Correctors and Corrections
Contents: Introduction *Noteworthy Corrected Manuscripts *The Significance of Corrections
Ancient scribes were at least as aware of scribal errors asmoderns. Since all manuscripts were copied individually, eachneeded to be individually checked for errors. This process eventuallycame to be standardized.
We don't know how or whether early manuscripts were corrected.In a scriptorium, however, it was the practice that a manuscriptδιορθωτης,literally "one who straightens," which we might loosely render as"guy supposed to make this thing right." The diorthoteswas often a scribe specially trained to find and rectify mistakes,though we often find a scribe acting as his own diorthotes.
Once a manuscript had been corrected, the diorthotes wasoften expected to mark it finished. So a manuscript might be markedδι or αντιβληθη to show that it had been checked over. This notationseems to be rare in New Testament manuscripts, however.
The diorthotes was often the last scribe to work ona manuscript. (This is particularly true of Byzantine manuscripts.)But manuscripts represented a lot of expense and work; an owner mightbe reluctant to discard a manuscript simply because its text didnot meet the tastes of the times. So we see many manuscripts,including Sinaiticus and Bezae, repeatedly corrected to bringthem more in line with the Byzantine text.
Where a manuscript has been corrected, it is customary torefer to the original reading with an asterisk. Thus D* in acritical apparatus indicates that this reading is supportedby the original hand of D.
Conventions for the correctors have varied. The simplestis to use additional asterisks to refer to the correctors. Thus,if D* refers to the original hand of D, D** refers to the firstcorrector, D*** to the second, etc.
The problems with this notation are obvious. If a manuscripthas many correctors, simply reading the apparatus is a chore.(Quick! Which corrector is D*******?) In addition, there is anæsthetic difficulty -- D**, despite the presence oftwo asterisks, refers to the first corrector.
The solution was to use superscripts. So, instead of D**,one would write Dc.
This is, of course, all very well where one corrector isinvolved. But suppose there are two or three, or even more(as sometimes happened)? In this case, the superscriptswere retained, but different symbols used.
In the past, correctors were often referred to by a superscript letter. Soℵareferred to a reading from the first corrector of Sinaiticus, whileℵbwould refer to the second. It is now more normal to refer to correctorsby number, makingℵ1the first corrector,ℵ2the second, etc. If a manuscript had only a single corrector, of course,the simple c notation is retained.
Unfortunately, this system is not always used outside Biblical criticism. The manuscripts of Chaucer, for instance, use superscripts to denote the witnesses -- there are (for example) four manuscripts of the Canterbury Tales in the Rawlinson Collecton at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. These are given the standard symbols Ra1, Ra2, Ra3, Ra4. Rather than using a double superscript -- admittedly a severe problem in dealing with New Testament papyri (for those of us with older eyes, it's not easy to tell 𝔓461 from 𝔓462!), editors of Chaucer use subscripts -- so Ra1 represents the main text of Ra1, Ra11 represents a correction made by the original scribe, and Ra12 a correction made by any later corrector.
A distinction is sometimes made between "amateur" and"professional" correctors. This is an unfortunate notation;in the period after the split of the Roman Empire, professional scribeswere very nearly the only people who could read and write, and thereforeall correctors were professional. If we change the designations tosomething like "systematic" and "casual," however,the distinction is accurate. A systematic corrector is one who goes overa section of text in detail, comparing it to some sort of exemplar. Acasual corrector is one who notices a variant or two, probably in thecourse of reading, and makes some sort of correction. A casual correctorwill make only a few corrections in a manuscript, and may not be dignifiedwith a separate superscript number.
Corrections were made in many ways. If the mistake was noted before the ink had dried and the correction would fit in the space, the first reading might be sponged off and rewritten. Most, though, were spotted later. If words were missing, a mark was made in the text and the addition written in the margin. If the words in the text were wrong, they were so marked, usually by dots above the word, and the correct text in the margin (so, if a scribe wrote "mop" for "map," the reading "mop" would be marked ṁȯṗ and "map" written in the margin or above the line). If the text was simply deleted, then the dots would be written in and no alternative written. The addition of the dots was called "expunctuation."
Ideally a corrector would go over an entire manuscript with consistent diligence, but this was not always so. Often the corrector would experience revisor fatigue. The most famous example of that is found in Le.
While we usually speak of correctors as working on the text of amanuscript, there are a few instances of correctors working on theartwork as well. An early Syriac bible known as the Rabbula Gospels,for instance, has had many of the paintings retouched, presumably tomake them conform more nearly with the opinions and attitudes of thecorrectors.
The list below describes some of the more noteworthy correctedmanuscripts and the scribes who corrected them.
The following list describes most of the manuscripts which haveexperienced noteworthy corrections.
- P66. P66 is, in terms of scribal accuracy,one of the most poorly-written manuscripts known to us. Although itcontains only the gospel of John (and portions even of that have beenlost), it contains roughly 450 corrections! As Colwell comments["Method in Evaluating Scribal Habits." now publishedin E. C. Colwell, Studies in Methodology in Textual Criticism of theNew Testament; p. 121], "Wildness in copying is theoutstanding characteristic of P66." This means thatmany of the corrections in the manuscript were early alterationsmade to correct the scribe's own errors; Colwell [p. 118]reports "P66 seems to reflect a scribe working with theintention of making a good copy, falling into careless errors,particularly the dropping of a letter, a syllable, a word, or evena phrase where it is doubled, but also under the control of some otherperson, or second standard, so that the corrections which are madeare usually corrections to a reading read by a number of otherwitnesses. Nine out of ten of the nonsense readings are corrected,and two out of three of all his singular readings." (It shouldbe noted that Colwell, p. 109, finds no fewer than 482 singular readings inP66; this would imply that two-thirds of the correctionsin P66 correct singular readings -- an astonishingproportion. Colwell also reports, p. 111, that "two out of five[of P66's singular readings] are nonsense readings,"leaving 289 "Sensible Singular Readings".)
It does appear that P66 was eventually corrected froma different exemplar. The nature of this exemplar is difficult todetermine due simply to the mass of nonsense and singular readingsrequiring correction. Nonetheless, the original text of P66seems to have been Alexandrian, and the corrections do not seem tohave changed this much. (Various scholars have mentioned what theyregard as "Western" readings, but most are "Western"only in the false sense "Non-Alexandrian;" many of thesereadings appear to be simply scribal slips.)
- ℵ. Sinaiticusis one of the most-corrected of all Biblical manuscripts; Tischendorflists nearly 15,000 alterations (some of them involving multiple changesin the same place), and this is based only on the London portionof the text. At this rate there would have been in excess of25,000 corrections in the entire manuscript (Old and New Testaments).It is believed that nine correctors (perhaps more) have worked on themanuscript (though not all engaged in the New Testament),dating from the time it was written to perhaps the twelfth century.For reasons of simplicity, however, a rather more limitedset of sigla has been used for these correctors:
The current Nestle-Aland edition has simplified this notation;ℵa andℵb arenow subsumed under the symbolℵ1; all theℵccorrectors now appear in the guise ofℵ2;the handful of corrections ofℵeare placed under the symbolℵc
- ℵa is contemporary with the scribe, or nearly (i.e. fourth century). This corrector made a relatively slight number of changes, not all of them in the direction of the Byzantine text (e.g. this corrector apparently marked Luke 22:43-44 for deletion). Hort, e.g., thought the readings of this scribe to be of value nearly equal to the original readings of the text. Tischendorf believed this copyist was one of the original copyists of the manuscript, specifically, the scribe D who wrote a few random leaves of the New Testament (probably to correct pages he felt incurably flawed).
- ℵb dates probably from the fifth/sixth century. This corrector made many changes in the first few chapters of Matthew (generally bringing it closer to the Byzantine text), but did very little other work.
- ℵc actually refers to a large group of scribes (perhaps five) who worked in the seventh century and made the large majority of the corrections in the manuscript. Often they cannot be reliably distinguished. The most important (and probably the first) of these is known as ℵc.a, who did a great deal to conform the manuscript to the Byzantine text (and not infrequently undid the work of ℵa). The next phase of corrections, labelled ℵc.b, may perhaps have been the work of three scribes, who added a few more Byzantine readings. In addition, the symbols ℵc.Pamph is sometimes used to refer to a scribe who worked primarily if not exclusively on the Old Testament (his corrections, in fact, seem to be confined to 1 Kingdoms-Esther), commenting that he was working from a Pamphilian manuscript, while ℵc.c and ℵc.c* refer to two minor correctors from late in the seventh century; many of their changes are in the Apocalypse. We may ignore ℵd; this symbol is not generally used.
- ℵe refers to the last known corrector, who made a few alterations (Tischendorf reportedly lists only three) in the twelfth century.
- B. The corrections in B are, in a sense, far less significant than those in the preceding manuscripts. There are corrections, but they do not fundamentally change the manuscript's text-type. But in another sense, they affect the entire text of the manuscript.
Traditionally B has been regarded as having three correctors: B1, contemporary with the original writing; B2, of about the sixth century, and B3, probably of the ninth or tenth century. (A few later corrections are also found.)
B3 is the most important of these correctors, as this scribe retraced the entire manuscript (except for a handful of words and phrases he regarded as spurious). This scribe added accents, breathings, and punctuation at the same time. Presumably he made some reference to another manuscript during the process (since he did make some few textual changes), but the changes are slight. The primary effect of the retracing was to ruin the beauty of the ancient lettering.
In the Nestle-Aland text, the readings of the correctors B1 are labelled B1, while those of B3 are labelled B2.
- C. Codex C is, of course, a palimpsest, which makes it even harder than usual to assess its correctors. The fullest study of the correctors of C was made by Tischendorf, but of course this was done before ultraviolet photography and other modern techniques were available. Robert W. Lyon offered corrections to Tischendorf, but even these are regarded as inadequate. Thus the only fully current information is that offered by the apparatus to the current Nestle-Aland edition -- which is accurate but of course not complete. So all the information here must be considered tentative.
Traditionally, C is listed as having had three correctors: C1 (Ca), C2 (Cb), and C3 (Cc). C1 is the symbol used for the diorthotes. However, there are no readings which can be attributed with certainty to this corrector, and many scholars omit this hypothetical scribe from the list.
The existence of C2 and C3 can hardly be denied, however, as each made some hundreds of corrections to the text. (The Nestle-Aland text shows about 251 corrections by C2 and about 272 by C3). C2 is believed to have worked in the sixth century, possibly in Palestine; C3 worked in the ninth century, perhaps at Constantinople.
Neither corrector was really thorough. Both seem to have alternated between moderate attention and extreme inattention. This is particularly true of C3, who all but ignored large fractions of the text. For example, C3 offered only three corrections in the Catholic Epistles and only 20 corrections in Mark. The table below summarizes the extent to which the two correctors worked on various parts of the New Testament (the Apocalypse is omitted because NA27 shows only 3 corrections of C in that entire book! All numbers are approximate).
|Catholics Epistles||26||3 |
|Pauline Epistles||41||51 |
The text of C3 is almost purely Byzantine. That of C2 is more complex. The Byzantine element is still dominant, but there are occasional readings which go against the Majority Text. Few of these agree with the earliest Alexandrian witnesses, but they are often shared with late Alexandrian manuscripts.
- Dea/05. Codex Bezae is unique. (Oh, you knew that?) No other manuscript departs so far from the New Testament norm. It is a testimony to the value of manuscripts, and the effort required to make them, that it was preserved and repeatedly corrected, rather than thrown away.
Scrivener counts a total of fifteen correctors who worked on the manuscript; nine worked on the Greek side (the others confined their attention to the Latin or the margins). The earliest of these is contemporary with the writing (the original scribe occasionally sponged and/or scraped away errors); the last dates from the eleventh or twelfth century. Gregory summarizes the earliest of these as follows: "The first one made about 181 changes in a careful beautiful hand in the sixth century. The second was probably of the seventh century, and made about 327 changes, besides adding some spiritus and accents and other signs. The third, it may be towards the end of the seventh century, made 130 changes, and the fourth, of the same age, 160 changes, mostly in Acts" (The Canon and Text of the New Testament, p. 352).
Scrivener, naturally enough, designated the various correctors by the letters A through M (the use of twelve letters -- I/J are treated as one -- is explained by the fact that correctors E and G worked only on the Latin side). In Tischendorf's edition this was simplified; DA becomes D1, DB and DC retain their symbols; the rest are subsumed as D2. In the Nestle text this is further simplified; the early correctors DA, DB, DC, and DD are summarized as D1; the middle correctors (DF, DH, DJ, DK, and DL, all of around the ninth century) are given the symbol D2, and the eleventh/twelfth century corrector DM becomes Dc.
- Dp/06. Codex Claromontanus resembles Codex Bezae in many ways. It is a diglot, it dates from about the sixth century -- and it has been heavily corrected. Tischendorf distinguished nine correctors, though only four were really significant. These four he assigned the symbols Db (D**, seventh century?), Dc (D***, ninth century; whom Tischendorf regards as actually the fourth corrector. It should be noted that Tischendorf often marked corrections Db et c, indicating that this corrector agreed with Db), plus the nearly-contemporary correctors Dd (D****) and Dnov, which must be after the ninth century. (In the Nestle-Aland text, Db becomes D1, Dc becomes D2, and Dd and Dnov together constitute Dc.)
Of these, the most significant was the ninth century corrector (Nestle-Aland's D2), who, according to Scrivener, made "more than two thousand critical changes in the text, and added stops and all the breathings and accents." The text used by this corrector, as might be expected, was almost entirely Byzantine.
- Hp (015). H is not as noteworthy for its corrections as for their claimed source. Originally written in the sixth century, some centuries later a second hand went over the manuscript adding accents and breathings as well as badly retracing letters. Of greater interest is a note affixed to the end of Titus. This claims that the manuscript was corrected from a manuscript written by Pamphilius and kept at Cæsarea. (The wording of the note is εγραψα και εξεθεμην κατα δυναμιν στειχηρον. τοδε το τευχος παυλου του αποστολου προς εγγραμμον και ευκαταλημπτον αναγνωσιν. των καθ ημας αδελφων. παρων απαντων τολμης συγγνωμην αιτω. ευχη τη υπερ εμων. την συνπεριφοραν κομιζομενος. αναβληθη δε η βιβλος. προς το εν καισαρια αντιγραφον της βιβλιοθηκης του αγιου παμφιλου χειρι γεγραμμενον αυτου). This note is dated by Tischendorf to the seventh century -- i.e. to a date after the manuscript was written. However, it seems almost certain that the note is either wrong or misunderstood. It is highly unlikely that a Pamphilian manuscript would have a purely Byzantine text -- but the handful of surviving corrections in H that involve a change of text (as opposed to spelling, accents, etc.) -- will be seen to be almost invariably Byzantine, with the others being perhaps from the Lectionary (1799 also has lectionary readings). Readings marked * are not in the Nestle apparatus, and so have been given in full; for the other variants listed here, the reader is referred to NA27:
- 1 Cor. 10:28 -- H* with ℵ A B C* D F G P 33 81 365 630 1175 1739 1881; Hc with K L Byz
- 2 Cor. 11:28 -- H* with P46 ℵ B D F G 0243 33 81 1175 1739 1881; Hc with Ivid K L 0121 Byz
- *Col. 1:29 -- H* δυναμει with P46 ℵ A B C D F G K L P 330 436 1739 Byz vg; Hc adds θεου (I know of no other support for this reading)
- Col. 2:7 -- H* with ℵ* 33 81 1175 1739 1881; Hc with B D2 K L Byz
- *Col. 3:4 -- H* οταν with P46 ℵ A B C D F G K L P (330 οταν ουν) 436 Byz vg; Hc 1799 αδελφοι οταν read (from the lectionary?)
- 1 Tim. 1:13 -- H* with ℵ A D* F G I P 6 33 81 365 1175 1739 1881; Hc with D2 K L Byz
- 1 Tim. 1:17 -- H* with ℵ* A D* F G 33 1739; Hc with ℵ2 D1 K L 1881 Byz
- 2 Tim. 2:3 -- H* with ℵ A C* D* F G I P 33 81 365 1739 1881*vid; Hc with C3 D1 K L Byz
- Heb. 1:3 -- H* with ℵ A B D1 P 33 81 1175; Hc with (P46) D(*),2 K L 0243 1739 1881 Byz
- Heb. 10:34 -- H* with P13 P46 ℵ* A D H* 33 1739c?; Hc with ℵc D2 K L 1739* 1881 Byz
- Heb. 10:38 -- H* with P46 ℵ A 33 1739; Hc with P13 D2 I K L 1881 Byz
- 424. 424 is the only minuscule known to have been heavily corrected. There were actually three stages of correction (denoted simply 67** in Tischendorf, and 424** by Souter, etc., but in K. Aland et al, Text und Textwert der griechischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments the hands are distinguished as 4241, 4242, and 4243). Of these, the second set of correctors are by far the most important, introducing thousands of changes (especially in Paul, but also in the Catholics; the Acts are relatively unaffected).
Even more interesting than the fact of these extensive corrections is their nature: instead of its corrections moving the manuscript toward the Byzantine text (as has taken place in every other heavily corrected manuscript), the changes in 424 move it away from the Byzantine text and toward the text of Family 1739 (especially toward 6).
Almost all other manuscripts contain corrections, of course. But few if anycontain corrections such as those found in the manuscripts listed above, whichactually change the nature of the manuscript. Descriptions of these manuscriptsare therefore omitted.
Most corrections in most manuscripts merely correct slips of the pen.These are usually obvious, and have no textual significance. But the manuscriptslisted above are another matter. ℵ,D, and 424 in particular were clearly corrected against manuscripts ofcompletely different types.
This forces us to look at exactly what we know about those other manuscripts.Can we exactly reconstruct their texts? The answer is no. If the correctorleaves a reading alone, we cannot be certain that the manuscript he worked fromactually agreed with the manuscript in our hands. The corrector may simply haveignored the alternate reading, either accidentally or on purpose. Theuseful readings are the corrections, not the uncorrected portions. (There is ananalogy to this in Shakespeare criticism, in the many cases where the handful ofwitnesses are partially but not fully independent. Where the semi-independentwitnesses agree, the reading is actually less weighty than where thedisagree, because the agreement may be coincidence in error, but where theydisagree, it is nearly sure that at least one witness is correct.)
So, in assessing a corrected text, we should examine first the correctionsin isolation and only then the text as corrected. 424 proves this point well:Examining the corrections shows us that the direction of the corrections wastoward the 1739 type of text; looking at 424-as-corrected shows a clear kinshipto 6. This is obvious when examining both; it is less clear when examiningeither in isolation.