Tuesday, March 10, 2020

On Using Majuscule Numbers instead of Letters

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Along with my principled resistance to using Gothic letters in textual criticism, I have for a while also been personally opposed to using letters for the majuscules. Instead, I have tried to restrict myself to the Gregory-Aland numbers. The reason for this is that the numbers are never duplicated and so avoid the confusion my students regularly experience between D in the Gospels and D in Paul, for example. My preference is, no doubt, influenced by my frequent use of the ECM, which only uses the numerical designations in the text volumes. Once I got used to the numbers, the letter designations began to fade.

However, this week, I have realized one (and only one?) benefit of using letters. What’s lost in restricting myself to the numbers alone is the connection between the Greek and Latin diglots. D F G often agree and are thought to have a shared ancestor. But, if the apparatus only lists them as 06 010 012 then it’s easy to miss the evidence of their Latin counterparts designated as the lower case d f g.

The easiest solution is to use both the numerical and letter designations (e.g., D/06). But that still gets a bit cumbersome.

16 comments

  1. It is a bit hard to use NA without letters.
    They are backward compatible.
    It is always fun to see other people confuse D with D.

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  2. I also prefer the numerical IDs for the same reasons, although I usually will combine the designations only one time when I first mention a majuscule. If I'm discussing the corresponding Latin texts of diglots, I can clarify the connection by introducing them in a similar way, like d/06lat.

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  3. There are several issues here and I would encourage you not to start combining the sigla:

    1. The Latin letters can be even more ambiguous within their system of alphabetical sigla than the Greek letters.
    2. The Latin letters themselves are obsolete and unlikely to feature in the next edition of Nestle-Aland.
    3. To what extent should we be confident that the two sides of these particular bilinguals relate (and is it right to express this by co-ordinated sigla)? All other bilinguals (such as Coptic, or GA 037) don't have this co-ordination. The Latin of 'f' is usually different from the Greek of 'F', while the Latin of 'g' is - for the most part - a direct translation of the Greek below and so shouldn't be cited separately.
    4. If you must use a 'combined' siglum, please don't describe it as "GA D/06", because D is not a Gregory-Aland siglum. But then to put "D/GA 06" risks putting G, A and D and D on the same level. The best solution would be to use brackets rather than mix the systems: "GA 06 (D)".

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    1. What a mess! So just numbers then? What is NA going to use for Latin instead of the letters?

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    2. I understand that the plan is to use the Vetus Latina numbers in some form.
      I shall have to update my page at www.vetuslatina.org/sigla.

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  4. I can't agree more concerning the use of numbers over letters. I understand that switching between keyboard languages is simply part of working in biblical studies, however, using Greek, Hebrew, and Roman letters on the same line when numbers will do...this is less than ideal. And using unique designations only makes sense as computer programs are use. I would think that the benefits of using numbers will quickly outpace the few inconveniences (such as 06 010 and 012).

    Another inconvenience I have experienced when using letters is that it is easy to confuse Roman and Greek letters (e.g. rho Ρ and Roman P; upsilon Υ and Roman Y). If I tell a computer program to find a Unicode character it might miss the character because of a simple mistake along the way (particularly if OCR was used to gather data).

    I don't know if there is a benefit pedagogically. Learning the letters, the codex names, and the numbers are necessary for reading even the most introductory material.

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  5. It might just be the way I learned the designations, but I always, in my head, have to convert the numbers to letters in order to confirm that I havre the ‘right’ manuscript in mind. Maybe just an old guy thing.
    Tim

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  6. Let's convert to using von Soden numbers, I say. No confusion there.

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  7. Since it is the technical study of the Bible we're talking about;--the manuscripts of the NT to be specific. Perhaps we should go to the Biblical Text for guidance here(?). And wouldn't you know it, the Scriptures teach us to *not* remove the old landmarks. The letter designations for the old and/or more known uncials (historically) are the old landmarks--please don't remove them. It's only a few dozen manuscripts that have this distinction, and the designations (א, A, B, C, D, E, K, W, Φ, Σ etc.) have continued to be used for over a century after the GA system was put into place. To retire them now would only do harm, especially for those who are older, or have made themselves very familiar with the older volumes in this field. Leave well enough alone is my take on the matter.


    ...Besides, aren't we all waiting (with bated breath) for another nearly complete 4th century uncial to be found so we can crown it be with the noble designation of "ב", as opposed to the mundane 0324 (or whatever the case may be)?

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    1. I'm with you Matthew. This all sounds vaguely like somebody who went to school in Europe coming back to the states and trying to talk me into using the metric System.

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    2. Interesting analogy, since scientists in both Europe AND the US use metric!

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    3. I'm an engineer working in the US. In my field we sometimes use metric, but usually not.

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  8. On the use of siglum ב , Gregory, Die Griechische Handschriften des NTs, 1908, p. 36: https://archive.org/details/diegriechischen00greggoog/page/n47/mode/2up

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    1. Teunis,

      Thank you very much for the link!


      It appears that 047 and 048 were originally designated with ב & ב a.p. respectfully. You learn something new everyday!

      I suppose it (ב) could still be used for a future discovered ancient Greek codex--due to it's (apparent) lack of current use for 047 and 048. Or perhaps other letters from the Hebrew alphabet could be utilized, e.g. ת, ש, ה, to identify very important mss. unearthed in the future. Either way, 0324, 0325 or whatever chance may bring, doesn't seem fitting for a א, A, B, C, D, type of manuscript. If that makes any sense (?).


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  9. I can recommend anyone to read Gregory's account of the results of his survey on the opinion of his fellow NT scholars on the mss sigla. See the introduction of Die Griechische Handschriften des NTs.
    On p. 173 you will find the earlier used Hebrew characters.

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  10. Numbers with leading 0s are their own abomination (unless all numbers in the set have enough leading 0s such that they all have the same number of digits.) Even then they're still bad, and many mistakes have been made by naive software that interprets them as octal numbers rather than decimal numbers (at least in other fields, though I'd be surprised if it hasn't happened in NT studies as well). Having two lists of numbers that only differ by the leading 0 is just asking for trouble. Is it too late to stick a "U" for Uncial on the front instead?

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