Another Lectionary to be Catalogued

6/7/2010

Daniel B. Wallace

May 15, 2010

Today the librarians at the Byzantine Museum in Athens brought out a splendid treat: a large folio Gospels lectionary. It was written in two columns, as is typical of lectionaries, allowing them to be read publicly more easily. It was written on parchment in brown ink, except for a few replacement leaves at the front and back (black ink on paper). The manuscript is from the 12th or 13th century, and is a very handsome production. With large leaves (32.3-7 cm high x 24.8 cm wide), and nearly 450 pages of text (448 to be exact, though some leaves are blank), the codex is an imposing volume!

The shelf number is BXM 19513. It also has previous shelf numbers of 139 and κ.πρ. 2i3 written on glued-in stickers on the first leaf of virtually every quire. There is also a shelf number 1133 listed at the beginning of the codex. The manuscript has not been catalogued by the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung in Münster.

The codex has wood covers wrapped in red cloth. The shadows of a crucifix and the four evangelists are still on the cloth, but they have long since departed. The manuscript is somewhat ornate, with icons and head pieces adorning a few pages. The first partial quire includes three paper leaves, with black ink and an impressive head piece and icon (on 3 recto, there is a fairly rare icon in that it is surrounded by text). The scribe of this replacement quire did not go cheap on the ink either: gold, lapis lazuli, and many other elements were used to make the colors burst.

The manuscript is not complete; a few leaves are missing throughout the document. It is both foliated in purple ink and paginated in pencil. The quires typically consist of eight leaves each, though quires 1, 2, 27, and 29 are shorter; quire 8 has ten leaves (with an icon leaf apparently added later), and quire 21 has 9 leaves (only one leaf was added later for an icon that was never done).

An icon of John appears on the verso (where evangelists’ icons normally appear) of leaf 53, and an icon of Matthew appears on 58 recto (thus, a bit unusual because it is on the recto side). Each seems to be taken from an older parchment manuscript: the one for John is much smaller than the leaf and is, in fact, a leaf glued onto leaf 53. The icon of Matthew, however, is painted on a leaf that looks significantly more worn than the rest of the manuscript, and the leaf is smaller than the other leaves in both height and width, too. One can speculate that the scribe of BXM 19513 may have been reproducing an earlier lectionary, cannibalizing its icons of John and Matthew since they were still largely intact.

Evaluation of the text is still to be done. What is noticed already, however, is that there are almost no corrections, yet this lectionary was obviously used. (Many, if not most, lectionaries were both used in public worship services and show evidence of the monk licking his fingers and turning the page by grabbing it from the lower right edge as he turned the page.) Thus, if this manuscript was often used yet had almost no corrections, it suggests either that there were few mistakes in the manuscript or that mistakes were not corrected. The latter is almost surely the case, as most of our later manuscripts have very few corrections yet are marred with scribal blunders.

Although probably not significant for reconstructing the text of the autographs, this codex tells us a great deal about the transmission of the text. And as such, it becomes one more piece in the puzzle that helps scholars put together the genealogical relations of NT manuscripts.

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts is grateful to the Byzantine and Christian Museum of Athens for the opportunity to photograph this lectionary.