RE: tc-list Uncial or Uncial?
- In response to D. Edwards' query:
I can't speak to Mack's book, Who Wrote the NT?, except to note
that neither textual criticism nor palaeography is a topic on which
he has established research credentials. It looks, however, like
either Mack has given a confused account of Thiede's views, or you
have mis-remembered Mack!
1) "Uncial" is a term properly pertaining to a style of Latin writing.
But NT text critics have persisted in using it, though "majuscule"
would be the proper term to use, in contrast to the later ascendant
"minuscule" or "cursive" handwriting of Greek mss from the late 8th
cent CE. Majuscule/uncial writing was characteristic all through
the earliest Christian centuries, and no shift away from this writing
style was made in the 2nd cent.
2) Thiede's case has to do with the particular shape of particular
Greek letters. It's not a matter of "uncial" but of the particular
shape of particular "uncial" letters, which, he argues, indicates a
dating in the lst cent. He has been shown to be methodologically
inept in this argument by competent palaeographers in the relevant
(For an introduction to Greek mss and palaeography, see B. M.
Metzger, _Manuscripts of the Greek Bible_ (Oxford Univ. press,
Thanks for the response. I double-checked the relevant passage in Mack's
book, so it may be that the first option (confused account) is more likely
than the second. Things are considerably clearer now.
Your two numbered paragraphs are consistent with what I've been able to put
together on the topic, which is why I found it hard to follow Mack's
argument. From what I've been able to learn on the topic, rounding of
certain uncial letters appears to have begun in the late 2d century,
possibly in Alexandria, possibly as a result of increased use of parchment;
one of the reasons for the dating of the fragments was that they appeared to
exhibit a transition from the "blocked" letters to the "rounded" letters.
In any event, thanks again. I'll move Metzger's book higher on my "wish
list" and consider amateur hour to have ended.
- Jack wrote:
> Michael Holmes wrote:Speaking strictly from the POV of language, it really doesn't matter
> > At 08:08 AM 4/6/99 -0500, Jack Kilmon asked:
> > > "Uncial" has been used as a term for
> > >book hand Greek by every scholar I can think of, including
> > >Metzger, as far back as the science goes in publications. I have
> > >even seen it applied to Coptic by Irigoin and Turner. If such is
> > >the case, isn't usage the determination of what is proper?
> > The (relatively recent) preference of many for "majuscule" likely reflects a
> > point of view expressed by D.C. Parker:
> > "It has long been habitual to describe this class of MSS as uncials. The
> > word's use has its origin in Mabillon's interpretation of Jerome's phrase
> > about MSS written _uncialibus litteris_. Whatever the original meaning, a
> > consensus has emerged that the name should be applied only to a particular
> > kind of Latin majuscule. [he references: G. Cavallo and H. Maehler, _Greek
> > Bookhands of the Early Byzantine Period A.D. 300-800_ (University of London
> > Institute of Classical Studies Buletin Supplement 47; London:" Institute of
> > Classical Studies, 1987).] The word _majuscule_ should be used to designate
> > the class of Greek hands of which we write. It means "of fair size," as
> > opposed to minuscule, "rather small." (D. C. Parker, "The Majuscule
> > Manuscripts of the New Testament," in Ehrman and Holmes, _The Text of the NT
> > in Contemporary Research_, 22).
> > So "uncial" has gone from being a rather general term to a more precisely
> > defined technical term, and is in the process of being replaced for general
> > use by "majuscule."
> Parker's usage in "Codex Bezae" made me think that he was
> involved in this transition. Because of the common origin
> and calligraphic similarity between Greek and Latin hands,
> I have never seen a problem using "uncial" for either but
> if the majority of scholarship adopts this...hey, I'm
> flexible. :) Its going to take a long time though.
how the term originated. What is important is that all who are
involved in the field understand how it's currently used. As
someone else pointed out, "uncial" has been the standard term for
a particular Greek style of writing for over 100 years, which
suggests that the word has assumed that meaning WRT Greek
mss. and has transcended its original Latin connotation. That's
what words do, so I see no good reason to try and supplant it for
the sake of its etymology.
A Bible that's falling apart means a life that isn't.
- D.R. Edwards wrote:
> Thanks for the response. I double-checked the relevant passage in Mack's
> book, so it may be that the first option (confused account) is more likely
> than the second. Things are considerably clearer now.
> Your two numbered paragraphs are consistent with what I've been able to put
> together on the topic, which is why I found it hard to follow Mack's
> argument. From what I've been able to learn on the topic, rounding of
> certain uncial letters appears to have begun in the late 2d century,
> possibly in Alexandria, possibly as a result of increased use of parchment;
> one of the reasons for the dating of the fragments was that they appeared to
> exhibit a transition from the "blocked" letters to the "rounded" letters
- One more example demonstrating (my) stupidity (cut message). Sorry.
I wouldn´t be that optimistic about secure dating on palaeographical
grounds. Many hands almost resemble each other but nonetheless have
characteristics on their own. Not to forget that scribes might have
attempted at imitating a kind of archaic style, a style out of fashion in
their time, or they indeliberately wrote in a way which was still to come
into fashion during the next generations. The repayment of a loan,
P.Vindob.G 19811, for instance, carries three subscriptions spanning a
period of about four hundred years (different styles) if only palaeography
is taken as the decisive factor for dating. Luckily, a notary put down (in
a regular cursive hand) his remark and a date. Nonetheless, for literary
documents there are, in most cases, no other possibilities to judge from
the style of writing, compare that with other manuscripts, and then give a
hypothetical date. But: this remains hypothetical, and if a specific style
of writing falls out of fashion, does not mean that it will not appear
later on somewhere.
Apart from Metzger, I would recommend: F. G. Kenyon, The Palaeography of
Greek Papyri, London 1899; W. Schubart, Palaeographie. Erster Teil:
Griechische Palaeographie, Handbuch der Altertumswissenschaft I,4,1,
Munich 1925 (a classic); E.M. Thompson, A Handbook of Greek and Latin
Paleography, Chicago 1968; E.G. Turner, Greek Manuscripts of the Ancient
World, 2nd ed. London 1987, and above all: R. Seider, Palaeographie der
griechischen Papyri. 3 vols, Stuttgart 1967-1990.
P.S.: Dave Washburn mentioned: "... "uncial" has been the standard term
for a particular Greek style of writing for over 100 years". This is
misleading as long as you do not say which kind of uncial writing you mean
(uncial vs minuscule!). By the way, the original meaning of uncial and
majuscule definitely is of importance to judge and understand the way of
writing found in a manuscript in a proper way (see e.g. Turner, Greek
Thomas J. Kraus
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