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 :-).