Monday, November 07, 2005

Heading of 1 Peter in Vaticanus

NA27 gives the heading of 1 Peter is ΠΕΤΡΟΥ Α' and says that this is supported only by '(B)'. Why are the parentheses on B in this instance? For an image click here. One could ask similar questions about the headings of other books, e.g. 2 Peter, James. What am I missing?


  1. The 'headings' in Wieland's page are running headers used throughout Vaticanus and not direct evidence of the "inscriptio" (title), which is lacking in Vaticanus. (although there is a subscript in B which has PETROU A, so it is reasonable to take B as evidence for the heading). Hence (B).


  2. Thanks. It's easier to blog than to consult the Aberdeen version of the recent facsimile.

  3. Of course, the title is interesting as a) not part of the original text of the letter; and b) part of the 'canonical' text and co(n)text of the letter.


  4. Here we get to an interesting issue for an evangelical: 'not part of the original text' and '"canonical"'.

    I suppose I want to think this through out loud. Is it possible that the original letter had a header/external mark PETROU? From all those extensive studies of non-literary papyri and from studies of literary epistles what are the conventions for indicating the nature of a letter other than in the body of its text?

    Is the problem in many evangelical formulations the use of the term 'original' in relation to the verbally inspired text? It tends to imply that Psalm titles, book titles, etc., should not be included. Does the INTF-IGNTP phrase 'Initial Text' serve as a better representation of what the evangelical strives to present?

    Are there any problems with the formulation 'Initial text/Ausgangstext' = 'canonical text' = 'inspired text'?

  5. Would not the evangelical text critic strive for the 'final' text rather than even the 'initial' text? A related question -- when is a text impued with authority? --at the time it is written, or when accepted by the community of believers?

  6. The term 'initial text' is a technical phrase first published in 2005: see

    It is meant to refer to the form of the text that is genetically the progenitor of all subsequent texts (of course it is not excluded that there was more than one initial text). Assuming the 'initial text' to be a singularity then the 'initial text' (initial in the transmission process) may also be the 'final text' (final in terms of authorial activity), though it is also possible that the 'initial text' is separated in time from the 'final authorial text' (for instance an OT author may have finished writing in 450 BC and yet all our exemplars stem from a copy from 250 BC).

    'When is a text imbued with authority?' A prophetic utterance may be authoritative at the time it is spoken, and again (in a different way) at the time it is written down. Probably many OT texts were authoritative at first performance and also when the final text was made. In general it is problematic for evangelicals to locate the authority within the audience or community rather than in the communication itself.

    What evangelicals, however, urgently need is a good set of terminology which enables them to discuss the status of texts.

  7. PJW asked:
    Is it possible that the original letter had a header/external mark PETROU? From all those extensive studies of non-literary papyri and from studies of literary epistles what are the conventions for indicating the nature of a letter other than in the body of its text?

    It was common to write the name of the addressee on the back of a letter (practically all private letters were one sheet folded up). This could take various forms:
    a) Name of addressee in dative (NAD)
    b) APODOS + NAD
    c) APODOS + NAD + location
    d) APODOS + NAD (+ location) + PARA [sometimes APO] name of sender in genitive

    I'm not aware of any examples of letters with some kind of subject marker. It might be worth looking at how copies of official documents were headed.

    The carrier of a letter could indicate the identity of the sender and (occasionally) re-inforce the content of the letter. We might certainly assume that if Silvanus was the letter-carrier (1 Peter 5.12) he would have said something to the effect of: 'Ahoy, me hearties, I have a message from the apostle Peter for you'.* Thus part of the information given in the 'canonical' text, i.e. the title, could be taken as part of the original communication act of which the letter was the primary (but not total) part. But the alpha is clearly part of the 'canonical' and not 'original' text.

    *Of course it should be admitted that solid evidence that Silvanus was a pirate is scattered and lacking in coherence, but this could be due to censorship ('orthodox corruption') in the tradition.


  8. I don't think the initial text had the title Petrou. The titles of the NT books follow a convention that presupposes a regognition of the whole NT canon. The Gospels are all called "kata + author" with euangellion as the understood genre, made explicit in later mss. The epistles of Paul are all called "pros + recipients" with the genre epistle and the author Paul being understood (and again made explicit in later mss). The general epistles are all called "of (gen.) author" with the genre of epistle understood (a la Petrou in our discussion). Acts is called by its genre (Acts) + its subjects (the apostles). And the final book of the NT is called Apocalypse (i.e. the genre) of John (i.e. the author - again genitive). Of course these 5 groups of books closely match the 4 categories of mss labelled e, a, p, and r in the catalog of MSS in NA27, with "a" including both Acts and the general epp.

    These titles with their well-known ellaborations are ubiquitous in NT mss AFAIK. They are in our earliest Papyri that are large enough to check for them. And they prove to my satisfaction that the NT canon was delimited in some way as early as the 2nd century, if not by the very end of the 1st.

    It seems likely that the general epp. were grouped together as a unit later than the Gospels or Paul's epistles were grouped into their respective units. Therefore I would suggest that "Petrou" is probably not original to the letter itself. But it is original to the "a" (i.e. the Acts + general epp.) collection. If the establishment of a whole NT was a task authorized by the apostles themselves (and I don't see why it couldn't have been), then these titles are a part of that apostole-comissioned task, and part of the goal of evangelical NT TC.
    Eric Rowe

  9. Actually, I'm still interested in the initial question and Peter's initial answer. What is a "running header"? And why is it not diret evidence of the inscritio? And where is the suscript to which you refer? I don't see it listed in the NA27 aparatus at the beginning or end of the book.

    Also, if I may add to my last post. It's interesting that among the general epp., James has considerable support for the inclusion of epistole in the inscriptio, which makes sense as the first epistle in the "a" collection. I just checked the inscriptio or subscriptio for each some of the books in the "e" and" "p" collections to see if the same thing held (i.e. Matthew having a higher degree of support for including the word "euangellion" and Romans for including "epistole paulou"). And, it does not. Oh well.

  10. Eric, funnily enough you make a very good case that PETROU A' was in the 'initial' text, i.e. in the text that served as the fountain head for all subsequent texts. You also make a good case that the 'initial' and 'authorial' text are not the same.

    If we can push the text form with the headings back as far as you do (a sort of Trobisch model over half a century earlier) then of course you get back into a period when there might have been an apostle or his mate hanging round. 'Tis tempting therefore for the evangelical to designate this the inspired and canonical text. We have a few hurdles of historical evidence to leap first, however.

    Just to put the contrary case--for the sake of discussion--could we not argue that since early scribes did not treat the superscription and subscription with the same degree of fixity as they did the rest of the text (this impression is open to challenge) they did not regard its authority as being the same. This might indicate that they did not regard it as authoritative.

    If I may draw an analogy from the OT: the titles of books of the OT show considerable fluidity. Not many of them present themselves as having a fixed title, except some of the prophetic works and Song of Songs. The book of Esther is known as the book of Ahasuerus (e.g. in the Aberdeen Codex of the Hebrew Bible).

    Perhaps therefore there is a case for limiting canonicity to the text of the epistles themselves while accepting that all our copies of the text of the epistles may stem from a single edition of these works at some subsequent point.


  11. Yes, I'm not too sure that 'running header' is the best terminology. But it seems like a reasonable as an explanation of the NA27 info. And that is how it functions - throughout Vaticanus you get these running headers above the text block and centred in what we might describe as the header area.
    You can see examples at the following:

    But maybe there are times when the running header coincides with the start of a new book and the running header takes on the function of a title. E.g. for Hebrews:

    The inscriptio/title would normally come within the text block.

    I'm not in the office, so I can't check the facsimile for the overall picture I'm afraid.


  12. Eric's dates for the titles seem a little on the optimistic side to me.

    If Paul collected his own letters (or the early collection if you follow Trobisch's first book), then for this Pauline collection anyway the 'initial text' which initiates the textual tradition is the same as the final authorial text although not the same as the original text.

    Presumably in this scenario there are two 'inspired' texts of Romans, but only one that we know anything about.



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  14. I don't have any problem with the idea of 2 inspired texts of Romans, only one of which we know anything about. In such a case, the one about which we evangelical text critics care is conveniently also the one about which we know. Whatever inspired texts may have existed beyond what we have received are irrecoverable and inscrutible.

    As to the titles of the OT. There are a couple issues that impact that matter that don't apply to the NT.

    First, for the OT, the textual history of each book is unique, having been copied in a single scroll without other books for centuries before Christians included them (in their Greek translation) in codices. This is very unlike the NT, where books were grouped together very early, perhaps even (in the case of Paul's letter collection) from the very beginning. Because of this fact about the early textual history of the OT books, titles didn't have the same importance as distinguishing one book from another within a codex that they have in the NT. Of course synagogues would have needed to distinguish one scroll from another with some sort of title. But any given synagogue may have only had a few books in the generations before Jews began using codices.

    Second, when Masoretes cited a passage for their Masora parva and magna, they just quoted a few of the words prior to the word in question, expecting their reader to have the entire OT memorized and thus to identify the citation by those words alone. I think this is why a number of the books are named after their opening words, as if to say " know the rest." With that level of dependance on memorization, the rabbis and their students could get by just fine without worrying about actual book titles (much less chapters and verses) for their Scripture references.

  15. Just a couple of points: the evangelical is mainly interested in the inspired canonical text, not merely the inspired text. Of course many things that are not in the canon may have been inspired (e.g. Elijah's prophecies).

    In that sense our question is whether headings are canonical as well as part of the initial text (the text from which all others derive). If early scribes handled these more loosely (a point that would need to be documented) then this might suggest that they did not consider the headings canonical.

    OT books have not always been handed down separately. The Pentateuch or the Pentateuch + historical books ('Deuteronomistic History' if you prefer) have been argued within some critical scholarship to be works showing the signs of a single editor. The Book of the Twelve would be another case.

  16. The book of the 12 certainly was a single book. But I have my doubts about either the Penteteuch or the entire Deuteronomustic history ever having been contained on a single scroll. And the evidence from the LXX, DSS, and Samaritan Penteteuch seems to support the view that, even in the Penteteuch, the separate books have their own distinct textual histories. The matter of their being the result of a single editorial project is a separate issue from their textual history.

  17. Fine, but we should not preclude the possibility that works handed down in different scrolls may share stages of textual history, particularly if they are felt to be part of a common work. 1 and 2 Chronicles seem to share a textual history, but probably were on separate scrolls. Interestingly the Greek Uncials of 1-4 Reigns suggest that the four books (with slightly different boundaries) did not share fully in the same textual history, hence the alternating kaige sections.