Friday, July 25, 2014

Why It Is Helpful to Include Accents in Transcripts

A real summer topic (with an apparatus error in NA28 thrown in for good measure). When transcribing a New Testament Greek manuscript for exercise, I encourage my students to include accentuation and breathing marks. Of course this slows things down considerably, and accents occur only occasionally in the earliest manuscripts. But they are a source of information and consequently help us in our understanding of scribal behaviour. Let me give you three reasons, each with an actual example.

1) Accents and breathings help us see how the scribe understood the text. Take for example P104 (P.Oxy. 4404), 2nd century.

Twice in Mt 21:35 a relative pronoun is provided with a spiritus asper, and I recall having seen a number of these in Sinaiticus (I think it was in John's gospel). It may be that relative pronouns such as ον were marked out to avoid confusing it with a word-final syllable. There is no doubt that P104 wanted to make things crystal clear.

2) It can help us avoid collation errors. A good example is Ψ(044) in Mk 10:12. The manuscript is cited by NA27/28 in support of the reading αυτη. And indeed these four letters do appear before απολυσασα:

But look at the accents, αὐτῆ ἀπολύσασα, which is not quite like the text αὐτὴ ἀπολύσασα. A second look at the manuscript reveals why. It is not the nominative but the dative we have here, ἠ ταύτην καὶ ἐν αὐτῆ ἀπολύσασα. (iota subscript not in manuscript; we would write αὐτῇ).

The reading itself is not completely clear to me, but certainly it is incorrect to cite Ψ(044) as direct support for the reading 'αὐτὴ'.

3) Accents can help us to think about the prehistory of certain corrected passages. Here is an example from X(033), Jn 1:32. The text in its corrected form gives καταβαίνoν.

The transcript of the IGNTP John project gives the nonsense form καταβαινυν as the original version. One could question this on space considerations alone. But attention to accents steer us in the right direction. Why καταβαίνον instead of the correct καταβαῖνον? I think this is because the scribe of X(033) originally wrote the masculine participle καταβαίνων (which fits the spacing much better), and correctly accented. The -ω- was later corrected to an -ο-, yet the accent remained untouched (Tregelles transcribed the manuscript here correct back in 1850).

These are only a few real-world examples; I am sure there are many more out there which have escaped notice. I don't think there is any excuse not to include accents and breathings by the first hand in transcriptions when these occur only sporadically (such as P104). Admittedly, there are practical considerations in favour of ignoring such signs, given where we are in transcribing the corpus of NT manuscripts. However, tools that we use for transcribing should at the very least have the option to include these accents and breathings.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

On-line Lecture "Variants of Evil in the NT"

Chris Keith (Historical Jesus blog) has uploaded my lecture  "Variants of Evil in the New Testament" from the conference on Evil in Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity. Thanks Chris for organizing this conference!

For my previous report on the conference, see here.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

A Beautiful Error in Aland's Synopsis Quattor Evangeliorum

In Kurt Aland's Synopsis [I am using the 4. korrigierter Druck 2005] a gorgeous error appears. In Mark 8:25 the text as printed reads και ενεβλεπεν τηλαυγως απαντα, 'and he saw everything clearly'. There are variants: παντα (not interesting now) and απαντας, 'and he saw everyone clearly'.
However, in the apparatus of the Synopsis this last variant is not given as απαντας (see e.g. in Alexandrinus), but incorrectly as αναστας, leading to a text that says something like 'and he saw clearly after he arose'.

Is the non-existing variant in the Synopsis an error of reading, influence from the wider context, or is this theologically motivated? Can we talk about its intention, its effect, and its reception history? Or is this an example of that most useful and most neglected of text-critical categories, namely 'errors just happen, get over it'?

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Birmingham Colloquium

Hugh Houghton writes:

This is advance notice to colleagues and attendees of former colloquia that the Ninth Birmingham Colloquium on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament will be held in Birmingham on 2nd-6th March 2015.

The theme will be The History and Text of New Testament Commentaries. 

A call for papers and further details will be posted in October, but you are welcome to contact me before then if you have any queries or suggestions.