Wednesday, December 03, 2008

SBL Boston, Bethge on Recently Published or Discovered Coptic MSS

The next paper from the NTTC session on Saturday afternoon was delivered by Hans-Gebhard Bethge, Humboldt-Universität, Berlin.

Hans-Gebhard Bethge, "New Testament Texts in Recently Published or Discovered Coptic Manuscripts"

Bethge started by expressing his strong support for Askeland's ideas that had just been presented. Then he basically presented a survey of recently published or unpublished Coptic MSS, of the NT or related (i.e., those that cite the NT).

First he drew the attention to a papyrus in the British Library, BL. 15031 containing Matthew 25. This apparently has an anti-heretical orientation. Betghe was not sure if the textform represented an unknown version or whether the peculiar text was related to its particular use. He argued for the evaluation of many codices laying around in various collection. [TW: one should as far as possible, however, differentiate between continuous-text NT MSS and other types].

Bethge then discussed the Berliner Coptisches Buch, which deserves more attention. It has been published in a very good edition. It is very ancient and it cites the NT, the Letter of Barnabas and the Sibylline Oracles 8. Bethge "guaranteed" rich awards in the study of this text. The special citations, once again, may have to do with the context.

He then moved over to NT MSS. There are many new Coptic MSS [cf. Askeland's paper], many of which are complete. A lot has not been published. Biblica Coptica by Karl Heinz Schüssler is a vital resource. Betghe mentioned someone else doing important work in Strassbourg (whom I cannot remember). However, he lamented the fact that not many scholars work with the Coptic.

Then he shared a nice story when he was in the British Library. There he found a piece of fragment from Philemon from the 5-6th century, and another fragment of Mark with remarkable readings. All in all, he discovered fifty-five literary fragments from the 5th century, which were not recognized by Crum, et al. Apart from Mark and Philemon, there were also texts from John, ch. 1 and ch. 19, that could originate from the 4th or 5th century.

Another very important item is the Crosby-Schøyen Codex MS 193. The text of 1 Peter in this miscellany is the oldest known witness to this text, and it has some pecularities. There is a good overview in the Editio Critica Maior. Bethge pointed out that this manuscript, preserving just 1 Peter, has the inscriptio "Letter of Peter." Was the scribe unaware of Second Peter? Bethge then mentioned that some other minuscules preserve this title. [TW: According to the ECM 1292 and 1611 read επιστολη πετρου, whereas 2818 reads πετρου επιστολη. These readings, however, may be derived from επιστολη πετρου πρωτη or πετρου επιστολη πρωτη; most likely so 2818 judging from the global stemma produced through the CBGM, according to which the textual flow of this branch runs through 307, that reads πετρου επιστολη πρωτη.]

The next example is another Schøyen codex, "Mae 2." Bethge says scholars agree that it goes back to a Greek Vorlage. Schenke thinks it is independent, and correct translation of entirely different Gospel of Matthew (Hebrew Gospel of Matthew).

[TW: this is the one James Leonard is researching; we all hope he will come up with significant results. Read more about the two Schøyen codices here].

Bethge's next example was Papyrus Michigan 3520 with Eccl, 1 John, 2 Peter (the text ends in 3:14); a miscellaneous codex published by Schenke, and dated to the 4th century. It is written in a Fayumic dialect. Some passages in 2 Peter seems to be paraphrazed. Is it due to a freely translated Greek text? Manuscripts are always interpretations of the text they reproduce.

A sensation is MS. Copt. e. 150(P), published last year. It seems to be a private transcription, and is one of the earliest indication of the fourth gospel in Coptic (dated by Schenke to the 4th cent.). It ends midway down a page with John 20:31, there is some free space on the back side of the space. Bethge thinks this is probably an indication that ch. 21 could or could not be included! P66 is the oldest witness and does contain ch. 21. This piece is a continuous text MS (there is no pagination, so we cannot say that it is the last page of a complete text of John).

[TW: See Peter William's blogpost on this MS, here. Williams points out that "the end of the text is a real mess. Could it just be that the scribe gave up?"]

His final example is a large MS in the Pierpont Morgan museum with the Book of Acts, but the pages are glued together, so it has not been opened (yet). Bottom line of the paper: there are plenty of unexplored Coptic material out there.

As a final note, Bethge announces that he will edit the other Tchakos codex with the mathematical treatise, the Pauline letters, etc. The text will be published as facsimile with comments and evaluations. There will be more to tell at the next SBL. It is an important MS from early times. Greek Vorlage is assumed to be from the 3d century.


  1. ⲛ̅ⲥⲁϩ ⲛ̅ ⲣⲁⲕⲟⲧⲉ

  2. Another aspect of MS. Copt. e. 150(P) is the folding in the middle of the page, suggesting that it was a single leaf. There's no reason to assume that it's part of a codex which finished at 20:31 and rather strong reasons to think that it was not.

  3. My Codex Schoyen webpages are here: