Friday, March 09, 2007

Mice, Worms and other Animals in Textual Criticism

Austin Farrer famously explained the ending of Mark as due to the fact that the real ending had been eaten by mice: "the end of the story has been eaten by mice" [A.M. Farrer, A Study in St. Mark (London: Dacre Press, 1951), p. 173].

Schenke and Fischer offer the theory that a worm ate the AUL from PAULOS in 1 Peter 1.1 and that PETROS is an incorrect correction [H.M.Schenke & K.M.Fischer, Einleitung in die Schriften des Neuen Testaments (Berlin, 1978; 2 vols) need to check the page number (I only heard of this yesterday)]

So I was thinking that it would be a useful advance on scholarship if we could catalogue the impact of animals on biblical manuscripts. Only offerings?

10 Comments:

P J Williams said...

How about Stephanus' inter equitandum? In the more apocryphal versions of this one at least imagines the occasional jolt of the horse affecting subsequent versification.

P J Williams said...

Do saddlebags of camels count? (See here.)

Christian Askeland said...

I have heard from the curator of a large paleographic museum that some ancient papyrological finds preserve the smell of the camel feces with which they were mixed in the garbage heaps so many millenia ago. This would partially explain why the Egyptian natives used these heaps as a source of fertiliser.

Jim Aitken said...

Peter,

Perhaps the most famous example is the Talmudic explanation as to why the Scrolls are holy - to separate them from the grain offering that was attracting the mice (BT Shabbat 14a):

Because originally food of terumah was stored near the Scroll of the Law, with the argument, This is holy and that is holy. But when it was seen that they (the Sacred Books) came to harm (apparently because of mice), the Rabbis imposed uncleanness upon them

Martin said...

All that provokes me to a comment, citing Mk 9:44 (A,D,Byz) and 9:48:
When this worm never dies,
(in the apocryphal literature it says even: "sleeps") how much less those worms eating papyri and parchments ...

Jan Krans said...

In the case of 1 Pet, the mice apparently come from the imagination of a reader, for Schenke and Fischer write only this: "... war die Mater der ganzen Textüberlieferung leicht zerstört, so daß ein Abschreiber die drie Buchstaben [AUL/ETR] ergänzen mußte ..." No mice or worms are mentioned. They actually prefer an alternative explanation, to wit an abbreviation that was misunderstood. See their Einleitung I, p. 203 (the discussion on the author of 1 Pet is found on pp. 199-203).

maurice a robinson said...

"Perhaps as this is being written (or read) the last Greek manuscript of the Odes of Solomon is being eaten by a worm in a little monastery somewhere in Greece"
-- Morton Smith, "What may be hoped from Modern Greek Manuscripts," Studia Codicologica, TU 124 (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1977), 460.

From my own collation observation notes: "MS 1388 (Patmos, 15th century) has dark water stains and worm holes which obscure some text".

Cf. Gregory, Textkritik, 3:1164 re: MS 1627 (16th century; Athos, Laura) and 3:1187 re: MS 1901 (16th century, Patmos): "sehr von Würmern zerfressen".

Also of interest, Gregory 3:1181 re: MS 1794 (Kosinitza, 13th century): "Von Maüsen zerfressen".

Most amusing, however, is Gregory's comment (3:1128) regarding MS 1112 (12th century, Athos, Stauroniketa): "die Würmer haben es gut in dieser Bibliothek".

The amazing fact, however, seems to be the almost total lack of comments by Gregory regarding MSS damaged by worms or mice, or even water or fire. Most extant MSS, apparently, seem to have survived the centuries far better than might have been expected.

Peter Kirk said...

Note also the role of a "mouse", the man Acbor, and the greater role of a "rock badger" or "hyrax", Shaphan, in one of the great textual discoveries of ancient times, see 2 Kings 22:8-12. For some odd reason animal names for men were common at just that period of Israelite history.

And then it is said that the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered because of a lost goat, a real animal this time.

Tommy Wasserman said...

MAR: "Perhaps as this is being written (or read) the last Greek manuscript of the Odes of Solomon is being eaten by a worm in a little monastery somewhere in Greece"
-- Morton Smith, "What may be hoped from Modern Greek Manuscripts," Studia Codicologica, TU 124 (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1977), 460."

The only Greek MS with the Odes of Solomon that I know of is P.Bodmer XI with Ode Sal. 11, and now that P75 has been sold by the Bodmer Foundation, a nice new museum will be built to house that the former MS, so mice and worms will hardly be able to take a bite of it.

...and let us not forget the many animals in the illuminated MSS.

Simon Holloway said...

What an interesting post! So far as the Babylonian Talmud is concerned, I have heard that the reason for Rashi's commentary being along the inner margin was that this made it less susceptible to the nibbling of mice.