Sunday, October 30, 2022

Codex Vaticanus: From Where?

           The provenance of a manuscript, when it can be ascertained, is an important thing to know.  For instance, when Codex W came to light in Egypt, the discovery of its essentially Byzantine text of Matthew and most of Luke (alongside the mainly Alexandrian text of the opening chapters of Luke and most of John) shows that before the mid-400s (working on the premise that Codex W has been correctly dated to the early 400s), showed that a well-developed Byzantine Text of the Gospels existed in Egypt by the time Codex W was made.

          Many textual critics consider no manuscript more valuable than Codex Vaticanus.  But what is Codex Vaticanus’ (Codex B, 03) provenance?   It has been at the Vatican Library ever since the Vatican Library was founded in 1475 (using earlier library-collections) under Sixtus IV.   There is no record of Codex Vaticanus’ presence in Rome prior to that time.  Sepulveda drew attention to Codex Vaticanus in the 1530s, and informed Erasmus of some of its readings. 

Basil Bessarion
          Is there anything we can say about where Codex Vaticanus was before that?  Perhaps.  It may have been in the possession of Basil Bessarion (1403-1472), who lived a very interesting life in the 1400s.  Born in Trebizond (modern Trabzon on the Black Sea), he became a monk and worked his way up through the ranks, so to speak, becoming metropolitan of Nicea in 1437.  In the same year, Bessarion traveled to Italy to take part in the Council of Ferrara-Florence.  By 1440, Bessarion had become a Cardinal and had even composed and signed a statement of unity (Oratio dogmatica de unione) which was perhaps the strongest formal expression of a desire for the reunion of the Western Roman Catholic Church with the Eastern Orthodox Church church since the earlier schism about the filioque clause.   After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, and the fall of Trebizond in 1461, Bessarion’s efforts to promote a formal ecclesiastical reunion foundered, but his influence in the West continued to rise.  He nearly became pope, but apparently some bishops were averse to giving such a position to a man who was from the East. 

          In 1468, Bessarion donated his personal library (which included more Greek manuscripts than any other library at the time) to the Republic of Venice, and this became the core of the Biblioteca Marciana (a.k.a. the Sansovino Library).  Among the volumes which can now be found at the Biblioteca Marciana is the manuscript known as Codex Venetus Marc. Gr. 6 (Old Testament Manuscript 122), in which, according to T.C. Skeat (in the essay “The Codex Vaticanus in the Fifteenth Century”), the text of Esther, Sirach, Judith, and Tobit was copied from Codex Vaticanus.  Skeat goes on to say that Codex Venetus Marc. Gr. 6 was among the manuscripts that had been owned by Bessarion. 

          If Bessarion was responsible for bringing Codex Vaticanus to Rome, this elicits another question:  where was Codex Vaticanus before that?  If we look at the data in Euthaliana, by Joseph Armitage Robinson, published in 1895 as Text & Studies, Vol. 3, (beginning on digital page 448 of the download) we will see proof, in a sub-chapter titled “Chapters of the Acts in À and B,” that the chapter-numbers in part of the book of Acts in Codex Sinaiticus (up to 15:40) are the same as the chapter-numbers in the book of Acts in Codex Vaticanus.  

          Robinson reasoned:  “Where did this system of numbers, common to À and B, come from?  The two codices have got hold of it quite independently of one another.  It cannot have been copied from B into À, for À has one number (M) [i.e., 40] which is not found in B : nor can it have been copied from À into B, for nearly a third of the numbers (from MB onwards) are not found in À.  We must go back to a common source – some MS which gave its numeration to them both :  and this seems to imply that the À and B were at an early stage of their history lying side by side in the same library.”

          What library?  Probably the library at Caesarea.  Sinaiticus was probably made there (not by Eusebius, but slightly later when Acacius was bishop).  J. R. Harris argued for a connection between Sinaiticus and Caesarea in 1893 in his composition “Stichometry” in the chapter “The Origin of Codices À and B,” on the basis of a small detail in Sinaiticus text.

    In Matthew 13:54, the scribe of À initially wrote ντιπατρίδα instead of πατρίδα.  Antipatris (mentioned in Acts 23:31) was not far from the city of Caesarea, and the scribe’s thoughts may have wandered a bit, eliciting this blunder in À.  Harris put his suspicion this way:  “It is to my mind much the same as if a printed text of Shakespeare should put into Mark Antony's speech the line “I come to Banbury Caesar, not to praise him.”  Such a text would probably be the work of Oxford printers.”  (Harris’ meaning may be better appreciated if one understands that the town of Banbury is about 20 miles northwest of Oxford, and Antipatris is about 25 miles from Caesarea.)          

          One could augment Harris’ argument by pointing out two other readings in À: 

            In Luke 24:13, Codex À says that the distance between Emmaus and Jerusalem was 160, rather than sixty, stadia.  (I go into detail about this reading in the blog-post here.)  This reading almost certainly originated after Nicopolis was recognized (incorrectly) as being the same place as Emmaus, as Eusebius mentioned in his composition Onomasticon. 

          In Acts 8:5, the scribe wrote Καισαριας where he should have written Σαμαριας.

          If Caesarea was the place where Sinaiticus was made, what evidence is there that Vaticanus (which supports none of À’s readings in Matthew 13:54, Luke 14:13, and Acts 8:5) was also produced there?  One item may point in this direction:  One of Bessarion’s better-known manuscripts, known as minuscule 205, was made for Bessarion in the 1400s by John Rhosus.  Its Gospels-text is Caesarean, agreeing at many points with the Armenian version.  205 was copied from 2886 (formerly called 205abs); re-numbering was called for after Alison Sarah Welsby showed in 2011 that earlier scholars who had stated that 205abs was copied from 205 had gotten it backwards (at least, as far as the text of the Gospel of John is concerned).

          But there is another possibility.  Codex Vaticanus’ nearly unique format (having most of its text, other than the books of poetry in the Old Testament) written in three columns of text per page.  And B. H. Streeter wrote (on p. 113 of The Four Gospels – A Study of Origins, 1924 ed.), “It is stated in the Menologies – short accounts of a Saint for reading on his day – that Lucian bequeathed his pupils a copy of the Old and New Testaments written in three columns in his own hand.”  (The day assigned to Saint Lucian is either January 7 or October 15.)  Bruce Metzger (in Chapters in the History of New Testament Textual Criticism, in the chapter The Lucianic Recension of the Greek Bible, p. 6) refers to the same report, and adds the detail that the Menaeon states this three-column manuscript written in three columns per page ended up at a church in Nicomedia.   And prior to becoming cardinal of Nicea, Bessarion may have encountered it (and obtained it) there, and took it to Italy. 

          It is not impossible, considering that the three-column format is nearly unique to Vaticanus and the manuscript attributed to Lucian – that they are one and the same.  This would imply that Lucian of Antioch, rather than being the initiator of a recension that begat the Byzantine Text of the New Testament, perpetuated the mainly Alexandrian text he found in exemplars at Caesarea which had been taken there from Egypt about a hundred years earlier by Origen.  If these MSS were also the ancestors of Codex Sinaiticus, then the genealogical connection between Sinaiticus and Vaticanus does not go back to the second century (as Hort seems to have thought) but to the third century. 

          To review the steps in Vaticanus’ history that have been suggested:
          (1)  Vaticanus was produced at Caesarea under the supervision of Lucian of Antioch, no later than 312 (when Lucian was martyred), using as exemplars manuscripts that had been brought to Caesarea by Origen in 230-231.

          (2)  Before Vaticanus was taken from Caesarea to Nicomedia, its text in Acts was supplemented with chapter-numbers from the same non-extant source which supplied the chapter-numbers to Acts in Codex À.  

           (3) Vaticanus was taken to Nicomedia.  (Meanwhile, Codex Sinaiticus was taken to St. Catherine's monastery.)  Much later, in the 1400s, Bessarion acquired it and took it with him to Italy, where, via means unknown, it was placed in the collection in the Vatican Library.   


Monday, October 10, 2022

Goodbye, NRSVue


          The latest edition of the New Revised Standard Version is a compromised text that should not be considered a complete Bible.  It is, instead, an example of the products made by those who St. Paul mentioned in Second Corinthians 2:17 who were “peddling the word of God.” (WEB).

          The term translated as “peddling” is καπηλεύοντες.  This term has also been rendered in English as “adulterating” (Rheims, Young’s, LSV).  The KJV simply refers to those who “corrupt the word of God” and the ASV likewise refers to those who are “corrupting the word of God.”   Tyndale’s translation, made in 1526, is rather lively, referring to those who “choppe and chaunge with the worde of God.”

          If you can picture a dishonest merchant in the marketplace who waters down the liquor he sells, or a butcher who adds gristle to the meat that he advertises as the finest cut, then you may picture the sort of thing that Paul is talking about.  And the NRSVue’s translators, in First Corinthians 6:9, are guilty of committing precisely that sort of adulteration.  

          In First Corinthians 6:9-11, the NRSVue reads as follows:  “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes,[a] men who engage in illicit sex,[b] 10 thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, swindlers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ[c] and in the Spirit of our God.” 

          The problem is the rendering at the end of verse 9:  “men who engage in illicit sex.”  A footnote in the NRSVue says “meaning of Gk uncertain.” The thing is, in real life, the Greek term here is not of uncertain meaning. The Greek term that the NRSVue renders “men who engage in illicit sex” is ρσενοκοται.  The NIV renders the same term as “men who have sex with men” and the NIV’s footnote here spells out what the term means:  “The words men who have sex with men translate two Greek words that refer to the passive and active participants in homosexual acts.”

          The NIV is not translated literally, for its English text has blurred together two words – μαλακοί and ρσενοκοται – as if they both refer to the same act, but at least the footnote sorts out the distinction.  The Christian Standard Bible is similar; it renders the end of I Cor. 6:9 as “males who have sex with males” and its footnote here says “Both passive and active participants in homosexual acts.”  Likewise the Evangelical Heritage Version renders the end of I Cor. 6:9 as “males who have sex with males” and its footnote says, “The Greek text here has two distinct terms to identify passive partners and active partners in a homosexual relationship.”  The rendering in the New American Standard Bible at the end of I Cor. 6:9 is unfocused; its text says “homosexuals,” and only by reading the footnote (“Two Gr words in the text, prob. submissive and dominant male homosexuals”) may NASB-readers appreciate that Paul is not here saying that those with same-sex attraction are disqualified from the kingdom of God; Paul has in mind those who participate in homosexual acts.  Some idea of the sort of activity that Paul had in mind may be obtained by considering the root-words of ρσενοκοται:   ρσεν refers to men; κοται refers to coitus.

          Whether the words μαλακοί and ρσενοκοται are translated as one word, or as two words, they certainly do not mean “men who engage in illicit sex.”  The NRSVue’s rendering is inexcusably imprecise - and the NRSVue removes from First Corinthians 6:9 the meaning of the original text.  The NRSVue, in other words, does exactly what Paul warned against in Second Corinthians 2:17 – watering down the word of God.

          I know not how this outrageous error happened, but I suspect the involvement of Dr. Jennifer Knust in the making of the NRSVue had something to do with it.   You can watch a 2014 video ( at ) – that Dr. Knust gave when she was at Boston University  in which she argues that the Bible “says nothing at all about homosexuality” and that “there are simply no straightforward sayings either condemning or promoting same-sex love in the Bible.”  Dr. Knust is listed on the Friendship Press website as “General Editor” of the NRSVue.  

          Dr. Robert Gagnon has discussed the NRSVue’s mistranslation in I Cor. 6:9 in 2022 in a six-minute video here, and in a 52-minute video with Joe Dallas at and he has written on the subject at .  Dr. Gagnon speaks very clearly about what led to the NRSVue’s mistranslation in I Cor. 6:9:  it is the result of “ideological motivation.” 

          The NRSV, before the recent update, was already somewhat tainted in First Timothy 3:2, where its English text rendered the Greek words μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα as “married only once,” which removed the explicit gender that is super-obvious in the Greek text; a footnote in the NRSV salvages the the NRSV’s English mistranslation by saying, “Gk the husband of one wife.”  But the NRSVue’s footnote does not salvage or clarify the NRSVue’s mistranslation in I Cor. 6:9; the translators at this point have been derelict of duty, abandoning the meaning of the original text.  They have done the sort of thing that Paul warned against in II Cor. 2:17 – adulterating the word of God.  

           If you desire, like Paul, to be able to tell people that you did not shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God (see Acts 20:27), then avoid the NRSVue.  From time to time I protest inaccuracies in the 1611 KJV that are echoes of inaccuracies in the KJV’s New Testament base-text (the Textus Receptus).  But it is no exaggeration to say that all of them put together are not as deceptive as this mistranslation in I Cor. 6:9 in the NRSVue.