Monday, December 19, 2011

A Tendency in the Pauline Corpus of Codex Vaticanus

Before anyone accuses me of heresy, yes, Vaticanus is a good manuscript, and especially in the gospels. But the longer I am working in Paul, the more difficult I find it to treat it with the same respect here as in the gospels. Clearly something has happened in its ancestry, which is, let us say, remarkable.

I don't think the scribe of Vaticanus is responsible for this phenomenon. We have his work elsewhere in the manuscript and I haven't noticed something comparable there. So any tendency only to be found in the Pauline corpus is more likely a remnant of something that happened earlier on. And frankly, I don't think the particular tendency we are talking about is exclusive to Vaticanus, it may share this tendency with a number of other manuscripts, in particular the Greek - Latin bilinguals. But it is at times quite pronounced in Vaticanus, more so than in the others.

So what is the vice we are talking about? Hold your chair. It is that of reversing the order of the name-title 'Jesus Christ'. And Vaticanus will almost always be at the side of the order 'Christ Jesus'. In Romans, for example, it is the singular reading of Vaticanus in 5:17, 5:21, and 16:27. And elsewhere it has 'Christ Jesus' often with only minimal support from others (regardless of whether it is deemed to be the original text or not), such as the Latin bilinguals, or minuscules 33 and 81, or Sinaiticus (and it may be that each of these three combination agreements have a different meaning).

I said that very often Vaticanus will be on the side of the 'Christ Jesus' reading, but not always. In Gal 2:16 we find the collocation Jesus and Christ twice, in either order —and twice Vaticanus gets it wrong (I agree here with NA27). Anyway, all this is leading me to a rethink of quite a number of variants, because it seems to me that, strong though Vaticanus might be, we have hit a particular weakness here.


  1. Funny that you mention this tendency. I was contacted by a graduate student doing research in this area just recently, and he asked about this specific phenomenon in Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.I told him to contact you without knowing that you are researching the same thing :)

  2. "Hold your chair." How long should I keep doing this?

  3. Breathe out slowly, open your eyes, and let go now ...

  4. does this breathing exercise work for Sinaiticus, too?

  5. Question:

    Greek, like other early Indo-European languages, tended to lay more importance on word endings than word order. Even though I won't argue that word order was irrelevant, isn't it likely what we are seeing is just a matter of the copyists of the day not seeing it as critical to reproduce the word order there because it wasn't that important to the Greeks of the day, that it meant the same either way?

  6. Stanley, I think you are right. If it sounded a better Greek, it was written so. But that is, like Dirk pointed out, a scribal tendency we need to be aware of. In NTTC even the word order matters :)

  7. B has been said to have a "Western" text in Romans. Interesting that it would share readings with the Latin diglots there.

  8. Thanks Mr. Flink:

    Yes, I won't argue that word order isn't important in NTTC, that is something of a given. i'm sure, though, that such "changes," if indeed the order was changed in the copying process, is illuminating on several levels as to the state of Koine Greek at the time the manuscript was produced. I do realize that NTTC is about trying to determine as closely as possible the original, word order and all.

    Since I would seem to come out of nowhere, I'll simply state that I'm self-taught in Koine and Attic Greek and have studied NTTC at more of an introductory level on my own, so no I have no credentials and don't and it isn't my career. I'm simply a Christian of many years who decided a couple of decades ago to study the biblical languages and some of those languages it was translated into as welll for the personal insight it could give me. It goes without saying that somebody who wants to do that will sooner or later get into BTTC in some sort of a way. I've enjoyed following the blog.

    I also happen to believe the only stupid question is the one not asked. ;-)

  9. Jim Raymond, Ft. Worth12/21/2011 7:47 pm

    If Vaticanus is a "good" manuscript, then is Sinaiticus a horrible one? Because numerous sources report that there are 3,006 (I think I have seen 3,009) differences between them in the gospels. They cannot both be good. Which one is and which one isn't?

  10. Jim, they are both important witnesses, just in their own way. In some textual cases Sinaiticus has it right instead of Vaticanus, and vice versa.

    I'll give you an example. In my own doctoral working NTTC a few years ago I studied the textual history of John 1:34, and found out that Sinaiticus along with a minority group of supporting witnesses has it right, while most of the textual tradition does not (IMO).

    Hence, I'm convinced 1:34 should read ὁ ἐκλεκτὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, as in the SBLGNT.

  11. I once wrote an essay on this subject and argued that some of the word order issues re JC/CJ in Paul stem from the fact that IHSOUS is not distinguishable for genitive & dative. When defining the case ending was communicato-critical CHRISTOS would come first (to make the case clear).

  12. In my brief studies upon this particular word order, one needs to pay attention to the preposition, we never read "in Jesus" (except for a corruption in Rev.). It is always "IN Christ Jesus" or, just "IN Christ" or "IN the Lord Jesus Christ", as the title (Messiah was the significant sphere). At least this is what I have observed, it appears also with other prepositions, generally.
    Mr. Gary S. Dykes
    may one and all have a merry one!

  13. Dykes: "we never read 'in Jesus' (except for a corruption in Rev.)"

    Depends on what text one is using: the Byzantine and TR editions have no occurrences of "in Jesus" (with or without "Christ" following).

    However, the W-H edition does have EN IHSOU CRISTW in Gal 3:14 as well as EN IHSOU in Rev 1:9 (the latter also in Nestle27). So it's not necessarily limited merely to "a corruption in Rev".

  14. Dear Peter,

    Does Ιησου Χριστω or Χριστω Ιησου ever occur where not preceded by a definite article or the preposition εν, either of which would make the case clear? If not, then how does your argument make sense as a motive for a scribe to change the word order?


    Jonathan C. Borland
    A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament 

  15. Robinson wrote:
    the W-H edition does have EN IHSOU CRISTW in Gal 3:14 as well as EN IHSOU in Rev 1:9 (the latter also in Nestle27). So it's not necessarily limited merely to "a corruption in Rev".

    Westcott and Hort followed the Egyptian MSS, 01 and 03 here. Myself I prefer to follow the majority text here which has in your own words: "A transmissional-historical-framework". Most likely Head is on the right track with the case being responsible, but certain prepositions also interplay. At Gal. 1:1, dia is correct with Ihsou, clearly genitives. But when dative or personal aspects are involved with the preposition en, it is never EN Ihsou. Except in some artificial texts, such as W/H. Did the early Egyptians consider Xristw a title?
    Mr. Gary Dykes

  16. Thanks for that information, Peter. But wouldn't the article(s) usually supply that information?

  17. Daniel, the definite article is often omitted in prepositional clauses.

  18. These variants of 'Christ Jesus' vs 'Jesus Christ' indicate in my estimation that a different name was there before, and when the program began to replace that name with Jesus Christ, some scribes put Christ Jesus and some Jesus Christ, but all were working to displace whatever name was there before.

  19. or perhaps the original said Chrestos by itself no Jesus and so Jesus was just inserted wherever when Chrestos was changed to Christos or abbreviated to a nomina sacra that doesn't include the vowels hence eliminating by implication the original.

  20. There are other aspects of the 03 that may lend support to Dirk's claim regarding its (sort of) affinity with Greek-Latin bilinguals. Yet I don't think that all of them have to do with the ancestry. Both materials and scribes may have reflected the provenance in their own ways. In terms of 03's text, we could see such leanings in Paul, but I think there are other ways-more readily attributed to the scribe-that reflect this tradition. But I'll hold my horses on this one.