Friday, March 25, 2011

What Causes LARGE Omissions?

Back in the 19th century, maverick textual critics were not afraid to confront the two biggest textual variants in the NT, namely Mark's Ending (Mk 16:9-20) and the Pericope de Adultera (Jn 7:53-8:11).   It was considered essential in those days to investigate them and have a position on such important matters.   Nowadays, flying a holding-pattern is the norm and critics rarely come in to land on either side of any issue.  Its hard to get anything except the standard Metzger quote when inquiring about either passage.

But every critic knows in his heart that the standard explanations and canons of TC simply cannot accommodate such gigantic variants.  "Prefer the shorter reading." appears absurd next to something as monumental as Mark's Ending, for no mere copyist could have invented it.  Describing John 7:53-8:11 as a "marginal gloss" is just ludicrous, when manuscripts don't even have margins that big.

Its no surprise then, that early critics gave their shot at a more plausible mechanism and account of the matter.   Mark's Ending seems to be just about the size to fit on a lost last page.  The so-called Western order Had Matthew, John, Luke and Mark last, making the ending the final page not only of a copy of Mark, but also of many a copy of the Four Gospels bound together.

As early as the 1880s, Rendel Harris posited the idea that the PA had slipped out of a quire in some early copy of John.  He supposed that it was spread  in four pieces, filling a small folded papyrus quire-sheet.    But this need not be the only arrangement in an early papyrus that could have resulted in the lost text.  It could also (perhaps with more likelihood) have covered both sides of a single folio, having been flexed or torn out of an early Gospel.

Click to Enlarge: Backbutton to return

Intriguingly, G. D. Bauscher in 2009 proposed a kind of homoeoarcton error, where two columns written in Syriac had begun with similar looking string of letters:
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  Any one of these common scenarios could have caused the initial omission, and subsequently also have caused suspicion to fall upon either passage, as confused copyists noted the absence of the verses.

It is easy to imagine how any initial error could have generated much deliberate interference later, and caused quite a complex history among at least a handful of early manuscripts, just as we seem to see now in the transmission record.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

What Good Manuscripts look like

I just had to share this close-up of probably one of the most beautiful manuscripts ever produced in the era of hand-written documents.
It is on display in Portugal.

This is the kind of manuscript one could be excused for being tempted to admire it perhaps too much.   Wouldn't you love to own something like this, rather than the extravagantly printed facsimile of say, Codex Vaticanus? 
I wish they'd offer this in a quality reproduction!

Here's a few more:

 labeled as a Hand-written Bible Manuscript from possibly the 12th century

Click to Enlarge

Page spread from the Book of Hours (France, late fifteenth century) 
showing the Adoration of the Magi on the left page.

Special Collections Ren mss 006
Click to Enlarge

Here's a bargain: A 15th century prayerbook with full color illustrations, just sold for a mere 1,500. 

Bloomsbury French Prayerbook

On the other hand, Christie's Auction House wanted some $350,000 for their rare manuscript recently.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Sinaiticus & Mark's Ending (Pt 13): Burgon's Vindication on Dating

We may appropriately close this series of articles on Sinaiticus and Mark's Ending with the original Appendix by Dean John Burgon (1871) in his classic defense of the ME,

On the Relative Antiquity of B & Aleph

א Lacks Ancient Features

I. Vix differt aetate a Codice Sinaitico,, says Tischendorf, (ed. 8va, 1869, p. ix,) speaking of the Codex Vaticanus (B). Yet does he perpetually designate his own Sinaitic Codex (א) as “omnium antiquissimus.” Now,
(1) The (all but unique) sectional division of the Text of Codex B, — confessedly the oldest scheme of chapters extant, is in itself a striking note of primitiveness. The author of the Codex knew nothing, apparently, of the Eusebian method. But I venture further to suggest that the following peculiarities in Codex unmistakably indicate for it a later date than Codex B.
(2) Cod. א , (like C, and other later MSS.,) is broken up into short paragraphs throughout. The Vatican Codex, on the contrary, has very few breaks indeed: e.g. it is without break of any sort from S. Matth. xvii. 24 to xx. 17: whereas, within the same limits, there are in Cod. א as many as thirty interruptions of the context. From S. Mark xiii. 1 to the end of the Gospel the text is absolutely continuous in Codex B, except in one place: but in Cod. א it is interrupted upwards of fifty times. Again: from S. Luke xvii. 11, to the end of the Gospel there is but one break in Codex B. But it is broken into well nigh an hundred and fifty short paragraphs in Cod. א .   There can be no doubt that the unbroken text of Codex B, (resembling the style of the papyrus of Hyperides published by Mr. Babington,) is the more ancient. The only places where it approximates to the method of Cod. א , is where the Command- ments are briefly recited (S. Matth. xix. 18, &c.), and where our LORD proclaims the eight Beatitudes (S. Matth. v.)
(3) Again; Cod. א is prone to exhibit, on extraordinary occasions, a single word in a line, as at —

S. MATTH. XV. 30.

S. MARK X. 29.


This became a prevailing fashion in the 6th century; e.g. when the Cod. Laudianus of the Acts (E) was written. The only trace of anything of the kind in Cod. B is at the Genealogy of our LORD.
(4) At the commencement of every fresh paragraph, the initial letter in Cod. slightly projects into the margin, — beyond the left hand edge of the column; as usual in all later MSS. This characteristic is only not undiscoverable in Cod. B. Instances of it there are in the earlier Codex; but they are of exceedingly rare occurrence.
(5) Further; Cod. א abounds in such contractions as ΑΝΟΣ, ΟΥΝΟΣ (with all their cases), for ΑΝΘΡΩΠΟΣ, ΟΥΡΑΝΟΣ, &c. Not only ΠΝΑ, ΠΗΡ, ΠΕΡ, ΠΡΑ, ΜΡΑ (for πνευμα, πατηρ-τερ,-τερα, μητερα ), but also ΣΤΡΘΗ, ΙΗΛ, ΙΗΛΗΜ, for Σταυρωθη, Ισραηλ, Ιερουσαλεμ.
But Cod. B, though familiar with ΙΣ (Ιησους), and a few other of the most ordinary abbreviations, knows nothing of these compendia: which certainly cannot have existed in the earliest copies of all. Once more, it seems reasonable to suppose that their constant occurrence in Cod א indicates for that Codex a date subsequent to Cod. B.
(6) The very discrepancy observable between these two Codices in their method of dealing with “the last twelve verses of S. Mark's Gospel,” (already adverted to at p. 88,) is a further indication, and as it seems to the present writer a very striking one, that Cod. B is the older of the two. Cod. א is evidently familiar with the phenomenon which astonishes Cod. B by its novelty and strangeness.
(7) But the most striking feature of difference, after all, is only to be recognised by one who surveys the Codices themselves with attention. It is that general air of primitiveness in Cod. B which makes itself at once felt. The even symmetry of the unbroken columns; — the work of the prima manus everywhere vanishing through sheer antiquity; — the small, even, square writing, which partly recalls the style of the Herculanean rolls; partly, the papyrus fragments of the Oration against Demosthenes (published by Harris in 1848): — all these notes of superior antiquity infallibly set Cod. B before Cod.א; though it may be impossible to determine whether by 50, by 75, or by 100 years."

 The special feature we discussed in the previous article, Dean Burgon had not noted, but in point (4) he fully notices the general frequency of "outdenting" the first letter of every paragraph so prevalent in Sinaiticus but almost nonexistent in Vaticanus, itself suggesting a significant difference in style and age.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Undocumented Edits to the NT in modern versions

Fact or Fiction: You decide:
Here are some examples of completely undocumented mutilations of the NT text, which find their way readily into modern versions, also without so much as a footnote indicating text has been ripped out or drastically altered. In the following list "MV" means Modern Versions collectively, although one or two might have a note where the majority have nothing at all:

Matt. 15:8 UBS2 undocumented ΤΩ ΣΤΟΜΑΤΙ αυτων και
Matt. 20:7 UBS2 undocumented και ο εαν η δικαιον ληψεσθε
Matt. 20:16 UBS2 undocumented πολλοι γαρ εισιν κλητοι ολιγοι δε εκλεκτοι
Matt. 20:22 UBS2 undocumented το βαπτισμα ο εγω βαπτιζομαι βαπτισθηναι...
και το βαπτισμα ο εγω βαπτιζομαι βαπτισθησεσθε
Mark 11:8 UBS2 undocumented KΑI ΕΣTΡΩNNΥON ΕIΣ THN OΔON
Mark 12:33 UBS2 undocumented KΑI ΕΞ OΛHΣ THΣ ΨΥXH
Luke 4:5 UBS2 undocumented O ΔIΑΒOΛOΣ ΕIΣ OΡOΣ ΥΨHΛON
Luke 17:9 UBS2 undocumented (αυτω)
Luke 19:45 UBS2 undocumented εν αυτω και αγοραζοντας
Luke 22:68 MV undocumented μοι η απολυσητε
John 5:16 UBS2 undocumented και  εζητουν αυτον αποκτειναι
John 6:11 UBS2 undocumented τοις μαθηταις οι δε μαθηται
John 8:59-9:2 MV undocumented και διελθων δια μεσου αυτων [επορευετο] και παρηγεν ουτως
John 11:41 UBS2 undocumented ου ην  ο τεθνηκως  κειμενος
John 17:12 UBS2 undocumented εν τω κοσμω
Instead of guessing how 'unlikely' it might be for scholars to be wrong, dishonest, or have a hidden agenda, open a copy of the UBS text, and see if they deleted the half-verses or not.
Check the apparatus, and see if they documented the alterations or not.
Check for yourself, and answer the question for yourself.

These aren't just Majority Text and Byzantine text-type readings.
They are readings that have been in the NT text in both Greek and Latin for 1000 years. ( - that is, the texts used by the vast majority of Christians everywhere in the Roman Empire).

Its not that critics altered the verses: its that they altered the verses without telling the reader.
What is your definition of honest?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Middleton (1892) on Vellum Production & Cost

Some interesting background on vellum for manuscripts is given in Middleton's volume: 
Here is an exerpt:

Illuminated Manuscripts in Classical
and Mediaeval Times: And Their Art and ...
By J. Henry Middleton
Originally published in 1892 (reprinted. Cambridge 2010)

Chapter XIV. (p. 224-225)
The Materials and Technical Processes of the Illuminator.

Vellum for scribes 1 The most remarkable skill is shown by the perfection to which the art of preparing vellum 2 for the scribe was brought. The exquisitely thin uterine vellum, which was specially used for the minutely written Anglo-Norman Vulgates of the 13th century, has been already described (see p. 113). For ivory-likebeauty of colour and texture nothing could surpass the best Italian vellum of the 15th century.
One occasional use of the very thin uterine vellum should be noted.
For example in a German 12th century copy of the Vulgate, now in the corpus library in Cambridge, some fo the miniature pictures have been painted on separate pieces of uterine vellum, and then pasted into their place on the thicker vellum pages of the manuscript. This, however, is an exceptional thing.
The vellum used for illuminated manuscripts appears to have been costly, partly on account of the skill and labour that were required for its production, and, in the case of uterine vellum on account of the great number of animals' skins that were required to provide enough material for the writing of a single manuscript such as a copy of the Vulgate.
Even the commoner kind of parchment used for official documents was a rather costly thing. The roll with the Visitation expenses of Bishop Swinfield, Bishop of Hereford from 1282 to 1317, shows that 150 sheets of parchment cost 3s. 4d., about 4 lb in modern value 3.
The vellum used for manuscripts has a different texture on its two sides. One side, that on which the hair grew, has a matt, unglossy surface; the other (interior) side of the skin is perfectly smooth and, in the case of the finest vellum, has a beautifully glossy texture like that of polished ivory.
In writing a manuscript the scribe was careful to arrange his pages so that two glossy and two dull pages came opposite each other. 4
The are of preparing vellum of the finest kind is now lost; the vellum made in England is usually spoilt first by rubbing down the surface to make it unnaturally even, and then by loading it with a sort of priming of plaster and white lead, very much like the paper of a cheap memorandum book.
The best vellum is still made in Italy, especially in Rome. Good, stout, undoctored vellum of a fine, pure colour can be procured in Rome, though in limited quantities, and at a high price, 5 but nothing is now made which resembles either the finest ivory-textured vellum of 15th century Italian manuscripts, or the exquisitely thin uterine vellum of the Anglo-Norman Bibles.

1. See Peignot, Essai sur l'histoire du parchemin et du vellin, Paris, 1812.
2. Strictly speaking, the word vellum should denote parchment made from calf-skin,
but the word is commonly used for any of the finer qualities of parchment which were
used for manuscripts.
3. Quoted by Hook, Lives of Archbishops of Canterbury, Vol. III, p.353; the Rev. Canon G.F.  Browne kindly called my attention to this passage. Other examples of the cost of vellum are given in the preceeding chapter.
4. The same arrangement is to be seen in books printed on vellum.
5. For example, the mere vellum required to print a small thick folio, such as Caxton's Golden Legend, would now cost about 40 lbs.

On note 3, the cost of vellum:

  One Pound Sterling (GBP) in 1892 had the purchasing power of about £72.41  today.  'Times four' that would give about £290, or  $472.41 American for 150 sheets of ordinary parchment, = $3.00 per sheet in 1892, with quantities limited.  

This seems quite low, and the real value should be measured instead against what an ordinary laborer could afford, or against the available resources for other community projects:

£4 (150 sheets of ordinary parchment) in 1892 converts to the following in modern money:

   £322.00 using the retail price index   A Commodity. If your are asking about the "present worth" of buying a loaf of bread, or the amount of money spent today on such things? If so, use the price index
   £430.00 using the GDP deflator
If the question is how much it cost compared to the present cost of materials or labor, you would use the the GDP deflator value.
£1,930.00 using the average earnings
how "affordable" this would be to the average person, the compensation of a production worker is given by the average earnings figure,
£2,450.00 using the per capita GDP
another estimate of how "affordable" this would be to the average person, is the GDP per capita. 
£3,970.00 using the share of GDP
In the past there were less materials and labor available for all projects. So to measure how important this project was to the community (vs. other projects) use the share of GDP indicator.

These numbers now give a more realistic range of values based on real conditions 100 years ago, such as expected earnings and availability of resources.

You can get estimates for purchasing power 100 years ago and today here:
Measuring Worth

You can convert to American dollars here:
Currency Conversion