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[tc-list] Codex capacity (four gospels)

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  • Timothy John Finney
    Annette Reed mentions the earliest date for a four-gospel codex. While pondering such matters, I noticed the following strange phenomenon: If you plot
    Message 1 of 4 , Dec 30, 1999
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      Annette Reed mentions the earliest date for a four-gospel codex. While
      pondering such matters, I noticed the following strange phenomenon:

      If you plot relative size versus estimated date of publication for Luke,
      Pauls's letters, the four gospels and the entire New Testament, you get a
      straight line.

      Before I go further, I should explain how I arrived at the estimated
      publication dates:

      Luke: 60 CE -- published soon after the events mentioned at the end
      of Acts.

      Pauline letters: 100 CE -- see Zuntz, Text of the Epistles, 1953, 14.

      Four gospels: 160 CE -- twenty years before Irenaeus' defence

      Entire NT: 350 CE -- twenty years before Athanasius' canon list

      No doubt, long arguments could be had over each one of the above. Kenyon
      (Chester Beatty biblical papyri, fasc. 1, 1933, 13) thought that Irenaeus'
      defence may be evidence that four gospel codices already existed when he
      wrote. One comment I would like to add -- Tatian may have been tempted to
      make a gospel harmony around 150 CE because maximum codex size had, by
      then, almost reached the size required for all four gospels. A harmony
      would fit whereas the gospels themselves would not.

      As far as relative sizes are concerned (taking Paul's letters as a
      reference), counting pages of the UBS text leads to:

      Luke: 0.54
      Paul: 1.00
      Gospels: 1.79
      NT: 3.83

      Plot the relative sizes against the estimated dates and you get a
      reasonably straight line.

      So what?

      Maybe codex capacity was developing in a linear fashion. Luke, being an
      innovative soul, used a codex note-pad like the one's that Paul used.
      (Speculation heaped upon speculation.) The gospel might even have been
      tailored to the available capacity. Paul's letters were published once
      codex capacity sufficed to hold them. The four gospels had to wait
      another fifty years for codex capacity to increase to the required point.
      But as soon as the technology became available, it was put to good use.

      I have made the assumption that Irenaeus was defending an established four
      gospel codex tradition -- hence the twenty years lead time. The same
      reasoning stands behind my speculation that codices of the entire NT began
      to circulate some twenty years before Athanasius published his canon list.

      The four data points relate to papyrus codices. The last one (350, 3.83)
      is located around the time that large capacity parchment codices began to
      appear (e.g. Sinaiticus, Vaticanus). I wonder whether there ever was a
      papyrus codex of the entire NT?

      Tim Finney


      On Wed, 29 Dec 1999, Annette Reed wrote:

      > Many thanks for the helpful references and insightful comments (esp.
      > concerning Koester's hypothesis, about which I suspected as much, yet am
      > pleased to have a more learned confirmation). On a somewhat related
      subject,
      > is there any general consensus about the earliest probable date for the
      use
      > of a four-gospel codex? I recently purused an article by Skeat,
      proposing a
      > date as early as 170 CE, albeit on somewhat speculative grounds (i.e.
      > suggesting that Ireneaus based his defense of the "four-formed gospel"
      in
      > Adv. haer. 3.11 on an earlier non-extant source, due to the order of the
      > evangelist-animals therein), and was wondering if such suggestions are
      > generally accepted, or if most remain more cautious about this issue,
      given
      > the continued preponderance of single-gospel codices.



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    • DaGoi@aol.com
      In a message dated 12/30/99 5:22:43, Tim Finney wrote:
      Message 2 of 4 , Dec 30, 1999
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        In a message dated 12/30/99 5:22:43, Tim Finney wrote:

        << The four gospels had to wait
        another fifty years for codex capacity to increase to the required point.
        But as soon as the technology became available, it was put to good use.

        I have made the assumption that Irenaeus was defending an established four
        gospel codex tradition -- hence the twenty years lead time. >>

        What technological breakthroughs would increase codex capacity? I think
        rather the change in form from the scroll instantly increases capacity enough
        to include any of these new testament groups (gospels, pauline canon, etc.)
        Any number of pages could be put into leaf form once the form was popularized.

        As for Irenaeus, he obviously has no idea why there are four accepted gospels
        in his time - it is a problem for him that he must just accept, as does
        Tatian at about the same time. The fact is there were four handed down to
        them and they deal with this as they can. Twenty years is much too short a
        time for this to have suddenly developed.

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      • Robert B. Waltz
        ... Actually, there *was* a breakthrough to increase codex capacity. It s called the quire. A single-quire codex (that is, one where you just take fifty or a
        Message 3 of 4 , Dec 30, 1999
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          On 12/30/99, DaGoi@... wrote:

          >In a message dated 12/30/99 5:22:43, Tim Finney wrote:
          >
          ><< The four gospels had to wait
          >another fifty years for codex capacity to increase to the required point.
          >But as soon as the technology became available, it was put to good use.
          >
          >I have made the assumption that Irenaeus was defending an established four
          >gospel codex tradition -- hence the twenty years lead time. >>
          >
          >What technological breakthroughs would increase codex capacity? I think
          >rather the change in form from the scroll instantly increases capacity enough
          >to include any of these new testament groups (gospels, pauline canon, etc.)
          >Any number of pages could be put into leaf form once the form was popularized.

          Actually, there *was* a breakthrough to increase codex capacity. It's
          called the quire.

          A single-quire codex (that is, one where you just take fifty or
          a hundred or a thousand leaves and fold them over) has several problems:
          First, it produces a very lopsided book. Either you trim the edges,
          reducing the size of the innter pages, or you don't, in which case
          you wind up with a book in a sort of diamond shape. You also place
          a lot of stess on the fold in the outermost pages.

          The second problem is getting a codex that's the right size. A
          single-quire codex of the gospels will require some hundreds of
          leaves. What are the odds that the scribe will guess the number
          exactly correctly? Not good -- as witness P75, where it appears
          the scribe was squeezing stuff in at the end to try to make it
          fit better. (Or so I've read, I think in one of Comfort's books.)

          A codex comprised of multiple quires (gatherings of four sheets,
          or sixteen pages, became normal) has the advantage that you don't
          need to know in advance how thick the book will be, and you don't
          have to worry about breaking spines or trimmed edges or inner
          leaves sticking out.

          I agree that the change from scroll to codex was more significant;
          people can live with single-quire codices (as P46 and P75 show).
          But it's not really a convenient form.

          -*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-

          Robert B. Waltz
          waltzmn@...

          Want more loudmouthed opinions about textual criticism?
          Try my web page: http://www.skypoint.com/~waltzmn
          (A site inspired by the Encyclopedia of NT Textual Criticism)

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        • hilkap@juno.com
          On Thu, 30 Dec 1999 13:13:04 -0600 Robert B. Waltz ... You can get a pretty good idea of how this works by looking down on the spine of a modern hard back
          Message 4 of 4 , Dec 30, 1999
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            On Thu, 30 Dec 1999 13:13:04 -0600 "Robert B. Waltz"
            <waltzmn@...> writes:

            > A codex comprised of multiple quires (gatherings of four sheets,
            > or sixteen pages, became normal) has the advantage that you don't
            > need to know in advance how thick the book will be, and you don't
            > have to worry about breaking spines or trimmed edges or inner
            > leaves sticking out.
            >

            You can get a pretty good idea of how this works by looking down
            on the spine of a modern hard back book. You can see the individual
            "quires" at the bend where they are generally stitched to the fabric
            of the spine.

            The use glue for the cheaper paper-backs.

            I hate it when the pages of a well thumbed book start to fall out .

            HILL KAPLAN

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