Sunday, November 22, 2009

SBL New Orleans 2009 I: Peter Head Putting the Distigmai in the Right Place Pt. 2

The previous post continues here:

4. The distigmai and the small chapter numbers
Peter pointed out that the small chapter number are not generally thought to belong to the oldest layer, i.e., when the codex was first produced. T. S. Skeat examined the hand which he found was different, and the system does not correspond to other features of text segmentation. So it is later, and it also accomodates to the diple. On four occasions written over the top, e.g., 1249 C., 1252 C13. On the other hand, also this feature is earlier than the distigmai, as seen when they interfer on at least five occasions, e.g., 1240 C23, 1245 B 6, 1273 B R 41, 1496 B.

5. Large chapter numbers
These were perhaps added in the 9th century. The large numbers are also older than the distigmai. Sometimes distigme appear outside, sometimes inside large nubmers (did not take down the examples).

So, all three systems above (diple, small and large chapter numbers) interfer with the distigmai, and they are prior. This establishes a relative chronology.

6. The distigmai and other marginal material.
A distigme is written over a lection marker 1409 C 10 R; another over a faded note 1426 C 32; another affected by a reinked text: 1479 B 39 L; another displaced by a marginal comment 1512 B 17; yet another one was tucked in perhaps to avoid interference with a large capital letter (that Skeat has dated to the 15th century); and, finally, there are distigme on the first page of the minuscule addendum.

7. The right place: 16th century (Sepulveda)
Curt Niccum has suggested that the distigmai (formerly Umlauts) were added in the 16th century. Juan Ginés de Sepulveda (1490-1574) had access to Codex Vaticanus and in letter exchange supplied Erasmus with 365 readings to show that these readings agreed with the Vulgate against the TR, and that Erasmus should revise his edition. [As Jan Krans pointed out to me, Erasmus prefered to go with the pope’s opinion and refused to carry through this revision.]

Now, Peter had compared the published text of Erasmus reflecting MSS available in his time and had found that in the gospels there was a 92% match between Erasmus edition and the distigmai. If one includes the notes in Erasmus the rate goes up tp 98%! This supports Niccums' thesis.

The relative chronology shows that the distigmai are late.
A comparison of the distigmai with Erasmus' edition gives 98% match.
This explanation is economical.

After the presentation Payne was the first to respond. He said none of the photos with examples of distigmai shown in the presentation were in apricot color. Payne admitted that they therefore could be later distigmai, and, in fact he has pointed out himself that one sign of late addition is their displacement. Then he mentioned another piece of evidence n the Another piece in the mirror impression of some distigmai, which would have occured only after the binding of the codex when the distigmai were still wet enough. As for the relative chronology, then, the diplai, added before the codex was bound, are only expected to be prior to distigmai, so no objection to that.

Peter Head then resonded that we primarily need to date the distigmai as a unified system, and it is questionable to date it on the basis of the color. Everything can happen with dots.

Payne was apparently not convinced by Head's relative chronology but admitted that the Erasmus' material may be something. Then Payne turned around to address the audience and said he had found five places where there is a special form of distigme which marks large blocks of text (major interpolations). He offered a handout with new material that he had brought. This apology felt a little bit awkward.

Then Amy Anderson, who was presiding, gave Peter the word again and pointed out that against the textual evidence available up to the 4th century we don’t get enough match against the distigmai (somewhere in the range 60-70%). [TW: I said to Peter earlier, that this comparison group will be very important; after some more thought, I think it may also be necessary to compare with some early representatives of the Byzantine text; and moreover I think it would be interesting to look specifically at places where the TR has peculiar minority readings and diverge from the MT].

Nevertheless, Head thinks the 98% match with Erasmus is the death-knell of Payne’s theory.

David Parker got to respond and agreed with Peter that the dating by the color of dots is problematic.

Tim Brown asked Peter how he would date the reinforcement. I do not remember exactly Peter's response but since he thinks the distigmai were added in teh 16th century he does not accept that they were reinforced, since Tischendorf dates the reinforcement of the manuscript to the 10-11th century.

In conclusion: Peter presented a convincing argument that the distigmai were added late, probably in the 16th century as Niccum has proposed, based on the relative chronology of marginal features in the manuscript, and on a close match with Erasmus' edition. In my opinion, this in itself does not entirely exlcude the possibility that some of the distigmai were very early, but I do agree that Peter's explanation is the more economical (Occams' razor), so that only one explanation for the origin of the distigmai is necessary, regarded as one unified system.

Payne still comes back to the apricot colored ink of a few distigmai which is his strongest argument. Of course, his apology created a certain impression of someone desperately clinging on to a theory in which he has invested so much. But, to be fair to Payne – although this presentation must have been rather payneful – I think the case is not entirely closed (but almost).

I have not personally looked into this matter much, but what I would do if I were Peter Head writing an article on the subject on the plane back to Cambridge, I would, if possible, seek to address Payne's remaining argument based on the color of the ink and find contra evidence (if Peter can find access to the facsimile in the cabin). Do any of the later dated features that Peter highlighted in his presentation, or other features known to be late, also have a similar apricot color? Is there any fluctuation in the color of the ink in those later layers?


  1. Re: Erasmus, a short clarification: when he was confronted with Sepúlveda's evidence, Erasmus defended the Greek text of his edition with two arguments: (1) he dismissed Greek texts that confirm the Latin Vulgate as having been corrected/corrupted just to do that; (2) he appealed to the Pope's authority by pointing out that he preferred the manuscripts sent from Rome to Spain and used to make the NT part of the Complutensian Polyglot, an edition which by and large agreed with his own. One should realize, however, that on individual text-critical problems, Erasmus was far less prejudiced than this massive dismissal of "Latinized" manuscripts would suggest.

  2. My 2 cents would be to ask a question. Do we have any proof that a late ink can turn apricot?

    If yes, then Peter's case seems solid. If not, then how do we explain those distigmai that have the apricot color?

  3. Gregory notes (my translation):
    "It appears that at some point, probably in the binding process, the folios have been quite heavily pressed. To avoid having the old Greek letters print off on the opposite side, paper has been put in-between the pages. The grain of these papers has been pressed into the vellum and can still be seen. The bookbinder actually did not use clean, new paper but printed ones. I remember that I saw at least once printed letters which have been transferred from the paper to the vellum." (Gregory I, p. 34-5)

    It is possible that during this process ink got lost. Perhaps even water was supplied to flatten the vellum. If the ink of the umlauts/distigmai is different from that of the (reinforced) letters it is possible that only umlauts were "washed off".

    Historically a late origin of the umlauts is the most probable.
    There is an umlaut in the 15th CE minuscule section of the NT, as there is a triplet in the minuscule section of the OT.

    Did Peter say 92% are TR variants? Compared to what? Vaticanus? Vulgate? NA? - I would like to see a table.
    In my count only about 50% are Majority/TR variants (vs. NA).

  4. Thanks for the response and clarification (Jan). I hope Peter can address Wieland's question. None of us got to see that material.

  5. Just a casual question: has anyone bothered to compare the umlaut-linked variants to readings in Codex Fuldensis?

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  6. James, I don't think so. But Maurice Robinson has had a doctoral student who really got into this deep, maybe he did something like that, I don't know.

    Now, it will be interesting to see if Peter Head's talk of a 98% match holds water.

  7. A couple of comments. First, there is a Catholic apologetic tradition defending the accuracy of the Vulgate relying upon passages that match the location of the distigmai in Vaticanus. I am hoping to finish this research soon. Second, when Payne first presented his argument for an underlying level of apricot-colored ink, every example came from interior margins where abrasion would be most severe. (Wieland's reminder of Gregory's comment might also come into play here as well.) I find this peculiar. Finally, concerning Fuldensis, the gospel text is immediately out of consideration. The only real connection in 1 Corinthians, the only book that I collated in full, might be 14:34-35, but only if the distigmai were misplaced in Vaticanus.