Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A guest post

Ed Andrew Edmondson, working on a PhD in beautiful Birmingham, sent in the following:

John 12:15 quotes Zechariah 9:9: “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey's colt!”. Most of the manuscripts read ο βασιλευς σου (your king), but a small number read ο βασιλευ σου - or is that ο βασιλευς ου since there are no word boundaries?
Surely it isn't intended to read “the king is not coming” (ο βασιλευς ου) - so is “ο βασιλευ σου” a legitimate alternative?

Consider John 12:15 in manuscript 1014, for example, which seems a clear case of a single sigma:

Perhaps the scribe missed out one sigma, either by design or error. Or perhaps this could be an unexpected use of the vocative... Now consider Matthew 21:5 in the same manuscript, which contains the same quote from Zechariah:

That has two sigmas... so it doesn't seem that this scribe would habitually miss one out. So was it just a mistake in his copying of John?

Interestingly, considering the same two places in manuscript 382 we find only one sigma in each place. So perhaps that scribe did deliberately write this with only one sigma. A few words earlier in John 12 he did write ο βασιλευσ του ιηλ (the king of Israel) – so he wasn't against the form βασιλευσ.

So why do we find this reading? Is it merely phonetic and/or just a different way of writing the same variant? Or is it a genuine variant using the vocative (or even the negative)?

And so should it be regularised away, or left in the critical apparatus? We were trying to answer this question in ITSEE today...

Witnesses to this variant: 036, 295, 382, 579, 732, 1014, 1029, 1344, 1546, 2411, 2585, 2615, L425, L1075


  1. Why would a specific vocative form have a definite article attached? While a nominative with an article can be used as a vocative, the opposite construction doesn't work.

    Taking the reading as ο βασιλευς ου becomes nonsensical in context, so the obvious answer is a simple haplographic blunder, either by the scribe of a given MS itself or by a genertically related predecessor (since some of the minuscules appear to be genetically related).

  2. I do generally think that it is worth trying to make sense of a reading (especially in the papyri). But in this case I would go for simple error. If the vocative was intended I'd expect a circumflex accent.

    I would want to record it in a transcription though, with a note that about haplography etc.

  3. I too take it as an error, though if one would like to fool around, one could argue ου is a relative pronoun (which makes no sense either) :)

    I am not convinced this should be mentioned in the critical apparatus, unless it is marked as scribal blunder, and such errors are generally included with a note. But why should they?

  4. Two possible reasons for including blunders in an apparatus:
    a) because the apparatus illustrates aspect of the textual tradition (i.e. blunders included);
    b) because patterns of agreement in error may be of interest (either because agreement in error may suggest some kind of relationship; or because obviously independent errors made on several occasions are interesting.

  5. However, I doubt this one would get through the cut.

  6. Is it possible that John 12:15 in this MS is written by a different hand than the one used to write Matthew 21:5?

  7. I think it's the same scribe in both Matthew and John for 1014. The full images are here (NTVMR) if anyone wants to compare: Matt, John

  8. Two possible reasons for excluding such blunders in an apparatus:

    a) A critical text used to construct serious translations for liturgical and lay-study use should not include trivial or novel readings that according to probability are simple copying errors, and which are found in relatively insignificant late manuscripts as 'uber-minority' readings.

    b) Although critical texts can also be used for research, a micro-connection between one or two manuscripts pre-evaluates itself as useless background noise, hindering discovery. A reading should be pre-evaluated as of possible transmissional significance in a history of the text at a higher level than mere 1 or 2 generation local blunders.