Monday, November 4, 2019

A Surprise in Athens

            In 2015-2016, a team of researchers from the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts visited the National Library of Greece and brought to light 21 manuscripts in the collection there in Athens.  One of them – Lectionary 2012 – has not gotten very much attention,  That is unfortunate, considering that of all the manuscripts that CSNTM’s research has brought to the attention of the Institute for New Testament Research, this is one of the oldest.
            This sheet of parchment, glued to the cover of another, later lectionary, is from an uncial Gospels-lectionary that was probably produced in the 900s.  The reverse side cannot presently be viewed, since it is glued down.  On the side that is viewable, portions of two pages (on a single parchment sheet) with text can be seen.  
            If we look at the manuscript and begin to read the third column (to the right of where the sheet was once vertically folded), we encounter text from Matthew 27:6, beginning with εξεστιν at the end of the first tattered line, followed by βαλειν αυτὰ on the next line.  The text of this column continues to the beginning of Matthew 27:9, where διὰ Ιερεμίου is the last line of the column. 
            Shifting our focus to the first column of the manuscript (first, that is, in its present glued-down state), we see text from Matthew 27:53, beginning with –λθον at the end of the tattered upper edge of the parchment.  The text continues to the end of Matthew 27:54, and then – in the same line on which Mt. 27:54 ends – the text switches immediately to the beginning of John 19:31 with οι ουν Ιουδαιοι, continuing to the words τω σαβββάτῳ which constitute the last line of the column.  At the top of the second column, the first extant line is Πιλάτον ινα.  The middle of John 19:31 occupied the non-extant portion of the column (the descender of the ρ in ηρώτησαν has survived).  The text continues to the first part of John 19:34; the last line is αλλ’ εις των στρα–.    
            Thus, in this single-sheet manuscript fragment, we have (1) Matthew’s account of the purchase of the Field of Blood, (2) Matthew’s account of the centurion’s confession, “Truly this was the Son of God,” and (3) John’s report that when the soldiers came to Jesus to break His legs, they found Him already dead.  
            Here is a complete transcript, column by column, along with a more or less line-by-line English translation.  Bracketed letters in the transcription are not visible in the photographs.  Red letters are variations from the text of the passage as found in the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform.  Red crosses are features of the manuscript.

Lectionary 2012, in English.
Matthew 27:6-9a:
  βαλ[ε]ιν αυτα ·
  εις τον κορβαν[αν]
  επει τιμη αί
  ματος εστιν +
συμβούλιον δ[ε]
  λαβόντες η[γό]
  ρασαν εξ αυτ[ων]
  τον αγρον του
  κεραμέως · εις τα
  φην τοις ξένοι[ς]
  διο εκλήθη · ο α
  γρος εκεινος · α
  γρος αιματος ·
  εως της σήμερ[ον]
  τοτε επληρώ
  θη τω ρηθεν
  δια Ϊερεμίου

Matthew 27:53b-54 + John 19:31a:

  εις τὴν αγίαν πό
  λην καὶ ενεφα
  νησθησαν πολλοις +
Ο δε εκατόνταρ
  χος και οι μετ’ αυ
  του · τηρουντες
  τον Ιν · ϊδοντες 
  τον σεισμον και
  τα γενόμενα ·
  εφοβήθησαν σφό
  δρα + λέγοντες ·  
  αληθως Θυ Υς ην
  ουτος + οι ουν Ϊου
  δαιοι · ϊνα μὴ μεί
  νη επι του στρου ·
  τα σώματα εν
  τω σαββάτω ·

John 19:31c-34a:

  Πιλάτον ίνα
  κατεαγωσιν αυ
  των τὰ σκέλει
  και αρθωσιν +
  ηλθον ουν οι στρα
  τιωται + και του
  μεν πρώτου
  κατέαξαν τὰ
  σκέλει καὶ του
  αλλου του συσταυ
  ρωθέν τος αυ
  τω + επι δε τὸν
  Ιν ελθόντες ως
  ειδον αυτον η
  δη τεθνηκότα
  ου κατέαξαν αυ
  του τὰ σκέλη +
  αλλ’ εις των στρα

            The extant text of this fragment differs from the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform only in matters of spelling; for all practical purposes, the two are identical.  This leads me to suspect that the writers who are responsible for spreading the claim that “No two New Testament manuscripts have the same text” have not examined very many fragmentary lectionaries.
            It would be interesting to examine this fragment with Multi-Spectral Imaging at the National Library of Greece (where it is kept as Collection-item 2460 ) to see the text on the other side.  It is interesting to see how this lection combined text from Matthew and John; perhaps a closer analysis of this kind of Good Friday lectionary-cycle could explain why the Alexandrian Text (in some of what are often called the “oldest and best” manuscripts) has a reading that resembles John 19:34 after  Matthew 27:49. 

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

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