On the Relative Antiquity of B & Aleph
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,
א Lacks Ancient Features
(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.
S. LUKE XIV. 13
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.