Just a few, mostly technical, comments to Bill East's 3rd installment:
> A Brief History of the Bible - 3
> Hello again on this feast of St Jerome, doyen of biblical scholars! And
> thanks to Carolyn for her very helpful remarks about his work in today's
> If you look at the critical apparatus of an edition of the Greek Bible - Old
> or New Testament - you will find that the editor has consulted a large
> number of manuscripts, which will be listed in the following order:
> 1, Papyri, indicated by the sigla p1, p2, p3, p4 etc. These tend to be
> quite early in the tradition - third or fourth centuries of the Christian era.
Actually, the "p#" siglum is used for NT but not for LXX/OG. For the
latter, numerical designations have been assigned by the Goettingen LXX
project in the range 800-900, and in Psalms, 1000-1299 and 2000 and up
(with some confusion; Rahlfs edited Psalms very early in the project).
Thus the papyrus fragments of an early Greek roll of Leviticus among the
Dead Sea Scrolls (4QLXXLev\b) are number 802 in the standard Goettingen
On the dating, there are a significant number of papyri both for NT and
for Jewish scriptures that predate the 3rd century ce. For convenient, if
slightly out of date now, lists and brief descriptions, see J. van Haelst,
<t>Catalogue des Papyrus Litte/raires Juifs et Chre/tiens</> (Sorbonne
1976). He lists about 40 examples dated paleographically up to about the
year 200 ce, most of which are "biblical."
> 2, Uncials, i.e. Vellum codices in the Uncial ("inch high") script, a large,
> clear script.
The terms "uncial" and "majuscule" tend to get used interchangeably. Most
of the papyri are also in "uncial" lettering (seperate letters, as in hand
printing as opposed to script-flow). The distinction here is not in the
style of writing, but the size of codex. Prior to the 4th century, the
extant MSS and fragments contain a single book, or perhaps a small
collection of books (e.g. minor prophets, or letters of Paul, or two
gospels); from the 4th century onward, there are numerous "large-scale"
codices such as are described below. Most are on parchment or vellum
(specially treated leather), although some large papyri codices also
survive from this period.
> The earliest of these is of the fourth century. Most of
> these are indicated by Roman letters - A, B, C, D, etc. When the Roman
> letters run out, they are denoted by Greek letters, and then when the Greek
> letters run out, by numbers beginning with zero - 046, 047 etc.
The convention of starting such designations with "0" is not, to my
knowledge, used in LXX/OG studies. Some upper case Roman letters do
multiple service, designating different uncial MSS in different books or
sections of LXX/OG (few LXX/OG MSS contain the entire collection of Jewish
scriptures); upper case Greek letters are also used; and also a few normal
arabic numbers (e.g. 13, 23, 27, 39, 43, 156, 188, etc. according to
Jellicoe's <t>Septuagint and Modern Study</> (Clarendon 1968). It can be
quite confusing at times, partly because of the way such designations have
developed (or not) over the centuries of textcritical study.
> One of the
> most significant uncials is usually denoted by the Hebrew letter Aleph, or
> alternatively by the Roman letter S. I shall have to use S, as my e-mail
> facility isn't very good at Hebrew letters.
Codex Sinaiticus, that is.
> 3, Minuscules. The minuscule script is medieval in origin, and most of the
> minuscules cited in the apparatus before me are 12th century in origin,
> though some are 10th or 11th, and some are later. Minuscules are denoted by
> a number: 1, 2, 3, 4 . . . 2321, 2322. There are quite a lot of these.
"Minuscule" and "cursive" are usually interchanged, and refer to
relatively smaller letters (like our "lower case") that are often joined
(ligatured) within words. Indeed, word division, which is rare in the
majuscules, becomes more normal in the minuscules, which seldom date
before the 9th century (about the same time that the use of papyri was
being replaced by paper) -- although non-literary use of "cursive" writing
goes way back in documentary papyri, etc.
> After these primary witnesses, the editor may consult ancient versions (such
> as the Latin versions), lectionaries, quotations in the Fathers, early
> printed editions.
> The number of witnesses cited may run into many hundreds, but a quite small
> number of the really significant ones will be the real basis of the text.
> Rahlfs' edition of the Septuagint is based mainly on "B" (Codex Vaticanus),
> "S" [ = Aleph] (Codex Sinaiticus), and "A" (Codex Alexandrinus).
Rahlfs is a step towards a truly comprehensive critical edition, for which
the various volumes of the Goettingen LXX should be consulted. Another
point worth making here is the attempt by textual editors to group related
MSS so that a single siglum represents many itentical witnesses (e.g.
<italic>O</> designates the reading found in a number of "Origenic"
[influenced by Origen's work] MSS in the Goettingen volumes). So one needs
not only to be aware of individual MS sigla, but also of "families."
> I have it in mind to mention the more important manuscripts, in
> chronological order, not of their creation, but in the order in which they
> became known to scholars and so became an influence on the text of our
> modern bibles. This may seem an odd way of doing things, but it will save
> me doing it all over at a later stage.
> The earliest printed Bibles were Jewish editions of the Hebrew Scriptures.
> I regret that my knowledge of them is confined to what is said in the
> Cambridge History of the Bible, vol.3, p. 48ff., to which I refer those who
> are interested.
> The first printed edition of the Greek New Testament was published by
> Erasmus in March 1516. Actually it was a close run thing, for Cardinal
> Ximenes was at the time working on a far grander project, the 'Complutensian
> Polyglot' at the University he had founded at Alcalá ("Complutum" is the
> Latin for Alcalá - God knows how). This edition printed the Hebrew, Latin
> and Septuagint in parallel columns. The editors wrote: 'We have placed the
> Latin translation of Blessed Jerome as though between the synagogue and the
> Eastern Church, placing them like the two thieves one on each side, and
> Jesus, that is the Roman or Latin Church, between them.' (!!!)
> The first printed edition of the whole Bible was the Aldine Press edition of
> 1518/19. This consisted of an edition of the Septuagint by Andreas Asolanus,
> established from manuscripts in Cardinal Bessarion's collection in the
> library of St Mark at Venice, together with Erasmus's edition of the NT.
> Neither Erasmus nor Ximenes offered what we would regard as a critical text.
At some point, it might be useful to note that "critical text" can mean at
least two rather different things -- "diplomatic" reproduction of a valued
MS (or family) with extensive notes on other readings; "eclectic"
composition drawing the supposedly "best" readings from wherever they may
be found (including controlled conjecture), and listing alternatives in
the notes. Most of our most respected editions tend to be eclectic, but
not without a fight! (Goettingen editions of LXX/OG are eclectic, while
the "Larger Cambridge Septuagint" of a century ago was diplomatic).
> Erasmus was no great shakes as a textual critic, and he knew only a few
> late, minuscule MSS. The Complutensian editors used MSS obtained from the
> Vatican library, the library of St Mark at Venice, and from the private
> collection of Ximenes. What they did not use was the best biblical MS in
> the Vatican library, the Codex Vaticanus, usually designated as "B". We'll
> discuss that MS next time.
Good Luck to us! It is a challenge to arrive at a balanced view of the
textually heterogeneous collection of works that comes down to us in any
of the great 4th/5th century codices! What an often overlooked impact the
technological transition from rolls to small codices to the great codices
had on these issues! But that's all part of the educational task, so let's
Again, with great appreciation for these efforts, and hopes that this
nuancing of some of the information will prove helpful.
Robert A. Kraft, Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania
227 Logan Hall (Philadelphia PA 19104-6304); tel. 215 898-5827
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