Monday, August 22, 2022

Snapp on the Distigmai in Vaticanus


Over on his blog, James Snapp has a new post on the double dots in Vaticanus. These dots have been of significant interest ever since Phil Payne first noticed them. 

Following Niccum and Head, Snapp makes a good case, with some new suggestions, that the dots are from the 16th century. In particular, he suggests that Sepulveda’s letter to Erasmus, where he says he noted 365 variations in Vaticanus, should be reread as 765, changing just one roman numeral (CCCLXV → DCCLXV). In that case, the number matches exactly Payne’s estimate. I wonder if we have the original letter anywhere.

There’s more to the argument, but I won’t spoil it. Go read it and see what you think. I was already pretty convinced the dots were from Sepulveda, but this convinced me further. But I’d love to hear from others who have written or presented on this (Peter Head 👀).

Examples of dots in Vaticanus


  1. Another fascinating, and compelling, comment made by Snapp was the suggestion that the ink reinforcement was made in the 16th century.
    A great article by Snapp. Now if we could get all these great papers and blog posts into a published journal article. That would be amazing.

  2. Andrew J. Brown8/23/2022 12:55 am

    With reference to the number of textual variants from codex B, notified by Sepulveda to Erasmus in 1533, it should be observed that Erasmus himself mentions a total of 300 when referring to this subject near the beginning of his 1535 folio edition of the Greek and Latin New Testament. On sig. β3v of that volume, he states that "at the present time, certain people keep claiming that they have noted three hundred passages from the codex of the papal library, in which [passages] it agrees with our Latin Vulgate edition but disagrees with mine [i.e. with my edition or translation]": "iam nunc quidam iactitant se trecenta loca notasse ex codice pontificiae bibliothecae, in quibus ille consonat cum nostra uulgata aeditione Latina, cum mea dissonat".

    (An incidental point to note here is that, when Erasmus speaks of "our" Latin Vulgate, he means the Vulgate text that was in common public use, rather than an edition which he himself had produced.)

    Although Erasmus does not mention Sepulveda's name in this sentence, it seems highly probable that he has Sepulveda chiefly in mind, and that Sepulveda was the only person who had compiled such a detailed list of readings from codex B at this time. Erasmus' use of the plural, "certain people" (or "quidam"), could make it sound as if more than one person was responsible for this list, but more likely it was just his way of avoiding a direct identification of his opponent. The main point is that his total of "300 passages" is compatible with the figure of "365" cited in the printed editions of Sepulveda's letter, the only difference being that Erasmus has chosen to round the total down to the nearest hundred below. This piece of evidence tends to confirm that Sepulveda originally wrote 365 (or rather, its Latin equivalent) in his letter to Erasmus, and not 765 as suggested.

    However, this does not disprove the idea that Sepulveda could have made some of the marks which are visible in codex B. The list of passages which Erasmus received could have contained just the more important points, and did not need to include every variant which Sepulveda had originally noted or marked.

    Andrew J. Brown

    1. Thanks, Andrew. That’s very helpful information.

    2. Andrew, am I right that we do not have the list of readings that Sepulveda sent Erasmus?

    3. Andrew J. Brown8/24/2022 2:40 pm

      Correct. Sepulveda's list of readings has never been found. However, it is reasonable to assume that the few citations from codex B that were added in the 1535 edition of Erasmus' Annotations were based on information that Sepulveda supplied to him.

    4. Andrew, do you know of a list of those citations from B that were added in the 1535 edition that could be compared with the distigmai?

    5. Andrew J. Brown8/24/2022 6:41 pm

      Apparent citations from codex B in Erasmus' Annotationes of 1535:

      Mark 1: 2 "Esaia propheta" (i.e. τω ησαια τω προφητη)

      Luke 10: 1 "septuaginta duos" (i.e. εβδομηκοντα δυο)

      Luke 23: 46 "commendo" (i.e. παρατιθεμαι)

      Acts 27: 16 καυδα

      All four passages are marked by distigmai in the manuscript. If these markings were already present in cod. B before Sepulveda carried out his "collation", they would have made his task much easier.

    6. Andrew,
      May I include this information in an updated revision of my blog-post, citing you?

    7. Thank you Andrew.

      Cauda in Acts 27:16 has been considered to be from Vaticanus:

      "In his annotations of 1535 at Acts 27:16, Erasmus cites the name of the island as “Kauda” (Cauda). Only B is known to have had that reading in his day"

      A History of Biblical Interpretation, Vol. 2: The Medieval Though the Reformation Periods (2009)
      The Text of the New Testament
      James Keith Elliott

      Just looking at Mark 1:2, this is a famous variant, Professor Robinson has a paper that is largely on the verse.

      So what would be the marker to indicate Vaticanus as the cause of the Erasmus Annotation?


      Steven Avery
      Dutchess County, NY USA

    8. Ok, I will answer my own question, possibly.

      Erasmus only placed this in the 1535 Annotations, ever the Sepulveda letter.

      Not proof, but good circumstantial evidence.

    9. Andrew J. Brown8/25/2022 3:11 am

      You are welcome. It should perhaps be mentioned that, in the 1535 edition of Erasmus' Annotations at Mk 1.2; Lk 10.1; Lk 23.46, he refers to the Vaticanus reading in an oblique way, citing the manuscript as supporting the Latin Vulgate but without quoting the Greek wording. For example, at Mk 1.2, he says: "Sunt qui indicent in bibliotheca uaticana haberi codicem Graecum maiusculis descriptum, qui consentiat cum latina aeditione" ("There are those who point out that, in the Vatican library, there is kept a Greek codex written in capital letters, which agrees with the Latin edition").

    10. Andrew J. Brown8/25/2022 3:24 am

      My previous comment (timed at 3.11 a.m.) was intended as a response to James Snapp's question (timed at 11.38 p.m.), but it can also serve as a partial answer to Stephen Avery.

    11. Andrew J. Brown8/25/2022 3:27 am

      You are welcome. Please see the additional comment further down this page.

    12. James, you can find some more on Erasmus, Sepúlveda and these variant readings in my 2020 article: Krans, Jan. "Erasmus and Codex Vaticanus: An Overview and an Evaluation." Annali Di Storia Dell'esegesi 37, no. 2 (2020): 447-470. – Jan Krans

    13. Hi Andrew, my comment is completely unrelated, but I just wanted to thank you for your work in editing the ASD volumes of Erasmus' text. I greatly appreciate your attention to detail and commentary. I heard a rumor earlier this year that you are almost done with VI-1 and that it should be published soon—is there any truth to the rumor? Please don't feel obligated to answer though!

  3. Maurice A. Robinson8/23/2022 3:17 am

    One still has to contend with the observation from Payne and Canart in relation to scientific spectral analysis—particularly of unretouched umlauts in Vaticanus—that the ink of the umlauts precisely matches the unretouched ink of the original hand. I doubt Sepulveda or a late Renaissance scribe could have done that.

    1. Maurice,
      << unretouched umlauts in Vaticanus >>

      Which distigmai are those supposed to be?

    2. Maurice A. Robinson8/24/2022 5:49 am

      I would have to refer you to the Carart/Payne articles and especially to Ed Gravely's (unpublished) dissertation that covers abd classifies all the umlauts involved.

    3. Maurice,
      But I think Curt Niccum pointed out something about that here in 2009:
      "When Payne first presented his argument for an underlying level of apricot-colored ink, every example came from interior margins where abrasion would be most severe."
      Has Payne ever showed conclusively that those "unretouched umlauts" are not phantom evidence?

    4. Maurice A. Robinson8/25/2022 4:55 am

      Again, I can only reference Canart (the Vatican librarian, who actually conducted the spectral analysis of both unretouched letters and unretouched umlauts), as well as information to be found in Gravely's extensive dissertation. If I recall correctly, Niccum's claims were addressed by both.

    5. Dear Maurice Sir, can you be so kind as to send me a link to Gravely's extensive dissertation that you mentioned?

    6. Maurice A. Robinson8/26/2022 12:33 am

      Edward D. Gravely, "The Text-Critical Sigla in Codex Vaticanus." PhD dissertation, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC, 2009. xv+368pp.

  4. Jesse R Grenz8/25/2022 8:50 pm

    I don't think anyone has mentioned Pietro Versace's work on the marginalia in B(03). He too argues that the "distigmai" are 16th century based on his analysis of the ink. From his perspective, the ink of the unreinforced "distigmai" is closer to that of the 16th-century Vulgate chapter numbers in the NT. Versace worked with B(03) in the BAV. We must wait for micro-XRF analysis to know more about the ink since Canart/Payne only used an "internally lighted, 7X magnifying lens."

    The other problem is that Versace and I have both noticed that there are not simply two layers of ink in B(03), but at least three (4th cent., c. 11th cent., 16th cent.). The darkest ink has been dated to the 16th century by Versace. So even those "distigmai" that have not been reinforced with the dark ink could be very late.

    1. Thanks for sharing that info, Jesse. One thing I’ve never understood is why we would expect anyone, in any century, to reink the dots unless they knew what they meant. If they didn’t, I would assume they would leave them as is.

  5. .E. Hill, A neglected text-critcal siglum in Codex Vaticanus, Journ. of Bibl. Text. Cr., 24 (2019), p. 5, note 18, refers to Versace. Interesting in this note is the mentioning of a distigme on p. 1519A in the replacement of Hebr. 9, 14ff of the 15th century. On the same page 1519B is Arabic numeral 10 to indicate Hebr. 10. The numeral 9 for Hebr. 9 is added the old (uncial) p. 1518B.

    I think it is worth trying to investigate the possibilty that Cardinal Sirleto added distigmae and chapternumbers in the Codex V.
    Sirleto made extensive use of the Codex ( see his critical notes on Valla and Erasmus, textcritical commentary on Psalms, work on the LXX).

  6. There is of course another way in which the 365 number could function. Sepulveda found 365 places where his very old manuscript agreed with the Vulgate. He had no need to tell Erasmus of 400-odd places where he'd examined his very old manuscript and it disagreed with the Vulgate. Although I like the case that it might just be a misprint, I suspect this is just Sepulveda sitting at the head of several centuries of apologetics, protected by the Vatican librarian making it hard for people to examine their very old manuscript properly.

    1. Excellent insight—thank you James! I haven't followed this discussion enough to know: has anyone sorted through them to see if they divide this way in their agreement/non-agreement with the Vulgate?

    2. That makes good sense, James.

    3. Maurice A. Robinson8/31/2022 6:18 pm

      Gravely's dissertation notes where the variations marked by umlauts are supported by the Vulgate or Old Latin (along with Greek MSS supporting such).