Monday, May 29, 2017

Tyndale House Edition: Getting the Readings Right

A textual apparatus is useful as a quick summary of the evidence at a particular location and also to raise questions as to unexpected manuscript combinations or readings. However, by its very nature, an apparatus presents the evidence in an atomistic way and runs the risk of fostering a view of an artefact as little more than a collection of mutually independent readings. So it is advisable to have a large number of images open on your screen - and nowadays that is not much of a problem. But then we get the small problem of understanding what is actually there. The following two examples posed considerable problems, even though there is no problem with the physical clarity of the writing.

The first example is from Gal. 5:26.
Μὴ γινώμεθα κενόδοξοι, ἀλλήλους προκαλούμενοι, ἀλλήλοις φθονοῦντες.
‘Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.’

There is variation on the case ending of the second occurrence of the reflexive pronoun αλληλοις / αλληλους. In many aspects this is an interesting variant: not only are the early big codices split but also the Textus Receptus has a different reading from the Majority Text (provided that the CNTTS apparatus in BibleWorks is correct).

From a scribal habit perspective the solution is straightforward as the second instance underwent influence from the first, resulting in twice αλληλους.

What I am interested now is the reading of a minuscule in the BnF, GA 6.

Often it is possible to ‘predict’ the reading of a manuscript given its affinity to other manuscripts, but in this case it is much trickier. Does the ligature indicate -οις or -ους? The problem is that this minuscule does not use many ligatures for these endings and I couldn’t find any parallels in the vicinity. So I fired off an email to Maurice Robinson who I trust to have seen a few more minuscules than I, with, what I thought, was a ‘simple’ question. Questions are never simple. The solution he came up with, which I think is likelier than any alternative I had, was that the ligature for the accusative plural -ους is quite distinct; and he sent me kindly some examples from Hebrews. When trying to locate these I stumbled over a clear parallel in Heb 2:18 for -οις in the expression δυναται τοις πειραζομενοις βοηθησαι, ‘he is able to help those who are being tempted’

This solves the problem of GA 6’s reading in Gal 5:26; it reads αλληλοις.

The second example is from Codex Vaticanus, B(03). What does it read after τις ουν in 1 Cor. 9:18? μοι or μου?

It is not particularly clear to me and could go either way. Coupled with the correction that happens in Sinaiticus, ℵ(01), there is plenty of uncertainty around. In this case I judged that the direction of change would be from μου to μοι, in part because of the position of the pronoun. Had μου been at its neutral position after μισθος the problem would never have arisen. Still, what B(03) actually says is not immediately clear.

These are just two examples where the granularity of the data is starting to pose limits of what we can know. As a wise author once wrote, reality is not digital but analogue. With sufficient study we can push back the grey areas, yet only to find others instead.


  1. Dirk - I love your posts, they usually make me wish I had been a student in one of your classes. This one was a great way to start my day. I do have a question though. At the start you say

    "However, by its very nature, an apparatus presents the evidence in an atomistic way and runs the risk of fostering a view of an artefact as little more than a collection of mutually independent readings. "

    I get that you're identifying a potential pitfall there, but it's not 100% clear to me what you're pointing to, or why it's bad. Could you expand on that a bit?


    1. The risk I see is that of ignoring the fact that it is a particular manuscript that contains all these variant readings. Something happened in history that caused all these readings to appear in this unique artefact, and we should not forget that one particular source of influence (scribe or ancestor) could be responsible for a subset of these readings. Thus we are not necessarily talking about multiple variant readings that have no connection to one another, but with a set of variant readings that actually may connect. That is why an apparatus becomes so much more meaningful when combined with the study of the textual features of individual manuscripts (you see, I don't label an apparatus as 'bad').

  2. Regarding Vaticanus, normally the superior "o" above the "M" would itself adequately represent MOU (cf. Vaticanus at 7:34 earlier).

    On the basis of the slightly wavy nature of the line below the "M", I would see that as still indicating -OU. Perhaps the retracer added the wavy line below in order to make the text more clear?

  3. I think the first one, which is rather common, is an example of a tachygraphic sign rather than a ligature. However, it is perhaps more common with the line horizonally written (same sign another angle).