Friday, February 25, 2011

Sinaiticus & Mark's Ending (Pt 12): The Dating Bombshell

Earlier we posted a chart showing the Quire structure of Sinaiticus, but left some portions of the chart unexplained.  Now we turn to this problem, specifically the following blip on the radar screen:
Two and a Half Pages of Bizarre!

Now these pages are certainly also written by Scribe A, and identified as such by the British Museum Official Website.   In fact, the second half of page 76-7 verso could hardly have been written by anyone else, given that the first half was clearly done the previous day by him:

First 2 columns normal: Last two in style of Alexandrinus!
76-7 verso: Click to Enlarge, backbutton to return

Just as Mr. Scrivener has described Alexandrinus on his blog, we see the first letters of paragraphs fully 'outdented' into the margin, and enlarged!  What is Scribe A doing?   He finishes this page and also the whole last folio of the Quire (76) in the same format (this shows by the way that the text was written Quire by Quire: the next Quire begins again with the expected 'regular' style).

The answer is obvious, but not welcome.  Scribe A has slipped into his own habitual way of copying MSS.   He's forgotten what he's doing.  He completes the Quire without even noticing this major gaffe.

But this is the most important and stunning piece of information we have yet gathered about Scribe A, the scriptorium, and specifically, the date of the manuscript's manufacture.

As Mr. Scrivener has noted for us, Alexandrinus was made no earlier than about 380 A.D. (Dating Alexandrinus) This was the time that this style of calligraphy was popular and even standard, and not before.   Scribe A has tipped his hand, and perhaps not accidentally at that, but even slyly.   And Scribe D has not noticed this boner, but it is such a disfigurement of the style of the codex that surely Scribe D would have yanked out the bottom sheet of the Quire and replaced the 1st and 8th folios to fix it.

Why then were the Scribes trying carefully to copy the style of a manuscript written about 100 years earlier?   The answer is obvious here too.  They wanted to give it the look and feel, the prestige, perhaps even the authority of an earlier manuscript.  Why?  Because this is what the rich patron who was paying for this expensive copy wanted.   Like an early Roman copy of Greek 'gods', this manuscript is actually a reproduction, not a real early 4th century manuscript.   

Is it a forgery?  No.  Not exactly.  In fact, as a comparison to Codex B shows, the scribes were indeed copying from a much older master-copy, presenting a very early text.   Thus it is in some sense just what it purporting to be: the text of an early 4th century manuscript.  This was probably a stylistic choice dictated by the artistic vogue of the later period.    But the point is, its just an early reproduction.

Hort Knew Sinaiticus was Late:

This fact did not pass unnoticed, even by Hort himself.  He did not dare openly suggest a date 80 years later than the one supposed by Tischendorf and accepted by most other critics on his authority.   But Hort carefully and quite clearly indicated that he knew this codex was much later than Codex Vaticanus. As Mr. Scrivener noted in another context on his blog ( copy generations ) :

[Hort] does say a few things [re: Aleph/B]:

a) B and Aleph are entirely different in regard to their subsequent history,   i.e., 'post-nearest common ancestor'. For Vaticanus he makes incredible claims of purity and FEWNESS of generations:
"The ancestry of B posterior to the common archetype was probably a chain of very few links indeed;..." (Hort, Introduction, ¶ 328. pg 248-9, ).

Again, speaking primarily of B's unique/subsingular readings, he says,
"the sources of corruption in B are for the most part of a sporadic and indeterminate character (cf. 204)." (Hort, Intro, ¶ 328, p.250)
Hort here clearly indicates that the subsequent history (post common-ancestor) of Codex Vaticanus is relatively short and direct.   This is in contradistinction to Codex Sinaiticus, for which he posits a longer and more complex history for the text it contains.  But this would make little sense if they are really closely contemporary and from the same scriptorium.

It makes perfect sense however, if Sinaiticus is actually a reproduction, made in the same or a similar scriptorium, but 80-100 years later.  The original master used by Vaticanus was probably now long gone, but a copy several generations later was still available, reflecting essentially the same archetype as Vaticanus, but with subsequent layers of copying errors.   

Thus Hort knew that Sinaiticus betrayed itself as a later text with a subsequent accumulation of further corruption, explaining well its differences from Vaticanus, and Hort's own preference for Vaticanus.

Other Examples:

What other manuscripts also exhibit this similar and quite unique style of "outdenting"?

Codex Φ (Beratinus, GA-043) from the 6th century also displays the same style, with marginal notes placed around the Outdented Letters in the very same way:

Although this manuscript Codex Φ (GA-043) is in very bad shape, you can see that it was once a beautiful piece of caligraphy in the same style as Alexandrinus (5th cent.) and these unusual pages of Sinaiticus  from Quire 76. 



The White Man said...

Better call in Mr. Scrivener. This one needs a bit of editing.

mr.scrivener said...

Yes, when I read the headline, I thought he was going to tell us about an encounter with some hot blonde librarian while he was researching Aleph at the British Museum. How disappointing...

I'll see if I can sneak in and make some more humorous edits before he clues in.


Nazaroo said...

I can't take credit for this. It was apparently a subliminal slip from my unconscious sense.

As for you,
"get thee to a punnery."


corrector said...

My comments:
hmmm - a lot of weight given to the paragraphing in Q76 F7&8 v other textual evidence indicating aleph earlier than B.
Why a dating bombshell? ie is there a reason it matters whether aleph earlier than B or vice versa?