Friday, November 24, 2023

Distigmai Revisited: When Material Analysis Catches Up with Common Sense


Fourteen years ago, on this blog, I summarized co-blogger Peter Head's paper at the SBL in New Orleans in 2009: ”The Marginalia of Codex Vaticanus: Putting the Distigmai (Formerly known as 'Umlauts') in Their Place" in two blogposts here and here in which he basically argued that the double dots now known as distigmai, marking textual variation in Codex Vaticanus, belong to one unified system that was added some time in the 16th century contra Philip Payne, who discovered these distigmai in the first place and had published several articles since 1995 arguing that they, or most of them, are are original to the scribe working in the 4th century. 

Right after the publication of my summaries on the blog Philip Payne contacted me and asked if he could post a full response on this blog, to which I and Peter Head agreed. That rather long response was published in five parts but then made available in full here. The main pillar of Payne's theory was that a group of approximately 50 (now 54) had the same ink colour described as "apricot," which had not been reinked – most scholars had assumed that the reinking of the codex took place in the 10-11th century. So the "chocolat"-colored distigmai were presumably reinked but the apricot-colored distigmai proved that these signs were from the fourth century.

Already in 1995 – fourteen years before Head's paper – Payne had noted the distigmai (then "umlauts") in his article "Fuldensis, Sigla for Variants in Vaticanus and 1 Cor 14.34-5, NTS 41 (1995): 240-62, but there he took a step further by arguing that there were not only distigmai (umlauts) but a combination which he called "bar-umlauts," subsequently changed to "distigme-obelos" (distigme in combination with a horizontal bar, which in reality is a paragraphos sign marking out a new paragraph). This argument reached a climax in Payne's article "Vaticanus Distigme-obelos Symbols Marking Added Text, Including 1 Corinthians 14.34–5," NTS 63 (2017): 604–25. I together with many colleagues wondered how this article could have passed peer review at the time. Peter Gurry wrote this blogpost in reaction to the article.

Subsequently, Jan Krans published a response in the same journal, "Paragraphos, Not Obelos, in Codex Vaticanus, in NTS 65 (2019): 252–57. In his article, Krans concludes that the "distigme-obelos" does not exist, and whereas Payne "seems to be correct on the text-critical status of the distigmai . . . their date and the identification of variant readings are clouded in uncertainty."

As of 21 November 2023, there is no longer any cloud of uncertainty regarding the date of the distigmai. On that final day, at the SBL in San Antonio, Ira Rabin of BAM Federal Institute of Materials Research and Testing presented her paper "Beyond Chocolate and Apricot: Using Scientific Techniques to Determine the Relationship of the Inks of Codex Vaticanus" followed by the presentation by Nehemia Gordon of École Pratique des Hautes Études (Paris), on "The Scribes of Codex Vaticanus." These two papers marked a climax of a wonderful conference for those interested in New Testament textual criticism.

In her paper Ira Rabin explained how the application of micro X-ray fluorescence (µXRF) has revolutionized the study of ancient and medieval cultural artifacts, making it possible to examine them using objective criteria.  She demonstrated how the application of "such objective scientific measurements to ancient and medieval manuscripts shows how color, hue, and appearance of ink to the human eye can be highly misleading" (cited from the abstract). I do not remember all the details, but there is a highly instructive chapter on this topic (open access) by Rabin, "Material Studies of Historic Inks: Transition from Carbon to Iron-Gall Inks" (2021).

Nehemia Gordon (on the image – photo taken from Rabin's presentation) had spent four weeks, during three trips to the Vatican, examining the inks of the codex using ultraviolet-visible-near-infrared (UV-vis-NIR) reflectography and micro X-ray fluorescence (µXRF) in order to test as many samples of the original ink, re-inked, corrections and paratextual notations as possible. He made scans of whole lines in order to avoid unreliable measurements. All in all 587 µXRF line scans and 3730 micrograph images were captured. Then it was possible to measure the intensity of copper and iron in the unreinked and reinked text.


For example, on folio 1390 in column A line 5 there is an  omicron on the line which was left unreinked and could be compared to the darker omega above it.

 Without going into too many details, the result of the scan gives a fingerprint of the ink in the ratio of copper/iron and zinc/iron. The very surprising result was that the unreinked text had the same fingerprint as the reinked text – the inks were based on a similar (but not identical) recipe. This led Rabin to conclude that the reinking was made already in antiquity, because the original ink had soon begun to degrade (apparently a bad mix). I asked in the Q/A how soon this degrading could have happened and Rabin answered that it could be as soon as after 10 years (!). Rabin had not yet said anything about the distigmai, which added to the drama – could both the "apricot" and the "chocolate"-colored distigmai be dated to the fourth century? Jan Krans, who now had to leave for the airport to catch his flight, and others in the room were getting nervous – and this drama paved the way for Nehemiah Gordon's presentation.








 Gordon went through several examples from Payne's publications including an interesting case of Payne's apricot "distigme-obelos" in the left margin at the end of the Lord's prayer in Matthew 6:13 (folio 1241, column B, line 9) which very likely was related to the doxology.

If this "distigme-obelos" went back to the fourth century, there must have been ancient manuscripts that included it (Gordon seemed to be unaware of the fact that versions of the doxology are attested in the Didache, many important Greek minuscules, in the Old Latin, Syriac, Coptic et al., which shows that it is indeed early).

What made this example so interesting was that there is a part of the paragraphos sign which was not reinked so here we can measure at several points, the unreinked and reinked horizontal bar, and the apricot distigme and compare it to the unreinked and reinked main text from another place (like the o/ω above). This test revealed not two but three fingerprints at the crime scene!

Ink 1 (Original ink)
Unreinked main text: Cu 0,12 
Unreinked horizontal line: Cu 0.12

Ink 2 (Reinker)
Reinked main text: Cu 0,17
Reinked horizontal line: Cu 0.20

Ink 3 (Apricot Distigme): Cu 0.02 (under 3% is reaching limit of detection)

Then Gordon turned to an example of Payne's "chocoloate distigme+original obelos" (folio 1241 1243, column A, line 12):

Ink 1 (Original ink)
Unreinked main text: Cu 0.10
Unreinked horizontal line: Cu 0.09-010

Ink 2 (Reinker, p. 1244)
Reinked main text: Cu 0.16-0.17

Ink 3 (Chocolate Distigme): Cu 0.00-0.01

In sum, the distigmai, whether apricot or chocolate brown, had the same very distinct fingerprint which showed that they had an ink-composition with far less copper than the unreinked and reinked text and horizontal line. This demonstrated clearly that the "distigme-obelos" has existed only in fantasy, in spite of Payne's hard attempts to show with advanced statistical method that they must exist.

Rabin and Gordon explained that the ink-composition used for the distigmai, original and reinked, could be assigned to the 16th century at the earliest. This speaks in favor of Pietro Versace's proposal, in his masterful examination of the marginalia of Codex Vaticanus, that in the final phase in the 16th century, Arabic numerals were added to mark Vulgate chapters as well as the distigmai to mark out textual variation in the NT. In this connection, Versace also observed that certain marginalia including distigmai occur on (supplement) pages written in minuscule in the 15th century (I Marginalia del Codex Vaticanus [2018]: 8-9). The new analysis of the ink confirms the date of the marginalia but cannot prove that one and the same scribe who added the Vulgate chapters also added the distigmai. However, it is indeed the most economical hypothesis.

The dating of the distigmai to the 16th century further confirms the proposals by Curt Niccum and Peter Head. In his article "The Voice of the Manuscripts on the Silence of Women: The External Evidence for 1 Cor 14.34–5," NTS 43 (1997): 242–55, Curt Niccum had suggested that the distigmai were added in the 16th century by Juan Ginés de Sepulveda (1490-1574) who had access to the codex and in a letter exchange supplied Erasmus with 365 readings to show that these readings agreed with the Vulgate against the TR, and that Erasmus should revise his edition. (As Jan Krans  has pointed out to me, Erasmus prefered to go with the pope’s opinion and refused to carry through this revision [– for clarification, see Krans's comment to this blogpost].) 

Following Niccum (and Head), James Snapp has more recently suggested that the 365 variations in Vaticanus, should be reread as 765, changing just one roman numeral (CCCLXV → DCCLXV) and thus better matching the actual number of distigmai (see Peter Gurry's blogpost here and Snapp's post here).

To come full circle, we are back to Peter Head's paper from SBL in 2009, in which he presented a comparison of the location of the distigmai with the published text of Erasmus reflecting MSS available in his time and he had found that in the gospels there was a 92% match between Erasmus edition and the distigmai. If one included the notes in Erasmus the rate went up tp 98%! Unfortunately, Head never published this paper. However, as I posted the breaking news from SBL 2023 on Facebook here, Head made just one comment in his characteristic fashion, which I also decided to include in the title of this blogpost:


"When material analysis catches up with common sense."


Epilogue: As we await the full publication of the results by Ira Rabin, Nehemia Gordon and the rest of the team (P. Andrist, P. Vasileiadis, N. Calvillo, O. Hahn), which will actually contain more suprises (implied by the presenters), I sent some follow-up questions and comments to Gordon who had contacted me (I am still waiting for his reply):

Did you take any samples of the accents in Codex Vaticanus? They must be later.
Why did the reinking not degrade as the original… what was wrong with the original ink? 
Also, it is a pity that one could not have discussed some other interesting points where to test the ink (I guess now it is too late).
Update: In reference to this blogpost, Stephen Carlson made a astute comment on X: "Payne is to be commended to bringing the double dots to scholarly attention, but they are not as old as he claimed. Rather, they tell us something important about the reception of Vaticanus in the 1500s."
Update 2: Philip Payne has posted long comments to this blogpost which reveals that he is not going to admit that he was wrong. I will not respond to any of these since I consider it a waste of time. The theories that any distigme is from the fourth century, whether apricot in color or not, and that there is a combination of signs, "distigme-obelos," are stone dead.


  1. As I wrote back in 2009 re: Erasmus and “going with the pope’s opinion”: “a short clarification: when he was confronted with Sepúlveda's evidence, Erasmus defended the Greek text of his edition with two arguments: (1) he dismissed Greek texts that confirm the Latin Vulgate as having been corrected/corrupted just to do that; (2) he appealed to the Pope's authority by pointing out that he preferred the manuscripts sent from Rome to Spain and used to make the NT part of the Complutensian Polyglot, an edition which by and large agreed with his own. One should realize, however, that on individual text-critical problems, Erasmus was far less prejudiced than this massive dismissal of ‘Latinized’ manuscripts would suggest.”

  2. And by the way, I did catch my flight. In fact it was delayed, so that I could easily have stayed till the end of the session. Little did I know …

    1. Tommy Wasserman11/24/2023 2:22 pm

      Am I right that you looked a bit nervous?

    2. Well, I did not like the fact that I had to leave, but further no, since I had spoken to Ira and Nehemiah just before the session, and they had already reassured me that my scholarly ideas were not contradicted by their scientific findings …

  3. Sigh of relief!

  4. Concerning 1 Cor 14:34-35, I feel that we (including myself) have spent too long rebutting Payne's erroneous inferences from distigmai. Critics of the interpolation hypothesis need to address Fee's point about the displacement of the verses. But it is good to see that the XRF is giving us useful learnings about other matters.

    1. The comment above is by Richard Fellows.

    2. Joseph Wilson "Recasting Paul as a Chauvinist" (2022) was enough for some of us. This argues that Paul was quoting the Corinthian sexists in 1 Cor 14:34-5, and then mocking them in v. 36. The Claromontanus Codex and Tertullian displaced those verses to enlist Paul, posthumously, as a supporter of Corinthian sexism.
      All this assumes that 1 Timothy is a forgery, admittedly not a popular stance in evangelical Protestantism (nor in my own Catholic tradition I admit).

    3. Thank you for the kind words. I recognize the notion that 1 Timothy is a forgery is an obstacle to the widespread acceptance of the Q/R hypothesis. Payne and other egalitarian scholars accomodate 1 Tim in different ways. But I think the evidence for the lateness of 1 Tim is strong on multiple fronts, and that it is alone among the pastoral epistles in that it did not have "special" defenders in antiquity. Titus and 2 Tim were both more widely singled out for defense than it was. I am content to remain agnostic about other alleged canonical forgeries, but that one in particular is a bridge too far for me.

  5. Head should still publish his 2009 SBL paper. Better late than never.

    1. Yes, he could use the title "The Marginalia of Codex Vaticanus: When Common Sense Catches Up With Material Analysis".

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Richard Fellows11/26/2023 11:48 pm

      Hi Norman, I don't think there are implications for the PA or the longer ending of Mark. For a detailed discussion of the PA, see the book by Jennifer Knust and Tommy Wasserman.

  7. Anyone knows where, and when, Rabin & Gordon are going to publish their results? Have got a feedback from Versace meanwhile and he has some interesting observations and questions.

    1. Tommy Wasserman11/26/2023 11:21 am

      It would be very nice to follow up with Versace’s comments in a separate blogpost if you would like to share.

  8. Interesting update Tommy, thanks!
    (And for the record, I bitterly miss your old real time blog coverage of the SBL meetings).
    I still think the decision to try to use the word "distigmai" is worth reconsidering.
    I was in the original SBL meeting where an audience member questioned Payne for using "umlaut" . I remember her complaining that umlaut was not the right word because umlaut referred to a German punctuation mark, and these marks in vaticanus were not german punctuation marks! I remember thinking that was the kind of idea that had also raced ahead of common sense, and i sure didn't expect it to come to anything. But instead next thing you know this blog was awash in discussion of this new monstrous term "distigmai" .

    The number one rule of clarity in communication is that you must use words that people will understand. If i say "vaticanus has umlauts over some words" everyone will understand me. The same is simply not true of "distigmai" .

    Is "umlaut" technically the wrong word? Of course. But in english we use words that are technically wrong for the sake of clarity all the time. Look at that phone you are probably reading this on. It is no longer technically true that you "dial" the numbers on it, nor do you actually "hang it up" when you are done the call, yet we still use both words because that's how people will understand what we mean. In the same way, if we use the word "umlaut" , i highly doubt it will cause people the confusion of wondering if Vaticanus is a German text! Instead, it will simply allow them to understand what we are talking about.

    1. Ryan, it is not an easy issue, but now there is a large bulk of publications which has established the term distigmai and since the discussion of their dating is now settled, I see no reason to change the terminology at this point.

    2. True, it has wormed its way into numerous publications. The same, of course, was true of "cesarean text type" . And don't get me started on the supposed inevitability of these cursed self-check-outs at the supermarket! My point is, no bad idea is inevitable. Or irreversible.

    3. In German "umlaut" means ä, ö, ü, which are a, o and u with double dots above it. ä sounds like ea in Head. :-)
      Umlaut is technically wrong, but everybody knows what it means. No?

    4. This is me, Wieland.
      my website ist still active:

    5. Very nice to see you here Wieland! Thanks for all your contributions to NTTC!

  9. Ryan, when I was younger I had the time and energy to take extensive notes of the SBL sessions. Probably I was less affected by jetlag too. It actually took me six hours to write this blogpost, and at the same time I have so many other obligations and deadlines nowadays. I cannot devote so many hours to the blog as I did in the past. Therefore I am grateful that younger folks like Gurry and Hixson have been more active than I on the blog in recent years.

    1. Oh, I completely understand. My pinning for your blogs of yore was really meant more in a spirit of gratitude.

  10. Toldja (on August 20, 2022).

  11. Did the list of 365 readings ever exist? I read that Juan has ‘noted’ them. Could it mean he just marked them in the codex itself?

    1. This is indeed possible, though then Sepúlveda marked many more passages of course, and must have kept some sort of score to arrive at 365 readings. The verb used (‘annoto’) can refer to “noticing”/“observing,” to “marking,” and to “making notes.” I now think he did both “marking” and “making notes,” and also think he sent a list to Erasmus, since Erasmus cites four instances of such readings in his 1535 annotations. See my “Erasmus and Codex Vaticanus. An Overview and an Evaluation,” ASE 37 (2020): 447–70 for more information on Erasmus’ exchange with Sepúlveda and on these four readings.

    2. This is indeed possible, though then Sepúlveda marked many more passages of course, and must have kept some sort of score to arrive at 365 readings. The verb used (‘annoto’) can refer to “noticing”/“observing,” to “marking,” and to “making notes.” I now think he did both “marking” and “making notes,” and also think he sent a list to Erasmus, since Erasmus cites four instances of such readings in his 1535 annotations. See my “Erasmus and Codex Vaticanus. An Overview and an Evaluation,” ASE 37 (2020): 447–70 for more information on Erasmus’ exchange with Sepúlveda and on these four readings.

  12. Philip B. Payne12/15/2023 9:25 am

    Nehemiah Gordon has been in communication with me regarding the scientific analysis of Codex Vaticanus B ink for a couple of years. Over the past two years, I have repeatedly urged him to do ink composition analysis of the eleven distigmai that both Paul Canart and I confirmed match the color of unreinked text nearby on the same page of Vaticanus. To do this we used an internally-lighted loupe that made each distigme dot in the original Vaticanus leaves look like a huge apricot-colored moon. These eleven are identified in Philip B. Payne and Paul Canart, “The Originality of Text-Critical Symbols in Codex Vaticanus” NovT 42, 2 (2000) 105–13.

    Nehemiah Gordon kindly gave me a four-hour detailed preview of his talk at SBL. I specifically asked him if his team had done analysis of the ink of any of those eleven distigmai. He did an electronic search for the Vaticanus page numbers for each of those eleven instances and assured me that his team did NOT take ink signatures of ANY of those eleven distigmai. I explained to Dr. Gordon that those eleven distigmai are the only distigmai that I have confirmed match the original ink of Vaticanus. The only way to have an adequate basis for saying that no distigmai are original to Vaticanus is to test those distigmai that actually do appear to be original.

    Can anyone who heard Dr. Gordon’s talk confirm whether he acknowledged that his team did not test any of the distigmai that I regard as original? I ask because Tommy Wasserman’s report does not mention Dr. Gordon acknowledging this. If Dr. Gordon had acknowledged this, I doubt that Dr. Wasserman would have written, “As of 21 November 2023, there is no longer any cloud of uncertainty regarding the date of the distigmai.”

    Furthermore, based on my examination of the 1999 high resolution facsimile, none of the eight distigme that his team tested matches the apricot color and faintness of nearly original ink. Consequently, I am not at all surprised that the eight distigmai Dr. Gordon’s team tested have different ink signatures than nearby original ink.

  13. Philip B. Payne12/15/2023 9:26 pm

    On Nov. 1, 2023 I emailed to Dr. Gordon:

    Thank you again for your SBL talk preview!

    I have examined carefully each of the eleven instances that Paul Canart and I, after together examining them in the original Vaticanus leaves aided by an internally lighted, high-resolution loupe, concluded match the apricot ink color and faintness of nearby original un-reinked letters on the same page (the ones identified in the Table on p. 108 of Philip B. Payne and Paul Canart, “The Originality of Text-Critical Symbols in Codex Vaticanus,” NovT 42, 2 (2000): 105–13 article) and also the eight instances of the forty identified by Canart without me present for which you showed me “ink signatures.”

    Since our conversation, I have re-examined in the IPZS 1999 facsimile all eleven instances listed in NovT 42, 2 (2000): 108 that Paul Canart and I concluded match the apricot ink color and faintness of nearby original un-reinked letters on the same original Vaticanus page. I find that both the color and faintness of all eleven in the IPZS 1999 facsimile match nearby original un-reinked letters on the same page.

    I have also examined the eight instances of the forty identified by Canart without me present for which you showed me “ink signatures.” I can now confirm what I stated during our Zoom session, that the original ink of un-reinked letters nearby on the same page, to me at least, is obviously fainter than those distigmai. Five of the eight not only have obviously darker ink than the un-reinked original ink letters nearly, but clearly do not match the apricot color of the nearby original ink:
    The distigme at 1276 C31 is darker and is not the apricot color of the original ink nu on C17.
    The distigme at 1285 C14 is darker and is not the apricot color of the original ink epsilon on C17.
    The distigme at 1332 B 10 is darker and is not the apricot color of the original ink nu on B20.
    The distigme at 1332 C 20 is darker and is not the apricot color of the original ink nu on B20.
    The distigme at 1308 B27 is darker and is not the apricot color of the original ink upsilon and nu on B32.
    The three remaining distigmai are not only darker than nearby original ink un-reinked letters but are less apricot in color than the original ink letters in the high-resolution, remarkably faithful color reproductions in the IPZS facsimile:
    The distigme at 1279 B1 is darker and less apricot in color than the original ink upsilon on B1.
    The distigme at 1279 C41 is darker and less apricot in color than the original ink epsilon on C34.
    The distigme at 1332 B15 is darker and less apricot in color than the original ink nu on B20.
    These, therefore, should not be used as evidence that the eleven distimgai that do match the original ink color are not part of the original production of Vaticanus.

  14. Philip B. Payne12/16/2023 3:59 am

    On Nov. 1, 2023 I emailed to Dr. Gordon: Please note that Philip B. Payne and Paul Canart, “Distigmai Matching the Original Ink of Codex Vaticanus: Do They Mark the Location of Textual Variants?” pages 200–226 in Le manuscrit B de la Bible (Vaticanus graecus 1209): Introduction au fac-similé, Acts de Colloque de Genève (11 juin 2001), Contributions supplémentaires (Histoire du Texte Biblique 7; ed. Patrick Andrist (Lausanne: Éditions du Zèbre, 2009), 203 clearly distinguishes the “eleven unambiguous cases where the ink of distigmai matches the apricot color ink of the original manuscript. That research was published in Novum Testamentum 42 (2000) …” from the “forty additional distigmai, some of which he [Paul Canart] discovered in the process …”
    P. 103 states, “Examination of the new facsimile permitted Payne to identify many new instances of apricot color distigmai.
    Canart then directly examined these and other distigmai in the original Vaticnus leaves … He confirmed that forty additional distigmai, some of which he discovered in the process, unambiguously match the original apricot color of unreinforced text on the same page of the codex.”

    Note that this clearly identifies that the forty Paul Canart identified as additional apricot color distigmai are not the same set of distigmai as the “many new instances of apricot color distigmai” Payne found. Since I did not have access to the original codex leaves and since Canart and I had agreed on each of the original eleven we together examined, I had no reason to question Canart's judgments regarding the forty he identified by examining the original Vaticanus leaves.

    Note, however, that I have never claimed to have examined the original Vaticanus leaves regarding any of the forty additional distigmai Canart identified, including the eight you identified. I simply relied on Canart’s judgment regarding their apricot color since he had examined them in the original Vaticanus leaves and I have not.

    None of the eight cases listed above for which you provided “ink signatures” matches the original color and faintness of nearby original ink letters in the IPZS facsimile like the original eleven do that Canart and I identified in Novum Testamentum in 2000.

    When we talked by Zoom you wrote down the term “not apricot” to describe the color of the eight distigme above. After close examination of all eight, I believe this is a correct description of the five listed above. The three others, however, are “less apricot” than the original apricot color ink nearby.

    Since you have only 20 minutes for your SBL talk, I suggest that you summarize my judgments as follows: “In Philip Payne’s judgment based on the high-resolution, remarkably faithful color reproduction of Codex Vaticanus B, the ink of five of these eight distigme is not apricot in color and is clearly darker than nearby original ink letters. The ink of the remaining three is darker and less apricot in color than nearby original ink letters.”

    Or if you are using a Table, I suggest you list the ink of five as “dark, not apricot” and three as “darker and less apricot.”

  15. Philip B. Payne12/16/2023 4:34 pm

    I have never insisted that all or most distigmai are original to the scribe working in the 4th century. Nor have I ever written that the apricot color alone proved that these signs were from the fourth century. For example, the dark apricot color of the two dots that overlap each other at 1241 B9 (Matt 6:13) appears to me to be obviously reinked even though its color is apricot. The large mid-line gap is precisely where many other manuscripts add a fifteen-word doxology to the Lord’s prayer.
    Four factors indicate that this distigme has been reinked to draw attention to the three-fold doxology added to the Lord’s Prayer. First, both dots are significantly larger than all the other distigmai. Second, the ink of these reinforced dots is much darker and more reddish than the original ink epsilon, the second letter in 1441 B20. Third, a third dot is positioned over the distigme. It has the same ink color and texture as the large dots below it. This third dot would emphasize the three-fold doxology, “Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory.” Fourth, there is additional ink of similar color and texture to the left of the left dot. All of this is simply explained if someone added more ink to an original distigme to emphasize it and hint at the three-fold doxology it marks. This case is similar to the three enlarged dots at the Trinitarian gloss in 1 John 5:7 at 1441 B37 that are noticeably larger and with less space between them than the distigmai at 1441 C 4 and 6.

    Dr. Gordon showed me the precise location where his team tested the ink of the large overlapping reddish distigmai at 1241 B9. They tested the ink on a roughly vertical axis in the middle of the overlapping dots. That location is in between where original dots would have been and so should not be expected to show the ink signature of original dots if they were later reinked. The test along this axis showed almost no copper in its ink signature, so the test does show that the ink along that axis is not original ink. But if there were original dots like all the other distigmai, they would have been clearly separated. So they would not have been along this test axis. Consequently, this test does not disprove an original distigme-obelos at 1241 B9.

    There is only one portion of one horizontal bar in the Vaticanus NT that I have identified as matching the original Vaticanus ink color, namely the left portion of the bar at 1243 A12 (in The Bible vs. Biblical Womanhood p. 185). Tommy Wasserman correctly reports (but incorrectly as “folio 1241”) that Nehemiah Gordon’s team’s testing confirmed that the ink signature of the left portion of this horizontal bar matches the ink signature of original Vaticanus ink on that page.

    I wrote that the left portion of this horizontal bar matches the color of original Vaticanus ink at a time when, to my knowledge, no one else had made this identification. Since Dr. Gordon’s testing confirmed that I was correct in my assessment of the originality of that ink, my assessment that eleven distigmai were also original should not be dismissed without testing any of those eleven. The visual similarity between those eleven distigmai and original Vaticanus ink is even more obvious than the left portion of the bar at 1243 A12. I welcome Dr. Gordon’s assessment that ink in the horizontal bars of other distigme-obelos symbols I have identified also match the ink signature of original ink on the same page of Vaticanus and that original ink is visible in most of the other distigme-obelos bars.

    I accept Dr. Gordon’s assessment that the ink in the dark chocolate-color distigme at 1243 A12 is not original. I argued in NTS 63, 1 (2017): 614 that the distigme-obelos at Acts 6:12 (1390 A32) is not original. Since a later scribe added the distigme-obelos symbol at 1390 A32, it would hardly be surprising for that scribe or another scribe, aware of a multi-word insertion in another MS at the gap at 1243 A12, to add this distigme.

    1. Thank you, Philip.
      Your thoroughness and meticulousness above is appreciated.

      Would you be able to give your opinion of the three dots connected to 1 John 5:7-8?

      Are they definitely “late”?
      I.e After the original text.

      Might they be related to textual elements in the region? E.g. Latin manuscripts often had the heavenly witnesses, and could provide textual fodder for a variant.

      Also the issue of “and these three are one” in the earthly witnesses was also a hot-button issue by the time of the Lateran Council c. AD 1200, and that had dual-language publication.

      Any assistance, and speculations, appreciated!

      Steven Avery
      Dutchess County, NY USA

    2. Philip B. Payne12/23/2023 10:10 pm

      Thank you, Steven, for your excellent question. In Le manuscript B de la Bible, 219–222 I identify six peculiarities of these three dots that raise doubts that they are original. See It discusses what textual variants it might note and what future ink testing might show.

  16. Tommy Wasserman12/17/2023 8:27 pm

    I consider the theory that any distigmai in Codex Vaticanus are from the fourth century, or worse, that a combination of signs, distigmai and obelos (in reality paragrafos) even exists, to be stone dead, and I will not comment further since it is a waste of time and energy.

    1. Philip B. Payne12/23/2023 10:15 pm

      I urge you to ask Dr. Gordon if he tested the ink signatures of any of the eleven apricot distigmai identified in Payne/Canart NovT 42, 2 (2000): 108 and to report Dr. Gordon’s answer as an update to this post.

      Update 2 to the original post states, “Philip Payne has posted long comments to this blogpost which reveals that he is not going to admit that he was wrong.”

      Please consider, however, that my post of 12/16/2023 at 4:34 PM states, “I accept Dr. Gordon’s assessment that the ink in the dark chocolate-color distigme at 1243 A12 is not original.” I also admitted I was wrong in various ways in personal correspondence with Dr. Gordon, as follows: “When you kindly showed me the ink signature data for the dark chocolate distigme at 1243 A12 and other distigmai you tested showing that they have a clearly different ink signature than the original Vaticanus ink, I accepted your assessment in each case. I also welcomed your test results confirming that I was right that the ink signature of the left portion of the horizontal bar below the distigme at 1243 A12 matches original ink signature. In the few cases you showed me where your ink signatures showed that Canart had incorrectly identified as original ink in Le Manuscript B de la Bible, I admitted to you that I was wrong to accept Canart’s judgment over my own judgment that original ink on the same page in the 1999 facsimile is lighter than those distigme that are somewhat apricot in color."

      I went on to state, “If the Vatican does permit you to test the eleven distigmai that I am confident do match the color of original Vaticanus ink on the same page, and if you get clear results showing that they have a clearly different ink signature than nearby Vaticanus original ink, I will admit that I was wrong about those as well.” I could cite dozens of instances when I admitted I was wrong.

      I expect that if and when ink-signature testing is done on the eleven apricot distigmai, some or all of them will match original Vaticanus ink signatures. I expect this because I have seen in person and with huge magnification those eleven distigmai and know that their color matches nearby original ink. I also expect this because of the apparently original distigmai in the 4th or 5th century LXX G. Any assertion that all distigmai are from the 16th century needs to account not only for distigmai in the Vaticanus NT and their strikingly different colors and lightness, but for their occurrence in LXX G and in the Vaticanus LXX. Tommy Wasserman reports Peter Head’s assertion that distigmai “belong to one unified system that was added some time in the 16th century.” This assertion is inconsistent with the strikingly different color ink and strikingly differences in darkness of the Vaticanus distigmai.

      My thesis that the horizontal bars with the five characteristic features listed in The Bible vs. Biblical Womanhood, p. 96, are obeloi explains phenomena that otherwise appear inexplicable, whether or not the distigmai on those lines are original. After all, horizontal bars by themselves are how scribe B normally wrote Vaticanus LXX obeloi.

  17. Maurice A. Robinson12/31/2023 11:21 pm

    Since I have no dog in this fight over umlauts (in that my position is not affected in any particular manner, nor do I concur with Payne’s interpretations in most instances), let me offer a few observations to close out 2023:

    1. What I see from those who crow the loudest when discussing the Rabin/Gordon results smacks strongly of confirmation bias, in the sense that these vocal proponents all had made up their minds long ago—years before further scientific testing had occurred—having disagreed from the start with the various Payne/Canart attempts at various visual and microscope-based forms of investigation.

    2. Payne in his comments above raises some pertinent issues regarding areas that in his opinion apparently require further testing. Since Payne notes that he has for some time been in contact with both Rabin and Gordon on these matters, his queries should not be summarily dismissed, absent whatever additional tests might be required beyond the (admittedly) relatively limited sampling that has already been made.

    3. I suggest as a modest proposal that the wisest approach at this point should reflect that of Gamaliel: the rest of us should remain academically neutral on those still-disputed points, and allow Payne, Rabin, and Gordon themselves (without our “help”) to hammer out those remaining issues to their own satisfaction before permanently closing the door regarding further levels of enquiry.

    Happy New Year 2024.

    1. I concur with this statement. I am on the record as a skeptic towards Payne's view of these marginal marks in Vaticanus, and their early modern origin as text cricial marks makes more sense to me. For example, the missing verses from John 7:53-8:11 would jump out immediately to a sixteenth century reader, and so we should not uncritically accept Payne's assertion that the fourth century scribe must have been aware of their traditional placement there, based on the text critical marks alone.

      Nonetheless I think agnosticism always remains warranted when we are dealing with the matter imprecisely, in online conversations after the SBL talk, and not in response to a published final draft where the specific line items and points of possible concern are addressed directly with precision by the authors.

      Until Rabin and Gordon themselves answer Payne's question about the particular passages in question (which I presume include 1 Cor 14:34-5 and John 7:52 among others), the door remains open a crack.

    2. Tommy Wasserman1/12/2024 3:21 pm

      In response to Maurice Robinson regarding "confirmation bias," let me just say from my own perspective that in my own thesis on Jude (for which Maurice happened to be the external examiner), on p. 239, I included a section on Umlauts in Codex Vaticanus, stating ". . . but in my opinion, no one has yet been able to disprove Payne's original observation concerning the unretouched umlauts." And I included reference to all the eight umlauts in Jude in my commentary. Furthermore, as the blogeditor, I gave very ample space to Payne to defend his views on this very blog. However, now it is 2024, and, as I said, the arguments against Payne's thesis are overwhelming, and I consider his thesis stone dead. So much for confirmation basis.