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The Byzantine Text of the Gospels: Recension or Process?

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  • Wieland Willker
    I would like to draw attention to one important SBL 2009 contribution in November: Klaus Wachtel, University of Muenster The Byzantine Text of the Gospels:
    Message 1 of 88 , Jul 29, 2009
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      I would like to draw attention to one important SBL 2009 contribution in November:


      Klaus Wachtel, University of Muenster

      The Byzantine Text of the Gospels: Recension or Process?


      ABSTRACT: "Codex Alexandrinus (A 02) and the Purple Codices (N 022, O 023, S 042, F 043) are often classified as early witnesses of the Byzantine text and thought to support the theory that it was the result of a recension made early in the 4th century. Full collations of 38 synoptic pericopes in 156 manuscripts brought together in a research project at the Münster Institute for New Testament Textual Research can now be used for a fresh look at the question of how the Byzantine text of the Gospels arose. In fact, the evidence points to a development rather than to a recension, although it becomes clear that a large part of this development had already taken place by the 5th century. This paper will describe the phases of that development represented by Codex Alexandrinus and the Purple Codices."



      This is a question I have raised several times before, when I questioned (for the Gospels) the continuous development model proposed by Wachtel (originally for the Catholic epistles).

      The manuscripts show that we have an almost complete Byzantine text in the fourth CE (= 80-90% of the major variants in the Gospels). A longer development is difficult to imagine since nothing in the time before points to it. Even the "chaotic" P45 is only 20-30% Byzantine. There is a large gap. I see no basis for a longer development from manuscripts like P66 and P75 to 02. If one starts from a text like P66 and copies it 3 times allowing Byzantine "corruption" here and there, this does not lead to 02, but to something like P45.

      In my view there must have been *some kind of* recension, but I have no idea by whom, when and to what extent. Before and afterwards there was of course also a developmental contribution.

      02 is ca. 90% Byz in Mk/Lk. 032 is 81% Byz in Mt and 89% Byz in Lk (counting the variants in the online commentary). Can this happen by chance? Perhaps ... but where do all the major Byz variants come from? Which scenario can account for it? What do you think?


      I am really looking forward to Wachtel's arguments.




      PS: Other textcritical papers at SBL:




      Best wishes




      Wieland Willker, Bremen, Germany



      Textcritical commentary:



    • tom630965
      ... Tim the publishers have put the first chapter of Roger Bagnall s book on redating Egyptian papyri on the intenet
      Message 88 of 88 , Aug 18 5:39 PM
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        > Dear Listers,
        > I think that Arie's third point is worth noting.
        > There has been a recent tendency to redate Christian manuscripts later. There have been some attempts to redate things earlier, but usually these are forgotten about after a little while (e.g. Kim's redating of P46).
        > I'm not sure what is driving the general trend towards later dates. It could be the result of having more data at hand. One thing that may have been influential was Roger Bagnall's paper on Christian names in Egypt as derived from documentary papyri (e.g. tax records). He came to the conclusion that there were not many Christians in Egypt before about 300 AD based on the occurrence of Christian names in official records. Of course there is another explanation for the lack of Christian names which is that you would use your Egyptian name when talking to a tax official as, until 313 AD, being a Christian could be dangerous to your health if officialdom found out.
        > These books are a help when considering the possible date of a manuscript:
        > E. G. Turner, _Greek Manuscripts of the Ancient World_, 2d rev. ed. (ed. P. J. Parsons), Institute of Classical Studies Bulletin Supplement 46, London: Institute of Classical Studies, 1987.
        > G. Cavallo and H. Maehler, _Greek Bookhands of the Early Byzantine Period A.D. 300-800_, Institute of Classical Studies Bulletin Supplement 47, London: Institute of Classical Studies, 1987.
        > There is an alternative way to date manuscripts which is seldom if ever used, which is carbon dating. There is an associated margin of error, I'm not sure what, possibly +/- a century. The test destroys the part sampled. I seem to remember hearing that the labs are getting better at dating with quite small samples. So, if we really wanted to know the date of Sinaiticus, which by the way is probably much later than the date of its text, we could cut off a piece and date it.
        > The same could be done with some of our early papyri which have some blank spaces (e.g. margins) that no one would miss. If we did this with a few of them then we would have a better idea of their actual dates.
        > Best,
        > Tim Finney


        the publishers have put the first chapter of Roger Bagnall's book on redating Egyptian papyri on the intenet


        the argument here is not based on tax records, but on the absence of any clear examples of Christian correspondence earlier than the episcopate of Demetrios (189 - 231). He then argues that the apparent survival of earlier biblical (and apocryphal) papyri appears inconsistent with the observation that there are no Christian letters.

        He suggests that the proposed early Christian papyri largely form a group of their own - that are difficult to date with reference to non-christian dated comparitors, as book-hands changed very little from the 2nd to the late 3rd century.

        With reference to P52 he says:

        "The first of these is a small bit of the Gospel of John in the John Rylands Library in Manchester, of unknown provenance.28 It is the only fragment dated by Turner to the second century without qualification. More recently, however, one scholar has argued that it should be reassigned to the early third century, on the basis of a comparison with P.Chester Beatty X.29 That may be too definitive, but an exhaustive article by Brent Nongbi (2005) has brought forward a range of palaeographical parallels that undermine confidence in an early date, even if they do not fully establish one in the late second or early third century"

        (I am not sure that Bagnall's characterisation of Nongbi's conclusions here is correct; as I recall Nongbi saying that "I have not radically revised Roberts's work", which I take to mean that Nongbi accepts that the preponderance of comparitor hands does indeed indicate that P52 "may with some confidence be dated in the first half of the second century A.D.". Nongbi's expressed concerns relate to the margin of error, rather than to the central estimate of date).

        Not having the full text of Bagnall's book, I cannot offer a detailed critque of his approach - although I do note that he regards all the scriptural codices as being written in a book-hand; where Roberts specfically describes p52 as a ".. reformed documentary hand. (One advantage for the paleogapher in such hands is that with their close links to the documents they are somewhat less difficult to date than purely calligraphic hands)."

        I would be interested in the perspectives of anyone who knows Roger Bagnall's work rather better.


        Tom Hennell
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