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.

 

New Essay on the Greek Vorlage of the Old Latin Version in Mark

I have published a new essay on the Greek Vorlage behind the Old Latin  version of Mark, entitled “The Latin Version and the Greek Tradition in the Gospel of Mark,” which appears in the just-released Studien volume of the Editio critica maior of Mark.

This essay addresses problems with the assumption that Old Latin readings, where they diverge from Greek mainstream traditions, can be traced to a Greek “Western” text similar to the text found in Codex Bezae, a view that originated with J. S. Semler in the eighteenth century and was later popularized by F. J. A. Hort in his Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek. The main problem with this view is that it takes the Latin version out of the context in which it came into existence, all but ignoring the contribution of translators, editors, and copyists within the version to its final shape.

In this essay, I discuss the pitfalls of a hasty appeal to Greek sources to explain routine artifacts of the translation event observable in the habits of the translators. In short, it is not possible to view the Old Latin version as a mere proxy of Greek sources without falling into a crucial source-critical blunder of overlooking the larger context of the text itself.

The abstract follows:

Readings in the Latin gospels are often approached as translations of a Greek “Western” text, a construct devised in the eighteenth century to explain parallels between Codex Bezae and the Latin version as native Greek readings and later adopted by nineteenth-century source critics as a means to access early Christian traditions. A significant limitation of this approach is in overlooking the version itself as a tradition by deflecting the complexities of translation and inner-versional transmission onto putative Greek sources, while reducing the translation event to the mechanical replication of these sources in Latin. This essay takes an alternative approach, focusing first on the versional context in which these readings appear and the capacity of translators, editors, and copyists within the version to generate new readings without the aid of a Greek model. In examining the habits of the translators, it is apparent that they frequently produced the same kinds of variation in their singular readings that we find in their parallels with so-called “Western” texts, such as Codex Bezae, raising the possibility that these readings arose in Latin rather than in Greek and, hence, that the theory of a “Western” text is superfluous in accounting for the development of the version.

Bibliographical information:

Peter E. Lorenz, “The Latin Version and the Greek Tradition in the Gospel of Mark.” Pages 133–173 in Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior I Synoptic Gospels: The Gospel of Mark, Vol. 3: Studien. Ed. H. Strutwolf, G. Gäbel, A. Hüffmeier, M.-L. Lakmann, G. S. Paulson, and K. Wachtel. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2021.

Doctoral Dissertation on Codex Bezae Defended

I am excited to announce that earlier today I successfully defended my dissertation, entitled A History of Codex Bezae’s Text in the Gospel of Mark, for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Many thanks to my supervisor, Prof. Dr. Holger Strutwolf, the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung (INTF), and the Faculty of Evangelical Theology at the University of Münster!

The thesis I defended contends that the distinctive elements of Codex Bezae’s Greek text of Mark can be credibly dated to the last decades of the fourth century, just before production of the manuscript itself, and that these elements appear in large part to have been appropriated from the Latin version, though not from the Latin column. By “distinctive elements” I mean essentially those readings that Bezae’s text does not share with the Greek mainstream or with Greek witnesses in its Hauptliste.1 The process appears to have been by correction of an existing Greek base text (aka. diorthosis) and finds a contemporary analogy in Jerome’s selective revision of the Old Latin gospels.

Back to the USA and Research Status

At the end of September, I returned with my family to the USA from Münster, Germany, where I have been working for the past two years on a history of Codex Bezae’s text of Mark at the Institut für Neutestamentliche Textforschung. Having recently attended the SBL Annual Meeting in Denver, I realized that many friends and colleagues were not yet aware of my move back to the Seattle area. So I now post this brief announcement with a summary of the status of my research.

Of course, the reason for my move to Germany was to research Codex Bezae’s text of Mark using transcriptions recently compiled for the ECM edition of this gospel and ultimately to produce a dissertation on this topic. I am presently carrying out final revisions of this dissertation in the hope of submitting a final draft as soon as possible.

The present title of the dissertation is “A History of Codex Bezae’s Text in the Gospel of Mark.” While the title is admittedly somewhat generic, it manages to convey two central aspects of my work: first, it is a study of Bezae’s text form versus a study of Bezae the manuscript and, second, the approach is self-consciously historical, not only in attempting to trace the history of the text in its formation and development, but also in examining the ways in which the circumstances under which the text developed may have shaped the final text form.

The thesis that I am defending consists of two distinct but closely-related threads: first, concerning the date of Bezae’s Greek text form and, second, concerning its relation to the Latin version. These twin threads are interdependent and difficult to separate: If Bezae is an ancient text (e.g. second century), then it is difficult to see how it could depend in a significant way on readings of the Old Latin version, whose existence is not attested before the first half of the third century. On the other hand, if Bezae is a late text (e.g. fourth century), then it is difficult to see how the Latin version could depend on it, while at the same time it becomes easier to see how Bezae might depend on readings of the Latin version. Naturally, if Bezae is a late text, it likely contains elements from all of the intervening centuries between the autographs and its final production, a situation that might account for the complexity of its final text form. Of course, it is theoretically possible that the origins of Bezae’s Greek text form lie between these two extremes.

The dissertation is divided into two parts. The first part outlines the main problems of Bezae’s textual history: dating its text form and determining its relation to the Old Latin version, with special emphasis on the historical background, bilingual context, and model of textual development, concluding that there is little to exclude the possibility that Bezae’s Greek text form arose in the final decades of the fourth century. The design of the second part follows from the conclusions of the first part, describing the three main layers of the text in reverse chronological order: the layer of singular and sparsely-attested readings, the layer of distinctive Latin parallels, and the Greek base text. This design assumes that the text we have is a late text that depends in certain places on readings of the Old Latin version though not on the Latin column. The two parts are followed by a conclusion that draws the various threads of discussion into a single narrative that supplies an account of Bezae’s textual history in Mark.