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Andrew Smith on Codicological Analysis of Codex Alexandrinus


Every semester the Greek Paul Project hosts an academic webinar addressing issues in biblical textual criticism, manuscript studies, and related issues. This semester's academic webinar invites the project supervisor to discuss application of codicological methods to Codex Alexandrinus and how those principles could be applied to other manuscript analyses.

Below are comments on the Q&A that followed the presentation.


I want to thank everyone that was able to attend the presentation. During the Q&A I misremembered/swapped where the breaks at 1 Corinthians 6:18 and 10:8 occurred in Codex Alexandrinus so I am updating and expanding my response in the section below:

Q1: “Could you speculate on whether or not the break in 1 Corinthians is a usual occurrence. It seems like they would be tasked with completing a certain book and maybe that’s an anomaly?”

I would agree that it is an anomaly in that other delineations in the codex take place at the ends of books/letters (and this appears to be true in the Old Testament portion of the codex as well). For there to be a break 10 chapters into 1 Corinthians is odd.

Q2: “Does the change of hand correspond with an end of a page or an end of a quire?”

Here I need to update my response. Where the change of hands in 1 Corinthians takes place is a bit fuzzier than I note in the presentation. The relevant information:

1. There probably is a quire change midway through 1 Corinthians 10:8, which begins on V4.F95 (volume 4, folio 95). At the top of V4.F96, the folio on which 10:8 ends, there are some elongated letters (I still cannot tell what they are attempting to spell) at the center of the top margin, over a reddish smear. It is where we would have expected to see a quire number. Why a quire number would be destroyed at that point does not have a good explanation.

2. NT Scribe 1 (who copied Matthew and Mark and then begins again midway through 1 Corinthians) writes a conservative letter pi where the top bar ends right at the two vertical strokes (Π). NT Scribe 2 (who copied Luke, John, etc. up to midway through 1 Corinthians) writes a pi that has a top bar the extends past the two verticals (like π but in majuscule form). Technically, the letter pi changes around 6:18. I discuss this in the monograph (pp. 110-111) and eventually concede that the 10:8 division can work. But over the years that division has always bothered me and so I personally think about it happening mid-quire. Some inconsistencies with the pi letter form in that range of folia complicate the issue even further.

What I should have answered in the Q&A is this: IF the change of hands takes place at 1 Corinthians 10:8—and that’s quite possible—then it does take place at what is probably the end of a quire. This is still an anomaly in that the break mid-letter is unexpected. The only other possible comparison is that the kephalaia list for Luke (remember that NT Scribe 2 copies Luke) is written by NT Scribe 1. So, there is overall a strange boundary issue with NT Scribe 2. IF, however, the change of hands takes place earlier than 10:8—which the palaeography seems to suggest—then the change of hands is most definitely not at the end of a quire, though it may coincide with the end of a page (6:18 breaks across V4.F94a and F94b). (I am convinced not to be a fan of using recto and verso for parchment manuscripts.)

Q3: “Do the different diple forms correspond to different hands?”

No. Woide attempted to make that argument, but that does not seem to be the case at all. The fact that the dots are written in vermillion ink instead of black would indicate that it was a two-step process anyway, so perhaps the dots were neglected (at times). Because the diple are so sparsely populated, it is easy to see how going back to dot them may have been overlooked. It might be interesting to consider the undotted diplai as fluid, being able to be assigned with either set (single or double dotted) of dotted diplai. If you considered that set fluid/variable, could you then group that set of diplai according to scribe. That would be an interesting exercise.

Q4: “I just wanted to say I appreciate your presentation. It was clear, it was full of interesting facts, and it’s spurred me on to do more of this research. At the end of the day, I’m not a coder—I can use a computer—can I team up with a computer programmer in the future, maybe?”

You certainly could! Consider first simple things like counting letters per line of text. You know how to make a transcription. And you can certainly download that transcription off of the NTVMR. It takes very little work to write a script to do that type of thing. It is not a major endeavor to write some code to analyze some text. I used Perl when I did my analysis. Python would work equally well. Someone could count letters and the like with just a few lines of code. If you have a friend who is a coder, it would be simple enough to say, “Hey, Sally, I know you’re a coder. Can I buy you a cup of coffee for you to write a few lines of code for me to use to analyze my text?” It should be that simple.

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