Is Bezae’s Lukan genealogy the work of an editor?

In an earlier post, I suggested that Bezae’s harmonization of the Lukan genealogy of Jesus (Luke 3:23-38) offers one of the most assured glimpses of an editorial process behind its distinctive text, simply because the motivation for such harmonization is so patently clear. In short, the nature of the variation itself suggests a deliberate attempt to smooth over what was evidently perceived as a major apologetic problem posed by the divergent Matthean and Lukan genealogies.

Bezae’s variant genealogy is technically a “singular” reading in that no other witness presents a similar genealogy as the text of Luke 3:23-38. Yet Bezae’s genealogy seems closely related to a sequence of names offered by Aphraates in his Demonstration 23 — though Aphraates presents the names in chronological order and does not identify his source either as a biblical text or as a harmony. [1] Aphraates seems content merely to demonstrate that there were sixty-three generations from Adam to Christ by listing all sixty-three names.

Section 1 of 3: From Joseph to David

All versions of Luke’s genealogy begin with Joseph and proceed backwards to Adam: [2]

Verse Luke (D) Luke (B) Matthew (B) Aphraates
3:23 ιωσηφ (01) Ιωσηφ (01) Ιωσηφ (40) yawsep (63)
Forty names according to the mainstream tradition

The forty names between David and Joseph in mainstream Luke depict Jesus’ descent from Nathan, an otherwise unknown son of David. They differ entirely from the well-known royal line of David given by Matthew. The forty names — all absent in Bezae — are as follows (from Codex Vaticanus):

Verse Luke (B)
3:23 Ηλει (02)
3:24 Ματθατ (03)
ηλειει (04)
Μελχει (05)
Ιανναι (06)
Ιωσηφ (07)
3:25 Μαθθαθιου (08)
Αμως (09)
Ναουμ (10)
Εσλει (11)
Ναγγαι (12)
3:26 Μααθ (13)
Ματταθιου (14)
Σεμεειν (15)
Ιωσηχ (16)
Ιωδα (17)
3:27 Ιωαναν (18)
Ρησα (19)
Ζοροβαβελ (20)
Σαλαθιηλ (21)
Νηρει (22)
3:28 Μελχει (23)
Αδδει (24)
Κωσαμ (25)
Ελμαδαμ (26)
Ηρ (27)
3:29 Ιησου (28)
Ελιεζερ (29)
Ιωρειμ (30)
Μαθθατ (31)
Λευει (32)
3:30 Συμεων (33)
Ιουδα (34)
Ιωσηφ (35)
Ιωναμ (36)
Ελιακειμ (37)
3:31 Μελεα (38)
Μεννα (39)
Μετταθα (40)
Ναθαμ (41)
Twenty-five names according to Bezae’s text

In place of the forty names in mainstream Luke, Bezae substitutes twenty-five names drawn primarily from Matthew, though supplemented with names from the Hebrew Bible and LXX. The effect is to harmonize the Lukan genealogy with Matthew. [3]

Yet Bezae introduces two notable variations to Matthew’s genealogy. First, three kings missing from Matthew’s genealogy are inserted by Bezae (αμασιου, ιωας, and οχοζιου), a variation also found in Aphraates. Second, Bezae is the only witness that counts Jehoiakim (a.k.a. Eliakim) twice by listing him under each of his names (του ιωακειμ του ελιακειμ, i.e. “Jehoiakim the son of Eliakim”). But according to 2 Kgs 23:34, Jehoiakim was the name assigned to Eliakim by Pharaoh Necho when he installed him as an Egyptian client! This variation is not found in Aphraates.

Luke (D) Matthew (B) Aphraates LXX
ιακωβ (02) Ιακωβ (39) tmp_24098-62-gen-525853145 yaʿqúb (62)
μαθθαν (03) Μαθθαν (38) mattan (61)
ελεαζαρ (04) Ελεαζαρ (37) ʾelíʿāzar (60)
ελιουδ (05) Ελιουδ (36) ʾelíúd (59)
ιαχειν (06) Αχειμ (35) ʾakín (58)
σαδωκ (07) Σαδωκ (34) zādúq (57)
αζωρ (08) Αζωρ (33) ʿāzúr (56)
ελιακειμ (09) Ελιακειμ (32) ʾelíqím (55)
αβιουδ (10) Αβιουδ (31) ʾabíúd (54)
ζοροβαβελ (11) Ζοροβαβελ (30) zúrbābel (53) Ζοροβαβελ (1 Chron 3:19)
σαλαθιηλ (12) Σελαθιηλ (29) šelatiʾél (52) σαλαθιηλ (1 Chron 3:17)
ιεχονιου (13) Ιεχονιαν (28) yúyākín (51) ιωακιμ (4 Kgs 24:8)
ιωακειμ (14) yúyāqím (50) ιωακιμ (4 Kgs 23:36)
ελιακειμ (15)
ιωαχας (4 Kgs 23:31)
ιωσεια (16) Ιωσειαν (27) yúšiyā (49) ιωσιας (4 Kgs 22:1)
αμως (17) Αμως (26) āmún (48) αμων (4 Kgs 21:19)
μανασση (18) Μανασση (25) mnaše (47) μανασσης (4 Kgs 21:1)
εζεκεια (19) Εζεκιαν (24) ḥezaqyā (46) εζεκιας (4 Kgs 18:1)
αχας (20) Αχαζ (23) āḥāz (45) αχαζ (4 Kgs 16:1)
ιωαθαν (21) Ιωαθαμ (22) yútām (44) ιωαθαμ (4 Kgs 15:5)
οζεια (22) Οζειαν (21) ʿúziyā (43) αζαριας (4 Kgs 15:1)
αμασιου (23) ʾamúṣiyā (42) αμεσσιου (4 Kgs 15:1)
ιωας (24) yāhúāsh (41) ιωας (4 Kgs 12:2)
οχοζιου (25) ʾeḥazyā (40) οχοζιας (4 Kgs 8:25)
ιωραμ (26) Ιωραμ (20) yāhúrām (39) ιωραμ (3 Kgs 16:22)
ιωσαφαδ (27) Ιωσαφατ (19) yúšāpāṭ (38) ιωσαφατ (3Kgs15:24)
ασαφ (28) Ασαφ (18) ʾāsā (37) ασα (3 Kgs 15:9)
αβιουδ (29) Αβια (17) ʾabiyā (36) αβια (2 Kgs 14:27; 3 Kgs 12:24)
ροβοαμ (30) Ροβοαμ (16) rḥabʿam (35) ροβοαμ (2 Kgs 8:7); ιεροβοαμ (3 Kgs 12:24)
σολομων (31) Σολομωνα (15) šlémún (34) σαλωμων (2 Kgs 5:14)

Section 2 of 3: From David to Abraham

Fourteen names

Mainstream Matthew and Luke are in essential agreement with each other and with Bezae for the fourteen names from David through Abraham, though there are some minor orthographic variations.

Verse Luke (D) Luke (B) Matthew (B) Aphraates LXX
3:31 δαυειδ (32) Δαυειδ (42) Δαυειδ (14) dawíd (33) δαυιδ (1 Kgs 16:12)
3:32 ιεσσαι (33) Ιεσσαι (43) Ιεσσαι (13) ʾíshay (32) ιεσσαι (1 Kgs 16:1)
ωβηλ (34) Ιωβηλ (44) Ιωβηδ (12) ʿúbíd (31) ωβηδ (Ruth 4:21)
βοος (35) Βοος (45) Βοες (11) bāʿāz (30) βοος (Ruth 4:21)
σαλμων (36) Σαλα (46) Σαλμων (10) šelā (29) σαλμαν (Ruth 4:20)
ναασσων (37) Ναασσων (47) Ναασσων (09) neḥšún (28) ναασσων (Ruth 4:20)
3:33 αμειναδαβ (38) Αδμειν (48) Αμειναδαβ (08) ʿamínādāb (27) αμιναδαβ (Ruth 4:19)
αραμ (39) Αρνει (49) Αραμ (07) ʾārām (26) αρραν (Ruth 4:19)
ασρωμ (40) Εσρων (50) Εσρωμ (06) ḥeṣrún (25) εσρων (Ruth 4:18)
φαρες (41) Φαρες (51) Φαρες (05) pareṣ (24) φαρες (Ruth 4:18)
ιουδα (42) Ιουδα (52) Ιουδαν (04) íhúdā (23) ιουδα (Gen 29:35)
3:34 ιακωβ (43) Ιακωβ (53) Ιακωβ (03) yaʿqúb (22) ιακωβ (Gen 25:26)
ισακ (44) Ισαακ (54) Ισαακ (02) ʾísḥāq (21) ισαακ (Gen 17:19)
αβρααμ (45) Αβρααμ (55) Αβρααμ (01) ʾabrāhām (20) αβρααμ (Gen 17:5)

Section 3 of 3: From Abraham to Adam

Twenty names

Only Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus past Abraham to Adam, with the mainstream Lukan tradition including twenty names before Abraham (Luke 3:34-38). Bezae follows the mainstream tradition here, except for lacking the name Καιναμ, a variation it shares with Aphraates and P75(vid). [4]

Verse Luke (D) Luke (B) Aphraates LXX
3:34 θαρα (46) Θαρα (56) tārāḥ (19) θαρα (Gen 11:24)
ναχωρ (47) Ναχωρ (57) nāḥúr (18) ναχωρ (Gen 11:22)
3:35 σερουκ (48) Σερουχ (58) srúg (17) σερουχ (Gen 11:20)
ραγαυ (49) Ραγαυ (59) ʾarʿú (16) ραγαυ (Gen 11:18)
φαλεκ (50) Φαλεκ (60) pālāg (15) παλεκ (Gen 11:16)
εβερ (51) Εβερ (61) ʿābār (14) εβερ (Gen 11:14)
σαλα (52) Σαλα (62) šālāḥ (13) σαλα (Gen 11:13)
3:36 Καιναμ (63) καιναν (Gen 11:12)
αρφαξαδ (53) Αρφαξαδ (64) ʾarpakšar (12) αρφαξαδ (Gen 11:10)
σημ (54) Σημ (65) ším (11) σημ (Gen 5:32)
νωε (55) Νωε (66) núḥ (10) νωε (Gen 5:29)
λαμεκ (56) Λαμεχ (67) lāmāk (09) λαμεχ (Gen 5:25)
3:37 μαθουσαλα (57) Μαθθουσαλα (68) matúšlaḥ (08) μαθουσαλα (Gen 5:21)
αινωχ (58) Ενωχ (69) ḥnúk (07) ενωκ (Gen 5:18)
ιαρεδ (59) Ιαρετ (70) yārād (06) ιαρεδ (Gen 5:15)
μαλελεηλ (60) Μαλελεηλ (71) mašlālāʾél (05) μαλελεηλ (Gen 5:12)
καϊναν (61) Καιναν (72) qaynān (04) καιναν (Gen 5:9)
3:38 αινως (62) Ενως (73) ʾānúš (03) ενως (Gen 5:6)
σηθ (63) Σηθ (74) šít (02) σηθ (Gen 5:3)
αδαμ (64) Αδαμ (75) ʾādām (01) αδαμ (Gen 2:16)

So the total number of names in each genealogy is:

Luke (D) 64
Luke (B) 75
Matthew (B) 40
Aphraates 63

Certainly Bezae’s similarity to Aphraates is striking, despite its unique listing of Jehoiakim under two names. From just this list of names it is unclear whether Bezae or Aphraates represents the earlier tradition.

So does Bezae’s Lukan genealogy reveal the work of an editor? It is clear that at various times an apologetic motive would have existed to produce a single harmonized genealogy of Jesus. Such a genealogy may have been intended to silence critics, but might also have served to instruct the orthodox in the “correct” synthesis of the two genealogies. But what makes Bezae’s Lukan genealogy most likely the work of a resolute editor is the difficulty of imagining why a genealogy originally in harmony, as found in Bezae, might have been taken out of harmony in the respective traditions of Matthew and Luke. Until this question is answered, it is difficult to see Bezae’s text here as anything other than implied evidence that its distinctive text could not represent the initial text.

[1] For example, there is nothing to exclude a commentary tradition or personal study as the source of Aphraates’ name sequence versus a gospel harmony.

[2] Here I present the genealogies of Matthew and Aphraates in reverse chronological order for comparison with Luke’s arrangement. The numbers in parentheses indicate the sequence of each name in the context of its respective original list.

[3] The opening of Matthew’s gospel is unfortunately lost in Bezae’s Greek text, while it begins at verse 12 in Bezae’s Latin text, thereby missing the most interesting variations.

[4] Perhaps this avoids perceived duplication with the name Καιναν in Luke 3:37.

Now in Münster, upcoming topics

I thought I would post an update on the status of my move to Münster now that the most pressing move-related deadlines are behind. I now have a Münster address. Personal belongings that would not fit in the suitcases are now enroute by ship. I am now somewhat free once again to continue the research that informs this blog.

In fact, I am eager to press in a number of directions:

First, while it may not be the most exciting variation from a literary or theological perspective, for a number of reasons Bezae’s Lukan genealogy seems to hold some promising clues regarding the initial context of Bezae’s text. Writers, such as Ambrosiaster — contemporary with Bezae’s production — seem preoccupied with harmonizing Luke’s and Matthew’s genealogies, though their solutions differ from that of Bezae. Meanwhile Augustine suggests that the contemporary Manichaean writer Faustus exploited incompatibilities in the genealogies for apologetic ends. At the same time, Bezae’s Lukan genealogy resembles in format a genealogy offered by Aphraates. Hence I am now preparing a number of posts exploring this significant though little-discussed variation.

Second, despite a range of internal criteria suggesting that Bezae’s text is likely secondary — for example, apparent improvements, harmonizations, tendencies — there remains no consensus that Bezae’s text must be secondary. In fact, the view that Bezae’s text as a literary piece might represent the initial text raises significant questions concerning the validity of what are often assumed to be accepted text-critical canons and historical frameworks. On the other hand, it remains questionable whether a case for the relative prioirty of Bezae’s text can be sustained primarily on the basis of literary features.

Third, there is need to review the history of scholarship regarding Bezae’s Greek text as a possible retroversion. The topic might include especially an examination of Wettstein, Semler, Michaelis, Griesbach, Matthaei, Middleton, Marsh, Schultz, Hort, Harris, and several more recent writers on the origins of Bezae’s Greek text. Opinions tend to be strongly expressed, yet historically there are serious misunderstandings of the parameters of the discussion and what the evidence is able to demonstrate. The suggestion that Bezae’s Greek text might reflect assimilation to an ancient version — for example, the Latin, the Syriac, or both — while out of favor, yet deserves a hearing simply because it remains to be disproven — despite frequently stated belief to the contrary.

Fourth, the steadily dwindling pool of Bezan features that absolutely demand a second-century date requires definition. At the same time, a fascination with things ancient must be taken into account as a potential inspiration for apparent archaisms in Bezae.

Fifth, it should be possible to relate Bezae’s tendencies to a particular shared context, since it is unlikely they arose in separate contexts. While Bezae’s observed tendencies are often consigned by default to the second century, it is clear they do not all fit a second-century context (for example, attempts to exonerate Roman officials).

Sixth, the factionalism of the latter fourth century needs to be explored as a potential background for Bezae’s production as a manuscript — whether or not the text itself is early or late. What factors might have contributed to the production of such a distinctive text? Is its very distinctiveness an indication of partisan sympathies and if so to which party might it be attributed? Of particular relevance is controversy concerning the Vulgate.

Seventh, there is need to examine Greek manuscripts with uncanny parallels to Bezae — such as Codex Sinaiticus in John 1-8 and P127 in Acts.

Eighth, if it is agreed that Bezae contains both Eastern and Western elements, it must be asked what contexts and forces might best explain this East-West communication.

Ninth, it seems worthwhile to recontextualize the PA, Markan long ending, Sabbath worker, and other similar contributions of Bezae’s text in light of the context in which the manuscript was produced. Whether or not they originated in Bezae’s tradition, such passages evidently held some attraction for those who produced the manuscript.

Clearly, there is still much to discuss concerning Bezae’s text!

When was Bezae’s Lukan genealogy harmonized?

At eighty Greek words — roughly half the size of the Pericope adulterae — Bezae’s distinctive harmonization of the Lukan genealogy of Jesus (Luke 3:23-38) stands as one of its longest variations from the mainstream text. By comparison, the longest so-called “Western non-interpolation” at Luke 22:19-20 involves thirty-two words, while the Sabbath worker episode at Luke 6:5 consists of just twenty-eight words. Yet from Luke 3:23-31, Bezae’s text replaces the forty names from Joseph to David in Luke’s genealogy with the twenty-five names between Joseph and David in Matthew’s genealogy.

No other of Bezae’s variations suggests more clearly the work of a determined editor! In fact, the process of harmonization required the Matthean order to be reversed to accommodate Luke’s reverse-chronological design! So Bezae’s Lukan genealogy points clearly to the secondary nature of its distinctive text. Yet while the motive for such a change seems obvious enough, it is not necessarily so obvious when such a change must have occurred.

Our investigation of synoptic harmonization must naturally begin in the second century. But our second-century sources are strangely quiet on the different genealogies. Both Irenaeus (Haer. 3.21.9) and Justin Martyr (Dial. 121) seem to know at least Matthew’s genealogy, but provide no hint of knowing Luke’s genealogy. Moreover, if we are to believe Theodoret of Cyrrhus (d. 457), it is puzzling that Tatian seems not to have included the genealogy in his harmony.

Most striking though is the silence of Celsus, who according to Origen was aware of both genealogies: “he [Celsus] asserts that the ‘framers of the genealogies, from a feeling of pride, made Jesus to be descended from the first man [i.e. according to Luke], and from the kings of the Jews [i.e. according to Matthew].'” (Cels. 2.32; ANF 4, 444) Yet amazingly Celsus seems to have said nothing of any discrepancies between the two genealogies, though he seems to know both! In fact, Origen takes Celsus to task for his supposed neglect of this obvious problem, “in finding fault with our Lord’s genealogy, there are certain points which occasion some difficulty even to Christians, and which, owing to the discrepancy between the genealogies, are advanced by some as arguments against their correctness, but which Celsus has not even mentioned. For Celsus, who is truly a braggart, and who professes to be acquainted with all matters relating to Christianity, does not know how to raise doubts in a skilful manner against the credibility of Scripture.” Origen dismisses as irrelevant Celsus’ alleged preoccupation with Jesus’ inherited social status: “the carpenter’s wife could not have been ignorant of the fact, had she been of such illustrious descent.”

But Origen seems not to have read Celsus very carefully because the objection he cites clearly implies that Celsus understood Luke’s genealogy to be that of Mary and Matthew’s to be that of Joseph. Moreover, Celsus apparently considered it so self-evident that Luke recorded Jesus’ genealogy through Mary, that he does not bother to mention it. Yet Origen does inform us that in his time the discrepancies between the genealogies had been “advanced by some as arguments against their correctness.” In fact, it is not until the third century that we find the issue being addressed when according to Eusebius, Julius Africanus explained the problem and offered the custom of Levirate marriage as a solution. But although Eusebius claims that Africanus is “refuting the opinions of others” (Hist. eccl. 1.7.1; NPNF 2.1, 91), it is hard to rely totaly on his evidence, given his mistaken claim that Africanus received his answer “from tradition,” when Africanus himself contradicts this very statement, admitting namely that “we can urge no testimony in its support [the Levirate marriage solution], we have nothing better or truer to offer.” (Hist. eccl. 1.7.15; NPNF 2.1, 94)

It seems then we cannot assume that Bezae’s harmonized Lukan genealogy arose in the second century. If an individual as hostile to Christianity as Celsus apparently saw no conflict, then neither can we assume that Bezae’s editors necessarily saw a conflict. Like Celsus, they may have viewed the two genealogies as belonging to Mary and Joseph.

[1] The Greek text of the Matthean genealogy is unfortunately lacking in Codex Bezae. The Latin is partially preserved.

Moving to Münster

Most readers of my blog are likely aware of my plans to start Ph.D. work later this year at the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung in Münster. Of course this means I will be packing up and moving shortly with my whole family to Germany. Since I have now been stymied for the past few weeks in my every attempt to complete a timely blog post, I thought I should post this brief explanation. As the move is just weeks away, it appears for now that I will be dealing mainly with practicalities such as preparing the house to rent, selling things that are no longer needed, and packing the rest. I will also continue looking for a place to live in Münster. I still hope to catch a few breaks to finish my next post on Bezae’s Lukan genealogy.

Rome, Petrine primacy, and Bezae’s text

In a previous post, I noted the apparent interest of Bezae’s initial corrector, Corrector G, in passages that pertain to Peter and his role of authority among the apostles. I also suggested that this corrector, whose work is confined to Matthew and the first four chapters of Acts, may have focused on these two books, not because he grew tired of correcting in Matthew and hence skipped to Acts due to its unusual text, but rather because these two books contain the passages he was most interested in, namely, passages concerning the question of Petrine primacy.

Now as D. C. Parker has shown, Bezae’s distinctive text was not created by the scribe, who closely followed the text of his exemplar. [1] Yet the final form of Bezae’s text exhibits the same interest we find in Corrector G in passages relevant to Peter’s role, often with the effect of augmenting Peter’s role in the narrative. [2] But if the scribe did not introduce this feature, it seems we must consider whether Bezae’s exemplar also developed under the oversight of the initial corrector. Unless this interest in Peter is coincidental, we might infer, at least for Bezae, that its text of Acts could not have been produced much earlier than the manuscript itself. [3]

Of course, it is by no means impossible that there were other sets of circumstances in which Peter’s role might have been augmented. But when we consider the acute relevance of the question of Petrine authority following the Council of Constantinople in 381, at which Constantinople was promoted above the ancient sees of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem to a rank of second place only to Rome, the time frame immediately prior to Bezae’s production suddenly becomes highly interesting as a potential context for the development of a particular interest in Peter’s role.

In suggesting a context for this special interest in Peter, we might begin then with Canon 3 of the Council of Constantinople:

“The Bishop of Constantinople … shall have the prerogative of honour after the Bishop of Rome; because Constantinople is New Rome.” (NPNF 2.14, 178)

The impact of this canon can be assessed when we consider that sixty years later Rome was still protesting it, as Leo the Great remonstrates with Anatolius, Bishop of Constantinople:

“For your purpose [to invoke the primacy of Constantinople over the Eastern sees] is in no way whatever supported by the written assent of certain bishops [who convened at the Council of Constantinople] given, as you allege, 60 years ago, and never brought to the knowledge of the Apostolic See by your predecessors” (Leo the Great, Epistle 106.5; NPNF 2.12, 79)

Leo argues that Constantinople’s claim rests purely on its secular status as New Rome and hence is inferior to the apostolic claim of the other sees, which Leo seems to assume were all founded on the authority of Peter:

“Things secular stand on a different basis from things divine: and there can be no sure building save on that rock [i.e. Peter] which the LORD has laid for a foundation. … Let him [Anatolius] not disdain a city which is royal, though he cannot make it an Apostolic See” (Leo the Great, Epistle 104.3; NPNF 2.12, 75)

Of course, Leo is alluding to Peter’s connection, not only to Rome, but also to the three demoted sees. Now Peter’s connection with Antioch (formerly the third see) and Jerusalem (formerly the fourth) is established in the New Testament. But Leo also claims Peter as the founder of the See of Alexandria (formerly second) on the basis of Mark’s traditional discipleship under Peter:

“The See of Alexandria may not lose any of that dignity which it merited through S. Mark, the evangelist and disciple of the blessed Peter” (Leo the Great, Epistle 106.5; NPNF 2.12, 79)

In fact, Peter is the only apostle that all of the ancient sees could claim in common, a finding that Leo tries to exploit in his contention that Constantinople usurped the second rank from Alexandria.

So it is evident that Rome’s rivalry with Constantinople in the period after 381 offers a compelling setting for the pattern we find in Bezae’s text of Acts, which in various ways highlights Peter’s unique authority as founding apostle of the church in Acts. Of course, by the end of the fourth century, only a canonical text could have served as the basis for this unique appeal to Peter’s authority. This might explain why Bezae’s text of Acts is more recent than that of its gospels. It may also explain why the text of Acts receives disproportionate emphasis in general in the so-called “Western” text.

Now if this connection is warranted, the long text of Acts we find in Bezae (and possibly in other witnesses) might be seen as promoting the perspective, not only of Rome, but also of the demoted sees of Alexandria and Antioch, yet certainly not of Constantinople. It is remarkable then that the distribution of the so-called “Western” text follows the locations the ancient apostolic sees, in both East and West, while avoiding the area around Constantinople. Hence, both Syria and Egypt attest versional representatives of the so-called “Western” texts of Acts. Just as this long text existed in Latin in various forms for the benefit of the church in the West, so too did it exist in Greek for the benefit of the church in the East — and not only in Greek, but also in the Eastern versions, whether Coptic or Syriac.


[1] “It is not permissible to regard the text of D as coterminous with the
Codex Bezae.” D. C. Parker, Codex Bezae: An early Christian manuscript and its text (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992) 96. Note that Parker’s statement in the context of Bezae’s sense lines does not comment on the possibility that the D text might be coterminous with Bezae’s exemplar. Note also that Parker’s reconstruction allows Bezae’s exemplar of Acts to have been transcribed through the end of the fourth century (p. 281).

[2] J. Crehan, “Peter according to the D-Text of Acts,” Theological Studies 18 (1957) 596–603. See A. G. Brock, “Appeasement, Authority, and the Role of Women in the D-Text of Acts” in T. Nicklas and M. Tilly, The Book of Acts as Church History: Text, Textual Traditions and Ancient Interpretations (BZNW 120. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2003) 205-224 at 210-215 for others who have observed this variation of emphasis on Peter or have noted it in their citations.

[3] See Parker, Bezae, 118-119, who observes significantly that Bezae’s Acts tradition is more recent than that of its gospels.

How did a Latin text end up in the Egyptian wilderness?

In some recent posts, I have suggested that certain features of Bezae’s Greek text seem consistent with its assimilation of Old Latin readings. Of course, any theory of Latin assimilation requires a motive capable of justifying the retroversion of Latin readings into Greek. In Bezae’s case, one possible motive is the documented belief that the Greek tradition was more corrupt than the Old Latin version. But a still bigger problem is explaining how these assimilated readings might have appeared in other versions.

One remarkable twentieth-century discovery was the Acts text of Codex Glazier in the Middle Egyptian Coptic dialect, which unexpectedly followed the “long” text form of Bezae and other well-known “Western” witnesses, at times even uniquely agreeing with Bezae in readings that had previously been considered singular. [1]

To suggest then that Latin assimilation might in some way have contributed to the “long” text forms of Acts in Greek clearly requires an account as to how these forms might have appeared in Middle Egyptian texts. Of course, it is possible such an influence passed indirectly through the Greek tradition to the versions. But how necessary is this intermediate step?

We might begin by noting that the so-called “Western” text form is especially well-represented in the Old Latin text of Acts. To take a familiar example, the “baptismal confession” of the Ethiopian eunuch at Acts 8:37, found in Glazier, is well-attested by Latin writers, including Cyprian, Tertullian, Augustine, Pacian, and Ambrosiaster, and whatever its origin, is clearly representative of the Old Latin version as a whole, being attested in c dem e gig l m p ph r t w (Bezae is unfortunately lacunose from Acts 8:29-10:14). While it is also attested in various forms in a range of Greek minuscules, the sheer quantity of variant forms (TUT lists 22 unique forms in ten readings) makes it difficult to insist that the Greek form had to have been the earliest.

But even if we allow that such a reading might first have appeared in Latin, how are we to explain its occurrence in a remote Coptic dialect? What context can convincingly bring these two traditions together in a manner capable of allowing a transfer of readings between these otherwise disparate versions?

One distinct possibility involves the pro-Nicene faction of the fourth-century Arian controversy, whose leadership brought together figures from both the Latin West and Coptic Egypt. We might consider the case of Athanasius (presumably a Coptic speaker), who fled to the West in 339 and remained there for the duration of his second exile (339-346). In the West, he established ties with Pope Julius and the bishops in Italy (Apol. Const. 3), many of whom survived long enough to defend his cause in his later struggles (Hilary of Poitiers, Coll. Ant. Par. B.II.2).

In the opposite direction, both Lucifer of Cagliari in Sardinia and Eusebius of Vercelli in northern Italy were exiled by Constantius to the East (355-361) for refusing to condemn Athanasius at the Council of Milan (355). Both spent the latter portion of their respective exiles in the predominantly Coptic-speaking region of the Thebaid (Upper Egypt). It is interesting to note in this connection that the Old Latin gospel manuscript, Codex Vercellensis (a), is said to have been transcribed by Eusebius. [2] In fact, it seems not unlikely that both Lucifer and Eusebius carried Old Latin gospel texts to their places of exile.

In any case, Lucifer’s writings dating from his exile contain Old Latin citations. He seems to have sent one of these writings, the treatise De Athanasio, to Constantius in defense of Athanasius. If we accept as genuine two letters to Lucifer attributed to Athanasius, the latter requested a copy of the treatise: [3]

To our lord, and most beloved brother the Bishop and Confessor Lucifer. Athanasius greeting in the Lord. …

It has been reported to us that your holiness has written to Constantius Augustus; and we wonder more and more that dwelling as it were among scorpions you yet preserve freedom of spirit, in order, by advice or teaching or correction, to bring those in error to the light of truth. I ask then, and all confessors join me in asking, that you will be good enough to send us a copy; so that all may perceive, not by hearsay only but by letters, the valour of your spirit, and the confidence and firmness of your faith. Those who are with me salute your holiness … (Epist. 1, Ad Luciferum; NPNF 2.4, 561)

In his second letter to Lucifer, we hear of Athanasius’ reception of the treatise:

To the most glorious lord and deservedly much-desired fellow-Bishop Lucifer, Athanasius greeting in the Lord. …

We have received the books of your most wise and religious soul, in which we have seen the image of an Apostle, the confidence of a Prophet, the teaching of truth, the doctrine of true faith, the way of heaven, the glory of martyrdom, the triumphs against the Arian heresy, the unimpaired tradition of our Fathers, the right rule of the Church’s order. O truly Lucifer, who according to your name bring the light of truth …

Believe me, Lucifer, it is not you only who has uttered this, but the Holy Spirit with you. Whence comes so great a memory for the Scriptures? Whence an unimpaired sense and understanding of them? … Whence did you get such exhortations to the way of heaven … and such proofs against heretics, unless the Holy Spirit had been lodged in you? (Epist. 2, Ad Luciferum; NPNF 2.4, 562)

The relevant point here is that Lucifer’s De Athanasio contains well-known “Western” readings, including readings attested by the codices Bezae, Glazier, and just a few others. [4] For example, in Lucifer’s text of Acts 12:7 cited in De Athanasio, the angel “pricks” or “pierces” (νυξας) rather than “taps” (παταξας) Peter’s side, a reading attested only by Bezae, P127, Codex Gigas (gig), and (it seems) Codex Glazier (though the latter’s support is not listed in NA28). [5] Thus, Lucifer writes:

conpungens autem latus Petri (De Athanasio 2.14; CCSL 8, 99)

Which compares to the Old Latin text:

pungens autem latus Petri (d gig)

But this reading is also attested by Codex Glazier:

Acts 12,7 (underline, 80pc)[6]

(Note that H.-M. Schenke’s lexicon defines the verb joke as stechen, stoßen, which in the context suggests to prick, stab, pierce, or pokeDefinition [7])

Compared to Athanasius’ own “Alexandrian” citations, Lucifer’s vivid depiction of the angel “piercing” Peter’s side could not have been lost on readers of the treatise. If the Luciferian tract De confessione verae fidei (88) is credible on this point, Athanasius himself translated Lucifer’s books into Greek, which would have made the treatise accessible to anyone conversant in Greek. [8]

Considering Athanasius’ extravagant praise of Lucifer’s orthodoxy, it is not difficult to envision a certain interest in his unusual text form among those who encountered it. Yet whether or not Athanasius or the “confessors” with him noticed these unusual readings, we can at least affirm that the physical transfer of Old Latin readings to a context in which Coptic was the familiar language is apparently attested. While given the state of the evidence, we are unlikely to establish any definitive connection between the Old Latin and Coptic versions of Acts, if Athanasius did indeed receive a copy of Lucifer’s treatise, it seems neither can we entirely rule out such connections.


[1] E. J. Epp, “Coptic Manuscript G67 and the Role of Codex Bezae as a Western Witness in Acts” in Perspectives on New Testament Textual Criticism: Collected Essays, 1962–2004 (Leiden: Brill, 2005) 15-39.

[2] See E. Dekkers, “Les autographes des Peres latins” in Colligere fragmenta, Festschrift Alban Dold zum 70. Geburtstag…, hrsg. von Bonifatius Fischer u. Virgil Fiala (Beuron, 1952) 127-139.

[3] On the authenticity of Athanasius’ letters to Lucifer, see G. F. Diercks, ed., CCSL 8, xxvi and E. Dekkers, “Les traductions grecques des écrits patristiques latins,” Sacris Erudiri 5 (Brugge, 1953) 193-233 at 199.

[4] A. M. Coleman notes the close alignment of Lucifer’s “abundant quotations (more than one eighth of the Acts)” with gig. A. M. Coleman, The Biblical text of Lucifer of Cagliari: Acts (Welwyn, Herts., 1927) 1. See also, J. H. Petzer, “Texts and Text-Types in the Latin Version of Acts” in Philologia Sacra. Vol. 1 (ed. R. Gryson; Freiburg: Herder, 1993) 259–284 at 266.

[5] Probably, there was some uncertainty as to whether the distinction between the two readings could be unequivocally established in the Coptic.

[6] H.-M. Schenke (ed.), Apostelgeschichte 1,1-15,3 im mittelägyptischen Dialekt des Koptischen (Codex Glazier) (TU 137; Berlin, 1991) 180.

[7] Schenke, Apostelgeschichte, 229.

[8] Quos quidem libros, cum per omnia ex integro ageret, suspexit et Athanasius ut ueri uindicis atque in Graecum stilum transtulit, ne tantum boni Graeca lingua non haberet. M. Simonetti, ed.; CCSL 69, 381.

Has Aramaic influence on Codex Bezae been disproved?

In two recent posts, I have considered theories of the origins of Codex Bezae’s Greek text based on assimilation to one or more strains of the Old Latin version. But in his Textual Commentary, B. M. Metzger also lists several theories of Semitic influence, including those of F. H. Chase, J. Wellhausen, C. C. Torrey, A. J. Wensinck, and M. Black. [1]

One intriguing theory is that of C. C. Torrey, who argued that Bezae developed from a retroversion of an Aramaic Targum of the gospels. Torrey writes:

“There is very good reason to believe that an especially able and complete (also occasionally expanded) retroversion into Aramaic, an ‘original’ gospel very widely celebrated in its time (early second century?) and therefore translated into Greek with constant employment (from memory?) of the wording of the standard Greek text of that day, was the origin of our Codex Bezae and the ‘Western’ text.” [2]

Torrey’s theory is appealing for a number of reasons. For example:

  1. If we accept that Bezae’s features imply a Semitic influence, then a historical context among Aramaic-speaking Jewish Christians supplies a compelling motive for an initial translation that might explain some of Bezae’s variation.
  2. The expansive character of Bezae’s text is consistent with the interpretive and storytelling elements we expect to find in a Targum. [3]
  3. The existence of gospel materials in Aramaic is supported by the documentary evidence of later writers.
  4. The existence of written Targums is not without precedent in the time frame proposed by Torrey. [4]

Now it is often thought that J. D. Yoder’s study, “The Language of the Greek Variants of Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis,” effectively excluded the possibility of distinctive Semitic influence on Bezae’s text. [5] By evaluating Bezae’s readings both for and against three broad categories of Semitic forms, Yoder found that the number of Semitic forms present in Bezae but lacking in Westcott and Hort (= WH) was generally offset by the number present in WH but lacking in Bezae, leading him to conclude that Bezae’s Semitisms are no more representative of its text than of the larger tradition.

But Yoder’s experimental design does not rule out a significant class of theories of Semitic influence in Bezae. Specifically, it does not rule out any theory (such as Torrey’s Targum theory) that involves initial translation into a Semitic language followed by retroversion into Greek.

Why is this the case? It is simply that any Semitisms that might have existed in the initial Greek Vorlage would have been subsumed into the text of the Aramaic translation. When the text was re-translated into Greek, these original Semitisms would now have become indistinguishable from the surrounding text. In the process, the Greek retroversion would likely acquire new Semitisms or new varieties of the original Semitisms. But unless copied from an existing Greek codex, we would not expect the original Semitisms to be restored with any consistency to their former places. In fact, the expected result if Torrey’s theory were true is remarkably close to Yoder’s actual result.

So what does this mean for Torrey’s theory?

It is important to realize that Yoder’s test does not disprove Torrey’s theory or any similar theory involving rewriting the Greek text from an intermediate Semitic stage. Yet neither is it a demonstration of such a theory.

Like nearly all theories that propose the early development of a “Western” text form, a weakness of the Targum theory is its reliance on gaps in our knowledge of the earliest period of Christianity. Yet while perhaps not altogether compelling, the Targum theory highlights a potentially significant aspect of the evidence that we cannot simply dismiss, namely, the presence of certain apparent Semitic influences in Bezae’s text that are not in the mainstream text.

If Yoder intended to show that Bezae’s apparent Semitic elements need not be considered in reconstructions of its textual history simply because they do not occur in other manuscripts, this objective was not achieved. So long as distinctive elements are found in Bezae but not in the remaining tradition, they must be accounted for in any comprehensive theory of its text.

[1] B. M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (2nd ed.; Stuttgart, 1994) 231-232.

[2] C. C. Torrey, The Four Gospels: A New Translation (New York, 1933) 282.

[3] Metzger’s comment that “such an hypothesis … offers no help in explaining how the Bezan text of Acts became nearly one-tenth longer” (p. 232) is difficult to understand. In fact, the Targum theory should be able to account for significant expansions to the text.

[4] We might consider, for example, the Targum of Job from Qumran.

[5] J. D. Yoder, “The Language of the Greek Variants of Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis,” Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary, 1958. See also, J. D. Yoder, “Semitisms in Codex Bezae,” Journal of Biblical Literature 78 (1959) 317–321.