Thursday, October 27, 2005

Vowels in Voelz

Peter mentioned the following article on another thread: James W. Voelz, 'The Greek of Codex Vaticanus in the Second Gospel and Marcan Greek', Novum Testamentum 47 (2005) 209-249. What caught my attention about this article was nothing to do with its main point, but rather its list of itacisms within Vaticanus for Mark on p. 211. What do Γαλειλαιας (1:16), θλειψεως (4:17), ατειμος (6:4), μεικρων (9:42) and all the other examples he gives have in common? They have in common the fact that the ει is used where etymologically there is a long i. He gives twelve examples of this, though he does not mention vowel quantity. Is it the case generally that this type of itacism in manuscripts correlates with the presence of etymologically long vowels? If so, this could tell us interesting information. One thing that fascinates me is the high incidence of the ει spelling for Semitic names (David, Pharisees, Galilee, etc.). Either the scribes were familiar with the vowel quantity of Semitic names (through knowing Hebrew/Aramaic or through hearing the names clearly enunciated in public Scripture reading) or the presence of ει comes from the authors themselves. Possible counter examples could be λειαν (6:51), which could apparently have short or long quantity, ανακλειθηναι (6:39), for a verb whose vowel quantity changes between various tenses, and εξεισταντο (6:51), whose vowel quantity I would have to do more work to discover. Does anyone out there know its quantity?


  1. For more information about the frequent use of ει (EI) for ῑ (long I), see, e.g., Blass-Debrunner-Funk § 23 (p. 13) and the references it cites.

  2. Thank you, Stephen, for bringing my attention to this section again. I see it had merited triple exclamation marks in my copy when I read it as an undergraduate 13 or so years ago! Blass concludes '... the only possible procedure for an editor of the NT is, of course, to carry through Attic spelling without any regard to the MSS.' This rather pessimistic conclusion seems basically to discourage research for patterns that could enable editors to go beyond the pragmatic adoption of Attic spelling. Moreover, based on what the authors say, the sentence 'The possibility is accordingly precluded that even Lk and Paul employed the correct historical spelling of I and EI; how they actually wrote is unknown to us' involves a non sequitur. Thereafter the second part is a statement of our present ignorance based upon our lack of research, not necessarily on the lack of available evidence. It is highly unlikely that a question on which there is such a large quantity of data cannot be advanced with further research.