Thursday, March 17, 2011

John 5:12 - Codex W: ...h.t. damage caused by a book-repair!

The chain by which our attention was drawn to this remarkable story is relatively long linkage in itself.  I noted Mr. Scrivener's post on codex W, in which Dr. Tim Finney in a comment drew attention to Urlich Schmid's article contained in Dr. Larry Hurtado's book, The Freer biblical manuscripts (2006).  There Mr. Schmid cites a discovery by Henry Sanders in volume 9, The NT MSS in the Freer Collection Pt 1: the Washington MS of the 4 Gospels (1912), p. 135-6, who in turn quotes Sir F. Kenyon in passing.    Well, thats enough name-dropping.  Lets cut to the chase.

First the essential facts.  Codex W (or the book of John therein) somehow lost the first quire from the book of John.  It had quires of 8 leaves (4 sheets) each, although a few leaves are missing, with the opposing leaves belonging to those sheets sown back in during a re-binding.   The current 1st quire of John is a replacement quire, by a different hand.    Although it appears older from deterioration, this could simply be because of poorer quality parchment.    The handwriting difference between the main book and the replacement quire is obvious:

Scribe W (main text in gospels):

General features
good slant, smooth straight lines of text, good spacing between lines,
most letters about the same size and on the line.
Occasional outdented letters same size as normal text.

Letters are elegant, but not fancy.
Phi (φ) - not oversized, Omicron (ο) - stout, often pear-shaped, Xi (ξ) - unique. Omega (ω) - angular, plain.  Psi (ψ) - Unusual, straight bar.  Epsilon (ε) - stout, substantive. Alpha (α) - often angular, but varies.  

note Xi (ξ) in bottom rightPsi (ψ) - Unusual, straight bar.
Phi (φ), overhanging KaiOmicron (ο) - stout, pear-shaped

Scribe JnQuire1: (replacement quire)

Oversize  Phi, K in midline,
less slant
Round Omega, Upright Alpha,
std Upsilon
Enlarged Outdent,
uneven crowded lines
Oversized phi, angular epsilon,
oval omicron.

Such examples establish that the scribe of Quire 1 (Jn) tried to imitate W but was not as skilled or consistent.  Certain features of his own style (e.g., enlarged phi) overrode his concern or ability to match the original. 

The Seam between Quire 1(scribe Q1) and Quire 2 (scribe W)

Now lets turn to what happened, as the new scribe tried to match up his quire:
- replacement page, Original John continues...

Here is Sanders' original description of the action:

"...we may thus with safety date the whole MS as not later than the early part of the 5th century [A.D.].  But does this also apply to the first quire of John?  Dr. Kenyon (op.cit.) thinks not and dates it tentatively in the 7th or 8th century, on the basis of the writing, which he classes as a Slavonic sloping uncial [script].   It seems impossible to separate so far the two parts of the MS, and fortunately we do not have to rely entirely on the comparison of styles of writing.  It is certain that this strange quire was written to fill a gap, to supply a lost quire.  On the last page of it the text is stretched and ends of lines left vacant after each sentence, so as to come out just even;  The three preceding pages were just as plainly crowded, an extra line even being added on each page.  It must be admitted that the writer was both inexperienced and had before him a copy quite different in size of page [layout].   Yet with all his care to make his quire come out even he omitted nearly a verse at the end.    This not only emphasizes the difference in form of the MSS from which and for which he was copying, but proves conclusively that one was not the parent of the other.   In other words, he was not copying an injured or wornout quire, but was striving to arrange in a quire a certain amount of text.   His task was to copy as far as the words  κραβατον σου και περιπατει of Jn 5:12, but he stopped with the same words in verse 5:11.    This might have been an omission in the parent text and be explained as due to 'like endings' [h.t.], but the fact that the omission falls exactly at the end of the quire seems sufficient proof that it was first made in copying this inserted quire." (Sanders, p. 135-6)
A few remarks are needed at this point.  Even though this took place in the replacing of a quire, right on a seam, it was still a homoeoteleuton error, an eye-skip by the copyist.  The difference is that it is unlikely to have happened without the 'opportunity' of the repair, and was unlikely to have been present in the original quire.

Sanders goes on to try to argue that the quire itself is older than Codex W[!]  The only 'evidence' he has of this is the condition of the replacement quire, but that can be better explained as the result of poorer quality vellum (improperly prepared), and different inks.   He claims to have seen an erased letter "a" above a slightly displaced quire number, but no other scholar has found any evidence of this.

We stop our discussion here, because our interest is only in this interesting case of yet another way a homoeoteleuton error can and did find its way into a surviving copy of the Gospels. 


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