What is Bezae’s place in Acts?

The textual tradition of Acts is clearly of great relevance for research on Codex Bezae. Not only is Bezae’s text longer and more divergent in Acts, but we also catch glimpses of it in other Greek witnesses, such as P38, P127, and MS 614 among others.

For a sense of Bezae’s close relationships in the Greek tradition, I will turn to the data in Text und Textwert (= TUT) from which I have constructed of a table of closely-related witnesses for Acts, described in a previous post. [1] Using the open-source graphing application, Gephi, I have made a graph depicting the structure of the Greek tradition of Acts based on close relationships between witnesses. The ten witnesses most closely related to Bezae in Acts (1162, 623, 619, 2718, 08, 945, 1704, 1751, 1884, and 2412) are indicated with yellow arrows and arranged in four groups, each with a distinct profile.

Acts Gruppierung (excluding 1-2, bezae)

Key

In the graph, nodes represent witnesses, while the edges denote close relationships and node size reflects the number of close relationships for a witness. Witnesses are color-coded according to “Lesarten 1 1/2 value” with purple farthest from the Majority Text and red closest. Note that some witness groups have no close relationships to witnesses in the main graph and hence they are not connected to the main graph. Some witnesses do not appear at all in the graph, either because they are not extant in enough test passages (such as P38 or P127) or because they have no closely-related witnesses (such as Bezae). A PDF version of the graph is available.

Interpretation

To suggest a tentative interpretation, we might note that witnesses of the so-called “Alexandrian” tradition (represented by purple nodes) appear in the center around a core of P74, Sinaiticus, and Vaticanus. Just above this “Alexandrian” group, a second group (with blue nodes) appears to the left of MS 1739. A third, smaller group (of green nodes) centered around MS 206 lies above the blue nodes. If we assume that the “Alexandrian” group represents the initial text (with a direction of flow towards the Byzantine tradition — represented here by the Majority Text), these “blue” and “green” groups appear to have developed in sequence through a natural but fairly controlled process of transmission. Below the “Alexandrian” group, the tradition quickly branches in a variety of directions into groups that are not as tightly connected, perhaps indicating a less-controlled pattern of transmission.

The large, tightly-coupled cluster (of red nodes) apparently representing the early Byzantine tradition seems not to connect to the main group based on our criteria. My guess is this group would connect near the bottom of the graph (near the orange nodes) if we lowered our thresholds for the Gruppierung criteria or counted 1/2 readings as non-majority. While there are many factors to consider, the radiating pattern seems consistent with models based on an “Alexandrian” initial text. (However, I would welcome alternative interpretations in the comments.)

The precise place of Bezae’s text is somewhat difficult to determine because it is no more than 36% related to any other witnesses that appear in the Gruppierung data. [2] In fact, given Bezae’s isolation and lack of close relationships, it is difficult to envision a natural transmissional pathway to (or from) Bezae’s profile from any other place in the tradition (as I suggested in my earlier reply to James Snapp Jr.). This disconnect with the rest of the tradition suggests that the variations we see in Bezae may have been introduced artificially by processes other than simple copying.


[1] This table is modeled on the Gruppierung nach Übereinstimmungsquoten tables found in the four TUT volumes on the gospels.

[2] This problem is discussed at the end of volume 1 in the TUT of Acts.

What do you think?