Monday, May 02, 2011

The Hook

I'm doing a bit of work on the "apostrophe" or "hook" between double consonants, which is interesting in its implications for the date of various manuscripts, such as P66 and the Koeln ms. of the "Unknown Gospel". There is a standard view trotted out that this is a third-century feature, but Comfort and Barrett have given a few examples of earlier (C2, one poss. C1) papyri with it. Does anyone know of any others?


  1. See E.G. Turner - P.J Parsons, Greek Manuscripts of the Ancient World. Used in documents generally after 200 AD (Gignac, A Grammar of Greek Papyri of the Roman and Byzantine Periods, 162 ff.)

  2. You can search for later (i.e. post Gignac) examples on DDbDP
    search for e.g.· γ’γ

  3. You might check to see if the apostrophe in this MS in the fourth line from the bottom stands between two alphas: The first could be a delta and not an alpha, but it may be worth checking.

    This MS of the Iliad is dated II- early III century CE. More information here:

    If the apostrophe above proves not to be serving the purpose you are hoping for, you might try to find a facsimile of this MS because a note on APIS says that "apostrophe is used consistently." You may find another example.

  4. W. Andrew Smith5/02/2011 6:11 pm

    Looking at the use of the hook in Alexandrinus, I came across an example in Gardthausen from AD 233 (Griechische Palaeographie, 272); I don't believe I have encountered any earlier examples.

  5. I am not sure of any other earlier examples, but this feature is present in P46, albeit only in the Book of Hebrews, and only with the word κριτ'τονος.

  6. What is this neologism "hook"? Apostrophe is the ancient term.
    On the fact that apostrophe between nasals is "not normally written before iii AD" see Turner-Parsons p. 108 (dating the Bodmer Gospel of John).

    The apostrophe in P46 Hebrews7.7 (κριτ’τονος) is an argument for a date c. 200. Comfort's argument (Encountering the manuscripts p.147) begs the question (or is perhaps just methodologically flawed): P46 is not evidence for dating an apostrophe
    between consonants in NT mss to the ii AD. We cannot often argue for/against a date from firmly dated evidence, so when we have such, it is criminal to ignore it. There are indeed a few dated docs. that use an apostrophe in this way before 200, but the preponderance of the evidence points to the third century or later. NT papyri are not a special species of text from other papyri.

    Doesn't it bother anyone that NT scholars seem to be forever re-dating their papyrus witnesses ever earlier, never later?

  7. G.W. Schwendner: "Doesn't it bother anyone that NT scholars seem to be forever re-dating their papyrus witnesses ever earlier, never later?"

    It bothers me. Roger Bagnall's recent book which we have discussed here on the blog brought up the issue again. I am not so impressed with certain parts of Bagnall's study, but I think the dating issue needs discussion, and in general I welcome the trend to apply wider ranges of dates and more caution.

  8. This feature occurs in Hebrews 7:7; 8:6 (2x); 11:35. I cannot agree more with G.W. Schwendner; manuscript dating is a much more complex undertaking. In fact, its presence in P46 should also make us suspicious about the scribe's use of this feature as there are more instances of κριττονος (and its derivatives) without this punctuation (1:4; 7:19, 22; 9:23; 10:34; 11:16; 12:24), plus the fact that it is used only in Hebrews. (Actually, in P46 it looks more like a grave accent). It's quite hard to decide whether this feature is already present in the ancestor of P46, or this is the scribe's own contribution.

  9. Hook is not a neologism (at least it's not my neologising). Others, especially, Comfort and Barrett, have used it. I suppose "hook" may be used to describe merely the shape of the character without commenting on its function. "Apostrophe" in normal English usage commonly implies a function, viz. the omission of a letter.

    Part of my interest in looking at scholarship on this is the danger of circular argumentation. If one starts with the fact that the preponderance of usage is C3 and afterward, then should one date manuscripts with this feature which have on other grounds been dated to the second century? This happened of course with the Unknown Gospel, which had been dated by Skeat to C2 (c. 150), but which was then redated (mainly on the basis of the hook/apostrophe) to "c. 200". A similar thing happened with the "euaggelion kata Matthaion" flyleaf with P4, which is the main object of my interest at the moment.

  10. Re "hook" again, my impression is that it may be slightly more common in German scholarship. A couple of references in Wessely and Croenert come to mind in which they talk about the "Haekchen".

  11. TW: Bagnall's book is a problem. The method he is applying is an old one among documentary papyrologists, but it has never been applied in this way before to literary texts. Parts of his argument are a little crude, but by and large it is brilliant (although it may be completely wrong) and refreshing.

    SG: I understand better about Häkchen now. It's the German term for apostrophe (a by-form of Apostroph).
    dim. of Haken (better translated as "Checkmark" than "hook, but never mind).

  12. GS: "Parts of his argument are a little crude, but by and large it is brilliant (although it may be completely wrong) and refreshing."

    Agreed. Refreshing is the word.