Scribal habits in Codex Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Ephraemi, Bezae, and Washingtonianus in the Gospel of Matthew
Paulson, Gregory Scott
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This study examines singular readings in the Gospel of Matthew across five of the earliest extant Greek copies of Matthew: Codex Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Ephraemi, Bezae, and Washingtonianus. In each of the selected MSS, it is determined where a spelling, word, clause, phrase, sentence, or group of sentences is different from other MSS. These “singular readings” are collected in order to shine light on what such idiosyncrasies can tell us about the MS or tendencies of the scribe who copied the MS. One of the more interesting finds is that some of our MSS add text more than they omit it, which is contrary to other studies. Apart from itacistic changes, alternate spellings are not always the most frequent type of singular reading in our MSS. The MSS have similar types of singular readings, but they often go about creating them in different ways. Conclusions are that our MSS either prefer Attic Greek to Koine (Washingtonianus) or vice versa (Sinaiticus), but two MSS (Vaticanus and Bezae) fluctuate between both grammatical standards. Our MSS typically have a high percentage of error due to parablepsis, but one MS seems to skip letters within words more often than entire words (Ephraemi). Ephraemi does not transpose words, but when the other MSS create transpositions, they all record instances where the genitive pronoun is placed prior to the word it modifies and verbs are moved forward in sentences. In addition, transpositions in Sinaiticus could have resulted from corrected leaps. Context often plays a part in the creation of singular readings, but context affects each MS differently. Nearby text seems to prompt changes in all of our MSS, but remote text such as a gospel parallel, does not often influence our scribes: Ephraemi contains the only harmonization seems to be intentional. In Sinaiticus and Washingtonianus, several readings exhibit possible interpretations of the text (but typically these do not appear to be theological changes) and they both contain readings that conflate textual variants. All of the singular readings record either a textual addition, omission, or substitution, but the MSS do not end up with the same amount of text: both Codex Vaticanus and Ephraemi add more words than they omit, whereas Codex Sinaiticus, Bezae, and Washingtonianus end up with more omissions. This final element adds a counterweight to other studies that contend MSS omit text more than they add. The examination yields few singular readings of dramatic theological import. Rather, the singular readings expose grammatical currents of the 4th-5/6th centuries, currents that are more prevalent than scribal attempts to re-present the text of Matthew.