Monday, May 13, 2013

When can we say that a manuscript 'apparently' supports a reading?

Sometimes there is a certain amount of doubt what a manuscript reads at a particular point. If there is a variant reading and a manuscript has only a few of the letters but these letters fit with one reading and not with the other it is acceptable practice to cite this manuscript with the qualifier videtur ('apparently') in support of the reading that fits. A good example is P70 in Matthew 2:23 where the reading ναζαρα for ναζαρετ is accepted as the apparent reading of P70, even though only the final two letters are visible (I am trusting the transcriptions here). For all we know P70 could have read γαδηρα, but because of Eusebius and the comparable variant at 4:13 there is a good case to be made for ναζαρα in P70. I think that this example is more or less on the edge but fine as it stands.

But what about the following case in James 4:13?
πορευσόμεθα εἰς τήνδε τὴν πόλιν καὶ ποιήσομεν

There is a variant πορευσωμεθα and also ποιησωμεν. Most manuscripts have either twice the indicative or twice the subjunctive, an important few have first the indicative and then the subjunctive. There is none that has first the subjunctive followed by the indicative.

This is what P100 has:

αυρι]ον πορευσ[

As we can see, P100 reads the full ποιησομεν but in the line above we have only -ον πορευσ. I cannot see how anyone could argue for a following omicron over an omega. Still, the NA27/28 ECM1 all have P100 as πορευσομεθα ut videtur.

Is this justified? Yes, there is a case why in light of the following indicative ποιησομεν it is likely that P100 has also the indicative πορευσομεθα here (since there is no other manuscript with the subjunctive first and then the indicative). Or 'No', since this argument is only indirect and not based on any observation of letter shapes.
I am not sure about the correct answer, it just shows that it is important to check videtur whenever possible.


  1. What about using "vid" for both? :)) (On a serious note, I'm inclined to think that it might perhaps be best not to cite a defective papyrus in such a a problematic instance.)

  2. To take this one more step, I think it is necessary for the TC individuals to point out that no doctrinal issues can be decided by using a text with a difficult vid, significant variants, or anything that renders the apparent reading suspect. Just wanted to see what kind of reaction this brings. I'm close to this position but it needs refining. Any thoughts?

  3. I think vid is a valuable member of the editor's toolbox. It enables him/her to include evidence that is not immediately straightforward, but would be lost to view if absolute certainty was required. Since it always involves the judgement of the editor I think they are worth checking - also because they are often quite interesting; and in an ideal world, they would be part of a textual commentary. I tend to draw the line at absences/presences determined by counting the number of letters in lines, but these are not common in NA27 (and NA28 looks to be even more cautious).

  4. Well, there are two dots of ink where one expects the vowel following πορευϲ to be. Does the print πορευϲ ̣[ or πορευϲ[ ?
    An argument could be made that position of the top dot of ink is inconsistent with the shape of a typical omega, the left had curve of which is rather open.

    Why don't the NA 28 editors print what it visible, instead of this silly "ut videtur"?