Friday, April 10, 2015

Scratching the plural out of prayer - Mt 6:5

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This is a story about how difficult it can be to get the data right even before starting to ponder the original wording of a text.

These are the opening words of Mt 6:5 as in Tregelles and NA28:

Καὶ ὅταν προσεύχησθε, οὐκ ἔσεσθε ὡς οἱ ὑποκριταί,
And when you pray, you must not be as the hypocrites

The majority reading is as follows:

Καὶ ὅταν προσεύχῃ, οὐκ ἔσῃ ὥσπερ οἱ ὑποκριταί,
And when you (singular) pray, you (singular) must not be as the hypocrites

I am only interested in the two verbs, whether they are singular or plural.
In the apparatus of NA28 we learn that, among others, Codex Sinaiticus (א*) supports the singular verb, though with a minor variation, as indicated by the round brackets. In Appendix II we learn that א* actually reads προσευχη ουκ εσεσθε. That is, a singular verb προσευχη followed by the plural εσεσθε. The second corrector supports the text.

There are sorts of things wrong here. First of all, why is א* given as support for the double singular reading as, arguably (having one of each), it can be forwarded as support for the double plural reading?
Moreover, I don't think the reading of א* is accessible. Have a look at the images:

Normal light:


Striking light:



The transcribers of Sinaiticus on the Codex Sinaiticus website get it right, as usual. Here corrector Ca is made responsible for the intralinear correction of προσευχη to προσευχησθαι (itacism for προσευχησθε), the remainder of the text as visible on that line is the work of the first corrector (אa [or 1]), while the erased text of א* is unreadable. As you can see on the image, a rewriting starts from the third letter onwards, where we have indications of something being scratched off the parchment before the current writing. The parchment is rough till the end of the line and even torn at the final epsilon of εσεσθε.
What can we say about the erased text of א*, except that it was erased quite efficiently? The original version had something that started with προσευχησ-. It seems clear to me (and Tischendorf) that the omicron of ουκ is created out of a lunar sigma Ϲ. But is there space on the line to have the version with the two plural verbs? I don't think so, since it would require an extra two letters to be accommodated on the line which is already wider than average. That means that if the first version had two plural verbs, the first of these (and only the first) was already corrected in scribendo, that is before the next line was written.
For once, Tischendorf is not much of a help in suggesting that perhaps the original error was made from -σθε to -σθε. Though this is possible, it means, again, that the error was caught and mended before the writing of the next line, and only after almost the whole line had been filled up. His scenario requires that in addition to messing up the original line, the scribe also messed up the correction, by forcing the first verb into a singular (even though originally he had it right).

Whatever the underlying error we should represent the testimony of Sinaiticus as follows:
א*: προσευχησ[illegible] ...
אa: προσευχη ουκ εσεσθε ως οι
אca: προσευχησθαι (read προσευχησθε; remainder of the line untouched).
Interestingly, this suggest that א* may have intended to write the double plural before messing up, and that (I am slightly increasing the speculation value), whilst clearing the mess, the same scribe but now in the guise of the first corrector, messed up again.
Anyway א* is closer to the text of NA28 than to the variant in the apparatus, despite what the apparatus tells you, אa can be read as supporting either wording but should probably figure as a separate reading, and אca [or] 2] supports indeed the reading as given in the text.

7 comments :

  1. What if it was first written: `και οταν προσευχησθε εσεσθε ως οι υποκριται' ?
    Then if the first corrector had an exemplar reading the Byzantine way, it could have been tempting to replace προσευχησθε with προσευχη and have space for ουκ. Then perhaps he realized the verbs had different numbers and changed εσεσθε into εση, got bad conscience and changed it back again?

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  2. Would this erasure be something that might be legible through the use of new technologies? I can see alterations in color throughout it, but can't tell if they are from the old letters.

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  3. I wouldn't know, Eric. With Sinaiticus most of the darker parts are letters that shine through from the other side of the thin parchment.

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  4. I see several things here that haven't been brought out. First of all, the context of Matthew 6:2-6 is all in the second person singular. Verse five being brought into conformation with the surrounding verses sounds like what is often thought of as a typical scribal emendation. But what scribe would only do half the job?
    Secondly, why isn't anyone else seeing that that erasure ends before the end of the line? Zooming the above image up to full magnification, I can see that the erasure ends with the diminutive lunate sigma. I see several things here that haven't been brought out. First of all, the context of Matthew 6:2-6 is all in the second person singular. Verse five being brought into conformation with the surrounding verses sounds like what is often thought of as a typical scribal emendation. But what scribe would only do half the job?
    Secondly, why isn't anyone else seeing that that erasure ends before the end of the line? Zooming the above image up to full magnification, I can see that the erasure damage ends with the diminutive lunate sigma. This would mean that OI was either original, or squeezed in after the erasure, theoretically allowing for a full Byzantine reading, and the possibility that Tischendorf and Dirk are wrong about C>O.
    Thus I would offer the following reconstruction:
    א* : προσευχη[ ~11 letters]οι (only possibilities are Byz reading or singular reading)
    אa : προσευχηουκεσεσθεωσοι (first verb singular, second plural; singular reading)
    אca: προσευχησθαιουκεσεσθεωσοι (itacised Alex reading [B has an strange marking line-end])
    Byz: προσευχηουκεσηωσπεροι
    Now, on the basis of letter-count, there wasn't room for the Alexandrian reading, even without the itacism. There was room for the Byzantine reading, though. That possibility raises even more questions:
    Why would the O be erased, then rewritten?
    If the scribe started to write singular out of habit, then corrected to plural, why not finish the job? Or, if singular was in his text, why erase both verbs, but then rewrite the second as plural?
    The evidence doesn't fit Kirk's scenario quite as well as it should. I suspect there was another whole layer of correction, with a back-and-forth of erasures and rewrites that nearly wore out the parchment, until the final correction was just left well enough alone, imperfect as it was.

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  5. Sorry about the dittography. This field is too small to see more than a few lines of text at a time, and the scroll function is set on hyperdrive!

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  6. Daniel, do you disagree that the third letter of the corrected line, which currently reads an - Ο -, was fashioned out of an existing - Ϲ -? The left hand side of the - Ο - is not rewritten, as far as I can see. If this is the case (which I think most likely) than the first hand did not set out to write majority reading. I think the available evidence supports pretty well my thesis that both the first hand and the one who I think was the first hand correcting his own work. I both messed up. I do not assume, however, that the correction was carried out only after the text following this line was written.

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  7. I agree that the left hand side of the O is original; however, in the scenario I present, the entire O could have been original, but was erased and then re-written. I doubt the first hand did set out to write the majority reading; but if the first corrector corrected it to the majority reading, then the next corrector corrected it back, then that in turn was erased, it would account not only for the letter-spacing, but also for the seemingly excessive erasure.

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