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.   



Richard Fellows said...

In my CBQ article (2022) I point out that Sinaiticus has Priscus instead of Crispus at 1 Cor 1:14, and that “An Exposition of the Chapters of the Acts of the Apostles,” attributed to Pamphilius, also has Priscus instead of Crispus. Perhaps you can build on this observation.

Demian said...

The 3-column feature is a point of similarity but still one would have to explain what are the false additions that Lucian introduced in the gospels that cannot be found in the "versions of scripture which already exist in the language of many nations". Jerome seems to be referring here to something major, additions that any church father in the West, the East or in Alexandria would have easily recognized as spurious and not just about textual variants between the Byzantine and the Alexandrian manuscripts. On the one hand, certainly Lucian did not create byzantine readings that are confirmed by the antenicene fathers before him or by Jerome himself who could tell what were those additions and would not have included them in the vulgate or in his commentary on Matthew. The whole Lucian recension theory by Hort falls apart right here. On the other hand, if one could find those unique additions in codex Vaticanus that cannot be found in any other version, then the theory could begin to have some plausibility.

James Snapp Jr said...

Let's look at Jerome's three brief comments that mention Lucian (I'm drawing from Metzger for this info):
(1) ""manuscripts which are associated with the names of Lucian and Hesychius, the authority of which is perversely maintained by a few disputatious persons."

(2) "It is obvious that these writers could not emend anything in the Old Testament after the labors of the Seventy; and it was useless to correct the New, for versions of Scripture already exist in the languages of many nations which show that their additions are false."

(3) (from his Preface to Chronicles] "Alexandria and Egypt in their [copies of the] Septuagint praise Hesychius as author; Constantinople to Antioch approves the copies [containing the text] of Lucian the martyr; the middle provinces between these read the
Palestinian codices edited by Origen, which Eusebius and Pamphilus published."

In this third comment Jerome is referring to OT [LXX] MSS, not necessarily NT MSS or Gospels MSS.

For my thoughts on Hort's "Lucianic Recension" theory, see (Lecture 12).

Metzger presents another comment of Jerome which mentions Lucian:
"You must know that there is one edition which Origen and Eusebius of Caesarea and all the
Greek commentators call Koine, that is common and widespread, and is by most people now called Lucianic; and there is another, that of the Septuagint, which is found in the manuscripts of the Hexapla, and has been faithfully translated by us into Latin."
Again this pertains to texts which had the LXX's parameters, and not necessarily anything else.

Demian said...

Awesome! Looking at all those quotes together, it seems to me that Jerome is taking issue with what people wrote claiming the authority and the pen of Lucian and not with Lucian himself.