Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The scribal blunder in the Codex Corsendoncensis (min. 3)

As I was given access to the expert mode of the INTF Virtual Manuscript Room (thanks Martin), I decided to finally see for myself what the famous scribal blunder in min. 3 (VMR no. 30003) looks like. The example was discussed briefly last year on the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog.

Minuscule 3 (Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Suppl. gr. 52) contains the entire Greek New Testament except Revelation. It is named Codex Corsendoncensis , because it was one of two manuscripts from Corsendonk used by Erasmus when he was working on the second edition of his New Testament (published in 1519). Its date is given as twelfth-century. [The other Corsendonk manuscript is a Latin Gospel manuscript, now in the Berlin Staatsbibliothek (Ms. theol. lat. qu. 4)].

The manuscript has not yet been indexed for the VMR (any volunteers?), so it took me some time to find the correct page. It turns out to be f. 376v; the VMR number is 8110.

The blunder itself concerns 2 Cor 8:4. The normal Greek text of 2 Cor 8:4-5a runs as follows: ... 4 μετὰ πολλῆς παρακλήσεως δεόμενοι ἡμῶν, τὴν χάριν καὶ τὴν κοινωνίαν τῆς διακονίας τῆς εἰς τοὺς ἁγίους· 5 καὶ οὐ καθὼς ἠλπίσαμεν, ... (‘... 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints -- 5 and this, not as we expected, ... - RSV, taking τὴν χάριν καὶ τὴν κοινωνίαν together). As indicated in NA27, some manuscripts add δέξασθαι ἡμᾶς at the end of verse 4, thereby having an AcI depending from δεόμενοι: ‘that we accept the favor and the community ...’
Min. 3 also has this addition. Its text, however, is as follows: ... 4 μετὰ πολλῆς παρακλήσεως δεόμενοι ἡμῶν τὴν χάριν καὶ τὴν κοινωνίαν τῆς εἰς τοὺς ἁγίους, δέξασθαι ἡμᾶς ἐν πολλοῖς τῶν ἀντιφράφων οὕτως εὕρηται 5 καὶ οὐ καθὼς ἠλπίσαμεν, ...
Note the omission of τῆς διακονίας after τὴν κοινωνίαν, which could already qualify as a scribal blunder (due to homoeoarchton), for the following τῆς can no longer be understood. The real blunder, however, is found in the words just after δέξασθαι ἡμᾶς: ἐν πολλοῖς τῶν ἀντιφράφων οὕτως εὕρηται (‘thus it is found in many copies’). This simply has to be a marginal note, mistaken for a correction, and put into the text by a scribe who was apparently thinking of quite other matters than the relief of the saints.
One can surmise that the original note included (began with) δέξασθαι ἡμᾶς. Thus, the scribe’s exemplar signalled the variant reading δέξασθαι ἡμᾶς and even added some information on it.

With the kind permission of the VMR team, I can now show the image on this blog (taken from the VMR jpg, which represents the INTF microfilm; slightly enhanced for b/w contrast; f. 376v; VMR no. 8110). As can be seen, someone marked the blunder in the text and even put a mark in the left margin to draw attention to it.

The reception history of the scribal blunder itself is interesting as well. It was mentioned for the first time by none other than Erasmus. In his 1519 edition, he added a long note to his annotation on these verses. The example must have been very welcome to him, for it is clear proof that even the sacred texts are not free from ridiculous scribal errors and that textual criticism is necessary, whatever theologians may say. He concluded the note by saying that ‘we found innumerable places corrupted for this same cause'. Even before the 1519 edition, he had already mentioned the case in his apology against Faber Stapulensis. There, the point made was somewhat more specific. He warned his colleague to not naively trust (Greek) manuscripts. Keep thinking critically.

I would not be surprised if Erasmus were the one responsible for the underlining and marginal note in the manuscript. However the microfilm image cannot be conclusive in this respect. What we do know is that Erasmus did not hesitate to put a personal note in the manuscript he used. In this case, he did so even twice, once in Latin, on f. 1r (VMR no. 80), and once in Greek, on f. 181v (VMR no. 3970). Let me show you an enhanced image of the latter:
 Well, at least he wanted the manuscript to be kept safe ...

In subsequent centuries, the blunder was frequently mentioned in text-critical books. Bengel, in his 1734 Greek New Testament, refers to Erasmus. Metzger also mentions the case in his Text of the New Testament (3-1992, p. 194; see also Metzger/Ehrman 4-2005, pp. 258-259), referring to Bengel. Perhaps in a future edition, Erasmus himself could be mentioned as well.

The example itself may indeed have some importance for text-critical reasoning in general and conjectural emendation in particular. It shows that marginal annotations which were mistakenly adopted into the text did occur. The question remains, however, how widespread the phenomenon actually is, and how it can be demonstrated in cases that are less clear than the one in min. 3.