Monday, November 06, 2017

The ‘beginning’ of the gospel and minuscule 1241

The opening line of Mark’s Gospel is of interest for several reasons. One is, of course, the famous variant at the end of 1.1 involving “son of God.” But another is its use of εὐαγγελιον to refer to the narrative of Jesus that follows. Mark opens with “the beginning (ἀρχή) of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God.”

It is from this opening line that many think the use of εὐαγγελιον to refer to a written narrative of Jesus developed. Hence we find εὐαγγέλιον κτλ. as the title for each of our canonical Gospels. I wonder if Mark’s opening might also explain why we find κατά in the titles. The use of  κατά to delineate authorship is, after all, somewhat unusual given that the simple genitive would do just fine. But, given Mark’s opening line, perhaps κατά was needed to distinguish the author of the narrative (e.g., εὐαγγέλιον κατὰ μαρκον) from its main subject (εὐαγγέλιον Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ; cf. Hengel, Johannine Question, 193 n. 3). In any case, if we assume Mark wrote first, his opening effectively serves as the “beginning” of the gospel in multiple senses.

What is interesting is that minuscule 1241 adopts Mark’s language for the actual τιτλοι for both Matt and Luke. Both are titled ἀρχὴ (σῦν θεῷ) τοῦ κατὰ ... εὐαγγελιοῦ. Mark and John, on the other hand, are not so titled in this manuscript, I assume because both already have ἀρχή in their opening sentence. Interestingly, Acts also is titled “the beginning (ἀρχή ) of...” such that Mark’s influence is felt on all five of the canonical New Testament narratives in this manuscript. (The other books in 1241 do not have ἀρχή in the titles.) This is just one of the many ways that actually looking at manuscripts can get us thinking more about the text—both its original meaning and its later influence.

Both NA27 and the Aland Synopsis list pc or al with these Gospel titles, but I have not been able to track these others down yet.

Here are some images (more at CSNTM or the VMR):

Matt 1.1 in 1241

Luke 1.1 in 1241

Acts 1.1 in 1241


  1. Swanson gave variants and attestation for Gospel titles (and also headings before the kephalaia lists), but in his Matthew volume, he didn't include any data from 1241 or apparently any of the other mss that have an ἀρχή-form of the title.

  2. GA 118 (XIII, e, Bod) also uses αρχη in Gospel titles, but for Mk, Lk, Jn... not Mt & Lk only (as in 1424):

    εκ του κατα ματθαιον αγιου ευαγγελιου

    αρχη του κατα τον Μαρκον ευαγγελιου

    αρχη του κατα Λουκαν αγιον ευαγγελιον

    αρχη του κατα Ιω ευαου

    1. Oops... meant 1241, not 1424.

    2. Thanks, Jeff! Where'd you find it?

    3. CNTTS apparatus... and I double-checked looking at the images in the VMR before posting. I also checked Legg on Mt & Mk, but he didn't list any others. I don't know offhand which other minuscules are textually close to 1241 or 118, but there might be other examples. This is where it would be nice to have more comprehensive databases to check.

  3. The addition of σῦν θεῷ seems to me to be the hardest part to explain.

  4. The phrase εν αρχη του ευαγγελιου also occurs in 1 Clement 47:2, only there it refers to Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians.

    It may be a stretch to see a parallel between that and the titles used for Gospels. But I think that those titles and 1 Clement might both reflect the thinking that the Gospel is a story that is still being lived out in the days of Clement and the scribe of 1241, such that the period of Jesus and the apostles was just the beginning of it.

    The way Mark originally used the phrase, I tend to think that he only referred to the beginning of his Gospel, and not the whole of it, as the beginning of the Gospel. But then again, he also might have meant that his whole book was merely the beginning of the Gospel.

  5. GA 1367 (XV, National Library of Greece) has the following inscriptions for the gospels:
    - αρχη του κατα ματθαιον αγιου ευαγγελιου
    - το κατα μαρκον αγιον ευαγγελιον
    - ευαγγελιον κατα λουκαν
    - ευαγγελιον κατα ιω(αννην)
    Color digital images are available at CSNTM ( Interestingly, this manuscript preserves this form of the title in Matthew only.