Thursday, August 20, 2009

Significant Spaces in P46

I was looking at Kenyon's edition of the text of P46 (1935), as one does, and I noticed that the edited text marks out certain spaces. For the first page of Hebrews the following have a large space:
  1. v1: PROFHTAIS (space) EP ESXATOU
  2. v2: EN UIW (space) ON EQHKEN
  3. v3: TOUS AIWNAS (space) OS WN
  4. v5: TWN AGGELWN (space) UIS MOU
  5. v6: EIS UN (space) OTAN DE
Looking at the facsimile however (as one does), it becomes apparent that the perception of the editor as to what is significant for punctuation has been at work here, since there are other spaces equal or larger, that are not signalled. So I measured the spaces in this page and then put them in order of width:

  1. v6: EIS UN (4.8mm) OTAN DE
  2. v1: POLU (3.7mm) MEROS
  3. v2: HMEIN (3.3mm) EN UIW
  4. v2: EN UIW (3.2mm) ON EQHKEN
  5. v1: POLUMEROS (3.1mm) KAI
  6. v2: TOUTWN (2.8mm) ELALHSEN
  7. v3: TOUS AIWNAS (2.8mm) OS WN
  8. v1: PALAI (2.5 mm) O QS
  9. v3: DI AUTOU (2.5 mm) KAQARISMON
  11. v5: TWN AGGELWN (2.2mm) UIS MOU
  12. v1: PROFHTAIS (2.1mm) EP ESXATOU
  13. v2: KLHRONOMON (2.1mm) PANTWN
  14. v3: AUTOU (2.0mm) FERWN
  15. v4: TOSOU (2.0mm) TWN
What does this show? I wasn't sure so I looked at the introduction. Here is what Kenyon says:

Pauses in sense are occasionally indicated by slight space-intervals between words. Prof. Sanders has indicated a large number of such intervals, but most of them have, I think, no significance. Some are due to flaws in the papyrus (as at junctions of kollemata), some to the scribe's habit of leaving a slight space after an abbreviation, some seem to be purely accidental or hardly perceptible. I have thought it best to indicate them only when they are plainly intentional and denote a pause in the sense. Only an examination of the facsimile will show exactly what the facts are. They suggest at any rate some perception by the scribe of the sense of what he was writing. (p. xiv)
This is interesting. It suggests that correspondence with what Kenyon thought was 'a pause in the sense' was one critical factor in identifying the significant spaces, which suggests that this is not a particularly objective measure. Of course there is wisdom to be gained from constant and thoughtful exposure to manuscripts and Kenyon's opinions are obviously thoughtful and experienced. But if one wanted to study P46 in order to understand the "perception by the scribe of the sense of what he was writing", one would need to do a lot of careful thinking (and even perhaps some measuring). Indeed, although Kenyon said that "only an examination of the facsimile will show exactly what the facts are", his comment that some spaces are not significant because they are due to flaws in the papyrus would suggest that only an examination of the manuscript itself will show exactly what the facts are.

I think it would be a good study to look at the use of space for 'pauses in sense' in P46, but there would be quite a few method issues to think through.


  1. But remember, spaces after Mark 16:8 and John 7:53 have no significance other than that the scribe quit writing for a while.

  2. It seems a straightforward method would be to
    1. identify all the spaces.
    2. identify spaces that are probably due to flaws in the papyrus.
    3. identify spaces due to abbreviations.
    4. Take the remaining spaces and and categorize them as follows:
    a. impossible breaks in sense (due to grammar or breaks in between words).
    b. possible breaks in sense which would be singular to p46.
    c. possible breaks in sense which are attested by one or more other manuscripts.

    case 1: If 4a is statistically significant compared to 4b and 4c (without any additional explanation), then we know the spaces have nothing to do with the scribes understanding of the text, and are just a random phenomena.

    If 4b is statistically significant compared with 4c, or 4c is a small subset of attested breaks in sense, then we can reasonably assume the scribe (or the scribe of his exemplar) was reading the text as he wrote and inserting spaces.

    Otherwise we can assume the breaks were probably copied from an exemplar.


  3. The subject of my thesis, Codex Schoyen (GMatt--mae2) is replete with spaces which I think clearly mark off sense units.

    It is Coptic and dates perhaps from the early 4th century.

    I would be interested in knowing what other early manuscripts use space as punctuation.