Lecture 15: Some Famous Majuscule Manuscripts (Part 1) | Free Online Biblical Library

Lecture 15: Some Famous Majuscule Manuscripts (Part 1)

Course: Textual Criticism

Lecture: Some Famous Majuscule Manuscripts (Part 1)


1. Majuscule Manuscripts (part 1)

Introduction: In this lecture, we will look at some famous manuscripts that are known as majuscules. This will be divided into two lectures and these are the most important manuscripts that we have. They are early ‘capital letter’ manuscripts created on parchment covering the whole of the New Testament.
They are the ones that were made for churches and places where they would be read publically. Because of this, the intention was to have them done faithfully and in addition, many of them were done very carefully. These manuscripts were previously known as unscules; this word refers to Latin words and doesn’t have any reference to Greek. But Greek New Testament scholars always called them unscules, including Bruce Metzger. In the fourth edition of his book, The Text of the New Testament, he says, ‘these are majuscules, formerly called unscules.’ Once Metzger changed it, everybody else changed it and starting calling them majuscules. Everybody knew that unscules were never appropriate for Greek manuscripts. They are also called ‘capital letter manuscripts’ and were written without any division between the words. Another important thing, they would always end a line in terms of syllabification; they would never do that. Their dates are from the 3rd century and possibly even the 2nd century to the 10th century. We have one or two that are right between the 2nd and 3rd century. We don’t designate them by a ‘P’ in front of them or by ‘M’ for majuscule, but by one of four ways; we use Latin letters which is the same as our alphabet (except with no ‘J’). We also used Greek letters and a Hebrew letter in the singular or an Arabic number with a zero ‘0’ in front. So, there are four different designations and this is due more to historical reasons than anything else. J J Vetchstine in 1750-51 produced a two-volume New Testament with marginal notes from various literatures. He also gave designations to the manuscripts; this was the first time they had some kind of identification. Principally, he used the letters of the Latin alphabet. Later, when there were more manuscripts than letters, scholars then changed to the Greek letters which were distinct from the Latin alphabet. One manuscript even has a Hebrew letter for it; only one and it is a fascinating story as to why this occurred and who came up with it. We will discuss this letter.

The last designation uses an Arabic number with a zero in front. Note that for the Latin manuscripts, we have two that are known as Codex D. One is actually manuscript 05 and the other 06. The reason you can use the same Latin letter for more than one manuscript is because they don’t overlap in the text they have. The first Codex D, Codex Bezae at Cambridge University is a 5th century manuscript with the Gospels and Acts. The second one, Codex Clare Montanus is in Paris. It is from the 6th century with the Epistles in it. There is no overlap between the content of the two. All of these manuscripts have the Arabic number with a zero in front. This is the universal way in which they are recognized. So Codex Sinaiticus, also known as the letter Aleph has another designation, known as 01. There is only one manuscript that is 032, also known as Codex W. Now, note that there is one translation that will cite these manuscripts in its apparatus and gives a lot of textual critical notes; this translation is the Net Bible. Rather than say most ancient authorities or some ancient manuscripts say this, they are listed and described. This is helpful to understand those textual critical notes. If you would reduce those notes just to the text itself, there would be a hundred pages of very fine print.

So far to date, we have discovered 322 majuscules. There are 127 papyri and 322 majuscules and 2,900 minuscules. The later you go in time, the more manuscripts you have. The latest majuscule to be discovered was found by the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts in 2004. It is known as Codex 0322 and it is a palimpsest of Mark 3 and Mark 6. A palimpsest is one that has been scraped over and reused. You can see on this manuscript, background capital letters that they attempted to scrape off. There is also red lettering which is known as rubrication of the 1st millennium. Somehow they must have used a different kind of ink because that red lettering usually is stronger than that of later manuscripts. These red letters tell us some very interesting things and you can almost not read any of the capital letter text beside the red letters. You have the word telos written which means end of the lection that is read for that day and then a top arrow going horizontally to the left which start with art kay indicating that is the beginning. That is the beginning of the lesson you read for the next day. In the margin, there are two letters over another letter; this is called the Eusebian Cannon telling the scribes and the readers where they are in the Gospels. It is these three things that help us understand and identify where you are in the text.

Codex 0322: The discovery of Codex 0322 happened when we were in St George’s Cathedral in Istanbul at the Ecumenical Patriarchy of Constantinople. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is the direct administrative superior of dioceses and archdioceses serving millions of Eastern Orthodox churches around the World. They kept bringing manuscripts out to us that often would be the wrong manuscript. We had actually asked to photograph specific manuscripts; however, the numbering system they used was a little unusual. They had about three hundred manuscripts in their library which wasn’t very many. Around the 1900 they had sixty Greek New Testament manuscripts. Manuscript #67 out of that 300 went missing for some reason. They didn’t want to have any gaps in the sequences, so manuscript #68 would get tagged as #67 and all others would be moved down. Once that happened, the catalog became irrelevant. So the manuscripts numbering system along with their names were all messed up. It was because of this that they had brought out another wrong manuscript but then, one of our people noticed something was different about it. One person said they thought that manuscript was a Palimpsest (This is a manuscript page either from a scroll or a book from which the text has been scraped or washed off so that it could be used again. No manuscript in Constantinople had ever been discovered that had capital letters in it. A capital letter manuscript or majuscule, codex 0322 was the first-ever discovered in Constantinople. The reason for this was due to it being a Palimpsest, thus very easy to miss such a thing. Ivan Young, the person who discovered it, held it up to the window and could see the capital letters in it. We spent an entire day photographing these two leaves, four pages resulting in six gigabytes of photographs. They discovered that the date and some of the text placed it somewhere in the 9th century; so it is not really early, but our organization discovered it.

a. Codex Vanticanus (B)

Some famous manuscripts listed in order of their discovery are: 1475 Codex Vanticanus (B); 1581 Codex Bazae (D); 1627 Codex Alexandrinus; 1859 Codex Sinaiticus; and 1906 Codex Washintonianus. We begin with Codex Vanticanus. The earliest book list that was ever published about the Vatican’s library’s holdings came out in 1475. It listed just a few hundred volumes and among them was Codex Vanticanus. We don’t know how long it was at the Vatican before that. There is some evidence that it was in Caesarea in the 6th century. We don’t know where it came from; so there are a lot of questions about the manuscript; as it is a very old one. Erasmus, in putting together his Textus Receptus, the text behind the King James Bible, he used indirectly and minimally. He had friends at the Vatican who helped him. This story of Erasmus involved the Trinitarian Formula in 1st John 5:7 where it says, ‘there are three who bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Spirit and these three are one. This is not in our oldest manuscript or in our more recent manuscript; but it is found in nine manuscripts of which are of very recent vintage. So when Erasmus published his text, he didn’t at first include this Trinitarian Formula in it. The Catholic Church said that he had to put it in and so by 1522 it was entered in. This was his third edition. I will come back to this later. So Erasmus wrote to a friend of his at the Vatican asking for information on the Codex Vanticanus manuscript. He asked whether it had the Trinitarian Formula in 1 st John 5:7. It wasn’t. This manuscript is probably from the 4th century and it has most of the Bible, not just the New Testament. There is a facsimilia that has been done of this; four hundred and fifty copies altogether have been made, all signed by Pope John Paul the 2nd. This is a three-column manuscript which is very unusual in itself; I know there are only one or two other three column manuscripts in existent. It has most of the Old Testament and most of the New Testament but at Hebrews 9:13, it stops.

The remaining leaves contain text from hundreds of years later that somebody wrote in by minuscule hands, just to finish out what it had to say in the New Testament. But it is not from the same original manuscript this was copied from. I personally think that this manuscript is actually our most important
manuscript of the Bible and thus the most important document in the world. I examined this manuscript in 2001 for a week and what an experience that was. I was given permission to study it from the assistant librarian at the Vatican. Even though Codex Vanticanus was known earlier, it wasn’t published until the 19th century. It is the best representative of the Alexandrian text. It is accurate and has a shorter text than most others. The text was traced over many centuries later, marring the original. It doesn’t have the story of the woman caught in adultery and the long ending of Mark’s Gospel. At the end of 2nd Thessalonians and the beginning of Hebrews; note that the order of the books weren’t exactly what we are used to. You have three red crosses and a blue-green horizontal line above it. There is a marginal note at Hebrews 1:3 where it says not to change the old reading, but to leave it. Note also that Codex Vanticanus is known as Codex B or 03. Hebrews 1:3 says that the Son is the radiance of his glory and the representation of his essence and he ‘reveals’ all things by his powerful word. This is the only manuscript to have the word ‘reveal’ here. All other manuscripts have, ‘he sustains all things by his powerful word.’ The difference in Greek between the two is between pheron and fanheron. So, two letters were deleted in Codex B. It doesn’t seem to be the original reading and the corrector that made this marginal note about a later scribe who was changing the text, probably knew that fanheron was not the normal reading but he wanted to preserve what this manuscript had to say. That shows the respect some of the scribes had for these older manuscripts. So this was the end of Mark’s Gospel and here the third column was completely blank and is the only completely blank column we have in the entire New Testament of Codex Vanticanus. But it is not the only completely blank column we have in Vanticanus. This occurs three times in the Old Testament and there have been theories put forth to the reason why. When Vanticanus and Sinaiticus agreed, Westcotts and Hort thought that we had the original wording, almost everywhere.

b. Codex Bezae (D)

This was called Bezae because it came from the reformer Theodore Bezar. He donated it to Cambridge University in the year 1581. He wrote a letter telling them that it was a bazaar and eccentric manuscript. I actually was able to read his letter that he wrote to the university and then spending the day with the manuscript in 1995. I did this with a scholar by the name of Peter Head who is a professor at Cambridge University and I believe we are still the last people to have examined the manuscript. It is a fragile manuscript and so they don’t like people seeing it often. It is early 5th century, somewhere around 410 AD and it is a diaglot, written in two languages. Such a manuscript is done in two or three ways. Either you have one page that is one language while the other page is in the other language. One column that is in one language and the second column is different or sometimes you will have an interlinear text where you have a line and then right above it or below it you will have the other language. This manuscript is a page kind of diaglot. The left-hand side or the place that is given the place of honor is Greek and the right-hand side is Latin. The Latin side is considered to be a different manuscript. So you have capital ‘D’ for the Greek side and then a smaller letter, d, for the Latin side. It has the Gospels and Acts and a few verses of the Johannian letters. It is also called a Western text even though it isn’t originally from the west. The scribe copied as many as nine words at a time. What makes it special is being a very old text and it also has the western order of the Gospels, just like P45 did. It has Matthew and John and then Luke and Mark. It is the oldest manuscript we have with the story of the woman caught in adultery.

It has 8.5 percent more material in Acts than the Alexandrian manuscripts do. For many years they had a Bezan club at Cambridge University that would meet and discuss the readings of this particular manuscript. I will show you one of these fascinating reading later. The age of the text, the manuscript is
early 5th century. So, how old is the text that is in it? I would say that it goes back to the early 2nd century. There are also good reasons why the church fathers quoted from this manuscript. It is written phrase by phrase. One reading at Luke chapter 6:4, you have a reading that is not found in any other manuscript, no church father and no versions, nobody else talks about this. This is unique and is called an agriphone, something that isn’t written down in the canonical Gospels but yet Jesus is supposed to have said it. So here it is written in this one manuscript but not in others. It says, ‘on the same day when he (Jesus) saw someone working on the Sabbath, he said, man if you know what you are doing then you are blessed. If you don’t you are cursed and a transgressor of the law.’ Is this authentic? Did Jesus really say this? This is the only manuscript that has it. It is certainly creative even if it isn’t authentic.

There is one other variant in Mark 1:40-41 in Codex Bazae. Now a leper came to Jesus asking, ‘if you were willing, you could heal me.’ And getting angry, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him saying, ‘I am willing, be healed.’ Other Greek manuscripts don’t have the words, ‘getting angry.’ They say, ‘and filled with compassion.’ The difference in Greek between the two is two words with similar endings. This is the only Greek manuscript in the world that has this reading and I think it is probably authentic that Jesus got angry and healed the man. Here is a place where I think that the internal evidence is so compelling that Codex Bezae has probably got the correct reading. It is the only Greek manuscript, but it’s not the only manuscript that has ‘getting angry.’ We have three Latin manuscripts that have the same, yet not directly related to Codex D as such. The only thing that I can think of is perhaps it comes from an earlier source.

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