Monday, July 20, 2015

Calhoun: Acts 17.27 in Bezae as a Reader’s Note

The latest issue of Early Christianity (6.2) has an interesting short article from Robert M. Calhoun on the reading of Codex Bezea at Acts 17.27. Instead of reading that every nation has been made “to seek God” (ζητεῖν τὸν θεόν), Bezae says that it was “especially to seek the divine” (μάλιστα ζητεῖν τὸ θεῖόν ἐστίν). Several other witnesses attest τὸ θεῖον as well (gig, Clement, Irenaeus), but all of them, in one way or another, smooth the awkward syntax introduced by ἐστίν. As Metzger says, the text of Bezae “cannot be construed with the rest of the sentence” and must be emended either by removing ἐστίν or changing τό to something like ὅ (Commentary, p. 405).

Calhoun, however, points out that if Bezae’s text is taken as a complete sentence, it reads quite naturally as a reader’s note: μάλιστα “ζητεῖν τὸ θεῖόν” ἐστιν = “certainly [the correct reading] is ‘to seek the divine.’” At some point, the comment was misread so that instead of just replacing θεόν with θεῖον, the entire sentence was placed in the main text. Calhoun further suggests that this may give us a (small) clue about the editorial process behind the text of Bezae.

While this isn’t the kind of scenario one can definitively prove, and while I would like to see some uses of μάλιστα in similar contexts, it looks to me like a convincing solution and comes with the distinct advantage of not resorting to emendation.

Here is the relevant page in Bezae (line 2) courtesy of Cambridge’s nifty manuscript viewer:

Robert Matthew Calhoun, “The D-Text of Acts 17:27 (μάλιστα ζητεῖν τὸ θεῖόν ἐστιν),” Early Christianity 6.2 (2015): 230-234.

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