Thursday, March 31, 2022

News: Peiresc's Lost Cargo: Recovered!

        April 20, 1629 was not a good day for the French polymath and research-sponsor Nicholas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc.  His merchant ship Ambassadrice – a type of small ship known as a polacca – returning from Egypt and carrying miscellaneous antiquities which Pieresc’s agents had obtained there, had inconveniently sunk near Marsamuscetto Harbor in Malta on its return voyage to Marseille, after incurring heavy damage in a storm.  

         Peiresc’s agents, Théophile Minuti and Jacque-Auguste de Thou, wrote to Peiresc that they had managed to recover some items from the shipwreck, including a small box which held an assortment of small relics, coins, and medals, and a vellum codex (which turned out to be a Coptic lectionary) that had survived fairly intact, thanks to the several layers of envelopes in which it had been packaged.  But these were merely souvenirs compared to the other valuable Egyptian antiquities that the ship had been carrying. 

          The disaster of the sinking of the Ambassadrice was greatly regretted at the time – but soon forgotten.  It was not until recently that interest in excavating the remains of the Ambassadrice gained momentum, when Barry  Clifford – the American responsible for the recovery of the wreck of the pirate ship Whydah – was recruited by the government of Malta to explore the wreckage of the Ambassadrice.  What Clifford’s diving expedition found is unique in the history of marine salvage:  inside the remains of several trunks, still sitting on the hull of the wreck, were six large slabs of spermaceti wax (so called because it is extracted from sperm whales).  Apparently someone in Peiresc’s agents’ employ had prepared his materials within the wax as a safeguard against just the thing that had befallen the Ambassadrice. 

          When specialists in the salvage operation carefully heated and removed the wax, they found several items were embedded within, including the manuscripts that Peiresc’s agents had obtained in Egypt 400 years ago.  They are:

           Eight Coptic texts of the Gospels, two of which are in jeweled bindings

          An early Greek-Bohairic lectionary, prefaced by a glossary of rare Bohairic words.

          A Sefer Torah scroll, 

          A hitherto-unknown composition by Dioscorus (bishop of Alexandria during the Council of Ephesus in the 400s), interspersed with supplemental comments by Balatro Aibreán.

           A hitherto-unknown composition by Peter Mongus of Alexandria (late 400s), with many Scripture-citations, and

          An incomplete parchment copy of Breviarium by Liberatus of Carthage (500s). 

    The sixth slab contained four ornate ivory diptychs, with the hinges removed, all carved with scenes from the life of St. Anthony.  With them were numerous Egyptian and North African coins from different eras, a silver aspergillum, a gold and silver buckle inlaid with lapis lazuli, and several amulets and rings.

          The texts recovered from the Ambassadrice are scheduled to be published soon in a yet-untitled open-access book from Brill Academic Publishers, and the other items will be the subject of a series of forthcoming articles in Biblische Zeitschrift.  In addition to an undisclosed payment for his supervision of the underwater salvage operation, Barry Clifford was awarded the Medal for Service to the Republic of Malta.   Addition information about the salvage of the Ambassadrice can be found in Maltese news-articles here and here

Happy April Fools Day 2022!


Friday, March 25, 2022

John 6:15 - An Interesting Little Detail

           Near the end of John 6:15 – following John’s account of the feeding of the 5,000 – there is an interesting variant-unit:  did John write that Jesus withdrew again (ἀνεχώρησεν πάλιν) to the mountain by himself, or that Jesus withdrew (ἀνεχώρησεν) (without “again”) to the mountain by himself, or that Jesus “fled again” φεύγει πάλιν) to the mountain by himself?

          John does not use ἀνεχώρησεν anywhere else, so perhaps there is something to be said in favor of φεύγει:  the idea is that copyists changed the wording of Jesus’ movement to avoid giving the impression that Jesus was running away like Brave Sir Robin.  On the other hand, John does not use φεύγει anywhere else, either. 

          Constantine von Tischendorf was willing to let Codex Sinaiticus overrule all other Greek manuscripts in existence in John 6:15, in his eighth edition of the Greek New Testament.  Scholars less entranced with À have not concurred, arguing (as Metzger reports in his Textual Commentary) that φεύγει originated as a Western reading.  It had to be introduced as a sort of paraphrase fairly early, inasmuch as it is supported by Tertullian, De Rebaptismate, Ambrose, Jerome (who placed fugit in the Vulgate, agreeing with several Old Latin copies) and Augustine.  (Tertullian’s reference is not airtight, however:  in On Idolatry XVIII, he simply says that Christ “shrank back from being made a king,” without explicitly quoting John 6:15.)     

          Ἀνεχώρησεν is read in all text-types:  Alexandrian (P75, B, L), Western (D), Byzantine (A, K, Λ, Π, N) and Caesarean (f1).   But did John write only ἀνεχώρησεν or ἀνεχώρησεν πάλιν?  Manuscripts without πάλιν here include W, Δ, Ψ, and most Byzantine copies.  The Peshitta, likewise, does not support πάλιν.  The word could perhaps have been skipped accidentally, if a copyist’s line of sight slid from the ν at the end of ἀνεχώρησεν to the ν at the end of πάλιν.  Or, having just read John 6:3’s account of Jesus going up into the mountain, early copyists couldn’t resist harmlessly adding πάλιν – but one would have to believe this happened at least twice for πάλιν to drift into A, D, Π, N, and Y.    

          The Curetonian Syriac, interestingly, supports a conflate reading:  fled and withdrew again.  

          Readers of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece compilation would never detect that the reading found in the Byzantine Text, W, and the Peshitta exists:  the N-A apparatus mentions the reading in À but not the reading of most manuscripts – an omission that is difficult to explain except as an effect of the editors’ pro-Alexandrian bias.  The UBS apparatus doesn’t mention the non-inclusion of πάλιν either; nor does they Tyndale House GNT’s apparatus.    

          The non-original reading φεύγει is more interesting than it looks – not only because it was temporarily favored by a leading textual critic in the 1800s, but because it reveals that retro-translation sporadically affected the Greek text in the exemplar of the opening chapters of John in Sinaiticus – the same sort of Western phenomenon that has unfortunately affected the NIV 2011’s base-text of Mark 1:41.


Monday, March 7, 2022

The Gangster's Bible: Lectionary 1599

           At the University of Chicago, among the manuscripts that form the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection,  is a medieval lectionary called the Argos Lectionary – named after the ancient city of Argos, in Greece.  Its is also known as Lectionary 1599, or, in the catalog of the collection, MS 128.  But another name is often given to it:  “The Gangster’s Bible.”

Vincenzo Colosimo
         The story of this moniker begins, as Michael Hirsley reported in the Chicago Tribune in 1993, when, following Edgar Goodspeed’s acquisition of  GA 2400 (an extensively illustrated New Testament made around the 1100s), a student of Goodspeed showed him the Argos Lectionary.  Goodspeed wanted to find out more about it, and this led to a meeting between Goodspeed and one of the owners of Colosimo’s restaurant in Chicago – named after Vincenzo “Diamond Jim” Colosimo, who had been killed – some reports said the killer was John Torrio; others say it was Al Capone – on May 11, 1920. 

          Apparently some of the mobsters in Chicago had a special use for the Argos Lectionary:  it was used as the book on which gang-members took oaths (possibly similar to the oaths described by Michael Franzese).   

          Eventually, with the involvement of Harold R. Willoughby, the University of Chicago purchased the Argos Lectionary from its owner on very agreeable terms, and it took its place in the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, where it is to this day. 

         Lectionary 1599 was made in the 800s or 900s, and its text is written in two columns per page measuring approximately 29 x 22 cm.   It has endured significant damage, but plenty of pages have survived which contain text from the Gospels.  Its text, like most lectionaries, is essentially Byzantine.  A few textual features may be mentioned:

Image 122:  Luke 22:4 includes και γραμματευσιν, similar to the reading in C, N, P, 157, 700.  

Image 190:  Mark 15:28 is not in the text.

Image 228:  In Matthew 27:55, εκει appears after γυναικες.

Images 134, 135, & 136:  John 13:3-17 follows the end of Matthew 28, and is followed by text from Matthew 26:21.  (This liturgical arrangement for Maundy Thursday explains why, in GA 225, John 13:3-17 is found after after Matthew 26:20.)

Images 235, 236, & 237 – Mark 16:9-20 is the third of the eleven Heothina readings.

Image 242 – In John 21:1, the incipit-phrase (used to begin the reading, in the lower right-hand column 0f text) includes αὐτοῦ ἐγέρθεις ἐκ νεκρῶν, a reading also found in Γ (036)  f13 1241 and 1424.

Image 248 – In Luke 10:8-10, near the end of the first column of text, the scribe made a parableptic error when his line of sight drifted from εἰσέρχησθε καὶ in 10:8 to καὶ μὴ δέχωνται in 10:10.  Also, in Luke 10:11, the text of l1599 includes  (“from your feet”).

Image 261 – In a list of feast-days in October, the saints honored on Oct. 7 are listed as Sergius and Bacchus.  The saint honored on October 8 is listed as Saint Pelagia.  This implies that John 8:3-11 was initially included in the lectionary, before it was damaged.   This arrangement also explains why the story of the adulteress is found in family 13 in Luke 21, shortly after where the reading for Saints Sergius and Bacchus (Luke 21:12-19) is located.  This kind of textual transplant was simply for the convenience of the lector.