(revised) Top 10 Closest Greek MSS to Bezae in Acts

Important Note: This post supersedes a previous post that used an erroneous calculation to compute the Gruppierung nach Übereinstimmungsquoten table for Acts. Note that the figures here are still preliminary.

Here are the (revised) top 10 closest Greek MSS to Bezae in Acts based on the computed Gruppierung data:

GA Non-Majority % Total % Profile
1162 36.4% (8/22) 34.7% (25/72) 18.4 23 26 42.4 46 57 61 74
623 35.3% (6/17) 32.1% (17/53) 23 26 42.4 46 57 62
619 35.0% (7/20) 30.9% (17/55) 23 26 42.4 46 57 61 74
2718 33.3% (6/18) 30.6% (19/62) 23 42.4 46 57 62 68.3
08 31.8% (7/22) 34.7% (25/72) 2 18.4 25.3 26 46 61 62
945 31.8% (7/22) 31.9% (23/72) 18.4 21 23 26 46 57 68.3
1704 31.8% (7/22) 31.9% (23/72) 18.4 21 23 26 46 57 68.3
1751 31.8% (7/22) 31.9% (23/72) 18.4 21 23 46 57 61 68.3
1884 31.8% (7/22) 32.9% (23/70) 2 15.4 25.3 26 46 61 62
2412 31.8% (7/22) 37.5% (27/72) 23 42.4 46 49.4 57 62 72.4

The first thing to observe is that none of these “top ten” MSS is particularly close to Bezae. For example, none of these MSS would appear in the Gruppierung nach Übereinstimmungsquoten table in the printed edition because they do not satisfy the “second” Gruppierung criterion that Non-Majority % must be greater than 50%.

Still there are some noteworthy patterns:

  1. MSS 623 and 619 share a similar profile
  2. MSS 945, 1704, and 1751 share a similar profile that is different from that of 623 and 619 (945 and 1704 have the same profile)
  3. The Greco-Latin bilingual, Codex Laudianus, appears in the list
Notes on Method

I am following the same essential method used in the gospels (e.g. see John vol. 1, pp. 50-53; Luke vol 1., p. 25; Mark vol. 1, p. 44) with two modifications:

  1. Due to Bezae’s free character, basing agreements on exact matches tends to exaggerate Bezae’s distinctiveness with the result that it may appear more isolated. (see Epp, “Textual Clusters,” 2013) To mitigate this effect, I am including TUT‘s “variant” agreements (denoted as capital letters) as matches (unlike the TUT calculations which exclude these).
  2. I am not counting Bezae’s five 1/2 readings (10, 35, 52, 55, 76) or its 1/2 variant (1/2L) as initial-text readings.

Latinization in Codex Bezae?

When we suggest that Bezae’s Greek text may be “Latinized,” what precisely do we mean? It seems the question has been viewed in two ways.

On the one hand, Latinization in Bezae has been viewed in terms of the interaction of the columns. This seems to have been the view of J. Mill (1707) of which D. C. Parker observes:

“the Greek text [in Mill’s view] … had been consistently altered to agree with the Latin column, thus losing any claim to significance as an ancient Greek witness.” (Codex Bezae 184)

In a similar way, J. D. Michaelis (1788) cites passages in which:

“[t]he Greek text varies … from the Latin version, with which it is accompanied … [and hence we are able] to rescue the copyist from the charge of having corrupted the Greek from the Latin” (trans. Marsh, Introduction to the New Testament 2/1:230).

Certainly, the evidence of the columns discourages any notion that Bezae’s Latin column has consistently influenced the Greek text as a significant force in its development. This can be seen in places where the Latin reproduces errors in the Greek, e.g. in gentes eius (“its nations”) in the Latin of Acts 21.21 which reproduces the erroneous εθνεσι αυτου (“its nations”) for εθεσι αυτου (“its customs”) in the Greek.

But there is another way we can look at Latinization in Bezae. It is possible to see Latinization in Bezae’s Greek text, not in terms of its own Latin column, but in light of the broader Old Latin tradition. This is how H. Marsh describes Wettstein’s view:

“the writer of the Codex Bezae departed from the readings of the Greek manuscript, or manuscripts, from which he copied, and introduced in their stead, from some Latin version, readings which were warranted by the authority of no Greek manuscript.” (Introduction 2/2:680)

The distinction between these two views seems not to have been fully appreciated. While evidence from Bezae as a codex can be mustered to disprove dependence between the columns, proving or disproving dependence on other Old Latin texts is not so straightforward. In fact, we cannot claim that Latin influence has been ruled out for Bezae’s Greek text solely on the basis of the comparison of its columns. In this light, Marsh’s canon comes across as unhelpfully dogmatic:

“there is no reason whatsoever for ascribing any reading of a Greek manuscript to the influence of the Latin, unless it can be proved that it could not have taken its rise in the Greek, and that it might easily have originated in the Latin.” (Introduction 2/2:683)

It is questionable though whether Latin influence can ever be “proved” under such a canon. But are we to conclude then that Latin influence has never occurred? This seems at the very least doubtful in a bilingual tradition as thoroughly Latin as that of Codex Bezae.

Why does Jerome cite Latin MSS for the pericope adulterae?

In an earlier post I suggested that it would have been unnecessary for Jerome to cite Latin MSS in support of the pericope adulterae (= PA) if he had considered the Greek evidence sufficient. In the comments, Steven Avery raised the excellent point that Jerome may simply have been noting all of the evidence he knew.

Certainly I cannot disagree! But I noted that my suspicions were raised because Jerome normally considers the Greek text to be sufficient in defending a reading. In this connection, I thought it would be useful to compile a list of references Jerome makes to the Greek and Latin NT texts. While the list is by no means exhaustive, it does suggest that in many cases Jerome considers the Greek evidence to stand by itself, while at the same time he tends to disparage the Latin evidence (though certainly there are rhetorical considerations).

So why might Jerome have invoked the Latin evidence for the PA?

In my first post on Jerome and the PA, I noted that, since Jerome’s point rested on the Greek meaning of αναμαρτητος (v. 7), he was eager to present this evidence in the best possible light:

“But if Greek copies had been easy to find, why mention their number or (for that matter) bring up the problem at all? It seems that by calling in the Latin evidence, Jerome anticipates an  objection concerning the scarcity of Greek copies, which suggests that in 415 there were still very few Greek copies of John with the PA, but apparently plenty Latin copies.”

[To see all (currently 5) of my posts on Jerome/Hieronymus and the PA conveniently on a single web page, click here or click the ‘Jerome’ or ‘Hieronymus’ link under the Tags heading on the left sidebar.]

 

Is Codex Bezae an antiquarian codex?

In framing an account of Bezae’s text, researchers often turn immediately to second-century sources. This is due to a variety of presumably archaic elements found in its text, such as parallels with second-century writers. Of course, in looking to the second century, it is first necessary to bypass fourth-century sources that are much closer to the context in which Bezae was produced.

But what if we situate Bezae’s archaic elements in light of the antiquarianism of its times, wherein antiquity was regarded as a kind of guarantee of legitimacy and even authority? Just as Clifford Ando notes “the surge in antiquarianism in the west in the early fifth century” with respect to the competing religious claims of pagans and Christians, both of whom framed their discourse in similarly antiquarian terms, I might suggest that a similar process could be at work in Bezae’s tradition. [1] If this is so, our fourth-century sources may be able to explain in large part the second-century elements we find in Bezae’s text, perhaps as an appeal to the legitimacy of its text form.

We might begin with Bezae’s well-known parallels to second-century Christian writers, which F. J. A. Hort interpreted at face value as a sure indicator of the antiquity of Bezae’s text form. So we read:

“the text of D presents a truer image of the form in which the Gospels and Acts were most widely read in the third and probably a great part of the second century than any other extant Greek MS” [2]

But is this conclusion absolutely necessary? We might consider Ambrosiaster, who argues an antiquarian case for the legitimacy of the the Old Latin text form, appealing to the citations of ancient authorities as a criterion of authenticity in a recent text:

“today you will find that the same text that is closely preserved by the Latin codices is cited precisely by the ancients, Tertullian, Victorinus and Cyprian.” (Comm. Rom 5:14, my translation, see original)

The implication here is that a text that agrees with the citations of these ancient authorities is proved to be authentic, while a text that diverges from these same authorities is corrupt and in need of correction.

So when we find Bezae in agreement with ancient writers, such as Irenaeus, we might interpret this in one of two ways. We may of course understand the agreement like Hort as indicating that Irenaeus used a text much like that of Bezae. But in light of Ambrosiaster’s criterion and fourth-century antiquarianism, we obviously cannot take this for granted. What if Bezae’s heavily-corrected text falls into a tradition that has been corrected according to ancient standards of authenticity? In such a case, Bezae would represent a fourth-century text that cites second-century writers, rather than (as is commonly assumed) the late representative of an ancient text form cited by second-century writers.


[1] Clifford Ando, “The Palladium and the Pentateuch: Towards a Sacred Topography of the Later Roman Empire,” Phoenix 55 (2001) 369–410 at 369. Note that an international conference on this topic, “Antiquarianism in Late Antiquity,” was held one week ago in Ghent, Belgium, May 19–21, 2016.

[2] B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, The New Testament in the Original Greek. Introduction and Appendix (New York: 1882) 149.

How reliable is Jerome’s testimony for the pericope adulterae?

In an earlier post I pointed to some striking parallels between the Vulgate edition of the pericope adulterae (= PA) and the circumstances of Jerome’s expulsion from Rome, apparently under accusations of sexual impropriety. Considering various anomalies in Jerome’s testimony concerning the PA, I raised the question as to whether Jerome himself may have contributed to its final form.

I had already drafted the above post when last Saturday I attended Amy M. Donaldson’s paper, “‘What Was Spoken through the Prophet Asaph’ (Matt. 13:35): Textual Evidence from Jerome, or Conjectural Emendation by Origen?”, at the Pacific Northwest Regional SBL meeting on the variant “through Asaph” (ασαφ) in Matthew 13:35. [1] Since the reading lacks any surviving continuous manuscript support, the external evidence rests entirely on Jerome’s remarks. [2]

Fortunately, since Jerome comments on the reading on two separate occasions, we are able to compare his respective accounts and assess his reliability. In fact, the results are not favorable to Jerome’s credibility. When he first mentions the reading in his Commentary on Matthew (398), it is still conjecture [3]:

I have read in several manuscripts [Legi in nonnullis codicibus], … that … it is written as ‘through Isaiah the prophet, saying.’ Because the text is not at all found in Isaiah, I think it was later removed by prudent men. In my judgment [Sed mihi uidetur], it was originally published as follows: ‘[in order that what was written] through Asaph the prophet, saying.’ (Comm. Matt 13:35). [4]

Yet just a few years later, in his Homily 11 on Psalm 78 (77 LXX) (401), Jerome confidently asserts that what had formerly been in his judgment “is found in all the ancient copies” (in omnibus ueteribus codicibus). [5] It is unlikely of course that Jerome had discovered any actual MSS in the few years between these remarks. Presumably he would have mentioned such favorable evidence! So we are forced to ask, is Jerome extrapolating on the basis of a self-assured conjecture to evidence that he simply never saw? [6]

Whatever his motives, Jerome’s lack of inhibition in ascribing his personal conjecture to the Greek MS tradition should give us pause in assessing the reliability of his remarks elsewhere. Imagine that Homily 11 had been our only surviving source for the reading ασαφ in Matthew 13:35. We would quite reasonably infer that, had Jerome found this reading in all of his copies, it must have been at least in a great number of Greek copies. Yet we would be utterly mistaken!

Fast-forwarding to the year 415, Jerome asserts that there then existed “many Greek and many Latin codices” with the PA (Pelag. 2.17). But surely Jerome is being somewhat disingenuous in his appeal to “many” Latin copies. After all, this figure included copies of the Vulgate that he had himself revised to include the PA! And why is it necessary to cite Latin evidence at all for a reading that exists in many Greek MSS? Are we to wonder then whether Jerome is extrapolating in this case also to Greek evidence he never saw?


[1] University of Idaho, May 21, 2016.

[2] The evidence is still cited in NA28 and (apparently) UBS5. Jerome’s starting point seems to be Origen’s conjecture.

[3] Date according to Gryson et al., Répertoire général des auteurs ecclésiastiques latins de l’antiquité et du haut Moyen Âge (2007) 1:540.

[4] Cited from Dr. Donaldson’s handout, which cites FC 117:160-161;  SC 242:284.

[5] Date according to Gryson et al., 1:545. Cited from Dr. Donaldson’s handout, which cites FC 48:81-82 in modified form and CCSL 78:66-67.

[6] Dr. Donaldson plausibly suggests that Jerome simply assumed that his inference was correct and hence present in the old copies. See also, Amy M. Donaldson, “Explicit References to New Testament Variant Readings among Greek and Latin and Church Fathers.” (PhD Diss.; University of Notre Dame, 2009) 369-372, where she observes, “The homilist therefore assumes that Asaph is the predominant and oldest reading.” (p. 370) “Jerome especially emphasizes that his conjectured original  reading, Asaph, is theologically correct …” (p. 372)

Which MS is closest to Bezae in the gospels?

Where does Bezae’s text fall in the Greek gospel tradition? Is it totally isolated or does it have some close relationships?

To get a rough sense, we can turn to the Gruppierung nach Übereinstimmungsquoten tables in Text und Textwert. By excluding agreements with secondary Majority readings, these tables are helpful in taking account of distinctive agreements with the greatest potential genealogical significance.

Not surprisingly, the result depends on which gospel we are examining. Only in Mark of the four gospels does Bezae lack any close witnesses according to the Gruppierung tables. The data for the other three gospels are given below.

In Matthew, two family 1 MSS appear closest to Bezae, followed by the palimpsest Codex Dublinensis (Z) and the fragmentary majuscule 0281 from Saint Catherine’s monastery:

Witness Without MT Total
1582 62,5% (15/24) 55,1% (27/49)
1 61,5% (16/26) 52,8% (28/53)
035 (Z) 60,0% (6/10) 50,0% (9/18)
0281 60,0% (3/5) 50,0% (5/10)

While the fragmentary nature of the latter two witnesses diminishes the significance of the data, the close alignment of a segment of Bezae’s readings with core Family 1 MSS suggests the influence of a Greek tradition in Matthew similar to that of Origen (see Anderson 2004).

In Luke the significance of Bezae’s agreement with Codex Zacynthius (Ξ) is questionable (like that of 035 and 0281 in Matthew) given the fragmentary nature of this codex:

Witness Without MT Total
040 (Ξ) 85,7% (6/7) 43,8% (7/16)

In John it is well-known that Bezae attests a high number of distinctive parallels with Codex Sinaiticus (א) in the first eight chapters (Fee 1968), a result that is confirmed by the Gruppierung data:

Witness Without MT Total
01 (א) 57% (31/54) 46% (57/123)

Although only the first half of John (through 10:41) is represented in the test passages, this level of agreement in even part of a gospel over so many test passages must be considered highly significant.

So what might we gather from the Gruppierung data for Bezae?

It is clear that only in Matthew and John are the numbers significant enough (statistically speaking) to relate Bezae to another part of the Greek tradition. But here the data are historically significant because they seem to connect a sizeable body of Bezae’s readings in these gospels to recognized old texts, whether of Family 1 in Matthew or of Codex Sinaiticus in John.

The situation is especially intriguing in John, because Sinaiticus departs from its usual pattern to agree with Bezae and the Old Latin gospels. If we accept this as evidence of a relationship, it might imply, for example, that something like Bezae’s tradition was already well-established in Greek by the mid-fourth century (accepting a ca 350 date for Sinaiticus). On the other hand, if Bezae’s bilingual Greek tradition reflects any degree of influence from Old Latin traditions that were still developing in the mid-fourth century, this would seem to push Sinaiticus to the end of the fourth century at the earliest.

Are there autobiographical elements in Jerome’s pericope adulterae?

In an earlier post I pointed out some anomalies concerning Jerome’s involvement with the pericope adulterae (= PA) as it appears in the Vulgate at John 7:53-8:11:

  • Jerome’s remarks on the PA’s wide attestation come some thirty years after the presentation of the Vulgate gospels
  • Jerome does not cite the Vulgate version of the PA in his later remarks on the PA
  • Jerome’s PA is very different from attested pre-Vulgate Greek forms, such as that of his mentor Didymus or the account in Didascalia Apostolorum
  • Jerome seems to be exaggerating the representation of the PA in Greek manuscripts to make a point against the Pelagians
  • The appearance of the PA in the Vulgate is followed by an explosion of interest in the story within the Latin tradition

Considering the above anomalies and Jerome’s reputation for inventing material when it suited his purposes (Vigil. 3 and see Nautin [1983] on fabricated letter exchanges), the question needs to be asked whether Jerome had a hand in the composition of the final form of the PA. The following parallels between the story as it appears in the Vulgate and Jerome’s own circumstances may be illuminating (apologies for the Victorian English in the NPNF quotes):

  • like the woman in the story, Jerome was accused of sexual misconduct in his capacity as spiritual advisor to a circle of ascetic women in Rome:

It often happened that I found myself surrounded with virgins … Our studies brought about constant intercourse, this soon ripened into intimacy, and this, in turn, produced mutual confidence. … No; my sex is my one crime, and even on this score I am not assailed, save when there is a talk of Paula going to Jerusalem. … Men call me a mischief-maker … There hath no temptation taken me but such as is common to man. … Men have laid to my charge a crime of which I am not guilty [i.e. incontinence] (Epist. 45.2,6 “To Asella”; trans. NPNF 2.6, 59, 60)

  • as the accused woman was brought before the Pharisees, so Jerome was called before a tribunal of Roman clerics (whom he calls “Pharisees” elsewhere) to answer charges of sexual misconduct:

As to what judgment was formed of me at Rome, or what was written afterwards, you are quite welcome to speak out, especially since you have writings to trust to; for I am not to be tried by your words … but by the documents of the church. (Ruf. 3.22; trans. NPNF 2.3, 530)

  • given the PA’s interest in hypocrisy, it is telling that Jerome painted his accusers as hypocrites, referring to the tribunal as a “senate of Pharisees” (Pharisaeorum … senatus) (preface to Did. Spir.)
  • Jerome’s attachment to Paula, whose plans to follow Jerome to Palestine initiated rumors of an indiscretion, placed him in a particularly sympathetic position towards the woman accused of adultery:

Of all the ladies in Rome but one had power to subdue me, and that one was Paula. … The only woman who took my fancy was one whom I had not so much as seen at table. But when I began to revere, respect, and venerate her as her conspicuous chastity deserved, all my former virtues forsook me on the spot. (Epist. 45.3 “To Asella”)

  • concerning Jesus’ writing on the ground, we should only note that the written word was Jerome’s own weapon of choice against those he considered his hypocritical accusers

Why is Irenaeus missing from Ambrosiaster’s list of textual authorities?

In his remarks in defense of the Old Latin version (Comm. Rom 5:14), Ambrosiaster names three third-century Latin writers — Tertullian (d. 215), Cyprian (d. 258), and Victorinus (d. 304) — whose scriptural citations offer in his view an authoritative basis for the “true” text (hoc autem verum arbitror). For Ambrosiaster, these writers are ancient enough to have escaped the corrupting influence of the great controversies of the fourth century.

But who might be missing from this list of authorities?

Of course, Ambrosiaster makes no claim to identify all of the writers whose citations he considers authoritative. Certainly, the inclusion of Tertullian is remarkable given his association with the Montanist heresy. Yet the omission of the schismatic Novatian makes perfect sense. Otherwise we see no conspicuous absences among named Latin writers of equivalent antiquity who can claim any significant body of citations, unless that is, we consider the Latin translation of Irenaeus’ Adversus haereses.

Indeed, given Irenaeus’ antiquity, reputation for orthodoxy, and evident qualifications as an authority on scriptural matters, it is noteworthy that Ambrosiaster does not seem to know of a Latin translation of Irenaeus. At the same time, between Commentarius in epistulas Paulinas and Quaestiones Veteris et Novi Testamenti, Ambrosiaster refers to Irenaeus eleven times, but to Tertullian only five times, Victorinus twice, and Cyprian just once (all are allusions). So it appears Ambrosiaster does consider Irenaeus an authority on other matters, yet he is silent on Irenaeus’ text.

Of course, a good explanation would be that when Ambrosiaster wrote (perhaps in the mid-380’s) Adversus haereses had not yet been translated into Latin. (We might consider that Gryson et al. date the translation to 380–395.) But given that the Latin translation of this important second-century work supplies such a rich source of early so-called “Western” readings, including many that are unattested in Greek (such as Mark 16:19 at Haer. 3.10.6, attesting part of the Markan long ending), the later date increases the likelihood that such readings may reflect fourth-century influences on the Latin translation rather than the initial Greek text.

[1] R. Gryson, B. Fischer, H. J. Frede; Répertoire général des auteurs ecclésiastiques latins de l’antiquité et du haut Moyen Âge (2007) 2:594.

The Contribution of Fourth-Century Sources to Research on Codex Bezae

This Saturday I will be presenting a paper at the Pacific Northwest Regional SBL conference entitled “The Contribution of Fourth-Century Sources to Research on Codex Bezae.” The paper will discuss the potential contribution of fourth-century sources, such as Ambrosiaster and Jerome, to an understanding of the text of Codex Bezae and the context in which it was produced. As a demonstration, I will examine an important passage from Ambrosiaster’s Commentary on Romans (5:14), in which Ambrosiaster offers a thinly-veiled attack on the Vulgate for its dependence on corrupt Greek texts. In his critique, Ambrosiaster takes a special interest in the relationship between the Latin and Greek traditions, summarizing his views in three criteria for discerning the ancient text in a corrupt tradition — reason, history, and authority — each of which I will relate to specific features of Codex Bezae as a document. From the abstract:

“Research on Codex Bezae has typically focused on its distinctive text of the gospels and Acts as a second-century phenomenon. At the same time, little if any research has been dedicated to the place of Bezae’s text in the late fourth-century context which inspired its production. In this paper, I will argue that the circumstances of Bezae’s production in the fourth century warrant more attention as a source of potential insight into its unique text form.”

Was Bezae’s Latin text coequal with the Greek?

In an earlier post, I discussed Ambrosiaster’s critique of the Greek tradition for its many discrepancies, which he attributes to “a spirit of controversy” introduced by “heretics and schismatics” (see translation). But in turning to the Old Latin version, Ambrosiaster makes an unexpected claim, implying that the latter has somehow escaped a similar level of corruption.

“it is well-known that very long ago native Latin speakers (Latinos) translated the text we now have from ancient Greek codices.  Let us not keep silent … because our codices take their origin from ancient Greek copies, which the innocence (simplicitas) of former times certifies to us without corruption (incorruptos)” (Comm. Rom. 5:14, edition α)

How is Ambrosiaster able to justify this extraordinary claim? Is it empty rhetoric? Or might there be a peculiar logic behind its seeming absurdity?

In fact, Ambrosiaster’s exhortation to speak up against critics of the Old Latin version suggests he is utterly sincere. [1] Noting perhaps surprisingly that the translators were “native Latin speakers” — when we might expect skill in Greek rather than Latin to be emphasized — Ambrosiaster seems eager to show that the Latin tradition is in no way deficient in its power to convey the original meaning simply because it is in Latin. Of course, by commending the original Greek codices and the original Latin translation for their antiquity, he situates them in time (it is thought) before the major corruptions. In a sense, Ambrosiaster is suggesting that the Old Latin version is self-sufficient with respect to the recent Greek tradition.

But what is this naïveté concerning the “innocence of the times”? Is Ambrosiaster simply romanticizing about a bygone era?

Not necessarily. Early in his argument Ambrosiaster notes the deleterious effect of theological controversy on the stability of the text, suggesting that this “innocence of the times” refers to a kind of innocence that avoided certain theological developments in the Greek tradition. With the Origenist controversy already looming on the horizon, Ambrosiaster may even be alluding to the theological speculation associated specifically with Origen. In any case, as a theological backwater, the Latin tradition would inevitably have been safeguarded from corruption to a certain extent simply because it was less accessible and less attractive to heretics than the original Greek.

The implications of a standalone Latin tradition for Codex Bezae are clear enough considering the evident role of Latin traditions in its development as a bilingual codex. Might Bezae’s producers have thought like Ambrosiaster that the Old Latin version could in some sense stand on equal terms with recent Greek copies? Our natural tendency to view Bezae as just another Greek codex simply on the basis of its Greek column may then be misguided, so long as the possibility exists that its producers had rather intended to elevate the Latin column to an equal standing with the Greek.

[1] This exhortation is preserved only in the commentary’s first edition.