Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chapter Numbers in Paul in Vaticanus

In an interesting new article Greg Goswell (see here for note of an earlier article) has written on ‘An Early Commentary on the Pauline Corpus: The Capitulation of Codex Vaticanus’ in JGRCHJ 8 (2011-12), 51-82 (HT: NTI).

The article attempts ‘to study the hermeneutical significance of the ancient chapters demarcated in the Pauline epistles of this codex’ (p 51). There is a general introduction to the system, especially the place of Hebrews, a discussion of the effects of textual divisions, a list or table of all the chapter divisions, and a discussion of the hermeneutics of this system in terms of reading the Pauline corpus.

It is an interesting article, and the table on pp. 59-62 collects some valuable fundamental data. The reading of Paul in light of this numbering system is very helpful, not least in highlighting our tendency to read the text in light of the traditional numbering systems - here is an aid to escaping from that trap by diversifying. Nevertheless, I had a couple of questions about two points:

A. If, as Goswell admits (following Martini, Skeat and Pisano), the numbers are not original to the production of the manuscript, but ‘a later scribal addition’, then it follows, a) that we shouldn’t speak of this as a fourth-century system (so p. 59 etc.) or necessarily ‘the oldest system of capitulation for the New T known to us’ (p. 51); and b) the system is one of ennumeration and not demarcation or text division (as applied to Codex Vaticanus, which has its own systems of paragraphoi etc. which occasionally coincides with this numbering system but which is actually earlier, more fundamental to the manuscript, and independent). Goswell very often lapses into discussing things like ‘the end of the first three chapters of the letter [of Galatians] as divided in Vaticanus’ (p. 71) when to look at the relevant pages of the manuscript (1488-1489) there is no textual division marked by the numbers.

B. Goswell helpfully attempts to identify the effect of textual divisions on the reading of a text. So he identifies four functions:
  1. ‘to separate one section of a text from what precedes or follows it’
  2. ‘to join material together’ - suggesting common themes
  3. ‘to highlight certain material in a text, making it more prominent in the eyes of the reader’ - emphasising material at the beginning or end of a section
  4. ‘to downplay or ignore certain textual features’ (e.g. since there is no chapter division at Heb 8.1 this system downplays the new covenant theme)
Now (leaving aside the issue already raised that most of the features he discusses on p. 56ff do not actually apply to this system as deployed in Vaticanus), the real problem is the lack of any evidentiary appeal behind these four functions. This may or may not be the impact of a system of textual demarcation. But lacking any supporting evidence it is difficult to know how seriously to take these four listed functions. What we need I think is a new connection between the various systems present in the manuscripts and the actual practice of textual divisions practiced by the Church Fathers. That could be a useful study.


  1. Dear Pete, thanks for these very helpful tags ...

  2. They were the ones suggested to me by blogger, so I thought I should use them.

  3. Tommy always uses tags