Saturday, December 30, 2017

Ancient Marginal Notes on Variant Readings

Map of Constantinople by Sebastian Munster (ca. 1550)
At the 2017 Evangelical Theological Society Meeting, an exciting series of lectures were given in the session entitled "Growing Up in the Ehrman Era: Retrospect and Prospect on Our Text-Critical Apologetic." I was unable to attend the meeting but fortunately was able to listen to the audio recordings of each presentation. The lecture by Greg Lanier, "Dating Myths: Why Later Manuscripts Can Be Better Manuscripts" was particularly good. In the midst of his excellent paper, one of the things that Lanier highlights is the manuscript GA 1582 studied in Amy Anderson's excellent work "The Textual Tradition of the Gospels: Family 1 in Matthew." 

GA 1582 is a Gospel codex that was carefully copied in 948 CE by the Constantinopolitan scribe Ephraim (Anderson, 6, 24). Ephraim produced several carefully copied manuscripts, one of which being Codex GA 1739, a collection of Acts and the epistles copied from a much older exemplar. One of the peculiar features of both of these manuscripts are a series of extensive marginal notations indicating textual problems. Anderson stated that "the text and marginalia of 1582 provide a record of early textual variation" (Anderson, 69). She also notes that
"it is unlikely that the marginalia are the result of Ephraim's own gathering of variants. Rather, Ephraim has preserved marginalia compiled by a much earlier scholar" (Anderson, 69).
One of the clues that points to a late 5th century compilation for the marginalia in 1582 is that Cyril of Alexandria is the latest father cited who died in the 440s CE (Anderson, 70).

Three interesting marginal notes are found at the end of the Gospel of Mark and at the end of John introducing the story of the Woman Caught in Adultery.
Instead of the story of the Woman Caught in Adultery being found at John 7:53-8:11 like most medieval Greek manuscripts, it is placed at the end of John with a long marginal note stating,

“in most copies it is not found. And not from the comments of the holy fathers; John Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, and Theodore of Mopseustia...”

1582 at the end of John showing textual note before the story of the Woman Caught in Adultery.
Another series of marginal notes are found at the end of the Gospel of Mark. At the end of Mark 16:8 there is a note before the longer ending of Mark. This note reads in part,

"In some of the copies up to this point the gospel ends also up to to which Eusebius Pamphilus made his cannons. But in many also these [verses] are also found."

1582 Marginal at the end of Mark 16:8 and before the longer ending.

Another note is found in the long ending of Mark in the margin at 16:19. This marginal note reads,

"Irenaeus, who was near to the apostles, in the third book ‘Against Heresies’ quotes this saying as found in Mark.”

1582 marginal note at Mark 16:19

The compiler's knowledge of the church fathers is revealed in this note for Irenaeus does indeed quote from Mark 16:19 in his "Against Heresies" 3.10.5 reads, "Also towards the conclusion of his Gospel, Mark says, “So then, after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was received up into heaven , and sitteth on the right hand of God” (ANF 1:426).

These series of marginal notes reveals a knowledge and concern for textual variation in the manuscript tradition. Even in 10th century Constantinople, when many of the Greek New Testament manuscripts produced contained the longer ending of Mark and the story of the Woman Caught in Adultery, scribes such as Ephraim were copying older texts and marginalia that discussed these textual problems.


Amy S. Anderson, "The Textual Tradition of the Gospels: Family 1 in Matthew." (Leiden: Brill, 2004).


  1. Interesting contraction of ουρανον. Left out two letters and added an overline--not much of a savings of ink!

  2. Also, I can't imagine anyone being able to defend the above theory that in 10th-century Constantinople there were -any- scribes copying manuscripts of Mark without the Long Ending. Buttmann's GNT wasn't available yet.

  3. First, thanks for this Post, I will have to go listen to that session. This highlights why I should have not been so stingy in the first place, I only downloaded the Panel discussion��
    Second, at least for the editors of the NA/GNT, it appears their new reverence for late manuscripts has more to do with the CBGM, than anything else. Of course this process is continuing to become clearer, but without a Textual Commentary we will have to rely on limited resources. I am going through Gurry and Wasserman and have found it to be extremely helpful.
    As they explain it, “the editors found that a number of Byzantine witnesses were surprisingly similar to their own reconstructed text” and then used this grouping of Byzantine texts to go back and review their prior decisions. This resulted in 10 or 12 changes from the first use of the CBGM on the Catholic letters. Ultimately, this led to the editors deciding the Byzantine text to be “ an important witness to the early text” overall.
    Unfortunately, I don’t see where they list these initial witnesses they recognized as near their text, nor how this lead in a non-circular way to a statement about the entire Byzantine Textual Family.
    Any insights or thoughts?
    Sorry about the rabbit trail��

    Happy New Year ��


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