New Book on Codex Bezae

I am excited to announce that my new book on Codex Bezae is set to be published on November 22, a revision of the Ph. D. dissertation I defended in July 2020. The title is A History of Codex Bezae’s Text in the Gospel of Mark.

While the title accurately conveys a focus on Bezae’s text of the gospel of Mark, which was collated in its entirety for this study against the Greek witnesses cited in the Editio Critica Maior of Mark and the Latin witnesses cited in the Vetus Latina edition of Mark, the questions addressed have relevance as well to Bezae’s text in the other gospels and Acts. In the book, the fragility of the traditional framework that conceptualizes Bezae’s Greek text according to a theory of a “Western” text is methodically laid out, while the historical context of Bezae’s production is considered seriously for the first time and found to have direct relevance to the text preserved in the manuscript.

The back cover summary follows:

Using a combination of text-critical, church-historical, philological, and digital methods, the present study calls into question traditional assumptions about Codex Bezae’s distinctive Greek text of the gospels and Acts — that it represents an ancient native Greek tradition and source of the Latin version preserving a textual relic of the first century of Christianity — arguing that this text can be credibly dated to the end of the fourth century, immediately preceding production of the manuscript, and represents the diorthosis of a Greek text to a Latin model distinct from the Latin column found in the manuscript itself. So the better part of this remarkable text derives ultimately from other traditions and, hence, its true significance lies in what it can tell us about the historical circumstances under which the manuscript and its final text were produced at the turn of the fifth century.

Bibliographical information:

Peter E. Lorenz. A History of Codex Bezae’s Text in the Gospel of Mark. Arbeiten zur Neutestamentlichen Textforschung 53. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2022.


15 thoughts on “New Book on Codex Bezae

  1. This sounds very interesting. Textual transmission issues are very important and have an impact upon how we view, interpret, and understand the bible. I wish I was forty years younger to utilize the access and tools now available. Though I am taking better care of myself than my earlier days, energy has waned. I hope a digital edition will be made. I will certainly consider it.

    • Thank you, squeaky2! I would definitely agree about the importance of textual transmission for interpretation. This is very evident in how Greek readings found only in Codex Bezae have been received, for example, the reading in Mark 1:41, where only in Bezae does Jesus become angry at the leper (versus compassionate in the rest of the surviving Greek manuscript tradition). It has recently become fashionable to argue that Bezae’s reading is the oldest reading found in the textual tradition at this point.


  2. The Mk. 1.41 reference I always thought could be explained (if it is a better reading) as indignant not toward the leper but the leper’s condition. I may be totally wrong on this point though. Also, I seem to recall someone preaching this aspect early in my training. You have to admit though: why would a later scribe insert this term since it seems so strange and out of character of Jesus unless that was the meaning. It’s almost outrage toward sin’s effects (again, I could be way off on this).

    • If we’re discussing the reading itself, I would certainly agree that Jesus’s anger can be explained in a variety of ways. But if contemporary interpreters can explain Jesus’s anger in so many creative and credible ways, why would it not have been the same for ancient editors or copyists? After all, the leper is presented in Mark’s gospel as an ambivalent figure who does not even follow Jesus’s clear instructions. But the bigger issue in my view is the credibility of Bezae’s tradition, especially if its text came into existence near the turn of the fifth century and borrows extensively from the Latin version. In this case, the question becomes how the reading ended up in the Latin version and it becomes more difficult to argue that these are Mark’s words. Thanks for commenting!

      (BTW I discuss this reading in an old article:

  3. Very well done article. Some of the twists and turns in textual history one can’t make up. Fascinating account in which I increased my knowledge of this verse and also textual criticism. I am convinced “[bowels of] compassion” is the correct reading.

  4. Hello Alex, thank you for commenting! I do not deal with Bezae’s omission in Luke 23:34. While I refer to some passages in Luke (for example, Bezae’s Sabbath worker pericope at Luke 6:5 and certain Lukan verses found in Marcion’s gospel), most of my examples come from Mark since this was the gospel I collated. 🙂 But it’s a fascinating variant. Since the omission appears in other old traditions, my initial thought would be that this reading represents a point of contact between Bezae’s text and these other traditions.


  5. Peter, do you find an anti-judaic tendency in Bezae? It’s opposition to Sabbath day observance might explain why it changed the name Barsabbas in both places where it occurs. Jason Combs has argued that an anti-Sabbath bias is present in Bezae and is late. This would fit with your thesis I think. Also, further to Alex’s observations, an anti-judaic tendency might have prevented Bezae from filling the omission at Luke 23:34.

    • Hello, thanks for commenting! Yes, I do think that an anti-Judaic tendency is discernable in Bezae’s distinctive readings (discussed in Chapter 6 of my book), though since many of these readings are shared exclusively or nearly exclusively with the Latin version, I’d argue that they likely derive in these cases ultimately from Latin editors and translators. An anti-Sabbath bias (or “anti-Judaizing” bias as it’s referred to in fourth-century councils) certainly fits in the fourth century when Bezae’s distinctive text seems to have arisen according to my argument in the book. So, yes, I do believe Combs is correct in his 2019 article. I argued something very similar in an earlier blog post from 2016: (“Bezae’s elusive Sabbath worker episode and fourth-century anti-Judaizing canons”). The thing about Luke 23:34 is that it occurs in other manuscripts, though it’s likely that Bezae is not alone in capturing this anti-Judaic sentiment. Pete

      • Thanks. Yes, I later spotted that you had anticipated Combs’ conclusion.

        Any thoughts on why Bezae places Luke 6:5 at 6:10? Large transpositions like this normally indicate prior absence. Did someone erase Luke 6:5 from a predecessor of Bezae, and write the Sabbath worker agraphon in the space created? Did the person adding the agraphon think that a marginal note would not suffice in a bilingual manuscript which allowed the two languages to be checked against each other? Or did a copyist make a bilingual manuscript from separate Greek and Latin exemplars, and copy a column of Greek (say), including Luke 6:5, and then find the agraphon in the Latin at the end of 6:4, and have to move the Latin of 6:5 until later, so that the Latin of 6:6ff would line up with the Greek that he had already written?

        • Given that this passage seems to have been heavily corrected in other ways (as in the addition of the Sabbath worker pericope), I’d start from assumption that the transposition of 6:5 was part of this larger effort. Presumably Jesus’s pronouncement was seen as a fitting conclusion to this series of controversy stories. Since assimilation in Bezae goes primarily from the Greek to the Latin, these changes likely would have occurred in the Greek text first, possibly before the bilingual tradition, and subsequently assimilated to the Latin column. At least this seems to have been the pattern in Mark.

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