Thursday, March 11, 2010

In Search of the Caesarean Text

Right now I am working on an SBL paper on Mark 1:1, "The Son of God Was in the Beginning" (perhaps you can guess from the title which reading I am arguing for). In any case I am working through the patristic citations, which has been very rewarding. One very important father who cite Mark 1:1 is Origen.

He invariably cites the short version in several passages in his Commentary on the Gospel of John, in one passage in his Commentary on Ephesians (fragmentarily preserved) and in Contra Celsum. Gordon Fee who has examined Origen’s Marcan text cited in the commentary on John describes it as “Egyptian” (Alexandrian) in Books 1–10 (1, 2, 6 and 10 are extant). As already Griesbach observed, Origen seems to have used a different copy of Mark for the latter part of the commentary, and B. H. Streeter subsequently found this text to be especially close codex Θ and its relatives (incidentally, Θ also has the short version of Mark 1:1). Origen completed the commentary after he had moved from Alexandria to Caesarea (ca. 231), and, hence, the text-type was labeled “Caesearean.”

However, the three citations of Mark 1:1 are found in the former part of the commentary where Origen used the earlier copy of Mark before he changed in Caesarea at some point. Contra Celsum, on the other hand, was written in Caesarea (ca. 248), whereas it is impossible to say when and where Origen wrote his Commentary on Ephesians. In sum, Origen’s citations of Mark 1:1 appear in works written in distinct places covering a long period of time; it is of course impossible to assign this particular citation to any specific text-type. Besides, the issue of text-types in general has been debated, and the existence of a "Caesarean" text-type in particular has been questioned. Is it a distinct text-type, and, if so, only in Mark?

This post has been inspired by an odd dream I had tonight, which I only remember fragmentarily. I dreamt I was going on a bus travel to Caesarea with other text-critics to somehow find out the truth about the Caesarean text. I remember entering the bus and taking my seat beside Ulrich Schmid when suddenly I realized that I had forgotten to bring my luggage! I had to climb off the bus and I missed the trip. I wonder if the other guys found the Caesarean text.


Christian Askeland said...

I had the same dream. We did find the Caesarian text, but it was not that great. I had to single-handedly fight Ulrich to the death with a banana to defend your honor. Turns out, he had unloaded your luggage off the bus in order to have all the glory for himself (Schade!). I was chosen to defend your honor because I was the closest anyone could find to a Scandinavian NT text critic.

Dirk Jongkind said...

What coincidence! I had the same dream too. But in my version it was not Ulrich, but Marcion himself who was the bad guy looking how to remove Old Testament citations from a manuscript with a diple shaped tool.

But Tommy, do I get it right that you first decide on a conclusion and then start to consider the evidence?

Ulrich Schmid said...

Christian, if it was the true Ulrich Schmid, he would have burnt the bloody Cesarean thing, since he does not believe in local text-types of that sort. Most likely, he would not even consider boarding a bus to search for it in the first place.

Other than that I have a hard time to imagine your dream adapted for the Indiana Jones series. Would the Cesarean text qualify as the Holy Grail (Ark of the Covenant, etc.) of NTTC?

As for your dream, Dirk, I definitely think you ought to have a chat with Quentin Tarantino.

Tommy Wasserman said...

Fantastic! Thank you Christian for defending my honor.

As for Dirk's question, no, I first wrote three pages on Mark 1:1 over a year ago from the viewpoint of "orthodox corruption" (see Ehrman, OC, pp. 72-75). Now I am expounding that study considerably, triggered a bit by the new Oxy. papyrus (as presented at the SBL).

However, I sometimes do review the evidence, make a provisionary conclusion and then write up the argument in a proper way. New findings along the way may corroborate the hypothesis, but it may also happen that the thesis has to be modified. I

Anonymous said...

I may perhaps see the light and follow Peter Head's opinion.

maurice a robinson said...

Some of us didn't even get on the bus, in view of the classic Firesign Theatre's recording ("We're all Bozos on this Bus").

Anonymous said...

I always dream that I'm in Caesaria and doing just fine until someone asks me if I enjoyed the flight there. It comes to me in a panic that I have no memory of arriving, nor any idea of how I got there. My next thought is to realise that this is all just a dream, and the Caesarian Text remains as elusive as ever.

I won't blame anyone else on this forum for pricking my bubble; if people in my dreams ever have a specific identity, it's usually one of my mates from decades past.

Wieland Willker said...

It wasn't Ulrich Schmid, it was Morton Smith.

PS: Is this just a post of your dream, with a rather long introduction or do you have a specific (or unspecific) question, Tommy?

Tommy Wasserman said...

Wieland, the post is almost as fuzzy as the dream.

James E. Snapp, Jr. said...

Yes; the Caesarean text-type is a distinct local text. No; it is not limited to Mark (Mt. 27's "Jesus Barabbas" is a definitive Caesarean variant).

Btw, be sure to read Titus of Bostra's citation of Mk. 1:1 in context.

Yours in Christ,

James Snapp, Jr.

Tommy Wasserman said...


"Yes; the Caesarean text-type is a distinct local text."

I have strong doubts about that. I assume that Mark's Gospel is the best candidate.

"No; it is not limited to Mark (Mt. 27's "Jesus Barabbas" is a definitive Caesarean variant)."

I have not looked into that. Right now I am working on Mark 1:1 and I can see that what Alexander Globe termed a "Caesarean omission" is definitely not a Caesarean omission.

"Btw, be sure to read Titus of Bostra's citation of Mk. 1:1 in context."

Did Titus of Bostra really cite Mark 1:1? I think it is an interpolation from Serapion of Thmuis (d. 362) work with the same name Contra Manichaeos where a citation in 25.1 accidentally entered the textual tradition of Titus of Bostra's work by accident? See August Brinkmann, “Die Streitschrift des Serapion von Thmuis gegen die Manichäer,” SPAW 1894: 479-491, esp. 489–90 (this is available on-line); and R. P. Casey, “The Text of the Anti-Manichaean Writings of Titus of Bostra and Serapion of Thmuis,” HTR 21 (1928):101-103.

I think this is the reason why the reference to Titus of Bostra has been removed from UBS4 (it was in UBS3).

In fact there are various errors like this in UBS3 and Tischendorf 8th ed. (1869).

Wieland Willker said...

The quotation doesn't change if it is from Titus or from Serapion. Serapion is actually even more interesting since he is from Egypt. And his Gospel text agrees closely to that of Origen!

Btw. what is the "harder" reading here?

Tommy Wasserman said...

Wieland, no you're right, but the problem is that both Titus of Bostra and Serapion used to be cited in support of the short version in editions and scholarly treatments.

You are right that Serapion's text is close to Origen. Burgon and Miller suggested that in this case where Serapion cites Mark 1:1 (and I think they referred to Contra Man. 25, not 37) the whole argument including the citation depends on Origen. I think the may be right. However, they also suggested that Cyril of Jerusalem, Basil of Caesarea, (Titus of Bostra) also depended on Origen, which I think is not as plausible after studying the contexts.

The harder reading? Indeed difficult :-). Let me come back later on that.

Daniel Buck said...

I think this is the reason why the reference to Titus of Bostra has been removed from UBS4 (it was in UBS3)

Interesting. LaParola still has him, so it must be the UBS3 text.

Wieland Willker said...

Tommy, acc. to Eusebius, only the first five books of Origen's comm. on John are written in Alexandria, thus the second reference from books 6 is already from Caesarea.

The quote from the comm. on Eph. is not as strong as the other ones, since it is only quoting the first part, not continuing to verse 2.

Overall I wouldn't make too much of the fathers. The citations in this case are not very reliable, even if verses 1-2 are cited. This could still be from memory, smoothing the rather clumsy long form. Note that several fathers, who know the long form, sometimes quote the short form (cp. Globe). Thus the weight of the fathers isn't very strong in this case.

Tommy Wasserman said...

Wieland, sorry about that. I expressed myself a bit clumpsy. What I meant to say is that Origen used his earlier copy of Mark (brought from Alexandria) and changed at some point in Caesearea, but the shift, according to G. D. Fee occurs only after Book 10.

On your second point, I agree that some fathers probably abbreviated their text, but what you are saying actually means that the patristic citations do carry weight, i.e., in favor of the long reading!

James E. Snapp, Jr. said...


Yep; it could be Serapion instead. I can't read German and it will take me a bit of time to track down Casey's article, but already I'm leaning in that direction.

The usual defense of the longer reading is that an early copyist skipped a couple of words or contractions due to h.t. But I wonder if there could be a deliberate reason for removing "Son of God," if a scribe somehow thought that Adoptionists might misconstrue the opening episode as not only the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ but also as the beginning of Jesus' Son-of-Godness.

And is the Sahidic evidence 100% consistent? (I don't really have any reason to think otherwise, but it might be a good idea to double-check.)

Yours in Christ,

James Snapp, Jr.

Rod Mullen said...

Didn't Bruce Metzger pronounce the death of the Ceasarean text in the 1940s? Why is it still unburied? It has been dead more than three days; it stinketh.

James E. Snapp, Jr. said...


Metzger was wrong.

Yours in Christ,

James Snapp, Jr.

Tommy Wasserman said...

So you were there on the bus James?

Anonymous said...

I think James was in the library. They didn't have a fast internet connection on the bus, and he needed to look at some manuscripts that just came online at googlebooks.