Friday, December 15, 2017

Tertius, Romans 16.22 and Grotius’ Conjecture

Hugo Grotius
I’ve been doing some work in the last couple of days on my SBL paper (‘Epistolary Secretarial Greetings in the Documentary Papyri and the Greeting from Tertius in Romans 16.22’*) so that I can submit it for print publication. Most of the paper is papyrological and epistolographical, but there is some textual criticism here and there in the footnotes. One of those footnotes concerns Hugo Grotius and a conjecture he made about Romans 16 verse 22: Ἀσπάζομαι ὑμᾶς ἐγὼ Τέρτιος ὁ γράψας τὴν ἐπιστολὴν ἐν κυρίῳ.

I first came across Grotius’ conjecture in the ET of Meyer’s late 19th century commentary on Romans. Then I checked The Amsterdam Database of New Testament Conjectural Emendation (Jan Krans, Bert Jan Lietaert Peerbolte, et al. (eds.), I don’t think I had previously realised what a useful and comprehensive tool this is (also responsive: I left a comment that I’d found a mention of the conjecture in Meyer, Romans ET, and the next thing I knew Jan Krans had added the details from the German edition). [NB. If you use online tools and find them useful, it is generally worth a tiny bit of effort to make a suggestion for further improvement.]

Anyway, if you go to NTVMR and then enter NT Conjectures you can enter Romans 16.22 and get a load of results (six in total: four involving transpositions of different amounts of text of which v. 22 is a part). The one I’m interested in is cj10315 (here is a link that will take you straight there). You can tell at a glance that Grotius conjectured a text lacking Rom 16.22 in 1645 and that this idea was taken up and discussed between 1866 and 1898 (the golden age of conjectures?), and has not been much discussed since then. This you can tell at a glance, but if you start clicking on the little blue i symbols [like this: 🔁, but with a little white i inside], you can get access to complete bibliographical details and citations of the original points.

From all that information we can discover that Hugo Grotius suggested that Tertius’ greeting to the Roman believers was a marginal comment to the original letter incorporated into the archetype of Romans by a copyist (reference: Hugo Grotius, Annotationum in Novum Testamentum, tomus secundus (Annotationes in Acta Apostolorum et epistolas apostolicas) (Paris: Pelé, 11646), 336–337).

This is interesting, because this is not so much a conjectural omission (as it is labelled), but a conjecture about the format of the original letter (Grotius plainly thinks that Tertius’ greeting is part of the original communication by letter). Once we see this is a conjecture about formatting we can see that in its favour we could note:
  1. that documentary letters quite often show margins used for additional greetings (see e.g. my discussion in ‘The Letters of Claudius Terentianus and the New Testament: Insights and Observations on Epistolary Themes’ Tyndale Bulletin 65 (2014), 219–245 available here);
  2. that it is simpler to think of Paul dictating all the greetings from those with him together (rather than a switching from Paul to Tertius and then back to Paul again); and 
  3. that it would be natural for a scribe to copy such a marginal greeting into his text of Romans; and
  4. that even if we adopted Grotius’ conjecture we would still think of Tertius’ greeting as a part of the original communication between Paul and the believers in Rome.
So this is interesting to think about from an exegetical and historical point of view. Against Grotius’ idea I would suggest that the natural place for a scribe to copy such a marginal greeting would be after the other greetings. That direct papyrological parallels to Tertius’ greeting (discussed in my SBL paper) occur in normal continuity with third person reported greetings. And that the current location for Tertius’ greeting is a difficult reading. (Here we come back to a basic problem with conjectures—they are designed to solve difficulties in the text, but it seems more methodologically sensible to prefer more difficult readings.)


  1. Very much interesting Peter, thanks for this. But surely the golden age of conjectures has only just begun!

  2. Dear Dr. Head,

    Very interesting insights about marginalia in early papyrology. I'll be very interested in seeing which ancient parallels you refer to in your forthcoming published article. If, presumably, the major codices and early papyri have 16:22 in the main body of the text, I wonder when the conjectured marginal location of 16:22 became absorbed into the archetype? Perhaps during the period in which the Pauline letters became a collection? Conjectures at best, indeed.

    P.S. I've recently emailed your Wycliffe email address regarding a previous question about papyrological research.

  3. Incidentally, Stephen Carlson adopts a similar conjecture in his dissertation about the explanation το γαρ αγαρ σινα ορος εστιν εν τη αραβια (up to some variation in the precise words used) in Galatians 4:25. He follows some earlier scholars in suggesting, on the basis of intrinsic evidence, that this explanation was originally a marginal note, though Paul may well have still been responsible for it.

    Another well-known example is Philip Payne's proposal that 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 was first added in the margin of the epistle but was then copied into the text at a later point. This is not purely conjectural, as GA 88 and many Western witnesses do relocate the passage a few verses later, but unfortunately we do not have explicit MS evidence of the full omission of the passage. I'm pretty sure Payne believes that the verses were added by a scribe, but I don't see why the explanation of an addition of the verses to the margin would preclude the possibility that Paul wrote them.

    1. I develop the hypothesis that vv. 34-35 were a marginal addition by co-author Sosthenes.

    2. Thanks for sharing that link! This would make the 1 Corinthians example even closer to the one in Romans 16:22, in that Paul's scribes, and not Paul, are argued to be responsible in both cases. Your point that the 1 Corinthians addition would not be canonical or authoritative under these circumstances raises an interesting question: on what basis do we determine text in the original epistle to be inspired scripture? For the Pauline corpus, is it only (1) if Paul dictated it; (2) if Paul dictated it and intended it for the text rather than the margin; or (3) if the text was any part of the original correspondence between Paul and the destination church?

      For what it's worth, I'm also familiar with the "local law" treatment that you bring up in your most recent comment on that post, which would cover not only the matter of women speaking, but also issues like head coverings. At this time, I view 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 as canonical (though I don't preclude its original placement in the margin), but I think it should be understood as a response to a very specific question brought up by the church in Corinth.

  4. Concerning b):

    //b) that it is simpler to think of Paul dictating all the greetings from those with him together (rather than a switching from Paul to Tertius and then back to Paul again);//

    I think that at least one switch, a switch between Paul dictating and Paul writing with his own hand, it to be expected. Paul tells us in 2 Thes 3:17 that he does that in every one of his letters (cf. 1 Cor 16:21; Phmn 19), which helps us understand Gal 6:11. A documentary example illustrating what this would have looked like is P. Oxy. 246 ( , by the way, if you know of other examples of this I'd be interested in them).

    The addition of a personal greeting from Tertius at the very end of Paul's dictated text and immediately before Paul's own handwritten text doesn't seem too jarring to me. The only question, in light of your findings is whether it would be considerably more likely to appear in the margin.

    A problem I see with the conjecture is, why insert this marginal note before v. 23, rather than after it? Might it be that Tertius's greeting in the margin actually included v. 23 with it, such that the "me" in v. 23 is Tertius?

    Also, unless I missed it, the images of the papyri in the Tyndale Bulletin article mentioned in the OP don't include any with a greeting in the margin. Do you know of any images of documentary papyri that have that, especially images that might be available online somewhere?

  5. I like your thinking, Peter. Rom 16:22 certainly intrudes into the flow of Paul's dictation or writing, not only because the "I" here is not Paul.

    Paul sends greetings from his prominent co-workers, who have travelled among the churches. We can imagine that these had a passion for the worldwide church and therefore an interest in the recipients, and on their travels they will have met some of the recipients who have moved to Rome. Tertius does not seem to fit this pattern, though he may have felt a connection with the church of Rome after spending hours writing the letter.

    Also, Tertius disrupts what seems to be a deliberate name order in 16:21-23, the greeters being given in a rough or exact order of their conversions. First we have Timothy and Lucius-Luke, then Jason-Aristarchus of Thessalonica, then Sosipater/Sopater of Beroea, then Gaius-Justus-Stephanas who was the first important convert of Corinth, then Erastus, then the otherwise unknown Quartus. Again, Tertius does not fit this sequence, since it is hard to imagine that he was converted before Gaius.

    These points are only apparent after we correlate the data in 16:21-23 with Acts and 1 Corinthians. A scribe who incorporated a marginal note would not have had such concerns.

    But how did Tertius intrude? Did he do so by interrupting Paul: "Can I add my greetings too?"? Did he add his greetings while Paul was distracted by some other duty? Or did he add his greetings to the margin, with or without Paul's permission? How many times do scribes add greetings? How many times in the margin, and how many times in the body? If Paul wrote the greetings in his own hand, then Tertius may not have been present at the time, and may have added his name to the margin later.

  6. Prof. Head,
    I am trying to correlate some of the information in your Tyndale Bulletin article concerning the Terentianus letters with what's available via U. of Michigan's APIS database, and it's difficult, partly because their search fields don't include any that allow searches for the papyri using the numbering system you cite from the published P. Mich. volumes. This seems especially odd, by the way, since some of the papyri descriptions I find there include notes that say things like, "See electronic version of PMich VIII, 468," (i.e. using the numbering system you do).

    At any rate, one hit that turned up looks like it is P. Mich. VIII, 468, for which they don't have a photograph, but they do have a translation, which includes, "(In the right margine) I pray that you enjoy good health for many years with the greatest happiness forever. Farewell."

    I'm not sure if this might be the same letter that you cite on p. 237 of your article as P. Mich. 467, which you say has a greeting in the margin. Their translation for 467 (assuming I'm reading the information in their database correctly) does not mention a greeting in the margin.
    Here's what they have for 468:

    And here's what they have for 467:

  7. Happy to hear the database serves its purpose!

  8. Peter, I do not think I have seen such quick responses to an ETC Blog for a while! :-P You raise very interesting questions indeed.
    Sincerely, AM

  9. p.s. Thank you for pointing out the conjectures hosted at I am grateful.

  10. A potential parallel would be Westcott and Hort's theory that Paul left a blank space in Eph 1:1 to allow multiple destinations to be added in. (Not that I support the short reading there. For one thing, had left a blank space, and if we take the early uncials to be quite accurate in matters of paragraphing and such, this empty spot should show up in at least some early witnesses.)

    I don't have the reference to hand, but David Allen in his book Lukan Authorship of Hebrews suggests something similar about 1 Tim 5:23.

  11. As the OP mentions, one of the biggest issues with this conjecture (and, in general, conjectures relating to marginal notes being copied into the text) is that the verse in question is located somewhere a scribe would have been unlikely to place it. I'd love to see if a fuller collation of the extant witnesses would reveal any alternate placements, like we see for 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. If something like this were to come up, I'd find the conjecture to be far more compelling. Otherwise, I'd consider the difficulty of the common placement of the verse to have priority.