By: Zachary Skarka, Guest Contributor
Zachary Skarka is a doctoral student at the University of Birmingham and an adjunct professor at Southeastern University in Bradenton, FL. His doctoral thesis is “The Text and Transmission of Colossians” under Professor H.A.G. Houghton. Skarka worked as a graduate student intern at the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts in 2018–2019 while he was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary.
For the past two years, I have been studying Greek manuscripts of Colossians as a doctoral student at the University of Birmingham. Recently, I had the opportunity to study manuscripts that either were not available or were not discovered before the Text und Textwert (TuT) series containing data for Colossians was published in 2012. This series included collations of every known manuscript in a series of test passages. CSNTM discovered several of the manuscripts among those previously unknown to the publishers of TuT, especially as a result of the expedition at the National Library of Greece (NLG) in 2015–16. One of these discoveries, designated as Gregory-Aland (GA) number 2936 in the Kurzgefasste Liste, or the brief catalogue of all known Greek New Testament manuscripts, proved interesting for further study.
As a part of my doctoral work, I collated each of the manuscripts discovered since TuT’s publication at the ten test passages that TuT utilizes in Colossians. I collated the entire book of Colossians for the manuscripts that agreed with the majority reading eighty percent of the time or less. Since the test passages serve as an indicator of the entire text, the process allowed me to focus in on and thoroughly examine manuscripts that likely have interesting variants in Colossians. GA 2936 disagreed with the majority reading in four out of the ten test passages, and three of those four readings disagreed with the Nestle-Aland text, a widely-used critical edition of the Greek New Testament. Because of its high degree of disagreement in the test passages, GA 2936 proved worthy of further study.
The minuscule manuscript GA 2936 includes the Pauline Epistles and Hebrews. According to the colophon, 2936’s scribe copied the text in A.D. 1227/1228. It lacks Romans 1:1-7:14, the last page of 1 Corinthians, the first page of 2 Corinthians, the last page of Colossians, and the first page of 1 Thessalonians. The Kurzgefasste Liste on the website for the Institut Für Neutestamentliche Textforschung (INTF) says that this manuscript is also missing Romans 16:25-27. While readers cannot find the passage at the end of Romans, after fully collating the manuscript I found that these verses are not actually missing, but are at the end of Romans 14—a common variant in the Romans text.
Besides the text, GA 2936 has an interesting commentary which takes the form of an inline commentary. The scribe differentiates between biblical text and commentary by writing a colon at the end of the biblical text, and a colon plus a tilde at the end of commentary text.
In addition, either the original scribe or a later scribe wrote vertical tildes in the margin next to lines that contain biblical text. According to the informational document produced by CSNTM, this commentary was compiled by Theophylact (d. A.D. 1107).
GA 2936 has sixty-four differences from Robinson and Pierpont’s edition of the Byzantine Textform (RP) in Colossians. Of these variants, twenty-four are spelling differences (including nineteen moveable nus), twenty are omissions, six are additions, and thirteen are replacements. Relative to RP, this manuscript omits thirty-seven words while adding nine, resulting in a net difference of twenty-eight fewer words in Colossians in GA 2936 than in RP.
Several of the variants from RP in GA 2936 are shared with some of our earliest manuscripts. One such example is at Colossians 1:7, in which GA 2936 omits the word και. Other manuscripts that share this omission are P46 (3rd c.), Codex Sinaiticus (4th c.), Codex Vaticanus (4th c.), Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (5th c.), Codex Claromontanus (6th c.), majuscules 010 (9th c.) and 012 (9th c.), and a few other minuscules. In Colossians 2:3, GA 2936 omits the second occurrence of the word της. This reading is shared with P46, Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Vaticanus, Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, Codex Claromontanus, and a few other manuscripts. Finally, at the end of Colossians 3:22, GA 2936 has the word κυριον where most manuscripts have the word θεου. The reading in GA 2936 is shared by Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Vaticanus, Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, a few other majuscules and a few other minuscules. These early readings in GA 2936 demonstrate that it has a relatively early text and is worthy of further study for the transmission of the Pauline epistles.
GA 2936 has demonstrated its value for the study of the transmission of Colossians, and scholarly access to this manuscript would be nearly impossible without the digitizing work of CSNTM.