Monday, June 27, 2016

Just How Much Longer Is Codex Bezae’s Text in Acts?

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Acts 1 in Bezae. (Photo)
It’s frequently reported that the text of Acts is longer in the Western text than in the Alexandrian. But just how much longer is it? The most commonly cited number is 8.5%. You’ll find this in Metzger’s Textual Commentary (p. 223 n. 3).

This number comes from F. G. Kenyon’s The Western Text in the Gospels and Acts published in 1939. But, interestingly, this number is not taken from comparing two manuscripts but rather two modern editions. Kenyon compared the text of WH in Acts with that of A. C. Clark. The former is taken as representative of the Alexandrian text and the latter of the Western.

One other comparison I found was in Pete Head’s article on the text of Acts. He compared the text of Codex Bezae with the NA26/UBS3 and found the former to have 800 more words than the latter.

Neither of these comparisons completely satisfied me though. In both cases, the comparison is made with a modern edition. I thought it would be better to compare manuscript with manuscript. To do that, I used two of the leading representatives of the Western and Alexandrian text: Bezae and Sinaiticus. I compared the text of their first hands in all places in Acts where Bezae is extant. (Bezae has lacunae in Acts 8.29–10.14; 21.2–10, 16-18; 22:10–20; 22:29–28.31) It turns out that the difference is minimal and Kenyon’s figures are about the same as mine.

I found that Bezae is about 7.9% longer than Sinaiticus in Acts. The raw numbers are Bezae: 71,872 characters; Sinaiticus: 66,594 characters.

One point about my method: I compared letters rather than words for reasons I’ll explain. The comparison is pretty straightforward. I took the transcriptions of both Sinaiticus and Bezae that are available for free in Logos Bible Software. These in turn come from INTF/ITSEE/IGNTP transcriptions which means their format is very similar. There’s clearly a lot of work behind both so a big thank you to those responsible.

I copied the text from Logos into Word and stripped out extra content like verse numbers, punctuation, quire numbers, running titles, parentheses, ellipses, nomina sacra lines (because Word counted those as characters), etc. Basically, I cut everything out but the letters.

The reason I counted character is because these transcriptions are on the diplomatic end of the spectrum and that means that many individual words in Sinaiticus are split between lines. Putting all these back together did not seem like a good use of time. So instead I counted characters without spaces. I checked the count with charactercounttool.com.

It’s nice to know that Kenyon’s method didn’t put us far off the mark.

17 comments :

  1. Thanks Peter. Have you seen Jenny Read Heimerdinger's important article, which gives a fine-grained analysis of where Bezae is longer and shorter—and how? Read-Heimerdinger, Jenny, ‘The «Long» and the «Short» Texts of Acts: A Closer Look at the Quantity and Types of Variation’, Revista Catalana de Teologia 22 (1997) 245-61.

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    1. Steve, I did not. Many thanks! For those interested, there's a PDF online here.

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  2. I did the same thing except I counted words using my transcriptions at http://greekcntr.org and found a 6.6% difference.

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  3. Thanks for acknowledging the sources of the transcriptions. It's always good to learn of their use for further scholarship.

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  4. Thank you Peter. Definitely a fascinating topic!

    One assumption of these comparisons is that the textual tradition of Acts bifurcates into distinct traditions. But this becomes more difficult to maintain with more "long"-text witnesses in the picture (e.g. P127) and a fuller appreciation of the mixture between them. It seems our tendency to see two traditions arises from a trick of perspective given the limited number of extant witnesses and our habit of viewing them as representatives of text types. Still the D-א comparison highlights the diversity of this particular tradition.

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  5. Somehow I doubt that Pete Head counted the 800 words using a carefully controlled method of comparison. It looks to me like more of an opening gambit than anything else.

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    1. That is out of order, Peter Head is a respected scholar and one of the main bloggers on this site.

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    2. Much respected Dr. Head,
      You are hilarious! :-) I love your sense of humor. Will you be at the 2016 SBL?

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    3. You doubt Peter Head? Now I don't know who to trust.

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    4. Πιστεύω Πετρον Κεφαλήν. :-)

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    5. dative please!

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    6. η αγαπη . . . παντα πιστευει (1Co 13:7)

      Far be it from anyone to say πιστευω εν Πετρω Κεφαλη

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    7. The latter stricture is why I avoided the dative to begin with. I trust Dr. Head, and generally believe what he has to say—but I certainly do not believe in him, at least not in the way that πιστευω εν (or εις [another correct accusative]) is generally used in the NT. Of course my comment was originally intended to be humorous—but I think we may have digressed. :-)

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  6. πιστευω την μαρτυριαν του Πετρου Κεφαλης.

    Apologies for my mistake, as per BDAG 1.a.α., I think the sentence as now structured (accusative of thing, rather than person which was certainly incorrect) is more or less tolerable. If the dative is to be insisted on:

    πιστευω εν τοις λογοις του Πετρου Κεφαλης.

    Thanks for the correction, please let me know if more are required. :-)

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  7. I think one point in favor of Kenyon's method is the lacunae in Bezae you mention. Although your method also makes sense. So it's good to have the two statistics to supplement one another.

    I'm surprised this detailed comparison of Bezae and Sinaiticus hasn't been done yet though, given that there have been some very detailed serious specialized studies on the text of Acts over the past century. It wouldn't surprise me that Metzger's number would be the most oft-quoted one, even if there are other options out there.

    Did you happen to consult the third volume of Kirsopp and Lake? I just did a quick check of it prompted by your post and couldn't find a statistic like this. But I wouldn't be surprised if it's in there and I missed it.

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    1. I just realized my slip. When I said Kirsopp and Lake I meant Lake and Jackson, the 5 volume set on Acts, not that it matters at this point, just clearing it up in case anyone reads it in the future and gets confused.

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  8. Eric, I did not. But for more stats, see Heimerdinger's article referenced by Steve Walton above. She compared the number of words between 05 and 03 and found that "the D text of Acts can be seen to be 6.6% longer than that of B."

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