January 24, 2009
In the City Libraries in Auckland, New Zealand, are two Greek New Testament manuscripts, one minuscule and one lectionary. Both are from the twelfth century and both are housed in the special collections on the second floor of the main library on 44 Lorne Street.
A couple of noteworthy items can be found in the minuscule, which we will get to shortly. For now, some minor corrections of the data on this manuscript as found in the Kurzgefasste Liste (2nd edition, 1994): (1) the name of the library has changed from “Public Library” to “City Libraries”; (2) the shelf number has changed from Ms. 29 to Med Ms G124 (which stands for medieval manuscript from the Grey collection, number 124); (3) the foliation is off by one (there are 200 leaves rather than 199, though one is only a sliver, an extra wide flap from the gathering, on which a child’s hand has scribbled the Greek alphabet); and (4) the lines per page are 26 to 28 rather than 24 to 27 (though the lower number may be found on some leaves, our hurried examination prior to photography did not reveal such; the photographs will no doubt be able to determine this).
The interesting material comes in the Fourth Gospel. John 5:4, found on leaf 168 verso (which is numbered on the recto side as 167; after leaf 22 the foliation penciled on the manuscript is short by one), has apparently been athetized in the margin. The hand looks to be the same as that of the original scribe’s, though it could easily be a different, even later scribe’s. The scribe has marked an ‘X’ in the margin running vertically down the length of the verse. This is not altogether common in the manuscripts, so to have another example of such, especially one from the 12th century, is at least interesting if not significant. If the writing was that of the original scribe, it may be that he (or she), after writing the verse, realized that it did not belong in John, so he then athetized the verse in the margin. This sort of thing occurs in the text of Sinaiticus in 1 Thess 2 where the scribe wrote the same verse twice (perhaps having taken a break before coming back to the manuscript), due to a similar-ending line a few lines up. He then athetized the second writing of the verse. Curiously, he had made two or three changes to the text the second time around, raising questions as to whether the scribe used a different exemplar at that stage, was inattentive, or perhaps even a bit sloppy in his task.
The other interesting place in GA 1273 is at the pericope adulterae. The leaf on which it should have appeared (according to its traditional location) lacked it. Unfortunately, this was the verso side of the leaf (leaf 175 verso, or the verso of “174” as it was penciled in). Rather than tear out the whole leaf—or worse, replace the whole quire—the later scribe scraped clean the text on the verso and rewrote the whole page, including several previous verses. He or she used a much smaller hand, crowding the letters so that more could get on there, but also adding several more lines of text (175v has 31 lines of text, while the average leaf has 26 to 28 lines, with 27 apparently being the mean). But that was still not enough room for the PA. Four more lines were required at the top of 176 recto to complete the task. For this page, the scribe chose not to scrape off the former letters but simply allow the conclusion of the PA to stand above the text that the original scribe had penned.
What we see in this particular manuscript are two opposing forces at work. First is the attempt to excise text that was considered spurious. Second is the attempt to add text that was considered authentic. The Greek manuscripts that lack John 5:4 include P66, P75, a, B C*, D, T, Ws, 33, and a few others. There are also more than twenty manuscripts in which asterisks or obeli mark the words as spurious, even as 1273 has done (e.g., S L P 047 1079 2174). But when it comes to the pericope adulterae, a much larger portion of manuscripts either lack the pericope or mark it out in some way to indicate its spuriousness (or, if Maurice Robinson is correct, its dislocation in this place, at least as far as lectionary readings were concerned). As many as 20% of the Greek manuscripts lack the PA. It seems safe to say that the scribe who added the PA to codex 1273 was certainly not the same as the original scribe of the manuscript. The handwriting is distinctively different, smaller, and with a different ink. But the scribe who athetized John 5:4 may well have been the same as the original scribe. The ink looks to be the same, and the scribe would have been, in keeping with his later proclivity not to have the PA, in a long, though small, stream of scribes who thought that the verse was spurious. I do not know what other work has been done on GA 1273, but it seems that this manuscript is worthy of some examination.