Block Mixture

Contents: Introduction *Noteworthy Block Mixed Manuscripts *Bibliography


All known manuscripts are copied and corrected from previousmanuscripts. Usually the manuscripts are taken and correctedfrom a single exemplar,but this is by no means universal. A scribe's exemplar might bedamaged as some point, forcing him to refer to another manuscript.Or he might come into the scriptorium one day to find hisexemplar in use, and have to refer to another for that day.Or the exemplar might have been very thoroughly corrected in different placesfrom different manuscripts. Or, conceivably, a scribe might havestarted to copy from one manuscript, decided he didn't approveof its text, and turned to another.

All of these are possible causes of block mixture, wherea manuscript displays a sudden shift of text-type within acorpus. (If a manuscript shows a change in type between onecorpus and another, this is not considered block mixture; thissituation is too common to invite comment. We should simplykeep in mind that the fact a document is Alexandrian in, say,the Gospels, does not mean it will belong to that typein other parts of the New Testament.)

Block mixture should not be confused with ordinary mixture,in which elements of different text-types occur constantlythroughout a manuscript. Ordinary mixture is thought to be theresult of correcting a manuscript of one type from a manuscriptof another (meaning that readings from both manuscripts willbecome jumbled together), while block mixture arises from thesole use of multiple exemplars.

One might give an analogyfrom baking. One can take a measuring cup of sugar, and ameasuring cup of flour. The sugar might be Alexandrian readings,the flour Byzantine. As long as the sugar is in one cup and theflour in another, the texts are block mixed. If we take thetwo and mix them together, then put them back in the cups,they are mixed, not just block mixed.

Or let's try another analogy: Let's think of ordinary mixture asbeing like mixing paints, while block mixture is like mixing tiles.If you mix red and yellow paint, you get orange paint -- not paintwith splotches of red and splotches of yellow. The two are thoroughlyunited; you can't take them back apart or point to one section of paintand say "this is from the can of red paint."

But, instead of painting the wall or floor, think of covering it withtiles, some red, some yellow. Whoever laid the tiles brought in severalboxes. He laid red tiles until the box ran out, then started on theyellow, then perhaps went back to red. For any given tile, you can tellwhich box it came out of. The overall floor is not red or yellow, butthere is no place where it is orange. In any given section, it is redor yellow. Similarly, a block-mixed text may have Alexandrian andByzantine strands (for example), but any particular sectionis either from the Alexandrian or the Byzantine source, not both.In an ordinary mixed manuscript, you will see Alexandrian and Byzantinereadings in immediate proximity throughout.

Block mixture is not overly common, but neither is itrare. Students should always be alert to it, and never assume,simply because a manuscript belongs to a certain text-type inone book or section of a book, that it will belong to thattype in another section.

Incidentally we should note that even printed editions,especially those from the early days of printing, may beblock mixed; printed texts rarely used more than one source,so if (say) Q3 of a Shakespeare play was set from Q2 of the sameplay, but the compositor's copy of Q2 has a damaged leaf, thecompositor might dig up a copy of Q1 and set the one page fromthat -- and then go right back to setting from Q2, even thoughQ1 is earlier and, very possibly, more authoritative. Somethinglike this appears to have been true of "Richard III," forinstance: most of the text of the First Folio is believed toderive from a 1622 quarto corrected from manuscript, but someparts are derived from a 1602 quarto which was not correctedfrom manuscript.

Noteworthy Block Mixed Manuscripts

The following list highlights some of the better-known examplesof block mixture.


Davies: M. Davies, The Text of the Pauline Epistles in MS. 2344 (Studies and Documents 38, 1968)

Fee: Gordon D. Fee, "Codex Sinaiticus in the Gospel of John: A Contribution to Methodology in Establishing Textual Relationships," now available as Chapter 12 of Eldon J. Epp and Gordon D. Fee, Studies in the Theory and Method of New Testament Textual Criticism (Studies and Documents 45, Eerdmans, 1993).

Hurtado: Larry W. Hurtado, Text-Critical Methodology and the Pre-Cæsarean Text: Codex W in the Gospel of Mark (Studies and Documents 43, Eerdmans, 1981).

Metzger: Bruce M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (third edition, Oxford, 1992)

Richards: W. L. Richards, The Classification of the Greek Manuscripts of the Johannine Epistles (SBL Dissertation Series 35, Scholars Press, 1977).

Sanders: Henry A. Sanders, Facsimile of the Washington Manuscript of the Four Gospels in the Freer Collection (University of Michigan, 1912).

Streeter: B. H. Streeter, The Four Gospels: A Study of Origins (Macmillan, 1924)