Saturday, September 24, 2022

Hand to Hand Combat: GA 1691 vs. Sinaiticus in Matthew 7:26-8:5

          Earlier this month, we looked at a page in GA 1691 that contained most of Matthew 7:26-8:5.  GA 1691 is one of many manuscripts featured at the CSNTM website.  More than one reader of that post had a question:  is GA 1691 really more accurate than Codex Sinaiticus?  Today we shall investigate this question, as far as Matthew 7:26-8:5 is concerned, via a quick round of hand-to-hand combat – that is, a comparison of the text of both manuscripts.  The standard of comparison shall be the Nestle-Aland NTG (28th edition), although the Solid Rock Greek New Testament (third edition) will also be consulted.  The passage in which both manuscripts will be compared is Matthew 7:26-8:5, the same passage featured in the previous post (slightly expanded to include the entirety of the verses on the page of 1691).  

          As usual, the comparison is scored as follows:  every extra letter earns the manuscript a point, and every missing letter earns the manuscript a point.  Word-order differences that do not change the meaning and which do not result in any loss of text do not receive a score.  Contractions of nomina sacra (sacred names) and other contractions are not counted as variants.  The number of points = the total amount of corruptions, so the lower score wins.

GA 1691 compared to NA28:

26 – 1691 transposes to τὴν οἰκίαν αὐτοῦ instead of αὐτοῦ τὴν οἰκίαν

27 – no variants

28 – 1691 has συνετέλεσεν instead of ετέλεσεν (+3)

29 – 1691 does not have αυτων at the end of the verse (-5)

1 – 1691 has Καταβαντι δε αυτω instead of Καταβαντος δε αυτου (+2, -4)

2 – 1691 has ελθων instead of προσελθων (-4)

3 – 1691 has ο Ις after αυτου (+7, uncontracting the n.s.)

4 – 1691 has εκαθερισθη instead of εκαθαρισθη (+1, -1)

4 – 1691 has προσενεγκε instead of προσενεγκον (+1, -2)

5 – 1691 has Εισελθοντι instead of Εισελθοντος (+1, -2)

5 – 1691 has αυτω instead of αυτου (+1, -2)

5 – 1691 has Καπερναουμ instead of Καφαρναουμ (+2, -2)

Thus, using NA28 as the standard of comparison, GA 1691 has 17 non-original letters and is missing 20 original letters, for a total of 37 letters’ worth of corruption.

          Now let’s see how the scribe who copied the Gospels in Codex Sinaiticus did in Matthew 7:26-8:5, compared to NA28.

À compared to NA28:

(from Codex Sinaiticus)

26 – no variants

27 – À has ελθαν instead of ελθον (+1, -1)

27 – À does not have καὶ ἔπνευσαν οἱ ἄνεμοι (-19)

27 – À has εκινη instead of εκεινη (-1)

28 – À has ἐξεπλήττοντο instead of ἐξεπλήσσοντο (+2, -2)

28 – À transposes to επι τη διδαχη αυτου οι οχλοι instead of οι οχλοι επι τη διδαχη αυτου

1 – À has Καταβαντι δε αυτω instead of Καταβαντος δε αυτου (+2, -4) (A corrector has erased the ω but it is noted in the trnscription)

2 – no variants

3 – À has εκτινες instead of εκτεινες (-1)

3 – À has αυτου after χειρα (+5)

3 – À does not have ευθεως (-6)

4 – À has ειπεν instead of λέγει (+5, -5)

4 – À has αλλα instead of αλλ՚ (+1)

4 – À has διξον instead of δειξον (-1)

4 – À has προσενεγκε instead of προσενεγκον (+1, -2)

5 – À has εκατοναρχης instead of εκατοναρχος (+1, -1)

            Thus, the text of Codex Sinaiticus, uncorrected, has 18 non-original letters and is missing 42 original letters, for a total of 60 letters’ worth of corruption in Matthew 7:26-8:5.  Even if we remove from the equation all the minor (and not-so-minor) orthographic variants in 7:27, 8:3, 8:4, and 8:5, that still leaves 44 letters’ worth of corruption. 

            Want to see how both manuscripts compare to the Solid Rock Greek New Testament?  Well, GA 1691 reads exactly like the Solid Rock Greek New Testament (third edition) throughout Matthew 7:26-8:5 except for two little orthographic variants in Matthew 8:4 (where 1691 has εκαθερισθη instead of εκαθαρισθη, and Μωϋσης instead of Μωσης).  There is no need, considering the variants in À noted above, to ask which manuscript agrees more with the Solid Rock GNT.   

            GA 1691 is the clear winner of this round of hand-to-hand combat.  

            Side-note:  an Alexandrian reading in NA28 in 8:1 (προσελθων instead of the Byzantine ελθων) is questionable.  ελθων is supported not only by the Byzantine text but also by C K L S U V W X  Γ Π 33.  Scholz and Griesbach and Knapp (1797)  read ελθων.  The προς in the immediately preceding λεπρος may have been accidentally repeated. 

Monday, September 12, 2022

Happy 20th Birthday, CSNTM!

            On September 13, the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts will celebrate its 20th year.  In honor of this occasion, let’s look at one of the manuscripts that CSNTM has brought to the public eye:  GA 1691, a Gospels-manuscript from the 1000s which resides in Athens, Greece, at the National Library of Greece.  Page-views of GA 1691 were digitized by CSNTM personnel (as reported here) and can be viewed at the CSNTM website.  The entire manuscript is indexed, making it possible for viewers to search its pages for specific passages.  

            Let’s look at a single page of GA 1691 and see what it tells us about its text and how it was used.  On the page containing Matthew 7:26b-8:5a, the following features can be seen:

(1)  Written across the top of the page is the chapter-number and chapter-title of a chapter that begins on this page:   Seven – ζ:  pe[ri] tou ekatontarch[ou] –  About the centurion (who had someone who was sick) –

(2)    A lectionary-related note, identifying the reading for the Fourth Sunday [after Pentecost].

(3)    The lection’s incipit-phrase (At that time there came to Jesus . . . ).  This is how the lector (the person who read the Scripture-passages in church-services) would begin the reading.

(4)  The chapter-number (6, represented by ϛ) and title “About the Leper” (abbreviated)

(5)  A Eusebian Section-number (63)

(6)  The chapter-number (6)

(7)  in light blue ovals:  the quick way to write “και” (“and”)

(8)  in a yellow circle:  a sacred name contraction for “Lord” (Κυριε)

(9)  in a green circle:  a τελος (telos) symbol, indicating the end of a lection

(10)  in purple cornerless rectangles:  An initial 

(11)  A sacred name contraction for “Jesus” (Iησους) 

(12) An αρχη (archē) symbol, indicating the beginning of a lection

(13) A τελος (telos) symbol, indicating the end of a lection

(14)  A Eusebian section-number (64)

And in red rectangles:  textual variants, all of which agree with the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform.

             Some may call GA 1691’s text ordinary – it is one of hundreds of representatives of the dominant Greek Gospels-text used in the Middle Ages.  But those who might yawn at 1691 should take note:  the text you see on this page is much more accurate than the text of the same passage in the ancient Codex Sinaiticus, regardless of whether one uses the Nestle-Aland NTG or the Solid Rock GNT as the basis of comparison.

            In commemoration of its 20th birthday, CSNTM has a special offer for those who join its Circle of Friends (more information about that here):  new registrants will receive free copies of the book Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism, signed by co-editor (and CSNTM research fellow) Elijah Hixson.



Friday, September 9, 2022

How We Got the New Testament (in 22 minutes)

           A new video that I've prepared is at YouTube:  How We Got the New Testament.  It's  a slide-show presentation that covers the basics of the history of the transmission of the books of the New Testament from their initial distribution to the present day.  Viewers are introduced to papyrus copies, parchment copies, majuscule (uncial) script, and minuscule script.  They are also informed of a few developments the New Testament went through in the Middle Ages.   

          Pages of Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Bezae. and Codex Cyprius are shown, and early versions are also featured, such as the Vulgate and the Peshitta.   Viewers are then informed of a few developments the New Testament text went through in the Middle Ages, such as the recycling of parchment, and illumination.

Tyndale at the stake
         When a person asks, "How did we get the New Testament?" the identity of the "we" affects the answer.  After all, some people-groups still don't have the New Testament in their native language.  After the first nine minutes, the focus is on how the English-speaking church got the New Testament.  Viewers are briefly introduced to Lorenzo Valla, Desiderius Erasmus, William Tyndale, and other individuals from the Renaissance and Reformation era.   Early English versions are described, up to and including the King James Version, before the era of modern textual criticism is covered:  the contributions of Bengel, Griesbach, Scholz, Tregelles, Tischendorf, and Westcott and Hort are briefly described.

          The last five minutes focus on the spread of the New Testament in what is (for better or worse) English as it is spoken today. and developments subsequent to Westcott and Hort (such as the papyrus discoveries at Oxyrhynchus.  

        How We Got the New Testament is suitable for church-viewing and Bible-study groups.  


Thursday, August 25, 2022

Tatian and Mark 16:9-20

           Recently the website of the Text & Canon Institute featured a case for Mark 16:9-20, by me, and a case against Mark 16:9-20, by Dr. Peter Head.   My attention in this post is focused on Dr. Head’s reluctance to admit that Tatian knew Mark 16:9-20 and used material from Mark 16:9-20 in the Diatessaron.

          Dr. Head wrote about coming to  more cautious conclusions about Tatian’s Diatessaron” because “Snapp’s evidence for this second-century harmony actually comes from a sixth-century Latin manuscript and a fourth-century Syriac commentary.”  The sixth-century Latin manuscript to which he referred is Codex Fuldensis.  The fourth-century Syriac commentary to which he referred is the commentary by Ephrem Syrus (d. 373). 

          Before looking into Ephrem’s commentary and Codex Fuldensis further, two things should be pointed out. 

          (1) Dr. Head’s own footnote for the above quotation runs as follows:   “Within this Syriac commentary, the only evidence for the Longer Ending of Mark comes in the form of Jesus’ commission:  ‘Go forth into the whole world, and baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Spirit.”  This admittedly, does seem like a conflation of Mark 16:15 and Matt 28:19.  But that is the only direct evidence.  Quoted from C. McCarthy, Saint Ephrem’s Commentary on Tatian’s Diatessaron: An English Translation of Chester Beatty Syriac MS 709 with Introduction and Notes (JSSS 2; Oxford: OUP, 1993), 289.”  Notice the line, “This admittedly, does seem like a conflation of Mark 16:15 and Matt 28:19.”  What else does Dr. Head imagine that it could be?         

          (2) Contrary to Dr. Head’s footnote, the passage on page 289 of McCarthy’s book is notthe only direct evidence.”  On page 145, near the beginning of Part VIII of Ephrem’s commentary as preserved in Chester Beatty Syriac MS 709 (made in 480-500; see pp. 138-139 of Michelle Brown’s In the Beginning:  Bibles Before the Year 1000 for a picture), McCarthy provides the part of the commentary in which Ephrem’s main focus is on the occasion of the sending of the disciples (in Matthew 10 and Luke 10).  After noting that on this occasion, Jesus “restrained his disciples, lest they preach to the Gentiles,” Ephrem wrote,  “After they had crucified him, he commanded his disciples, ‘Go out into the whole world and proclaim my Gospel to the whole of creation, and baptize all the Gentiles.” (Comm. VIII  §1b in McCarthy 1993).  This was indexed as a reference to Matthew 29:19, but it is clearly based on Mark 16:15. McCarthy notes that §1b “is absent from the Armenian version.

         Now let’s review some developments in the study of the Diatessaron.  In 1880, in Institute Lectures, Ezra Abbot speculated that the Armenian version of Ephrem’s commentary was “made, it is supposed, in the fifth century” (Institute Lectures p. 173).  (The Armenian manuscripts themselves were from 1195.)  A Latin translation of the Armenian text that had been prepared by J. P. Aucher (using one Armenian manuscript) and edited by George Moesinger (using another Armenian manuscript) was published in 1876, and, Abbot reported, it went “almost unnoticed by scholars.”  

James Rendel Harris 
          J. Rendel Harris, in The Diatessaron of Tatian:  A Preliminary Study, (1890) offered a few more details about this Armenian text of Ephrem’s commentary, beginning on page 22, pointing out that Paul de Lagarde was an exception to Abbot’s generalization.   Harris then described the 1881 work of Theodor Zahn, in Forschungen zur Geschichte des Neutestamentlichen Kanons, Theil. 1, “Tatian’s Diatessaron, as “a skillful combination of this work of Ephrem with the earlier Syriac writers” that provides the means to “very nearly judge without the Arabic Harmony, what sequence Tatian followed, what passages he omitted, and what additions his text shews when compared with later texts.”

          Zahn’s work was eclipsed in 1888 by the publication of Tatiani Evangeliorum Harmoniae Arabice by Agostino Ciasca, in which Ciasca presented the Arabic text of the Diatessaron as found in two manuscripts, from the 1100s and 1300s.   Harris reported (on page 8) that in the manuscript from the 1300s, a colophon states that it was translated from Syriac into Arabic by Abu-l-Faraj Abdullah Ben-at-tîb, and that its Syriac basis had been made by ʻIsa ben Ali Almottabbeb, a disciple of Abu Zaid Honain ben Ishaq.

          Harris went on to say that Abu Zaid Honain ben Ishaq was “a famous Syrian physician and writer in medicine, who died in the year 873, and whose headquarters were at Bagdad.”  He also mentions that Bar-hebraeus, a later writer, gives the date of the death of Abdulfarag as A.D. 1043.

          Harris wrote, “The Diatessaron had seen 700 years of Syriac life before its translation into Arabic; and we can readily infer that the Syriac at the time of translation must have been in many points altered from its original cast.  Still, the comparison with the collateral evidence is sufficient to justify us in our belief that we have here substantially the work of Tatian.”

          Mark 16:9-20 is plainly incorporated into the text of the Arabic Diatessaron that was published by Ciasca.  We should ask, then, (1) Is the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20 in the Arabic Diatessaron a result of an expansion based on the Peshitta (the Syriac text), and (2) Is the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20 in Codex Fuldensis a result of an expansion based on the Vulgate?” 

          To find the answer to this question, we must compare the arrangement of Mark 16:9-20 in the Arabic (Syriac-based) Diatessaron (an Eastern witness) and the arrangement of Mark 16:9-20 in Codex Fuldensis (a Western witness).    

          I should first briefly introduce Codex Fuldensis.  This manuscript was produced in 541-546, under the supervision of bishop Victor of Capua (in Italy).  The Gospels-text in Codex Fuldensis is a Vulgate text, but Victor reported that its arrangement in Codex Fuldensis was based on the arrangement of an older Latin text which Victor suspected of being a translation of Tatian’s Diatessaron.  It is described a little more by J. M. Harden in Some Manuscripts of the Vulgate New Testament.  

          By comparing the arrangement of the material from Mark 16:9–20 in the Arabic Diatessaron, and the arrangement of the material from Mark 16:9–20 and Codex Fuldensis, we can discern whether their arrangements can be reasonably attributed to two independent harmonists, or if they are so similar as to demand to be recognized as a trait derived from Tatian’s Diatessaron.

          Using, for convenience, J. Hamlyn Hill’s 1894 English translation of the Arabic Diatessaron and the presentation of the Latin text of Codex Fuldensis made by Ernestus Ranke (1868), a comparison can be made of eleven aspects of their arrangements of Mark 16:9–20. (“Arab D” represents the Arabic Diatessaron, and “Fuld” represents Codex Fuldensis.)

1►    Arab D 53 has Mk 16:9 after Jn 20:2–17.

1►    Fuld 174 has part of Mk 16:9 between Jn 20:2–10 and 20:11–17.


2►    Arab D 53 uses Mk 16:10 after Lk 24:9.

2►    Fuld 176 uses Mk 16:10 after Lk 24:9.


3►    Arab D 53 uses Mk 16:11 between Lk 24:10 and 24:11.

3►    Fuld 176 uses Mk 16:11 between Lk 24:9 and 24:11.


4►    Arab D 53 uses Mk 16:12 between Lk 24:11 and 24:13.

4►    Fuld 177 uses Mk 16:12 between Lk 24:11 and 24:13.


5►    Arab D 53 uses Mk 16:13b between Lk 24:13b–35 and part of Lk 24:36.

5►    Fuld 178 uses Mk 16:13b between Lk 24:13–35 and part of Lk 24:36.


6►    Arab D 55 uses Mk 16:14 between Mt 28:17 and 28:18.

6►    Fuld 182 uses Mk 16:14 between Mt 28:17 and 28:18.


7►    Arab D 55 uses Mk 16:15 between Mt 28:18 and Mt 28:19.

7►    Fuld 182 uses Mk 16:15 between Mt 28:18 and 28:19.

          (The Arabic text also includes “For even as my Father sent me, so I also send you,” which is normally found in Jn 20:21 but is also in the Peshitta in Mt 28:18.  The Syriac text translated into Arabic was probably conformed to the Peshitta to this extent.)

8►    Arab D uses Mk 16:16–18 between Mt 28:20 and Lk 24:49.

8►    Fuld 182 uses Mk 16:16–18 between Mt 28:20 and Lk 24:49.


9►    Arab D blends “And our Lord Jesus,” from Mk 16:19 with Lk 24:50.

9►    Fuld 182 does not.


10►  Arab D uses “and sat down at the right hand of God” (from Mk 16:19) between Lk 24:51 and 24:52.

10►  Fuld 182 uses “and sat down at the right hand of God” (from Mk 16:19) between Lk 24:51 and 24:52.


11►  Arab D uses Mk 16:20 between Lk 24:53 and Jn 21:25.

11►  Fuld 182 uses Mk 16:20 after Lk 24:53 and ends there with “Amen.” (In Codex Fuldensis, Jn 21:25 appears at the end of 181.)

           So:  there are small differences, but the arrangement of the contents of Mark 16:9–20 in Codex Fuldensis, and the arrangement of the contents of Mark 16:9–20 in the Arabic Diatessaron, are essentially the same. (By the way, this evidence was presented by me in 2012 in The Heroic Age.)

          The agreement between Codex Fuldensis and the Arabic Diatessaron, as evidence that Tatian’s Diatessaron included Mark 16:9-20, has  corroborative witnesses besides Ephrem’s commentary.  One of them is Aphrahat, a Syriac writer who used the Diatessaron.  According to Harris, Aphrahat’s “first 22 homilies are based upon the text of the Diatessaron.”  Harris says that these homilies “were written about the year 336 A.D., and a supplementary 23rd homily was added in the year 345.”

           In Aphrahat’s first homily, also called “Demonstration One:  Of Faith,” he wrote in chapter 17, “When our Lord gave the sacrament of baptism to his apostles, he said thus to them: Whosoever believes and is baptized shall live, and whosoever believes not shall be condemned,” and, “Again he said thus: ‘This shall be the sign for those that believe; they shall speak with new tongues and shall cast out demons, and they shall lay their hands on the sick and they shall be made whole’” (See John Gwynn’s 1898 Selections, Translated into English, from the Hymns and Homilies of Ephrem, and from the Demonstrations of Aphrahat the Persian Sage, on page 351).

          (Aphrahat’s Demonstration One was misidentified in the textual apparatus of the UBS Greek New Testament (1966) as a work of Jacob of Nisibis, even though John Burgon had corrected such misidentification in 1871 on page 258 of The Last Twelve Verses of Mark.)

          In conclusion:  there is no real justification for Dr. Head’s caution, and there should be no doubt at all that Mark 16:9-20 was in Tatian’s Diatessaron.


Saturday, August 20, 2022

Distigmai (Umlauts) - Solving the Mystery

           In 1995, the existence of “umlauts” (the symbol ¨) in the margin of Codex Vaticanus was discovered by Philip Payne.  In 2009 the “¨” symbol was renamed “distigme” (so, one distigme, two distigmai).   Payne’s initial analysis of the distigmai and their locations showed that whoever put these previously unnoticed symbols ito Vaticanus’ margin had done so with the intention of  denoting textual variants in the lines of text that they accompany in the manuscript.  

          The date at which the distigmai were added to the margin of Vaticanus has been a question.   Payne has insisted that some of the umlauts are as old as the initial production of Vaticanus in the 300s.  Others – especially Curt Niccum and Peter Head – have argued instead that they are much later – originating with Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda (1494-1573), who mentioned in a letter to Erasmus that he had noted 365 readings in Codex Vaticanus.  Unfortunately we have almost no way of knowing what 365 readings these were.  (More on that shortly.)

          Peter Head’s case for the distigmai originating with Sepulveda is presented in two parts at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog in 2009 – Part One and Part Two.  Payne has defended his view in a series of verbose essays available at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog – Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, and Part Five. 

          One tell-tale sign that the distigmai – at least, some of the distigmai – were added centuries after the production of the manuscript is the existence of distigmai in the margin of Vaticanus’ supplemental pages (on which the text is written in minuscule).  A distigme can be observed, for example, in the leftmost margin of the first  supplemental page of Vaticanus in Hebrews, alongside line 12; another distigme appears alongside the second column alongside line 12; three horizontal dots also appear alongside Hebrews 11:11.  Of course the possibility cannot be ruled out that whoever made the supplemental pages for Hebrews in Vaticanus preserved the text, and the distigmai, from the now-non-extant pages of Vaticanus after they had suffered damage.  But this would require a scenario in which Codex Vaticanus’ original pages containing Hebrews 9:14-13:35 were intact up to the time when these minuscule pages were produced in the 1400s.   

          Distigmai, or symbols similar to distigmai, have also been found in Latin manuscripts.  Examples of the use of triple-dots and/or double-dots in manuscripts’ margins can be seen here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and elsewhere.  Distigmai-use may thus be more likely to be an arrow in the quiver, so to speak, of someone familiar with a Latin transmission-line – such as the Vulgate’s transmission-line – than of a scribe producing Codex Vaticanus in the 300s. 

          Now let’s look into exactly what Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda wrote about Vaticanus in 1533.  His letter to Erasmus is near the beginning of this book at Hathi Trust – also at Google Books – in Book 1 (Liber 1), Epistola IIII.  The relevant portion, beginning on page-view 30,  (beginning with Est enim Greecum exemplar antiquissimum) may be roughly translated as follows:

Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda  

          ”There is a very ancient Greek copy in the Vatican Library, in which both Testaments are written very carefully and accurately in majuscule letters, which is very different from the ordinary copies.  For after being informed by Stunica, I was anxious to look into the matter, and to compare  the books.  Now this copy is the most correct of all, as attested by its antiquity and by the diligence of the scribe, and by the fact that it agrees so much with our old translation. 

          “Regarding the latter, there can be no doubt that it was based on a very correct exemplar, and handed down to us by our elders.   Since therefore the other books should be emended and conformed to this copy, to make a standard [edition], you may see for yourself what should be done.  You should consider it demonstrated that when the common Greek edition differs from our old translation, it differs in ways which often match this copy in the Vatican also.  To show this, we have noted three hundred and sixty-five places of variation in the text.”

          This is, at least, the form in which Sepulveda’s letter (from 1533) was printed (in 1557).  But there was at least one individual intervening in the preparation of the 1557 book:  Francisco de Ledesma.  I think it is worth considering the possibility that Sepulveda, instead of writing about “three hundred and sixty-five” places in the text of Vaticanus that he informed Erasmus about - CCCLXV written in Roman numerals – wrote instead about seven hundred and sixty-five places - DCCLXV written in Roman numerals.  In which case, the number of readings which Sepulveda examined to see if Erasmus’ compilation or the Vulgate agreed with Codex Vaticanus would be approximately the same as the number of distigmai in the manuscript. 

          (An exact tally of distigmai in Codex Vaticanus is more difficult to make than one might think, because some symbols who may appear to be distigmai are imprints from the wet ink of a distigmai on the opposite page, and sometimes in the margin of the manuscript there are pairs of dots that might be merely the effects of accidental contact of a scribe’s pen to the parchment.  But 765 seems like a good estimate – as Philip Payne wrote, “Throughout the margins of the Vaticanus NT are approximately 765 pairs of dots resembling a dieresis or umlaut” in his “The Originality of Text-Critical Symbols in Codex Vaticanus.  Wieland Willker offers a "master list' of 801 distigmai here and a list of 48 imprints here.)

          Earlier I mentioned that we have almost no way of knowing what readings Sepulveda listed for Erasmus.  Almost.  But Scrivener reported (in Plain Introduction, ed. 4, p. 105 – the page-number varies in other editions) that Erasmus, in his 1535 Annotationes to Acts, cited the reading καδα in Acts 27:16 as supported by a manuscript in the Pontifical Library – and Codex Vaticanus (along with a corrector of Sinaiticus, a manuscript which was unknown to Erasmus) is the only Greek manuscript in which this reading is attested. 

Acts 27:16 in Vaticanus (replica)
(notice that the upsilon in hupodramontes
is not reinforced)
          Turning to Acts 27:16 in Codex Vaticanus, we observe that in the very last line of the third column, “ΚΑΥΔΑ” appears in the text, and a distigme is in the left margin alongside it.  This is strong evidence that here in Acts 27:16 we are looking at one of the readings that Sepulveda noted in the early 1500s – and since that is the case, we are probably looking at the means by which he signalled the differences between Codex Vaticanus and Erasmus’ manuscripts:  with a distigme.  [Update (Aug. 25):  Andrew Brown reports in a comment at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog about three other readings mentioned in Erasmus' 1535 Annotationes, at Mark 1:2, Luke 10:1, and Luke 23:46 - each of which is accompanied by a distigmai in Codex Vaticanus.]

          Additional evidence that the distigmai were added by Sepulveda in the 1500s (and not by a scribe in the 300s) may be found when we look at two distigmai specifically:  first, at the end of the Gospel of John in Codex Vaticanus, alongside the blank space that follows the end of John 21, there is a distigme in the left margin (appromimately 20 lines below the closing-title for the Gospel of John).   This makes sense as an indicator of the story of the adulteress in MS 1 (a manuscript which Erasmus used), in which the passage known to modern-day readers as John 7:53-8:11 has been transplanted to this location) but I cannot imagine why anyone in the 300s would put a distigme here. 

          Second, in First John 5:7 in Vaticanus, a three-horizontal-dot symbol – that is, a distigme with an extra dot – accompanies First John 5:7, one line above the line where the Comma Johanneum appeared in Erasmus’ text (but does not appear in the text of any Greek manuscripts until the late Middle Ages – specifically, in Greek manuscripts influenced by the Latin text of First John, where the reading originated).  (This appears in the middle column of the page, on the sixth line from the bottom.) Sepulveda would have been aware of this reading, due to Erasmus’ inclusion of it in his third edition (1522) of the Greek New Testament.  But it is extremely unlikely that a scribe of Vaticanus in the 300s would be aware of this variant.

          Also – as Head mentioned in 2009 – near the beginning of the book of Hebrews (on a page I examined here in 2017), a distigme appears to the right of the middle column.  It seems that this location was chosen for the distigme because the usual location (to the left side of the middle column) was already occupied by a scribal note – which means that this distigme cannot be earlier than that note.

          This should impact the claims of some writers (Dan Wallace, Mike Winger) who have apparently assumed that the distigmai are early components of Codex Vaticanus.   It may also impel a reassignment of the dating of the reinforcement of the lettering in Codex Vaticanus (no small project!) to a period contemporary with Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda.  (See four lines of unreinforced writing in the middle column of page 1483.)



Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Production-Dates: How Do We Get Them?

           Sometimes when first-time observers read about the production-dates of New Testament manuscripts, one of the first things they notice is that most of the dates are not very precise.  Several factors contribute to establishing the approximate production-date of a manuscript.  Let’s look at some of them today:   colophons, script, content, material, special factors, and radiocarbon dating.

          COLOPHONS.  Notes written by a scribe, or scribes, involved in the production of the manuscript – sometimes state when the manuscript was made.  Such notes, or colophons, immediately simplify the task of assigning a production-date.  Medieval scribes who wrote colophons with dates typically used calendars in which the first year of the earth was 5509.  Sometimes the production-date was given in terms of the reign of a particular Byzantine Emperor.  Robert Waltz has provided a detailed explanation of how production-dates mentioned in colophons should be interpreted.  Rarely, dates are given in terms of the number of years A.D. (Anno Domini, “the year of the Lord”).  

          SCRIPT.  Usually, there is no colophon, so analysts attempting to determine a manuscript’s production-date must resort to a study of the handwriting displayed in the manuscript.  This involves the field of paleography (or “palæography”), the study of ancient writing.   The method of Greek handwriting changed over time – from the majuscule, or uncial, lettering of the early copies (and formal and informal variations), to the minuscule lettering of later copies (with variations such as Perlschrift, Bouletée, and “Ace of Spades” minuscule).

Bernard de Montfaucon
The first systematic study of Greek palaeography was made by Bernard de Montfaucon, a Benedictine monk, in 1708.   Almost instantly, paleography grew into a scientific field of study.  In 1912, Edward Maunde Thompson published An Introduction to Greek and Latin Palaeography, a book which remains useful today.  American scholar Bruce Metzger focused on Biblical writings in his 1981 book
Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: An Introduction to Palaeography.  Recently, Timothy Janz has written Greek Paleography From Antiquity to the Renaissance, which is available to read at the Vatican Library’s website.   With just a few hours of effort, readers of Janz’s introduction can gain plenty of information about palaeography (and view the specific scripts in manuscripts at the Vatican Library).

      Manuscripts’ production-dates assigned on the basis of paleography tend to have an unavoidable range of about 100 years, because we have no way of knowing whether an anonymous scribe was just beginning his (or her) career – in which, hopefully, he would continue for 50 years – or whether his career was approaching its end.  If a scribe continued using the script he possessed when he first learned to write, then that script could endure throughout his whole career.  (Theoretically a scribe could adjust his own handwriting over time, but there is not much to go on to suggest that such a thing was normal.)        

          CONTENT.  A manuscript cannot, of course, be written before the events that are recorded in the manuscript.  Some New Testament manuscripts – more than you might expect – mention  historical events (especially in lectionary-calendars accompanying the Biblical text) that provide a solid basis for discerning the limits of when a manuscript was made.  For example, if a lectionary calendar mentions the feast-day for Cosmas the Hymnographer, bishop of Maiuma, and Andrew of Crete, it must have been produced after the mid-700s.  If a lectionary-calendar mentions Lazarus the Wonder-worker, its production-date must be later than the period when Lazarus the Wonder-worker was active in the 900s.

          (The Latin term for the earliest possible production-date is the terminus a quo.   The Latin term for the latest possible production-date is the terminus ad quem.)

          MATERIAL.  All New Testament manuscripts are made of papyrus or parchment or paper.  (There is a small class of witnesses, which used to be represented by the letter “T” in a Fraktur-style font, which can include other material such as very small manuscripts, amulets, and inscriptions.)  Characteristics of these materials can influence the dating of a manuscript – especially when the paper features a watermark, which can narrow down not only the production-date of a manuscript but also its provenance (where it comes from).

          SPECIAL FACTORS.  Sometimes the provenance of a manuscript helps define the limits of its production-date.  For example, the manuscript known as GA 0212 (which technically should not be in the list of continuous-text New Testament manuscripts, because it is not a continuous-text New Testament manuscript) was found in the ruins of Dura-Europos, a place which was beseiged and destroyed by a Roman army in 257.  Thus 0212’s terminus ad quem cannot be later than 257.

          Even after taking all of the above into consideration, specialists sometimes get production-dates wrong.  One example is found in the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, where the editors assigned GA 2427 a production-date of “XIV?” (p. 711), and ranked it as a “consistently cited witness of the first order” in Mark (See the Nestle-Aland Introduction, p. 47* and p. 58*).  GA 2427 is indeed cited very frequently throughout Mark in NA27’s textual apparatus. 

          But in NA28, GA 2427 is gone.  In 2006, Wieland Willker already described 2427 as a fake, and, as Willker reported, Stephen Carlson demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that 2427 is a forgery, based primarily on Philip Buttmann’s 1860 Greek New Testament (as he explains in an article at the SBL Forum Archive).  Tommy Wasserman gives additional details about the exposure of 2427 in a 2009 post at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog.  Margaret Mitchell of the University of Chicago (now retired) gave a lecture in 2012 which will leave viewers with no reason to imagine that GA 2427 was made no earlier than 1860.             

          So, experts can be fooled, at least temporarily, by well-made forgeries – even with careful consideration of colophons, script, material, and special factors.  Which brings us to the last resort:
          RADIOCARBON ANALYSIS.   A small amount of parchment that undergoes carbon-14 tests can yield an approximate production-date for the material.  (The date when the material was used may be later.)  This is usually not done (because the carbon-14 tests involve the destruction of the things they test).  But sometimes it is.  For instance the Ethiopian Garima Gospels, initially assigned a production-date in the 1000s, was suspected by Jacques Mercier of being much earlier.  Mercier submitted small sample fragments of the manuscript to radiocarbon tests, which gave one fragment a date of  330-540, and another fragment a date of 430-650 (as reported in 2011 in the journal of Kenyon College).  And just like that, the Garima Gospels went from being a minor witness to the Ethiopic Version to being confirmed as a contender (with the Rabbula Gospels of 586) to be the oldest illustrated manuscript of the Gospels.  Perhaps what is presently a last resort should in the future be the first resort, where parchment is involved, and when the requisite amount of material can be spared, and the cost of radiocarbon analysis is not prohibitive.  Rare is the parchment New Testament manuscript that does not have a blank border that could be removed without appreciable loss.


Friday, July 29, 2022

First Corinthians 10:9 - "the Lord" or "Christ"?

             Leaving the Gospels momentarily, today we explore a textual variant in the Pauline Epistles:  in First Corinthians 10:9, did the text originally say “Nor let us tempt Christ” (Χριστόν) or “Nor let us tempt the Lord” (Κύριον) or “Nor let us tempt God” (Θεόν)?  All three readings are nomina sacra (sacred names, usually written in contracted form), and thus, with the nomina sacra in play, amount to the difference between ΧΝ, ΚΝ, and ΘΝ.

Erasmus' text of I Cor. 10:9 (1522)
            The treatment of this variant by editors, publishers and printers of the (mainly) Byzantine Text has been consistent:  Erasmus (all editions), Gerbel (1521), Stephanus (1550), Melchoir Sessa (Venice) 1538, John Fell (1675), Bengel (1734), and Scholz (1836) all have favored “Χριστόν”; Griesbach also had Χριστόν in the text.  Χριστόν is read in Hodges & Farstad’s Majority Text (1982), and in the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform (2005), and in the Solid Rock Greek New Testament. 

            English Bibles in use today with “Christ” in First Corinthians 10:9 include the KJV, NKJV, EOB (Eastern Orthodox Bible), WEB, EHV, and also the CSB, ESV, NET, NIV 2011, NLT, NCV (New Century Version), and NRSV.

I Cor. 10:9 (Nicolaus Gerbel, 1521)
            Κύριον was consistently adopted by most editors of the critical text, other than Griesbach, until about 1970:  “Lord” was the reading adopted by Lachmann (1831), Buttmann (1862), Tregelles (1869), Tischendorf (8th edition, 1872), Westcott & Hort (1881), Eberhard Nestle (1904), Alexander Souter (1920), and the Nestle-Aland compilation up to and including the 25th edition.  The first and second editions of the United Bible Society’s Greek New Testament also read Κύριον.      

I Cor. 10:9 (Fell, 1675)
            Consequently, “Lord” has appeared in First Corinthians 10:9 in several English Bibles of the past 150 years, including the Revised Version (1881), the American Standard Version (1901), the Revised Standard Version, the Living Bible, the New Life Version, the New American Standard Bible (1960 & 1995), the New International Version 1984, and the Tree of Life Version (2011).  Meanwhile, the Tyndale House GNT reads “κύριον” and the SBLGNT reads “Χριστόν.”

            Now let’s look at some text-critical data: 

Fell's footnote (1675)
             In 1982, in New Testament Textual Criticism:  Its Significance for Exegesis:  Essays in Honor of Bruce M. Metzger, a chapter by Carroll D. Osburn focused on this variant.  Osburn’s data is far more detailed than any other apparatus:  in support of Χριστόν, Osburn listed P46, D, E, F, G, K, L, Ψ 056 0142 0151 and 489 minuscules (including 1 6 18 35 69 88 131 205 209 323 330 424 440 451 489 517 547 614 618 629 630 796 910 945 999 1241 1242 1243 1245 1270 1315 1353 1424 1448 1505 1611 1646 1734 1738 1739 1827 1852 1854 1881 1891 1912 1982  1984 2125 2200 2400 2412 2492 2495), numerous Old Latin witnesses including itar, b, d, dem, e, f, g, o, x, z and the Vulgate, the Peshitta, the main text of the Harklean Syriac, the Sahidic version, and the Bohairic version.   

I Cor. 10:9 in Codex Sinaiticus     
           Κύριον, meanwhile, is supported by À B C P 0150 33 43 104 181 255vid 256 263 326 365 436 1175 2110 2127 2464 and 22 other minuscules, and the margin of the Harklean Syriac, the Armenian version and the Ethiopic version.

            Osburn’s thorough list extends to two other readings:

            Codex A, 2 81 1127 1595 and 14 other minuscules (and 2815 which Osburn did not list, but Swanson does) read Θεόν.

            Nothing appears between ἐκπειράζωμεν and καθως in 97 1729* 1985 and 2659.

             Settings aside Θεόν and the complete absence of any nomina sacra, Osburn focuses on the contest between Κύριον and Χριστόν.  Things get very interesting in the patristic evidence: 

            The earliest support for Χριστόν is Marcion (the arch-heretic from Pontus who worked for a while in Rome c. 140); Epiphanius, in the late 300s, claimed that Marcion changed the text from Κύριον to Χριστόν.  But, as Osburn argues, it is reasonable to understand Epiphanius’ claim as a presumption – i.e., that Epiphanius’ text read Κύριον and he assumed that Marcion had changed it – rather than as an observation.  Slightly later is Irenaeus (in Against Heresies, Book 4, ch. 27), and slightly later than Irenaeus are Clement of Alexandria, Origen (in a statement preserved in the margin of GA 1739), and Theotecnus (bishop of Caesarea-in-Palestine, and an associate of Origen), writing against Paul of Samosata for the Council of Antioch (268).  

            The bishops involved in the Council of Antioch in 268 also produced the Letter of Hymenaeus, of which Osburn provided a relevant extract, which implies that “neither Paul of Samosata nor his opponents were aware of a biblical text which read other than Χριστόν in v. 9.”  (Osburn mentioned in a footnote, however, that the text of the Letter of Hymenaeus printed by M.J. Routh in 1846, and by E.Schwartz in 1927, has Κύριον.) 

            Also in support of Χριστόν are Ambrosiaster, Ephraem Syrus, Pelagius, Augustine, Pseudo-Oecumenius, and Theophylact.  Chrysostom also cites I Cor. 10:9 with Χριστόν three times.

            Κύριον is supported by Epiphanius, Theodoret of Cyrrhus (in a substantial quotation in his commentary on the Pauline Epistles), Cassiodorus, John of Damascus, and Sedulius Scotus.  Chrysostom is cited as using κύριον once.  

           Now let’s analyze this evidence and reach a conclusion. 

I Cor. 10:9 in Tregelles' text.
            The case for κύριον is not lightweight:  agreements of À and B were considered practically decisive by Westcott & Hort, and their judgment held sway for over a century, though as early as 1899 Theodor Zahn, as Carroll noted, firmly opposed it.              

            Χριστόν has in its favor the support of very early and geographically diverse patristic witnesses.  The discovery of P46 with Χριστόν (written as ΧΡΝ - see BP II f.49 in the online Chester Beatty Papyrus Collection on the fourth line from the bottom) probably should have instantly elicited a change in the critical text here, inasmuch as with its discovery, Χριστόν scores high on multiple metrics:  it is the reading of the oldest manuscript; it is the reading of the most manuscripts (by far); it is the reading of the most diverse array of manuscripts; it is the reading favored by a strong combination of early patristic writers.  About the only counter-argument that favors Κύριον is the internal consideration that Paul would be unlikely to have written that the Hebrews in the wilderness tempted Christ – but as indicated in a note in the NET, Osburn built an effective cumulative argument that the case against Χριστόν driven by this internal evidence is weak.  I cannot think of any reason but haste, and perhaps over-reliance on the work of Tregelles (who had no access to P46) to elicit the Tyndale House GNT’s adoption of κύριον.  It was due to over-reliance upon À and B that κύριον was ever adopted in printed Greek New Testaments; hopefully the days of such over-reliance, repeatedly shown to be merely a disguised bias, are behind us. 

              Χριστόν merits confident inclusion in the text.