Saturday, December 18, 2010

Breaking out the Ancestors of Aleph/B: Mark

Taking the convenient list of Markan omissions from the last post in hand, one immediately notices that the five largest chunks of text uncannily break into lines with 15 characters per line.  This is a strong correlation, and not likely to be a mere coincidence.  It is further corroborated by other shorter omissions, also breaking down into lines of 14-15 characters.

Five Big OnesClick to Enlarge
In the following fuller list, we mark those with yellow to indicate that they may belong to an ancestor with a different line-width, since the text can be divided up several ways.   Note that the three single lines of 15 chars per line:

Ancestor 3: click to enlarge
For reasons that will shortly become apparent, we call this group of omissions "Ancestor 3".   This long list of 31 lines is a strong indication of line-width, since almost half of these Variation Units can be identified as homoeoteleuton, regardless of what width we select from the likely options.  These omissions were certainly accidental, and so were caused by layout, not content.  The lack of theological, historical, or linguistic reasons for the omissions/additions also corroborates an accidental cause.

This column width is relatively narrow, and so these omissions arose later in the copy-stream, when narrower columns were selected for the very purpose of cutting down on accidental copy-errors, i.e, 3rd century.   It reflects the style of Codex Sinaiticus in terms of page format.

Earlier MSS had wider columns, before it was realised that errors could be minimised by better choices of format.    Other groups of equal-length omissions are also found among the Aleph/B readings.

The following group, which we have labeled "Ancestor 1", conveniently groups line-lengths of 20 - 23 together.  Although the 2nd half-chart may belong to a different (later) exemplar, the wider format is variable enough that all the omissions could have been generated from one master-copy.

Ancestor 1: Click to Enlarge
Again the yellow coding indicates other possible placements for individual variants.   Relatively few omissions would be from the older layers, especially obvious homoeoteleuton, because some would be caught in subsequent generational copying and proofreading.  The omissions without homoeoteleuton features would be most difficult for correctors to find or properly identify.  We should not then be surprised that the early candidates would be fewer in number.

Candidates for Ancestor 2 are more certain, and hence more attractive, by the nature of the numbers, which offer less alternative line-lengths to choose from:

The Green color-coding here indicates more confidence both in the identification as homoeoteleuton, and the proposed line-length in the master-copy.   Although the list is shorter, the existance of the exemplar is more certain.

Ancestor 3 has been glanced at already above.  Ancestor 4 is below:

Ancestor 4Click to Enlarge
As the line-length decreases, the alternative options also decrease, making the identification of column-width more certain.  One or two of these omissions could have been generated in an older, wider-column exemplar, much earlier in the transmission-stream, but more manuscripts would have been manufactured in the narrower format, as copying spread rapidly in the later centuries.  The high line-count here (13 lines) lends probability to an exemplar of this width.

With Ancestor 5, we again have an encouraging number of lines of exact lengths.  With 10 and 20 letters per line, other column widths are unlikely and a poor fit, which increases the confidence level in the choice of 10. 

Ancestor 5Click to Enlarge
With 19 lines of about 10 characters, this seems like a solid choice for an exemplar somewhere in the copying generations, that would have generated these accidental omissions.  Alternately, 20 characters is an option for many of these readings, but would also suggest a vulnerable ancestor, such as Ancestor 1 (or 1b). 

Manuscripts with columns narrower than 10 letters would be very rare, if they existed at all.   Ancestor 6, then, really represents the 'left-overs'.  Smaller omissions that are more likely to have been generated along the same line, or in the process of memorizing a long clause.   They could have taken place at any time or generation of copy, and must be left as 'floating omissions'.

These proposed "Ancestors" must not be taken to imply that Aleph/B (the common ancestor of the two 4th century Uncials) is only a '7th generation copy' of the original Mark.  This is far from likely.

It should be remembered that good copyists and their generations will be almost undetectable, since they will have reproduced their master-copy accurately.   Only "bad" copies will be identifiable in a sorting process like the above.   

What the following shows, in comparison with what we found regarding Matthew, is that Mark has suffered at least "7 bad generations" of copying, whereas Matthew has only seemed to have suffered about 3 or 4

This is precisely what we should expect, since Mark is a much older document, and would have been subjected to more generations of corruption than Matthew.   What we see then, is two different lines of bad copying converging in the 'ancestor' of Aleph/B.  Originally, these gospels would have been copied as separate books, but were then brought together in the 2nd century.

The Omissions have been examined elsewhere (see our Homoioteleuton Blogsite for reconstructed layouts and textual evidences for these Variation Units.).

Our concern at the moment here is to show that:

a) Hort was wrong about the 'purity' of Aleph/B.

b) The textual history of the Aleph/B line of transmission can be reconstructed very adequately, with a proper consideration of all the available evidence and technique.

c) The Omissions of Aleph/B should never be adopted into the Christian NT text, except in certain extremely unusual circumstances. 

This is an isolated, unreliable line of transmission, and all but useless for textual correction.


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