Wednesday, December 20, 2017

‘You will call his name Jesus’ (Matt 1.21 in Codex Vaticanus)

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In a recent publication on the nomina sacra in Mark in Vaticanus (see here) Peter Malik notices that there are only five places in the New Testament portion of Codex Vaticanus where Ἰησοῦς is not contracted. Two of these are the interesting (emphatic?) vocatives of Mark 1.24 and 5.7 (although not in the Lukan parallels or vocatives generally); two others are references to other people: Jesus son of Eliezer (Luke 3.29) and Jesus Justus (Col 4.11) (which is very sensible and careful); and the other one is Matt 1.21: τέξεται δὲ υἱόν, καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν· αὐτὸς γὰρ σώσει τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν αὐτῶν. (NA from BW9).


Malik is inclined to explain this anomaly on practical lines related to word division at the end of the line. Clearly this is a very important subject, but I didn’t see its particular relevance in this instance. When the contraction is the default, then exceptions might be signally something different, something important, especially when read at this time of the year.

The climax of Matthew’s (exceedingly brief) birth narrative involves the juxtaposition of the two names that he will be given: Jesus (v. 21) - the name given by Joseph in his act of accepting Jesus into the Davidic line; and Emmanuel (2.23) - the name given by his people. Both of these are of central importance for Matthew, and for all his people (especially, but not only, at Christmas time): he will ‘save his people from their sins’ and he will be ‘God with us’.

Wishing all our readers are very happy Christmas holiday season.

10 comments :

  1. This is interesting, Peter. I only skimmed the first page of Joshua in Vaticanus, and it appears Ιησους is usually uncontracted there. Makes me wonder whether the scribe in Matt 1:21 is making a connection between the previous Joshua and the new Joshua. Just a thought, you know, around Christmas time.

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  2. Yes. There must be a bit of that in Matthew I think. On the other hand, Malik notes that in Acts 7.45 and Heb 4.8 when Ἰησοῦς refers primarily to OT Joshua Vaticanus has a contracted NS. Probably in both places there is an implicit Jesus/Joshua comparison involved.

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    1. or maybe the scribe simply didn't care to render it plene, given the general habit to contract the more ubiquitous sacred referent for IHSOUS.

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    2. P.S. Pete, do you really think that the scribe of Vaticanus was invested in such intricate exegesis whilst copying? Also, were Matt and Joshua portions penned by the same scribe?

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  3. PMH,
    First, Merry Christmas! Second, I would agree that the lack of contraction is purposeful. Seeing the name Jesus written in plene here strikes an additional visual correlation with Emmanuel. Certainly we acknowledge scribes interacted with the text, so why not here in this way.

    Tim

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  4. Thanks for this Peter, I'm preacing this passage in Christmas Day. Perhaps not one for an all age talk! A nice insight for me though :)

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  5. First of all, thanks for the shout, Pete, and I'm very sorry about the font issue: that's what happens when one doesn't use unicode fonts in the initial version. Pitiful. As for your comment, I do agree with your Facebook comment that it's a bit of a stretch to think that the scribe could have been thinking essentially one line ahead, but based on my vague memories from the more serious time I spent with 03 (over 5 yrs ago) I recall having been quite impressed with the scribe's awareness of the layout, line divisions, and such like. So I guess if the scribe took a longer 'transfer unit' when copying, he could easily have thought, at the beginning of line, that this could cause a problem at the line-ending. Given that IC is so rarely left uncontracted when referring to Jesus himself, I would be hesitant to draw any theological explanation. Another explanation could be that the plene form was in the scribe's exemplar, where the scribe had used it to avoid awkward line division. But that's stretching it to the extreme!

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  6. Printed English Bibles traditionally put JESUS in all caps here, and here only. There is apparently a precedent for this way back in the manuscript era.

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    1. Which modern, currently printed versions do that? And I don't follow the MS argument here. The preferred rendering of the 'sacred' version of ιησους is a nomen sacrum. It sometimes happens (but by no means consistently) that when other 'jesus' is referred to, an uncontracted form appears. But I've not seen any 'emphatic' examples to the contrary.

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  7. Erasmus 1516 caps all occurrences of Jesus.

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