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Habits of NT Copysts

Habits of NT Copysts

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(
1
)
 Bib
71 (1990) 240–247.(
2
) J.R. R
OYSE
,
Scribal Habits in Early Greek New Testament Papyri
(ThD, GraduateTheological Union; UMI 1981); a summary was published: J. R. R
OYSE
, “Scribal Habits inthe Transmission of New Testament Texts”,
The Critical Study of Sacred Texts
(ed. W.D.O’F
LAHERTY
)(Berkeley 1979) 139-161; more generally: J.R. R
OYSE
, “Scribal Tendenciesin the Transmission of the Text”,
The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research.
Essays on the
Status Quaestionis
. Festschrift B.M. Metzger (eds. B.D. E
HRMAN
– M.W. H
OLMES
)(SD 46; Grand Rapids 1995) 239-252.(
3
) It is worth noting that although different methods are favoured by different textualcritics — radical or thoroughgoing eclecticism, the so-called reasoned eclecticism and themore strictly documentary or genealogical methods — they all agree on the importance of transcriptional probabilities concerning how a scribe might be presumed to have behaved,that is the “scribal habits” of the era under discussion.(
4
) E.C. C
OLWELL
, “Scribal Habits in Early Papyri: A Study in the Corruption of theText”,
The Bible in Modern Scholarship
(ed J.P. H
YATT
) (Nashville 1965) 370-389;republished as “Method in Evaluating Scribal Habits: A Study of P45, P66, P75”,
ID
.,
Studies in Methodology in Textual Criticism of the New Testament 
(NTTS IX; Leiden1969) 106-124.
The Habits of New Testament CopyistsSingularReadings in the Early Fragmentary Papyri of John
1
. Singular Readings and the analysis of Scribal Habits
This study is a somewhat belated sequel to my 1990 article “SomeObservations on Early Papyri of the Synoptic Gospels, especially concerningthe ‘Scribal Habits’”(
1
). There I discussed fourteen early papyri of theSynoptic Gospels in terms of their singular readings — readings unique tothe particular manuscript — partly in order to assess the importantdissertation on this subject by J.R. Royse(
2
). By analysing the singularreadings of the more substantial NT papyri firstly E.C. Colwell and thenRoyse had made significant advances in our knowledge of the individualscribal habits exhibited in the different manuscripts and also offered somesuggestions about generalising rules or principles concerning early Christianscribal behaviour(
3
). In relation to the individual characteristics of the scribes,for example, Colwell showed that the scribe of P
66
was undisciplined andsloppy (copying syllables; with a high proportion of nonsense readings andvariant spellings; although under the overall control of a second text orreader); the scribe of P
45
was free and concerned with communicating themeaning of text, favouring concision and brevity (copying phrases andclauses); and that the scribe of P
75
intended to be a careful and accuratereproduction (copying letters one by one), favouring clarity and style(
4
).On more general matters Colwell showed that irregularities in spellingare the most prominent cause of singular readings (although this may bepartly due to the fact that such variations are not always cited in the editions);and that harmonisation to the immediate context occurs far more often thanharmonisation to remote parallels (i.e. in the gospels).Royse’s dissertation generally supported Colwell’s results and extended
 
the analysis to the three other major papyri: the scribe of P
46
was rather error-prone and often confused similar sounds and abbreviations in his exemplar,he often harmonised to the context and regularly omitted material (although160 corrections suggest that it was a controlled situation); the scribe of P
47
exhibits numerous spelling errors, frequent omissions often due to scriballeaps, harmonisation to context, and a tendency to grammatical and stylisticimprovements. P
72
had a careless scribe with very irregular spelling, a habit of omitting one word at a time; and a theological interest in the deity of Christ(
5
).On more general matters Royse concluded that the commonest form of corruption was harmonisation, normally to the immediate context; stylisticand grammatical improvements and transpositions were also frequentlyfound. His conclusions came to a pronounced focus on the consistent habitualomission of material: “the fact is that the six papyri studied here alldemonstrate a tendency to shorten the text”(
6
). This conclusion was at oddswith the old rule “prefer the shorter reading”.In my earlier study similar tendencies were observed among the earlypapyri of the synoptic gospels: most singular readings concerned spelling,particularly place and personal names; harmonisation both to immediatecontext and to synoptic parallels were found, as well as frequent transpo-sitions of word order(
7
). Omission was more common than addition of material. In general this supported Royse’s conclusions, drawn, as we havealready mentioned, from a much larger study(
8
).My own brief study has been relatively well received with an importantqualification which has implications for the method used in this article. Inseveral places I was not sufficiently rigorous in proving the singularity of areading with the result that some readings were inappropriately included(
9
).In order to be clearer in this study I shall take a singular reading to be one thatis not known from NA
27
, Tischendorf 
8
, von Soden and Swanson(
10
). We havenot invoked the category of readings that might be described as sub-singular400Peter M. Head
(
5
) R
OYSE
,
Scribal Habits in Early Greek New Testament Papyri
, 282-283, 360, 488for the respective summaries.(
6
) R
OYSE
,
Scribal Habits in Early Greek New Testament Papyri
, 601-602.(
7
) H
EAD
, “Some Observations on Early Papyri of the Synoptic Gospels”, 246.(
8
) R
OYSE
accepted that “A subsequent study by Peter M. Head has given yet furtherconfirmation of this view [i.e. the tendency to omit]”, in “Scribal Tendencies in theTransmission of the Text”, 246. The connection with Royse’s fuller study relativisesBirdsall’s critique that it is impossible to draw such broad general conclusions from such abrief survey, see J.N. B
IRDSALL
, “A note on the textual evidence for the omission of Matthew 9:34”,
 Jews and Christians: The Parting of the Ways A.D. 70 to 135.
The SecondDurham Tübingen Research Symposium on Earliest Christianity and Judaism (Durham,September, 1989) (ed J.D.G. D
UNN
)(WUNT 66; Tübingen 1992) 117-122, on pp. 121-122.(
9
) R
OYSE
,“Scribal Tendencies in the Transmission of the Text”, 247, n. 51.(
10
) C. T
ISCHENDORF
,
 Novum Testamentum Graece: ad antiquissimos testes denuorecensuit apparatum criticum omni studio perfectum apposuit Commentationem Isagogi-cam praetexuit Constantinus Tischendorf 
.
Editio octava critica maior. Vol 1: Matt, Mark, Luke, John
(Lipsiae, 1869); H.F. V
ON
S
ODEN
,
 Die Schriften des Neuen Testaments in ihrer ältesten erreichbaren Textgestalt hergestelt auf Grund ihrer Textgeschichte.
Text undApparat(Göttingen, 1913 [Sonderausgabe]); R. S
WANSON
(ed.),
 New Testament Greek  Manuscripts. Variant Readings Arranged in Horizontal Lines against Codex Vaticanus. John
(Sheffield – Pasadena, CA 1995).
 
(that is readings that are probably due to the scribe, but are also represented inone or two non-related sources).This study examines the singular readings in the papyrus manuscripts of John’s Gospel that can be dated with some confidence to the fourth century orearlier. Clear singular readings from each manuscript will be noted; singularreadings deduced on the basis of what a fragmentary text reveals about linelength will be noted as a special category, but will be credited for ourpurposes only when the reconstruction of the original editor is confirmed bysubsequent scholarship. In this study (unlike the earlier one), I shall investi-gate the manuscripts in something that approximates to chronological order(depending not on a full independent analysis, but on consensual positions).Our task has been made simpler by the publication of the Johannine papyri (atleast those which were then available) by W.J. Elliott and D.C. Parker for the
 International Greek New Testament Project 
(
11
). This includes twelvemanuscripts from the fourth century or earlier. More recently four newmanuscripts of John from Oxyrhynchus have been published by W.H.Cockle(
12
). We thus have sixteen early papyri of John’s Gospel. The threemost extensive of these — P
45
, P
66
& P
75
— have already been treatedgenerally by both Colwell and Royse and are therefore not discussed here(with the exception of two leaves of John in P
45
and two newly identifiedportions of P
66
which were published subsequent to these earlier studies). Thatleaves thirteen other fragmentary texts, which have not previously beenstudied in relation to their scribal habits, which will be the focus of our study(three of these manuscripts close to our upper temporal limit — P
22
, P
39
andP
80
— contain no singular readings and are simply noted at the appropriatechronological point).2
. Singular Readings in the early Johannine PapyriP
52
(Manchester, Rylands Library, Gr. P. 457) is normally dated to thefirst half of the second century. It is in fact a very small fragment, consistingof the top corner of one leaf of a codex with portions of 18,31-33 on one sideand of 18,37-38 on the other. The scribe exhibits a tendency to leave slightgaps between words, and may, on one occasion, have corrected his text byover-writing (the epsilon in
  a    
α
  l   
λ
 h   
η
 q   
θ
 e   
ε
 i  
ι
  a    
α
 "   
ς
in 18,37; verso line 3). In two placeswe find singular readings involving
 e   
ε
 i  
ι
 / 
 i  
ι
variation:
 h   
η
  m    
µ
 e   
ε
[
 i  
ι
  n   
 ν
(recto line 1; 18,31);
 i  
ι
  s    
σ
[
 h   
η
  l   
λ
 q   
θ
 e   
ε
  n   
 ν
(recto, line 4; 18,33). C.H. Roberts, supported by Elliott & Parker,also asserted that for reasons of space,
 e   
ε
 i  
ι
 "   
ς
t   
τ
  o   
ο
  u   
υ
 t   
τ
  o   
ο
must have been omitted atthe second occurrence of the phrase in 18,37 (from verso, line 1) — with
 e   
ε
 i  
ι
 "   
ς
 t   
τ
  o   
ο
  u   
υ
 t   
τ
  o   
ο
the line would be 39 letters long, compared with an average of The Habits of New Testament Copyists401
(
11
)
The New Testament in Greek IV. The Gospel According to St. John. The Papyri
(eds. W.J. E
LLIOTT
– D.C. P
ARKER
) (NTTS XX; Leiden 1995) which includes theJohannine material up to P
95
(including a taxonomy of proposed dates, pp. 17-18). Thisincludes plates of all the twenty-two papyrus manuscripts with portions of John (althoughonly samples of P
66
and P
75
), and attempted to give enough information so that it would beable “to contribute to our knowledge of scribal practice” (p. 5).(
12
)
OxyPap LXV 
(ed. M.W. H
ASLAM
et al.
) (London 1998);
P. Oxy
4445–4448 onpp.10-20 (ed. W.E.H. C
OCKLE
). On these and other new material see P.M. H
EAD
, “SomeRecently Published NT Papyri from Oxyrhynchus: An Overview and PreliminaryAssessment”,
TynB
51 (2000) 1-16.

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