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Bezae and Abiathar 2005-06-09

Posted by Peter Kirby at 1:39 AM | Permalink

This is about a little textual problem of Mark 2:26, which reads:

(Mk 2:26 RSV) "... how he [David] entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat ..."

Some text traditions omit the phrase "when Abiathar was high priest," specifically:

Greek manuscripts:
D W 1009 1546*

Latin:
lat (a b d e ff2 i r1 t)

Aramaic:
syr(s) some syr(pal)

I noticed with interest that D (Bezae) does not contain the phrase, since it is a manuscript that I value considerably. Unfortunately, when I looked into the matter a bit more, it looks to me as though the manuscript of Bezae is "defective" (though not physically) at this point--that Bezae does not preserve a different reading but rather has omitted the phrase from its ancestor.

It appears from independent evidence that the exemplar (or ancestor) of Bezae is a manuscript with an 10 to 12 letter column width. This explains the many omissions at the end of a stichos in Bezae (manuscript line based on sense or verse) that fall into the range of 10-11, 20-22, 30-32, 40-42, etc. For example:

10 letters in Mt 5:11
11 letters in Jn 8:34
20 letters in Mt 11:5
20 letters in Lk 24:6
21 letters in Mt 12:20
31 letters in Mt 19:9
42 letters in Mt 10:37
60 letters in Mt 11:34
70 letters in Mk 9:35

These are all easily explained by the scribe omitting a line or several lines by skipping over them when being read.

Here is Mark 2:26 in UBS3:

πῶς εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον τοῦ θεοῦ ἐπὶ Ἀβιαθὰρ ἀρχιερέωσ καὶ τοὺς ἄρτους τῆς προθέσεωσ ἔφαγεν οὓς οὔκ ἔξεστιν φαγεῖν εἴ μὴ τοὺς ἱερεῖς καὶ ἔδωκεν καὶ τοῖς σὺν αὐτῷ οὖσιν

Here is part of Mark 2:26 as it is found in Bezae (compared against the photographs, spaces not in the original, and spelling corrected):

ΚΑΙ ΤΟΥΣ ΑΡΤΟΥΣ ΤΗΣ ∏ΡΟΘΕΣΕΩΣ ΕΦΑΓΕΝ
ΚΑΙ ΕΔΩΚΕΝ ΤΟΙΣ MET ΑΥΤΟ ΟΥΣΙΝ
ΟΥΣ ΟΥΚ ΕΞΕΣΤΙΝ ΦΑΓΕΙΝ ΕΙ ΜΗ ΤΟΙΝ
ΙΕΡΕΥΣΙΝ

Note that Bezae has META (MET') rather than ΣΥΝ, but they are both prepositions meaning "along with."

Here's what that looks like when broken into lines of 10-12 letters. Note that a suspension bar is used for the final nu, such as at the end of a word or, more often, a line.

(10) ΚΑΙΤΟΥΣΑΡT
(10) ΟΥΣΤΗΣ∏ΡΟΣ
(11) ΘΕΣΕΩΣΕΦΑΓΕ
(12) ΚΑΙΕΔΩΚΕΤΟΙΣ
(11) METΑΥΤΟΟΥΣΙ
(12) ΟΥΣΟΥΚΕΞΕΣΤΙ
(10) ΦΑΓΕΙΝΕΙΜΗ
(11) ΤΟΙΝΙΕΡΕΥΣΙ

That this division is correct is suggested, not only by the following, but also by the misspelling ∏ΡΟΘΕΣΕΩΣ in Bezae as ∏ΡΟΣΘΕΣΕΩΣ. The extra sigma in the exemplar (copied over into Bezae) brings the count of each line above 10. (What possibly happened in the exemplar is an accidental addition of the letter at the end of the line because of its similarity to the very common word ∏ΡΟΣ.)

From the sense of the words, one knows that there has clearly been a collocation that is wrong. Bezae puts ΚΑΙΕΔΩΚΕ...ΟΥΣΙ before ΟΥΣ...ΙΕΡΕΥΣΙ, while it should be the reverse, as follows:

(10) ΚΑΙΤΟΥΣΑΡT
(10) ΟΥΣΤΗΣ∏ΡΟΣ
(11) ΘΕΣΕΩΣΕΦΑΓΕ
(12) ΟΥΣΟΥΚΕΞΕΣΤΙ
(10) ΦΑΓΕΙΝΕΙΜΗ
(11) ΤΟΙΝΙΕΡΕΥΣΙ
(12) ΚΑΙΕΔΩΚΕΤΟΙΣ
(11) ΣΥΝΑΥΤΟΟΥΣΙ

That the collocation falls along the proposed line divisions of the exemplar is even better evidence that the division is correct.

Now looking also at the earlier part of the verse, with which we are more concerned:

(11) AUTOUPOSΕΙΣ
(11) ΗΛΘΕΝΕΙΣΤΟΥ
(10) ΟΙΚΟΝΤΟΥΘΥ
(10) ΚΑΙΤΟΥΣΑΡT
(10) ΟΥΣΤΗΣ∏ΡΟΣ
(11) ΘΕΣΕΩΣΕΦΑΓΕ
(12) ΟΥΣΟΥΚΕΞΕΣΤΙ
(10) ΦΑΓΕΙΝΕΙΜΗ
(11) ΤΟΙΝΙΕΡΕΥΣΙ
(12) ΚΑΙΕΔΩΚΕΤΟΙΣ
(11) ΣΥΝΑΥΤΟΟΥΣΙ

Notice that the line ends with ΘΥ (Theo, God) in both Bezae (at the end of a stichos) and in the proposed line division of the exemplar. Notice that the line division used for discerning the collocation is the same as that used in the first part of the verse. Notice that the Abiathar phrase comes right between these lines. And notice that the Abiathar phrase is exactly 22 characters long:

(11) Ε∏ΙΑΒΙΑΘΑΡΤ
(11) ΟΥΑΡΧΙΕΡΕΩΣ

So we find that the following is the exemplar:

(11) AUTOUPOSΕΙΣ
(11) ΗΛΘΕΝΕΙΣΤΟΥ
(10) ΟΙΚΟΝΤΟΥΘΥ
(11) Ε∏ΙΑΒΙΑΘΑΡΤ
(11) ΟΥΑΡΧΙΕΡΕΩΣ
(10) ΚΑΙΤΟΥΣΑΡT
(10) ΟΥΣΤΗΣ∏ΡΟΣ
(11) ΘΕΣΕΩΣΕΦΑΓΕ
(12) ΟΥΣΟΥΚΕΞΕΣΤΙ
(10) ΦΑΓΕΙΝΕΙΜΗ
(11) ΤΟΙΝΙΕΡΕΥΣΙ
(12) ΚΑΙΕΔΩΚΕΤΟΙΣ
(11) ΣΥΝΑΥΤΟΟΥΣΙ

Notice one more thing, which I didn't notice until just now. The easiest explanation for the two skipped lines is that the third line (ΚΑΙΤΟΥΣΑΡT) ends with exactly the same three letters as the first line (Ε∏ΙΑΒΙΑΘΑΡΤ). The scribe of Bezae most evidently came to the end of his own stichos, looked away remembering that the next line ended with ART, and then looked back and picked up two lines down, which elso ends with ART.

The last of the cinchers comes in the following verse. After 11 characters in place of verse 27 (and the first word of 28) comes kurios estin.... The omitted letters add up to 55. So, at the end of the above reconstruction of the exemplar, comes eleven characters, then a jump of 55 characters (omitted verse 27 and first word of 28), and then "Lord" in verse 28. This shows a consistent average of 11 letters per line in the exemplar. This coheres with everything we've discovered above about verse 26 and Bezae.

So, Bezae has omitted the Abiathar phrase by accident. Q.E.D.

best wishes,
Peter Kirby

5 Comments:

Blogger Marc said...

FYI, I included this post in History Carnival #10.

10:42 AM  
Blogger Michael Turton said...

Great post, Peter. I think your analysis is dead on. I have the same fondness for Bezae that you do.

6:47 PM  
Blogger Andrew Phillip Smith said...

OT

Peter, please email me immediately regarding my Bardic Press site.

Thanks

Andrew Smith smithand44@yahoo.com

5:08 AM  
Blogger Rob Bradshaw said...

Very impressed that you are able to display Greek text in a web page - how do you do it?

12:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

www.TheGospelGiftShop.com

12:45 PM  

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