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Gregory-Aland 662 (Melbourne, Australia: NGV Ms. Felton 710-5)

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On January 20, 2009, I visited the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, to examine Gregory-Aland 662, an illuminated minuscule. Known as The Gospel Book of Theophanes and written in the first half of the 12th century in Constantinople, the manuscript has been in the possession of several hands in modern times. It was sold at a Sotheby’s auction in the late 19th century, and came into the possession of the National Gallery in the early 20th century through the Felton Bequest, a fund dedicated to significantly increasing the artwork of the NGV. This bequest provides the foundation of the NGV’s collection.

The manuscript includes all four Gospels and has a truncated Eusebian Canon list at the beginning.

As I examined the manuscript, a few items popped out as perhaps significant. But first, for some minor corrections on the description in the Kurzgefasste Liste, 2d edition (1994): (1) The manuscript’s shelf number is either Ms. 710-5 or Ms. Felton 710-5, rather than Ms. 710/5, as the K-Liste has it; (2) the dimensions are 24–24.2 x 17–17.4 cm (and 4.3 cm width, sans the cover), rather than 24.5 x 17.2 as listed in the K-Liste.

At least three scribes worked on the MS, including the original scribe and three correctors (although the first corrector may well be the original scribe). The latest scribe is quite late, as noticed by his use of στο instead of an asterisk to indicate the place where missing material was to be added to the text.

What is most significant are two places in the Gospels: what the original scribe did with the long ending of Mark’s Gospel, and what seems to be the hand of the original scribe, but in the least is a contemporary of the original scribe (judging by the fading of the ink and the shape of the letters) at the pericope adulterae.

At the end of Mark 16:8, in the middle of the line, is a superscripted abbreviation for τέλὸ (= ‘end’). This sort of mark is typically seen at the end of a lectionary reading, and would not normally raise any eyebrows. However, albeit in a somewhat rushed examination of the manuscript, I was unable to find any lectionary notation in either Matthew or Mark. The αρχη and τελὸ begin in Luke, and seem to be found only in relation to the nativity story in that Gospel. Consequently, our preliminary judgment is that the τελὸ at the end of Mark 16:8 is intended to be a shorthand way for the scribe to indicate that the Gospel, in some MSS, ended at this point. It is thus similar to four family 1 manuscripts (1, 205, 209, and 1582) that have a marginal note, crediting Eusebius with canonizing the text up to this point (εν τισι των αντιγραφων εὼ ωδε πληρουται ο ευαγγελιστὴ· εὼ ου και ευσεβιὸ ο παμφιλου εκανονισεν· εν πολλοὶ δε και ταυτα φερεται), or with six Greek manuscripts that have an asterisk or obelisk in the margin here (137, 138, 264, 1221, 2346, 2812). I would be interested to learn if anyone else has seen a stray τελὸ at the end of Mark 16:8 that could not be interpreted as the end of the lection.

Second, the pericope adulterae is athetized—or at least treated as not part of the menologion—either by the original scribe or by a contemporary. In the margin at the text one sees the letter ‘x’ repeated vertically down the side of the passage. However, it is not the entire PA that is athetized, but only 8:3–11. A few other 11th and 12th century manuscripts (754, 759, 937, 1168, 2133, 2525, 2533, 2693, 2757,), according to Maurice Robinson, also skip over the lectionary segment, 8:3–11, as this corrector seemed to do. However, these manuscripts place the PA either at the beginning or end of John, unlike codex 662. I could not find reference to codex 662 in Robinson’s “Preliminary Observations regarding the Pericope Adulterae based upon Fresh Collations of nearly all Continuous-Text Manuscripts and over One Hundred Lectionaries,” originally delivered at the Evangelical Theological Society in November 1998.

In the least, this codex seems to have a few interesting wrinkles in it that deserve further examination. The librarians at the NGV indicated that it had never been microfilmed, so the reason for it being overlooked is easy to understand.

Thanks are due to Garry Sommerfield, manager of photographic services; Cathy Leahy, senior curator, prints and drawings; Alisa Bunbury, curator, prints and drawings; Predrag Cancar, photographer; and Ruth Shervington, senior paper conservator, for permission to examine the manuscript and assistance in doing so.

Related Topics: Textual Criticism