and so from that perspective he is

  2. ... partially justified in his conclusion. However, I agree with the overall critique given above by James Snapp and have always personally considered Vaticanus to be untrustworthy and riddled with common (& some uncommon) errors. Albeit, when the voice of universal antiquity is on it's side, I give it as much weight as any ms., when it stands alone,--or nearly alone, I hold it suspect. As did Scrivener and Burgon in time past.

  3. MMR,
    What is the source of your personal judgement of B that makes it of value to anyone but you. Obviously, you can have and are free to express it, I am just wondering if you have some basis for this proclamation?

  4. Hi Timothy, I never said it was of no value,--And as it goes, I hold it in higher regards than; cod. א, cod. Beza, the papryi in general or the Sinatic Syr., to give a few examples.

    However, I by no means rate it as a manuscript with hardly any blunders. Nor do I esteem it with the homage that the Critical Text School has for the last 150 years or so. I believe that it should be considered as a generally "bad" manuscript as far as readings go. Although in my experience it's better than the mss. and witnesses listed above.

    Now as far as the basis for my personal judgment. Burgon, Scrivener, Vercellone etc. came to similar conclusions and after personally spending (quite literally) thousands of hours pouring over the Text, the variants and the various Critical Apparatus (Codex Vaticanus and it's readings being a primary focus). The end result was a reinforcement of their previous conclusions. Why, you may ask? In a word Homoeoteleuton, in two Homoeoarcton, three Dittography, four obvious editorial modifications, five rare and singular readings up the wazoo. These would be my primary reasons for rejecting the claim that Vaticanus is a manuscript with hardly any scribal blunders, or is a very "good" manuscript in general.

    Even so it's early date must always be accounted for and evaluated in any and all variant units. Meaning, it's age and it's weight/value as a manuscript are two separate issues (for the most part). -MMR

  5. Matthew M Rose,

    A careful reading of the final sentence of the post should make it clear that I am not charging Jongkind with intentionally confusing and misleading his audience; rather, I am saying that if he were to continue to give listeners the impression that the scribe of B made hardly any blunders, when this is demonstrably untrue, people would be likely to make just such an accusation. It would be better to avoid exaggeration, and simply say that the scribe of B was a good scribe with a penchant for itacistic anomalies and a tendency to drop articles and, in some epistles, to transpose consecutive sacred names.

    << Let's be honest, cod. B has less "blunders" than those mentioned above >>

    Setting aside itacistic anomalies, sure. But being the fastest antelope in the herd does not make one a Ferrari.

  6. James Snapp,

    I know you weren't insinuating that Dr. Jongkind was "intentionally confusing and misleading his audience", but only warning against the possibility of some of his audience jumping to that conclusion. I was just giving my own personal opinion and reasons why I think it's very unlikely that he was being intentionally misleading. Sorry if I was ambiguous.

    As far as cod.B having less blunders than the above given roll of Ms. and witnesses. My point was not to elevate B to a level of scribal precision that would justify his comments concerning it's first hand scribal blunders in actuality. I was trying to veiw Dirk's comments from his perspective and persuasion. Codex B had a better original scribe and has a better Text in general than א D Lewis cod. etc...but your correct, it's no "Ferrari". Although from the perspective of Dr. Jongkind, it's the best he's got... unfortunately, cod.B is not all that good (from my point of view).