Do Bezae’s correctors share the tendencies of its readings?

The work of Bezae’s early correctors has long been recognized for suggesting tantalizing glimpses of its original context. As the earliest corrector, corrector G is of special interest as apparently contemporaneous with the copyist. [1] F. C. Burkitt describes this first corrector as:

“a person in authority, examining the codex before he gives it his imprimatur, to use a convenient anachronism. I venture therefore to suggest that G is the handwriting of the Bishop of the church for which Codex Bezae was originally prepared” [2]

Of course, various purported tendencies have long been recognized in Bezae’s text of Acts. But might corrector G share any of these interests?

One well-known tendency is Bezae’s augmentation of Peter’s role in Acts, examined by J. Crehan in his 1957 article, “Peter according to the D-Text of Acts.” Crehan hypothesized that a second-century reviser was stirred by Marcion’s success to reiterate the authority of Peter:

“One must look to a time between the compiling of the original version of Acts and the middle of the second century. There was, therefore, at that time someone who was intent on making the position of Peter much more striking than the existing record made it. … One might hazard the conjecture that it was the doings of Marcion at Rome which led, before 150, to the revision of Acts so as to bring out more clearly the position of the one at Rome who claimed Petrine authority against this heretic from Pontus who had founded his rival church in Rome.” [3]

Yet not only is this conception of Petrine authority somewhat anachronistic, there is no real evidence to support such a response to Marcion in the second century.

On the other hand, we might observe that corrector G, working in ca 400, also seems to have taken an interest in Peter and his role in Acts. This was a time when papal authority had in fact become a significant issue, as witnessed not only in Rome’s rivalry with the new See of Constantinople, which had recently been accorded a “second place among equals” status at the Second Ecumenical Council (381), but also through the contested papal election of Damasus (366), after which the latter sought to cement his claim in epigraphic verse extolling the Roman martyrs, including this magnificent specimen:

“Not by human power or art, …
but with the help of Peter, pre-eminent [among the apostles],
to whom was handed over the very door of heaven,
I, Damasus, Bishop of Christ, built this.
There is one chair of Peter and one true baptism
that no chain can bind.” [4]

Turning to corrector G, we observe that his annotations are limited to Matthew and the first four chapters of Acts, a situation that may well be explained with reference to Matthew’s initial position and Acts’ unusual text. But it might also be explained by the significance of these two books for establishing Petrine primacy. After all, Jesus establishes Peter’s unique authority most explicitly in Matthew 16:18 of the four gospels, while the first four chapters of Acts relate Peter’s early road to leadership at the See in Rome.

While we might suppose the corrector had intended to review the entire MS from the beginning, tiring and losing zeal after Matthew, it is equally possible that he focused on those passages that seemed most relevant to his interests or at least that he gave these passages special attention. Indeed, Burkitt observes that:

“he makes corrections where he chances to have been reading.” [5]

But if this is so, the places he paused to do his most meaningful work are instructive. Fifteen of the twenty-one significant corrections noted by Parker in Acts relate to the speeches and deeds of Peter, which despite Acts’ focus on Peter, is still rather out of proportion:

  • Peter’s speech standing up among the disciples in the upper room (Acts 1:15 [2x], 20, 21)
  • Peter’s Pentecost sermon (Acts 2:30)
  • Peter’s call to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38)
  • Peter and John heal the lame beggar (Acts 3:3, 4)
  • Peter preaches at Solomon’s Colonnade (Acts 3:11, 13, 17, 26)
  • Peter’s entrance before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:7)
  • Peter filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:9 [2x])

In Matthew, the general emphasis is clearly not only on Peter, though five of the thirty significant corrections involve central Petrine passages:

  • Peter’s confession of Christ (Matt 16:16, 17)
  • Jesus’ rebuke of Peter (Matt 16:23)
  • Peter’s payment of the temple tax (Matt 17:25)
  • Authority to bind and loose on earth and in heaven (Matt 18:18, reprise of 16:19)

While as Parker notes, the corrections are too slight to detect clear patterns of meaning, nevertheless their place in the text does seem highly suggestive as to the selectivity of our corrector regarding the passages he considered worth his trouble to review. In fact, Parker suggests of corrector G that:

“where his corrections are not stylistic, they are to be regarded as a more authoritative witness to tradition than are those of the first hand.” [6]

But if the interests of our authoritative corrector are so well-aligned with what we already suspect about the text itself, it now seems far less necessary to ascribe these same tendencies to the second century. More straightforward is the notion that they came together within the context in which the MS was produced at the turn of the fifth century.


References

[1] D. C. Parker, Codex Bezae: An early Christian manuscript and its text (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992) 36.

[2] F. C. Burkitt, “The Date of Codex Bezae,” JTS 3 (1902) 501–513 at 511.

[3] J. Crehan, “Peter according to the D-Text of Acts,” ThSt 18 (1957) 596–603 at 601.

[4] Non haec humanis opibus, non arte magistra … sed praestante Petro, cui tradita ianua caeli est, antistes Christi conposuit Damasus. una Petri sedes, unum uerumque lauacrum, uincula nulla tenent. M. Ihm, ed., Damasi Epigrammata (Anthologiae Latinae Supplementa; vol. 1; Leipzig, 1895) 9–10, presumably on the Vatican baptistry, translation mine.

[5] Burkitt, “Date,” 511.

[6] Parker, Bezae, 129-130.

 

4 thoughts on “Do Bezae’s correctors share the tendencies of its readings?

  1. Pete,
    I am a bit confused, not that unusual. Overall, my impression is that you view the text of Bezae as originating in the fourth century, yet some of your posts seem to indicate doubt about this assessment. Can you clarify?

    Thanks again. I appreciate your blog and you for undertaking it.

    Tim

  2. Sure thing, Tim. I’d say your impression of my view is essentially accurate in that I see Bezae’s final text form coming together in the latter fourth century, though we must acknowledge that this final form contains archaic elements (though perhaps in a new arrangement). I’m not sure that I doubt this assessment so much as I consider it provisional. The area of uncertainty is deciding which elements are archaic (or apparently archaic) and which are recent. In terms of Bezae’s agreements, my present view would go as follows (with the usual qualifications):

    – with Alexandrian (probably initial)
    – with BYZ (probably 2nd)
    – with African Old Latin (3rd)
    – with European Old Latin (4th)
    – with Irenaeus and other authorities (perhaps 4th)
    – singular / sub-singular (4th)

    But this is not definitive.

What do you think?