Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Codex E 07

Some time ago Stephen Carlson noted the publication of a substantial article on the gospels manuscript Codex E/07: A Cataldi Palau, “A Little Known Manuscript of the Gospels in ‘Maiuscola biblica’: Basil. Gr A. N. III. 12,” Byzantion 74 (2004): 463-516. Yesterday, on an entertaining foray into the University Library with another ETC blogger, I finally got round to getting and reading this article.

1. This is a very helpful, thorough and useful article. Take a pen right now and make a note in your copy of Elliott's Bibliography of New Testament Manuscripts - you do not want to discuss this manuscript without reference to this article.

2. It is not only about Codex E/07 actually. It is about Basil. Gr A. N. III. 12 - the whole codex in its current form - which is primarily Codex E, but also contains 2087 - portions of Revelation written into spaces on a couple of pages during the twelfth century; and some other replacement leaves from the 14th cent (these have not been assigned a separate number - curiously?), which re-use old leaves (palimpsests). Palau identifies one of the under-written texts for these leaves (folio 207: fragment of Ephraem Syrus in Greek), but the other two contain different unidentified ninth-century Greek texts (folios 160, 214 - there is an invitation for the curious!).

3. Palau provides ten plates (incl. pictures of the binding and other decorations as well as text: fol. 3 = Matt 1.1-6; fol. 24 = Matt 8.19-24; fol. 45 = Matt 13.54-14.2; fol. 96v = Matt 28.16-20; fol. 98 = Mark 1.1-6; fol. 248 = kephalaia for John & Rev 4.8ff in 2087; fol. 249 = John 1.1-10).

4. For the keen there are untold details about quire formation, ruling systems, the decadent form of 'maiuscola biblica' evident here, abbreviations, accentuation, punctuation, decorations, etc. I won't even attempt to summarise that here. There is also a lot of material on the history of the manuscript. Some of this, especially the decorated titles and other elements, are of interest in relation to the reception history of the NT - Codex E/07 is an early example (perhaps the first if 8th cent) of decoration using a full page cross and the inscription IS XS NHKA ('Jesus Christ conquers').

5. Palau argues against the universal consensus - of an eighth century date - in favour of a later, ninth century date. The grounds for this are several (although none stem from a directly palaeographical judgement about the hand - she notes that Cavallo places it early in the 8th cent):

  1. a judgement about the place of this text in the history of the development of accentuation: 'The abundance and regularity of the accentuation suggest a date in the 9th C.' (p. 479). There is no proof or discussion of this point.
  2. A further point, which is actually the critical one, is that the abundant colourful decoration is uncharacteristic of the eighth century (see p. 464, cf. pp. 481-485 which deal with decoration and 486). Rich ornamentation is infrequent in the eighth century manuscripts available to us, mostly they have simple embellishments and uncomplicated initials.
  3. Parallels in borders, mosaics and depictions of the cross in the decorations, combined with some Latinising elements in decorations suggest a place of origin in Northern Italy, perhaps Ravenna.
  4. 'My conclusions are that the manuscript was copied by a non-Greek, probably Latin scribe, in the 9th c., in an Italian location subject to a strong Byzantine influence.' (p. 506)
I don't suppose the date matters very much from a NT text perspective. Being naturally a bit contrary, I reckon one could make an argument against her if one knew a lot more than me about the history of accentuation and manuscript decoration. Actually we have very few manuscripts that can be definitively dated in the 8th cent.

6. Palau doesn't approach this from a NT text critical perspective. She accepts the work of Chapman, Geerlings and Wisse on Family E without any substantial interaction: this ms 'is in fact family E's most ancient member and can therefore be considered the most prominent specimen of the group, although not the best codes of the family nor its archetype' (p. 472). Her theory of date and provenance could usefully be followed up by a treatment of the family E manuscripts with a view to codicological and presentational similarities.

7. All in all a good piece of work which raises several research issues for NT text criticism:
  1. Two unidentified palimpsest sheets to investigate.
  2. The place of NT manuscripts in the history of the development of accentuation.
  3. Codicological analysis of Family E manuscripts.
  4. The use of the cross in NT manuscript decorations as an aspect of NT reception history.

1 comment

  1. Thank you very much, Peter, for your review. Havind read the article some weeks ago, I had similar impressions. An interesting coincidence is that Zuntz argued some time ago in his German work "Lukian von Antiochien und der Text der Evangelien", p. 54, that this codex should be dated to the 9th century.