James goes on:
The Last Two Columns of Mark in Codex Sinaiticus"[James' diagram] shows the arrangement of the text in columns 9 and 10 of the four-page (16-column) cancel-sheet at the end of Mark in Sinaiticus. [here we have inserted below a good photo of this page with columns 9 - 12:]
|Folio 77 - 5 (recto): Mark ends & Luke begins|
James now jumps back to discuss the previous two pages, namely folio 77 -4 (recto/verso):
|77-4 recto: columns 1-4||77-4 verso: columns 5-8|
The text of Mark from 15:19 (which appears earlier in the cancel-sheet, at column 5, line 11) onward has been stretched so as to fill more space than it normally would. However, from column 4, line 1 to column 5, line 10, the text was written in a compressed script, with the result that column 4 contains 707 letters. If the copyist had continued to write compactly, the cancel-sheet would have had plenty of room for the Long Ending. (However, if the copyist had continued to write so as to average 635 letters per column, if he had tried to write the Long Ending he would have reached the end of column 10 with 206 letters to go. Thus it is practically certain that the original pages of the end of Mark in Sinaiticus did not contain the Long Ending.)
As you can see, column 9 [folio 77-5 recto at top] contains only 552 letters (significantly less than the typical amount of about 635). Columns 11-16 [including folio 77-5 verso below] (containing Luke 1:1-56) are all written in compressed script; in those six columns the average column contains 691 letters. This suggests that the cancel-sheet was made because the original pages featured an accidental omission of text in Luke 1.
|Folio 77-5 verso (back): columns 13-16|
That still does not explain why the text is compacted in column 4 and in the first 10 lines of column 5.
One theory is that the person who made the cancel-sheet began by using an exemplar which contained the Long Ending, and as he was writing column 4, he sensed that something was amiss, so he began to compact the text so that the Long Ending would fit, but then (at the beginning of Mark 15:19) he consulted the exemplar used by the original copyist, and realized that it did not contain the Long Ending. He had to stretch the text of Mark from that point on, in order to avoid leaving a blank column between Mark and Luke.
Another theory is that the cancel-sheet's maker initially planned to begin the text of Luke in column 10, and compressed the text of Mark for that reason (i.e., so as to end Mark's text in column 9). Then he changed his mind, preferring to compress Luke's text within six columns rather than to stretch it for seven columns, with the result that he had to stretch the text of Mark from 15:19 onward (especially in column 9) to avoid leaving a blank column between Mark and Luke. However, this does not explain why, if the cancel-sheet's maker initially planned to begin the text of Luke in column 10, he did not start the text-compression immediately in columns 1-3."
Our first observation is this: James writes in brackets above,
(However, if the [original scribe A] had continued [at] 635 letters per column, he would have [had] 206 letters to go [for the Long Ending]. Thus it is practically certain that the original pages ... did not contain the Long Ending.)This statement, while technically true, is however misleading. All it amounts to is that the original scribe A didn't have room to fit it in, and stopped his work, which begs the question.
One fact that is simply not taken into account in various of James' options is this: Elsewhere, scribe D always inserts single cancel-leaves, not double-sheets of four pages (i.e., folio 10, 15, 88, 91). Why recopy four whole pages here? The small amount of text in the Lukan variant (proposed originally by Tischendorf, for which there is no textual support at all) cannot justify a four-page replacement, nor can such a small factor explain why the original scribe A would have needed to turn to scribe D for help.
Given this most remarkable extra feature, the replacement of four whole pages, with obvious attempts at adjusting all the columns preceding Mark's ending, it seems far more plausible that the problem was Mark's ending; Scribe A appealed to Scribe D, and Scribe A's work was taken over, removed and replaced by Scribe D.
James' "Theory 1" above is inadequate, because it mixes up the roles of the two scribes. It was in fact Scribe A who was copying from an exemplar having Mark's ending (as suggested by all other MSS everywhere, except B). He was the one who noticed the problem (the inadequate space of the pre-allocated pages), and therefore the 2nd Scribe D's subsequent waffling attempts at adjusting the pace were done with the problem already perceived. This is evident because at this time the pages were already being replaced.
The fact that Scribe D may have changed his mind, or received new (but ultimately unrealistic) orders on how to proceed while in the middle of the task, is hardly surprising, nor is the fact that the pages were not replaced yet again, given the cost of vellum.