Evangelical Textual Criticism

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Text Segmentation Edition of the Greek New Testament

Bill Warren's presentation at the international SBL (see previous post), raises the issue that there is no resource out there which you can consult to find out how the major manuscripts punctuate, segment, paragraph and otherwise delimit the textual units of the New Testament.
Some of the issues have been discussed in various publications of the Pericope group (also working at the International SBLs). But no one, as far as I can tell, is actually working to provide a Text-Segmentation Edition of the Greek New Testament. (Maybe Bill is?) So I started to wonder about what this resource would have to look like.
It would contain detailed information about punctuation and text-delimitation in a range of NT manuscripts. In order to be useful but also finite and finishable, I would suggest focusing only on the full papyri and about twelve substantial uncials, and maybe six minuscules (representing different types).
You couldn't do the work mechanically, each manuscript/scribe would have to be studied inductively to get a good feel for their general practice and the different 'levels' of punctuation/segmentation.
But displaying the results would be difficult. One way to do it would be to take Sinaiticus as the base text (earliest complete NT text, widespread and interesting punctuation/delimitation) and then construct something like Swanson in order to display other options in the manuscripts. Another way would be to copy the UBS punctuation//discourse segmentation apparatus for use with manuscripts.

Perhaps it would be good to start with one book of the New Testament to see:
a) whether the information gathered was actually interesting/useful;
b) how the information could be displayed most effectively in published form;
c) how long it takes to gather and compile the information.

Any ideas?


  1. Without knowing any background of the scribe (what is his/her level of understanding of Greek), I'm not so sure I'd be interested in what he/she thought about where to put a punctuation. It would require a quantum leap in speculation to answer "Why did he/she punctuate this text here?"

  2. I think punctuation is a part of exegesis, not TC.

  3. Wieland,
    I agree, but TC is also inter-related to/with exegesis. So this edition will be useful for (and marketed to) both TCers and Exegetes (and those who think they are both can buy two copies).

  4. Creating carefully tagged transcriptions of specific manuscripts is certainly a prerequisite. The Codex Sinaiticus Project, for example, uses the well-established Text Encoding Standard schema to mark-up our transcription in XML. It allows to record punctuation and line/column/page breaks and can be extended to include other textual and palaeographic features.

  5. PH:

    Can you give me an example or two of how punctuation is related to TC?

  6. One famous example is Lk 23:34:
    Is it:
    "Truly I tell you today, you will be with me in Paradise."
    "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

    Vaticanus has a dot here between SHMERON and MET'EMOU.

    There are some more examples listed in the online commentary. Just search for "punctuation".

  7. 1 Th 2:7


  8. Here are a few notes and thoughts on this matter. First, yes, I have a PhD student who is going to investigate the issue of punctuation differences in the Greek MSS for his dissertation. At least he hopes to make a start on the matter. The method will be to look at the earlier mss such as 01, 02, 03, etc., and see where they differ in their major segmentation breaks with each other as well as with various editions of the Greek NT. A substantial number of such differences have been isolated already in his study. Then he will examine these major segmentation differences in the manuscript tradition as well as in the discussions in commentaties, etc., to draw some conclusions as to the more probable segmentation division for the text. His work should be completed within the next 2 years (research is ongoing now).

    On the punctuation matter versus TC, since most exegetes begin with the punctuation that is printed in an edition of the GNT, the role of TC seems to be major in at least starting the discussion of punctuation differences. Unfortunately, many simply assume the punctuation found in the GNT to be established when in fact it may not be well established at all. The end result of publishing a text for others virtually requires that some decisions on punctuation be made, but rarely is any info given as to the basis for the punctuation decision. At least for 1 Cor. 14:33, we did not find commentaries making reference to the segmentation or punctuation evidence from the mss, a lack due in part I would think to the difficulty of accessing such info. So I would say that Peter is right in that a type of textual guide to the segmentation and punctuation evidence of the mss would be helpful.

    Hopefully the forthcoming dissertation will provide a solid starting point for such a work.

  9. Bill, the only problem is if one should base sections and puncutation on what the old uncials have or if one should base it on grammar, syntax, linguistics and exegesis.

    PS: I meant Lk 23:*43* above.

  10. I would think the basic resource needs to be as objective as possible - hence presenting the punctuation and segmentation present in the manuscripts. That would then provide a resource to feed into debates about punctuation - not a simple way to solve such matters, but a way of posing questions.

  11. I haven't seen this, but it looks relevant!:
    S. Crisp, 'Scribal Marks and Logical Paragraphs: Discourse Segmentation Criteria in Manuscripts of the Pauline Corpus' Current Trends in Scripture Translation (ed. P.A. Noss; Bulletin UBS, 198-199, 2005), 77-87.

  12. In response to Wieland's note, I would think that all of these should be considered (grammar, linguistics, syntax, etc), but currently we don't seem to have many folks (very, very few if any) including the info from the mss in their decisions about segmentation and punctuation. That is the reason for at least seeking to introduce this part of the evidence into the conversation on these matters. The mss don't solve the punctuation and segmentation discussions, but they should not be ignored.