Friday, February 02, 2007

Codd. Vaticanus and Bezae Cantabrigensis morphologically tagged for Accordance

Today I got my hands on a paper read at the SBL by R.A. Koivisto from Multnomah Bible College, Portland, Oregon. The title of the paper is "Special Morphological Tagging Requirements for Individual Greek Manuscripts" and was read in the Accordance Scholar's Session. The paper is available from the Accordance website here.

Koivisto has been working for two years with morphologically tagging Codices Vaticanus and Bezae for OakTree Software's Accordance for Mac. The goal is an "electronic representation of an ancient manuscript as a module for Accordance software." This representation is an approximation. The real power, as Koivisto describes it, is that the MS will be morphologically tagged and by this means it can be "evaluated and searched according to lexical grammatical information, and ... quickly compared to other MSS in the collection." (It is not clear exactly which MSS will be in the "collection.")

Koivisto has worked from the transcriptions of Tischendorf (Vaticanus) and Scrivener (Bezae), as well as from photographic images (not stated which facsimiles/images). He has used a specially developed uncial Greek font, "Sylvanus" to represent the MSS. One of the reasons for having one single standardized uncial Greek font is that it enables an easier visual comparison between MSS (and this is of course much less complicated in every respect). This font also enables representation of a few ligatures; Koivisto mentions "the line-ending NU overstrike," "the KAI ligature" (only one of the most common) and "the MOU ligature." This limitation is of course a major drawback in my opinion. Either all ligatures in an MS should be represented, or else none. Moreover, Koivisto states that he has not generally recorded corrections. However, in Bezae, "when there are letters or words squeezed into the text" he has included that text within parenthesis, if he was not sure that it was "the original hand doing a 'self-correct'." As for spelling errors, two tags has been used: the first for the "ad sensum," i.e. what the form likely represents, and the second tag for what is actually written.

Some of these procedures, especially that of omitting most corrections, seem to be too arbitrary, especially from the perspective of the text-critic, but also for the exegete in general, who will run the risk of missing important information.

In sum, the goal of Koivisto (and Accordance) expressed as "making textual criticism workable at a new and interesting level" is only partly achieved in the first version of the electronic MSS collection, judging from this paper. I have not evaluated the actual software, although I note that Vaticanus (GNT-VAT) was realesed on November 26 (Bezae seems not have appeared yet). However, Kovisto (and Accordance I presume) welcomes feedback from "careful users," so hopefully this new tool can be improved in the future. Otherwise, the best (and free) tool thus far when it comes to MS comparison is of course the NT transcript prototype and the related digital Nestle-Aland from the Institut für Neutestamentliche Textforschung (see the links section on the right sidebar). These tools, however, have no morphological tagging.

Update: Both modules with Vaticanus (GNT-VAT) and Bezae (GNT-BEZ) are available from Accordance; GNT-VAT $60 and GNT-BEZ $40 (more on www.accordancebible.com). In a comment to this posts Danny Zacharias informs us that several other items of interest for textual criticism are available in the Accordance scholars collection.

5 comments:

  1. tischendorff, westcott and hort, bezae, textus receptus, vaticanus, and the robinson Byzantine text are all already available on the Accordance scholars collection.

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  2. According to D. Parker the various scribal hands are represented in his book Codex Bezae, just in case one needs further clarification.

    Malcolm

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  3. Rex A. Koivisto was kind to send his comments to the original post in an e-mail to me and told me I could post it in the comment section. I quote his five points of response below:

    "1. The Bezae project was my 'pilot' MS project, completed over a year ago. I am not happy with some of the decisions I made with that project, and hopefully I developed a more consistent project out of the Vaticanus NT. (Somehow you seem to have the impression Bezae was not released yet?)

    In particular, I struggled with identifying the second hand in
    Bezae. I used Scrivener, as you know, as my base. But I used the
    images found on the Religion and Technology website for clarification. Unfortunately, those images are not always easy to read. Therefore I came with the cumbersome technique of using parentheses for words squeezed into the line or placed above the line. I am currently rethinking that approach, and considering whether in subsequent editions I should remove those parenthetic portions entirely and go with the more consistent 'scribal first
    hand' as I attempted to do with Vaticanus. Vaticanus was much
    easier to identify, since I had the color images from the 1968 color
    plate book, plus our library has the recently released Vaticanus
    facsimile.

    2. At this stage I am in fact attempting to go with the 'first hand' even when it appears to be self-corrected in a MS. Perhaps down the road a way may be found to insert correctors comments in a parallel 'tool.' But to me it is better to at least get the first hand of some primary MSS out in e-form. I can see no way to COMPLETELY represent a MS in electronic form, since handwriting styles vary so much among the MSS. Therefore, text critics will certainly have to consult the
    original MS or images for final conclusions. What I hoped to add was the ability to SEARCH these MSS: Find the frequency and identify of nomina sacra; frequency of individual ligatures, etc.

    3. Regarding ligatures. Which ligatures are you thinking I may have not included? Those I have identified are those which are found, so far, in Vaticanus and Bezae. As more are discovered in subsequent MS projects, they will certainly be added. I have already started a list for new ligatures to be added from their appearance in the MS I am working on currently.

    4. Yes, we are working on a 'collection' of these MSS. I am not at liberty to announce what is coming next. But you might be able to guess our priorities. I can at least say that two more uncial MSS should be available by November. And, more to follow.

    5. I welcome any corrections to my work which you see in comparing it
    to photos you may have access to. I certainly do not claim infallibility. It is all too easy to 'improve' on a MS unconsiously.

    Anyway, thanks for your comments on the blog. I welcome any further
    interaction."

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  4. RAK: "Somehow you seem to have the impression Bezae was not released yet?"

    That was my original (wrong) impression ... which I corrected in the update.

    Speaking of Bezae, You may find this web-site of value for your future revision: http://www.dammarilys.com/. There is a very good bibliography on that website with references to other important tools of interest for you(e.g. the concordance of the Bezan text by Yoder, etc).

    RAK: "I am currently rethinking that approach, and considering whether in subsequent editions I should remove those parenthetic portions entirely and go with the more consistent 'scribal first hand' as I attempted to do with Vaticanus."

    As you are now moving on to other uncials, I suppose you will be doing Sinaiticus. Are you aware of the project going on at the ITSEE in Birmingham of digitizing this codex? Anyway, if you skip the corrections or additional readings you will omit a lot of important information. I suggest you think through your working method very carefully before you do a lot of work, which has to be revised in a later stage, and so that all the different products follow the same standard as much as possible.

    As for first hand and corrections, additional readings, etc, I suggest you look at the system of the Editio Critica Maior from the INTF using the following symbols:

    * = the reading of the first hand (coordinate with C)
    C = correction (coordinate with *)
    T= the reading of the text as distinguished from an alternative reading (A) or an additional reading (Z).
    A = alternative reading (coordinate with T)
    Z = an additional reading, interlinear or marginal, that is either a correction or an alternative reading.

    (In my dissertation on Jude, I point out a problem with the definition of Z. I classified all interlinear and marginal readings as additional readings, unless the reading of the text [T] was unequivocally erroneous, or if there was a special sign known to be used for corrections.)

    RAK: "I can see no way to COMPLETELY represent a MS in electronic form,"

    No, not COMPLETELY, but to give up the corrections ...

    RAK: "3. Regarding ligatures. Which ligatures are you thinking I may have not included? Those I have identified are those which are found, so far, in Vaticanus and Bezae. As more are discovered in subsequent MS projects, they will certainly be added."

    Okay, I misunderstood that point. If you continue to develop ligatures as you find them that is fine. I guess I have been too much into the minuscule business lately.

    RAK: "4. Yes, we are working on a 'collection' of these MSS. I am not at liberty to announce what is coming next. But you might be able to guess our priorities. I can at least say that two more uncial MSS should be available by November. And, more to follow."

    I am still a bit worried about the tagging of Sinaiticus.

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  5. Malcolm:

    "According to D. Parker the various scribal hands are represented in his book Codex Bezae, just in case one needs further clarification."

    I am not sure what you mean, but Parker's study of Bezae is a very important tool, mentioned on the bibliography that I refer to above.

    Speaking of D. C. Parker, the following is the one article that Koivisto and everyone who is working with digitization of MSS should read first:

    "Through a Screen Darkly: Digital Texts and the New Testament" in JSNT 25 [2003]: 395-411

    In this article, Parker sets out the (high) standard of the electronic transcription which textual critics will need in the future. He specifically gives an example of how to electronically transcribe a page of Codex Sinaiticus!

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