Two New Manuscripts in One: VK 908


In July 2008, the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) photographed several manuscripts in the Van Kampen collection in Orlando, Florida. VK 908 is an uncatalogued minuscule manuscript containing the Apostolos (Acts and the Catholic Epistles) and the Pauline Epistles. The manuscript consists of 185 leaves and dates from the tenth or eleventh century. Its dimensions are 24.5 x 17 centimeters.

The manuscript has several unusual characteristics. The first is the order of the epistles. The Catholic Epistles appear in their traditional sequence after the book of Acts1 as is normal in an Apostolos manuscript. However, the Pauline Epistles are arranged as follows:

  • Romans
  • 1 Corinthians
  • 2 Corinthians
  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • Hebrews
  • 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • Hebrews (1:1 through 8:8)

Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews are included after 1 Thessalonians, out of their customary order; they are also repeated at the end of the manuscript. As will be discussed shortly, these later copies are also written in a later hand than most of the rest of the manuscript. These characteristics raise several questions regarding the history of VK 908.

Why do Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews appear after 1 Thessalonians? It is possible that the manuscript was originally copied in this order. A more likely scenario is that the leaves of the manuscript were rebound at some point, with these epistles placed out of their usual order. A rebinding is suggested by the fact that the leaf containing Acts 9:21–39 is displaced 24 leaves to a later location in the manuscript. In addition, leaves 5 and 6 are reversed (containing Acts 10:16–33 and Acts 9:39–10:16 respectively).

The inclusion of additional copies of these three epistles is a curious feature. If VK 908 were indeed rebound with the original copies of Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews displaced between the Thessalonian letters, the manuscript would then have ended with 2 Timothy. A possible scenario is that, after the rebinding, someone looked at the end of the manuscript, concluded mistakenly that it ended with 2 Timothy and was therefore missing the last three epistles, and then added the additional material.

An additional feature of VK 908 helps us to theorize further about the ordering of this manuscript. The later copies of Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews are written in a later (twelfth to fourteenth century) hand. However, this later script does not begin with Titus. It begins several leaves earlier in the codex, with the last word of 1 Tim 4:7.2 The manuscript also shifts from parchment to paper at this point. The newer script starts on paper through the remainder of 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy, and continues through the additional copies of Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews. The point in the text at which the later hand begins is not quite continuous with the immediately preceding text; the two sections overlap by the following six words in 1 Tim 4:7–8:

ευσεβειαν η γαρ σωματικη γυμνασια προς

This textual overlap suggests a possible reconstruction of the history of VK 908. One possibility is that a later scribe simply began copying where the original manuscript left off. However, had this occurred, the scribe would likely have begun the text where the earlier manuscript ended and would not have repeated six words from the previous page. It seems more likely that the leaves that originally followed 1 Tim 4:7–8 were once lost, and part of a later manuscript was bound into the codex as a continuation of the earlier manuscript.

Such a scenario suggests a plausible explanation for the inclusion of duplicate copies3 of Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews. If a later manuscript were indeed added at this point, this manuscript would have (assuming a traditional order) continued at least through Hebrews. Whoever bound the later material with the earlier manuscript appears to have left these later epistles intact, resulting in their inclusion at the end of VK 908.

We therefore see in VK 908 two uncatalogued manuscripts. The first is a tenth or eleventh century manuscript containing most of Acts, the Catholic Epistles, and the corpus Paulinum through 1 Tim 4:8a and including Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews. The second is a twelfth to fourteenth century manuscript beginning at 1 Tim 4:7 and ending with Heb 8:8. While an exact reconstruction is uncertain, the unusual features of VK 908 yield an interesting look at a medieval New Testament codex.4

Leaf 137a of VK 908: the beginning of Colossians in the parchment codex

Leaf 171a of VK 908: the beginning of the paper codex, starting with 1 Tim 4:7

1 The manuscript begins at Acts 7:40; the earlier portion of Acts is missing.

2 The earlier hand ends at the bottom of 162v; the later hand begins at the top of 163r.

3 The two manuscripts are not technically “duplicates” since there are numerous textual differences between them; the later copies conform more closely to the majority text than does the earlier manuscript.

4 I am grateful to Dan Wallace for his assistance in examining VK 908 and for providing feedback for this article.