Monday, August 03, 2020

GA 2965 and the Nicetas Manuscript Cluster: Guest Post by Post II

The following is a guest post by Darrell Post, graduate of Virginia Beach Theological Seminar (for an earlier guest post by Darrell on minuscule 2957 and its allies, see here – that post also includes an introduction of the guestblogger).

Gregory-Aland 2965 and the Nicetas Manuscript Cluster

Sometimes things hide in plain sight. Such was the situation with the manuscript cluster of Nicetas’ catena on John’s gospel. These individual manuscripts, 249, 317, 333, 423, 430, 743, and 869 have been known to exist for years, but this group was largely ignored until Brill published an article in 2016 by Michael A. Clark, Nicetas of Heraclea’s Catena on John’s Gospel: How Many Manuscripts are There?This helpful article established with certainty which mss should truly be cataloged as a catenae of Nicetas.  Clark later completed his dissertation, The Catena of Nicetas of Heraclea and its Johannine Text, which included a reconstructed text of John’s gospel as penned by Nicetas, complete with an apparatus showing variations between the Nicetas text, the Byzantine text, and the NA text. 

A contributing factor to the historical ignorance of this cluster involves the damaged and tattered nature of each of the manuscripts (see table below). Furthermore, none of them include the synoptic gospels, meaning these were avoided during the profile studies that identified other minuscule clusters.

Bruce Morrill’s dissertation on John 18 found 317, 333, and 423 as closely related, but 249, 430, and 869 lacked chapter 18. 743 changed dramatically somewhere between chapter 11 and chapter 18, where Morrill found it to have different relatives.

Recently, the INTF assigned a new GA number, 2965, to a previously unknown copy of Nicetas’ catena on John. This find is significant for two reasons. First, the text of 2965 seems complete and undamaged, and second, the Greek text strongly matches the cluster. The readings from this cluster’s text are mixed, retaining many of the readings found primarily in the Alexandrian mss—more so than Family 1 or Family 13. 

The table below shows the contents and location of each member of this cluster:

GA# John Content MS Content Date Location
249 3:22-13:20 JN 12th Moscow, Historical Museum V. 90
317 10:9-end JN 12th Paris, National Library Greek 212
333 1:1-20:23 MT, JN 1214 Turin National University Library, B. I. 9
397* 1:1-21:18 JN 10/11th Rome, Vallicelliana Library, ms.E. 40
423 1:1-19:16 MT, JN 1556 Munich, Bavarian State Library, Cod.graec. 36, 37
430 1:1-8:14 JN 11th Munich, Bavarian State Library, Cod.graec. 437
743 1:1-21:21 JN, 1-3 JN, RV 14th Paris, National Library, Suppl. Grec 159, fol. 2-7.12-406
869 6:20-11:57 JN 12th Vatican Library,
2965 Complete JN 1360-80 Mikulov, Regional Museum, MIK 6370

*397 is included here because in portions of John’s gospel, chapter 11 for instance, it presents the same Greek text as found in the Nicetas cluster.

In John 11 there are 50 instances where the NA text varies from the 2005 R-P MT. 249, 317, 333, 423, 430, 869 and 2965 include 40% of these readings, while 397 includes 42% of them and 743 just 22%. By comparison, Family 1 has as many as 33% of these readings and Family 13 just 20% of them. Other frequently cited minuscules rank as follows: 33 – 58%, 579 – 52%, 213 – 50%, 1241 – 45%

Notable variations in John 11 supported by this Nicetas catena cluster include ηδη ημερασ rather than ημερασ ηδη in 11:17; την instead of τασ περι in 11:19; inclusion of δε, ηγερθη instead of εγειρεται and ηρχετο for ερχεται in 11:29; the inclusion of ετι in 11:30; προσ instead of εισ in 11:32; τετελευτηκοτοσ rather than τεθνηκοτοσ in 11:39; the omission of ο τεθνηκωσ κειμενοσ in 11:41, and εμεινεν for διετριβεν in 11:54. This last one is particularly rare, given the only other witnesses found to support this reading include P66, P75, 01, 03, 019, 032, 579, 597, 1241 and 1654.

The first table below shows the percentage of agreement in John 11 each member of the Nicetas cluster has with the MT. The second table shows the agreement between the mss, again from John 11.

Agreement with MT in John 11
249 (892/953) 93.6%
317 (891/953) 93.5%
333 (889/953) 93.3%
397 (895/953) 93.9%
423 (888/953) 93.2%
743 (912/953) 95.7%
869 (802/857) 93.6%
2965 (887/953) 93.1%

249 317 333 397 423 743 869 2965
249 - 99.4% 99.5% 98.7% 99.4% 96.3% 98.9% 99.2%
317 99.4% - 98.8% 99.0% 98.7% 96.3% 99.1% 99.8%
333 99.5% 98.8% - 98.2% 99.9% 96.0% 98.6% 98.6%
397 98.7% 99.0% 98.2% - 98.1% 96.5% 98.6% 98.7%
423 99.4% 98.7% 99.9% 98.1% - 95.9% 98.6% 98.5%
743 96.3% 96.3% 96.0% 96.5% 95.9% - 96.0% 96.1%
869 98.9% 99.1% 98.6% 98.6% 98.6% 96.0% - 98.8%
2965 99.2% 99.8% 98.6% 98.7% 98.5% 96.1% 98.8% -


  1. Off-topic:
    Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus Wife, by Ariel Sabar (Doubleday, Aug. 11, 2020; ISBN 9780385542586), reviewed by Alex Beam in The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 3, excerpts:

    The first line of act I of “Veritas,” Ariel Sabar’s mesmerizing five-act real-life melodrama, is “Dr. Karen Leigh King had reached the summit of her field as a dazzling interpreter of condemned scripture.” We join Ms. King at the apex of her career, her September 2012 unveiling of the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” at the International Congress of Coptic Studies, held a stone’s throw from the Vatican in Rome. Speaking to three dozen colleagues, Ms. King describes the tiny papyrus fragment that had come into her possession, lingering over its fateful line 4: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife . . .’ ”
    The papyrus presented problems from the start. Before the Rome event, two of the three anonymous peer reviewers retained by the Harvard Theological Review suggested Ms. King’s fragment might be a fake—although none of the scholars assembled in Rome knew that. Ms. King’s reviewers examined only a digital photograph of the “Gospel,” and “something felt off,” Mr. Sabar reports. One expert said the script “looked like twenty-first-century handwriting.” On closer inspection, small imperfections manifested themselves: missing characters and the “grammatical monstrosity” of an impossible double conjugation.
    Brown University Egyptologist Leo Depuydt called the papyrus’s grammar a “colossal double blunder,” arguing that its creator was less likely to have been “a very incompetent ancient scribe” than “a modern author who might have benefited from one more semester of Coptic.” ….
    …. Nineteen months after the Rome reveal, the Theological Review published her article defending the fragment’s authenticity, backstopped by testing carried out at Harvard, Columbia and MIT. Harvard issued a triumphant press release: “Testing Indicates ‘Gospel of Jesus’s Wife’ Papyrus Fragment to Be Ancient.” Ms. King and the as-yet-unidentified owner of the fragment exchanged a sigh of relief…..
    …. It is curious, we learn, that Ms. King had urged the Theological Review to scotch a dissenting article by Mr. Depuydt that was printed in the 2014 issue devoted to the papyrus. It is equally curious that the Columbia and MIT “authentications” of the fragment were performed by scholars with “close personal ties” to Ms. King and to one of her key allies. The MIT man was the son of a family friend and “an expert in explosives detection.” The ink analyst from Columbia “had no experience with ancient objects.” Oops.
    His conclusion is devastating: “[Ms. King’s] ideological commitments were choreographing her practice of history,” Mr. Sabar writes. “The story came first; the dates managed after. The narrative before the evidence; the news conference before the scientific analysis.”....

  2. REVIEW: Ariel Sabar, Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife (NY: Doubleday, 2020)
    At a glance, the fake so-called Gospel of Jesus’ Wife might seem to be old news, but this investigative report reveals new aspects that should concern us. And it documents and engagingly narrates the appalling train of academic mistakes.
    “Confirmation bias” is a term that may go back merely to the 1970s, but as an occasional reality it is as old as humanity. Sometimes one of us becomes dead set in believing just what one wishes to be true. (Could such a custom-fit “ancient” text be manufactured to mislead me? Neveryoumind.)
    At first, Prof. Karen L. King reportedly thought an email offering a papyrus with Jesus mentioning “my wife” was quite likely a fake. She had published on the manuscript in Berlin of the Gospel of Mary. And here was a man claiming to have on him a related manuscript! It turned out that he was also experienced in Berlin, West and East. But she later changed course, and ran with it, despite red flags. (Disclosure: my late dear Mom graduated, cum laude, from Harvard Divinity School; I think her favorite prof was Krister Stendahl.)
    Harvard Theological Review got, for King’s proposed article on this margin-less non-continuous pastiche odd text written with something other than a traditional pen, two negative peer reviews. For the other reviewer, see page 285. They did delay publication until tests showed that the ink was carbon-based—ink that anyone can make today—and that the papyrus was genuine—but dated not to ancient but to medieval times! As Myriam Krutzsch and Ira Rabin (New Testament Studies 61.3 2015) and others caution, scientific tests can check for anomalies, anachronisms, but these are not authenticators.
    Here are some quibbles with the book, maybe minor. Sabar helpfully mentioned other suspected fakes. But he wrote (p. 34) about Morton Smith’s “Secret Mark” that “Eminent scholars added the Secret Mark letter to the standard edition of Clement’s works.” And (p. 35) “That Clement wasn’t known to have written letters made the find all the more curious.” Adding, provisionally, a text uncertainly attributed to an ancient author is hardly an endorsement. (Compare editions of Posidonius.) And Smith in his snarky article, in Harvard Theological Review 1982, “Clement of Alexandria and Secret Mark: The Score at the End of the First Decade,” may have overstated the extent to which the letter was accepted as genuine Clement; at least one scholar listed as agreeing has denied that. (See also Eric Osborn, “Clement of Alexandria: A Review of Research, 1958-1982,” Second Century 1985 291-44.) And Clement was indeed said to have written letters. Sabar cited (pp. 15-16 and endnote) a 1989 article by Tal Ilan on how extremely widespread was the most-popular female name, Mariamme or Maria, which is fair enough, but better, with considerably more data, is her 2002 book, Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity: Part I, Palestine 330-BCE-200 CE.
    One of the values of this fine and readable book is its emphasis on the importance of investigating provenance. Especially of claims of “writing into” or “writing out of” important ancient texts.

  3. With 99.8% agreement, the obvious question is whether 2965 is a direct copy of 317.

    1. James,
      Yes, in fact Clark proposed just such a relationship between 333 and 423. Further study would need to be done to confirm the close relationship between 317 and 2965. I can imagine Clark is disappointed 2965 wasn't uncovered prior to his dissertation work.