Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Codex W: h.t. singulars - Royse

We have come to a stage in the study of the most ancient Uncials where it is widely recognised that most variants and peculiarities are not "original readings", but the results of either common errors, literary edits, or amateur textual criticism by ancient scribes, long after the books were in circulation.

In an excellent article in the collection (book) edited by Dr. Hurtado, The Freer biblical manuscripts: fresh studies of an American treasure trove, (2006), James R. Royse describes in detail many accidental homoeoteleuton and corrections found in Codex Washingtonsis (W/032) ("The Corrections in the Freer Gospels Codex").   The book is a treasure-trove of information on W, and is highly recommended.

Here we offer a few examples from the article: 
'Matt. 12:31.  Apparently the scribe at first leapt from ...βλασφημια αφεθησεται τοις ανθρωποις to ...βλασφημια ουκ αφεθησεται τοις ανθρωποις, as in the majority text, and was going to continue on with 12:32.  But after completeing one line of 12:32, the scribe caught his error, erased the entire line, and then proceeded correctly.  The correction was so thorough that the original writing is completely irretrievable.  Sanders argued that the original omission shows a relation between W and those MSS that read η δε...ανθρωποις and asserted: "It seems quite clear that the parent of W omitted the sentence, but it had been supplied in a marginal gloss, which was not discovered by the copyist of W, until he had written the next following line." [Sanders, 29] But this is an unnecessary hypothesis.  It is simpler to suppose that W originally made the same omission by a scribal leap as did a number of other witnesses independently, but then the scribe of W caught the error before proceeding too far.' (Royse, p.188)
'Luke 17:34.  The scribe at first omitted 17:35 (as did also the scribes of Aleph, pc, 1, vg-ms), by an accidental visual leap (αφεθησεται ...αφεθησεται)*, and wrote the beginning of 17:37 (17:36 [as found in ς-e, D, U, pm, lat, syr-s,c,p,h, arm]  was evidently not present in the exemplar).  But he then caught his error when he came to the end of the line, which also happens to be the end of page 285 of the codex, and deleted kai apokrithentes legou by placing supralinear dots and also marking with quotation marks the beginning and end of the text to be deleted. [21]' 

21. Sanders (26 n.1) wrote of this instance, "A most interesting case; the scribe himself corrected his mistake after writing three words." (Royse, p.192)

Codex W: h.t. (corrected) @ Matt. 12:31 - click to Enlarge

Codex W: h.t. (corr.) Luke 17:34 (p.285)

Codex W: h.t. (corr.) Luke 17:36 (p.286)

Dr. Royse's expert view that independent errors frequently arose with coincidental results is a very important observation, relevant to both the strength of possible homoeoteleuton cases and the actual mechanisms by which omissions occurred.  It means that minor support for an otherwise 'singular' reading is in many cases a mere coincidence, and also that multiple opportunities for error significantly increased the number of actual h.t. errors.


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