Monday, September 24, 2018

Paragraph Break at Greek Esther 2:5?

In a comment to a previous post, Peter Head noted the presence of reading aids on a page of the Esther part of Ra 967. I have now looked at the available digital images for Esther, and it is clear that these marks do break the text into various sense units. Sometimes they mark what might be equivalent to a comma (e.g. see image below after βενεαμιν) or period (e.g. see image below after αστιν) and at other times, perhaps, they mark a break between paragraphs. It's the latter issue I want to present here and ask for your input.

Sinaiticus at Esther 2:5

This appears to be a standard example of ΚΑΙ in ekthesis to indicate a paragraph break between verse 4 and verse 5. The previous line is left half empty with punctuation indicating a break. The same ekthesis is in B at the same place.

Rahlfs's Text at Esther 2:5

Rahlfs's Edition followed suit by creating a paragraph break between verse 4 and verse 5

Ra 967 f. 40r at Esther 2:5

Here we see the reading aid marking a sense division between verse 4 and verse 5 in the 2/3C papyrus MS, albeit lacking the οὕτως. 

Gӧttingen Esther at 2:5

Ra 967 exercised some influence on the editor of Esther in terms of the layout for the text, for now there is no paragraph break between verse 4 and verse 5, only a period dividing them. But, if I'm reading matters correctly, the reading aid in Ra 967 could have provided a clue to the editor that there may have been a larger sense division in Ra 967, since the scribe of that MS did not use ekthesis or other means for marking paragraphs. Rather he used the same reading aid that he used for all other sense divisions in the text.

It does appear that the 4C scribe of S followed his exemplar by indicating a paragraph break in the text between verse 4 and 5. Did he interpret a reading aid as in 967 as marking a paragraph break here? Or did he invent the paragraph break? Can we know one way or the other? What do you think?


  1. While exthesis in Sinaiticus often indicates a paragraph break, sometimes it is puzzling. Because I worked on Isaiah, I can only speak about scribe B, provides some surprises at Isaiah 1:1, 4, 21; 3:3, 20; 7:14; 9:10; 11:11; 14:21.

    1. Ken, thanks for your comment. Do you happen to remember whether B would have ekthesis in the same places or not? I should update the post with an image from B, but it has ekthesis in the same place as S here.

  2. "Did he interpret a reading aid as in 967 as marking a paragraph break here? Or did he invent the paragraph break? Can we know one way or the other? What do you think?"

    John, as you noted, the passage from Esther pictured in your post has a number of "reading aids" dotted through it. Most are, at best, sentence breaks or some lesser form of punctuation.

    My possibly simplistic conclusion is that we cannot conclude that the scribe in Sinaiticus turned a RA 967 type of reading aid into a paragraph break. There is no real evidence one way or the other.

    1. Bruce, thanks for your comment. I did note a few different examples of the use of the reading aid. What I’m puzzled over is why does the later scribe interpret them differently, sometimes the greater or lesser division?

      I do want to see if Ezekiel or Daniel parts of the MS yield other examples, but I do know from looking at several parts of those books in 967 that the reading aid appears far fewer times than in Esther.

      You might be right that we can’t conclude a direct development but I do wonder if there are intermediate witnesses we simply don’t have any longer. Thanks again.

  3. For those who don't know what "kai in ekthesis" means: when a word is "in ekthesis" it starts a new line in the text, leaving an empty space in the line above it. This is a special codicologial usage of the word.