Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Sexist Hand Behind P46?

After a never ceasing flow of blogposts by Peter Head on Papyrus 46, I finally get the chance!

On his blog, Paul and co-workers, Richard Fellows offers an explanation of how the curious text of P46 in Rom 16:15 arose.

Whereas most MSS read "Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister" in Rom 16:5, P46 has Paul greet "Philologus and Bereus (Βηρέα) and Aoulia (Ἀουλίαν) and his sister" – the latter two names being nonsensical.

Fellows builds on James Royse's excellent proposal, Scribal Habits (2008), 333-334, that the exemplar of P46 had the reverse order of Nereus and Julia in its text, with an interlinear correction written out with the Greek numerals β (2) and α (1) above the names to indicate the correct order. “However, our scribe [of P46] misinterpreted the letters as being intended to replace the letters of over which they were written, and thus created βηρεα αουλιαν” (334).

However, Fellows points out that Royse's explanation does not account for the addition of ΚΑΙ between the two names in P46. Royse simply thinks the scribe of P46 added it in the process, "as part of his change here," and he considers it to be a separate reading. He thinks this is easier than to assume that the ΚΑΙ was in the Vorlage.

Fellows instead proposes that the exemplar had the normal order, but then a "sexist corrector" came along and added the Greek numerals β (2) and α (1) to have the male name Nereus written before the female Julia, but this would create another problem, "... Nereus, Julia and his sister", so the corrector also added a ΚΑΙ between the name so that "his sister" would refer back to Philologus: "Greet Philologus and Nereus and Julia and the sister of him." The scribe then, did not only reverse the names and add a KAI, but inserted the letters β and α.

The problem with Fellows' explanation is of course the question why the scribe would execute the correction and reverse the order, but at the same time misunderstand the very instruction and insert the letters β and α into the names. Fellows suggests that the corrector gave two distinct indications that the names should be reversed, "above the line and perhaps also in the margin", and the scribe of P46 apparently misunderstood the one above the line.

I think Fellows rightly points out the problem with the extra KAI, but then his explanation becomes too complicated since he has to assume that the corrector used two ways of indicating that the text should be corrected.

This is my alternative explanation:

In the first stage, a scribe reversed the order of the names (for sexist reasons?) but then had to supply the ΚΑΙ to have the reference "his sister" point back to Philologus.

In the second stage, a corrector added the numerals above the names to have them reversed to the normal order (á la Royse), and perhaps also marked the KAI for deletion with underdots (but he could have simply left the KAI because at this stage it has little affect on the meaning). This second stage reflects the Vorlage of P46.

In the third stage, the scribe of P46 completely misunderstood the numerals and copied Bereus (Βηρέα) and Aoulia (Ἀουλίαν) and so retained the order as well as the KAI which was already there. Thus, the scribe did not follow any instructions to correct the text in the variation-unit.

The fact that P46 has Ιουλιαν in Rom 16:7 does not speak in favor of any of these explanations, but it does strengthen the assumption that at some point Ιουλιαν was in Rom 16:15 as well.

Isn't this the simplest explanation? Perhaps it is time for another poll :-).


  1. Thanks for the discussion. If an attempt was made to revert back to the original text, then how did the additional KAI survive such an attempt? Would it not be easy for a corrector to indicate unambiguously that a KAI should be deleted?

    Do you or anyone have a list of the methods that a corrector might use to indicate that words should be swapped? Could you explain why it is unlikely that a scribe would be familiar with one method but not another? Perhaps the second method was verbal communication.

  2. Richard, my explanation builds on

    (1) the conscious reversal of the names which requires the addition of KAI. This was done before the time of the exemplar of P46.

    (2) the misunderstanding of the correction in the total variation-unit including the letters/numerals and the deletion of the KAI. A deletion could have been marked by some points or so. Or, it could have been left entirely, because its presence between the names to be reversed does not matter at all in this stage. However, the KAI was probably not present in the exemplar that the corrector used to correct the MS (I will perhaps clarify this in my main post.)

  3. RF: "Could you explain why it is unlikely that a scribe would be familiar with one method but not another? Perhaps the second method was verbal communication."

    Did I say that this was unlikely? I thought I said that it is unlikely that a corrector used two ways of indicating that he wished the text to be corrected. I see this as way more complicated than my explanation which is more similar to Royse, with the difference that the KAI was introduced in the first place because the names were reversed – this I see as perfectly logic.

  4. Interesting proposals... they only work though in a direct copying context, where the supposed mark-ups were "misunderstood" by the scribe. But are we really sure that P46 was not a product of dictation? :)

  5. Is "Aoulia" a nonsense name? There were Romans chaps called Aulius, weren't there, and some of their daughters might have been called Aulia.


  6. Thanks for the clarifications, Tommy. Your version of the hypothesis seems quite close to my 2010 version. Your arguments make sense and I'm now undecided.

    Concerning Rom 16:7, it seems strange to have two errors related to Julia in the same manuscript. Some causal link between the 16:15 fiasco and the introduction of Julia to 16:7 would seem likely, wouldn't it?

    If the scribe of P46 did not change Junia to Julia then maybe the misogynist did. Junia, who was prominent among the apostles, would have been a big problem for him. Did he demote Junia by changing her name to Julia and by then demoting Julia at 16:15? Or did the misogynist inherit a copy that had Julia instead of Junia at 16:7 and did this motive him to demote her at 16:15?

  7. Richard, aside from these two verses from the same chapter and book, have you found any other passages in P46 with a "sexist" tendency?

  8. Simon,

    I think that you are correct about Aoulia. I would assume that a Roman woman who married a man with the nomen gentile Aulius would then be commonly referred to as 'Aulia.' Cf. the Wikipedia article "Roman naming conventions: here.

  9. Simon and Christian:

    Even if we accept AOULIA as a valid name we have another three or four factors to take into account in the explanation of how the variant arose:

    1) The combination of the two names (and I think we will agree that they represent unique substitutions of NEREUS and IOULIA respectively).

    2) The reversal of the two names

    3) The addition of KAI (also unique)

    4) The presence of the subsingular IOULIA in Rom 16:7 (which is to some degree relevant for any explanation that presupposes that IOULIA was present also in 16:15 at an earlier point in this textual stream).

  10. RF: "Your version of the hypothesis seems quite close to my 2010 version."

    I don't know exactly about your 2010 version, but it is a combination of Royse's explanation and your own point that we have to account for the addition of the KAI. I think my explanation best accounts for the text in P46.

  11. EB: "... have you found any other passages in P46 with a "sexist" tendency?"

    Interesting question. Of course the history of a certain textual variant is not equal to the history of the manuscripts, but the histories overlap.

  12. On the more general question of tendency, Royse notes that "some changes are more systematic or betray perhaps a deliberate attempt to improve on his Vorlage. Few, if any, of these have any claim to serious consideration as being older than P46 itself, but they do indicate a certain awareness by the scribe of what he was writing, and a willingness to alter what he read."

  13. My 2010 version of the hypothesis is here.

  14. "...the history of a certain textual variant is not equal to the history of the manuscripts, but the histories overlap."

    I cannot agree more with you on this, Tommy, but only to a certain extent, especially if you're dealing with a singular reading--from a manuscript that has a known profile of committing any mistake, anytime, anywhere :).

    While it is not totally unlikely that there maybe some traces of mysoginic tendencies in P46, I find it a bit difficult to attribute this particular variation to a "sexist" motivation, especially in view of the fact that in this page, F21r (and the previous one as well, F20v), P46 has introduced a bunch of variations, including a number of transpositions:
    L01: πατροβαν ερμαν to ερμαν πατροβαν (transpo)
    L03: ιουλιαν νηρεα to βηρεα και αουλιαν (transpo)
    L05: παντας αγιους to αγιους (om)
    L09: τα σκανδαλα to σκανδαλα(om)
    L10α: ην υμεις εμαθετε ποιουντας to ποιουντας ην υμεις εμαθετε(transpo)
    L10β-L11: ποιουντας to η λεγον||τας η ποιουντας(add)
    L11β: ποιουντας και εκκλινετε to ποιουντας εκκλεινατε (om)
    L11γ: εκκλινετε to εκκλεινατε(gramm)
    L16: εφ υμιν ουν χαιρω to χαιρω ουν εφ υμειν (transpo)
    L17: θελω to και θελω (add)
    L22: λουκιος και ιασων to λουκιος ιασων(om)

    These variations on this page betrays an exemplar is significantly different, which shows that the variation in L03 is not an isolated case, with a sexist agendum, but is intricately intertwined with the nature and quality of the whole page, so far as its exemplar is concerned.

  15. Edgar, I must remind you that in this case my explanation of what happened in Rom 16:15 presupposes that the scribe of P46 did not understand the correction. The actual change (transposition of the names), whether for sexist reasons or not, was done earlier and in a different MS (in this stream of the tradition). So your overview of introduced readings by this scribe is not entirely relevant.

    Nevertheless, it is interesting to note whether and to what degree this particular scribe shows a willingness to change what is in the exemplar.

  16. Richard, why do you think your latest version was a simplification of your 2010 proposal (which I have now read)?

  17. Thanks for the note Edgar,
    That would seem to fit with the argument (on internal/textual grounds) that P46 has a different exemplar for Romans 16 (or at least that the textual tradition of P46 goes back to different traditions for chs 1-15 and ch16).

  18. Pleasure, Peter. Indeed, the pull on me towards that direction is stronger, than looking at this particular instance as something initiated by a particular motivation :) Conversely, it seems to me that it is rather more part and parcel of a bigger textual issue that is "exemplaric" in nature than ideological.

    On the proposal that α and β were placed over these two names, in a pre-P46 MS(s?), which was then "misinterpreted" by the scribe of P46, this I find very interesting but is to a certain extent also methodologically problematic--it unnecessarily put the burden of presupposing that cases of transposition variations reflected in P46 (whether by the scribe's own doing or the textual tradition it represents) have also been subjected to this convention (it doesn't make sense to me if this case will be singled out).

  19. "Nevertheless, it is interesting to note whether and to what degree this particular scribe shows a willingness to change what is in the exemplar."

    Tommy, this sounds to me a hint to the "scribal habits" of P46. If so, then a bigger variation profile of this scribe makes more meaningful, consequently :)

  20. EE: "On the proposal that α and β were placed over these two names, in a pre-P46 MS(s?), which was then "misinterpreted" by the scribe of P46, ... it unnecessarily put the burden of presupposing that cases of transposition variations reflected in P46 ... have also been subjected to this convention ..."

    If, as Peter suggests, this particular stretch of text in P46 comes from a different exemplar, what is the problem of the explanation that the two idiosyncratic names (unattested in the tradition) and their transposition plus a KAI were introduced in a pre-46 MS at some point?

    First, do you agree that the introduction of the KAI might well be related to the transposition of the two names?

    Second, do you agree that BEREUS and AOULIA are very likely misrepresentations of NEREUS and IOULIA?

    Third, is there not a very strong likelihood (in light of the transposition) that the letters B and A originate from an attempt to reverse the names in accordance with the dominant tradition.

    Again, this explanation presupposes that the transposition (sexist or not) happened before P46. What about the other transpositions that are singular readings? Well, perhaps there was no attempt to correct them at any point, or the scribe of P46 may be directly responsible for them. I still do not see the direct relevance for the passage in Rom 16:15.

  21. Great discussion. You have convinced me that the error may well have arisen without a sexist motive, and I will update my blog post accordingly.

  22. Richard, you might want to expand your search base and not just focus on this one--go to traditional passages in P46 with perceived mysoginist overtone, and you will be surprised with what you will discover :)

  23. Tommy, I agree with you that the transposition and addition variations are pre-P46. However, my point of departure is that the simplest explanation, in view with all the other variations in its immediate environment, is to assume that all these variations are already in the exemplar, which the scribe faithfully copied :)

  24. Royse's explanation still seems best to me.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  25. JES: "Royse's explanation still seems best to me."

    Well, the only difference between my explanation and Royse's is that the addition of KAI happened earlier with the transposition rather than with the erroneous correction of the names. And the addition of KAI is makes a lot more sense in connection with the transposition.

  26. I have started looking at this again, after 6 years, and have some further observations.

    Firstly, P46 has an unusually large gap between the first two letters of his "BHREA", indicating that the scribe of P46 did not think of it as a name. He or his predecessors may have thought of "HREA" as a name.

    Secondly, I have looked briefly for other cases where an early manuscript swaps the order of two names. Bezae promotes Aquila above Priscilla at Acts 18:26. The only other example that I know about is the one mentioned by Edgar in his comment above: P46 swaps πατροβαν and ερμαν two lines before messing swapping Julia and Nereus and corrupting their names. What is going on? Why two name swaps in close proximity? Surely they cannot both have been by accident. Well, it seems to me that a corrector wrote Α and Β above the words Νηρεα and Ιουλιαν respectively, and also wrote "swap the names" in the margin. There is redundancy in these instructions, of course, but the corrector may have known that the scribe was sloppy or inexperienced and needed redundant instructions. The corrector gave the manuscript to the scribe, who misunderstood the Α and Β, as we know, and, having read the note in the margin, swapped not only the names Ιουλιαν and Νηρεα, but also the names πατροβαν and ερμαν. Thus, both swaps are neatly explained by a marginal note.

    Edgar has shown that there was a scribe who made many errors prior to P46. I suggest that he may ave been sloppy enough to induce someone to give him redundant instructions. It seems a stretch to suggest that he was sloppy enough to make two accidental name swaps within two lines.

    It seems, then, that the scribe of P46 may have been innocent here. The sloppy scribe may have been an earlier scribe who gave rise to the copy of Rom 16 that the scribe of P46 used. This could tie in nicely with Peter Head's thought that Rom 16 may have come down to P46 via different scribes than the rest of Romans.

    Does anyone have a list of name order reversals in the manuscripts?