Monday, July 10, 2017

Précis: “The Majuscule Manuscripts of the New Testament.” by David C. Parker pp. 41-68.

A Précis of
Chapter two of Ehrman, Bart and Michael Holmes, Editors, 2014 The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis, Second Edition, Brill.


This volume is an updating and expansion on the first edition of 1995. The volume contains 28 articles to cover the current status of research on many basic areas in NT TC. The first 16 chapters survey the sources of the NT text available to us. The 12 chapters making up the second main part of the book focus on NTTC Theory and Method.

“Chapter Two: The Majuscule Manuscripts of the New Testament.” pp. 41-68.
David C. Parker

The older term uncial was broader and lead to some ambiguity and should be used to refer only to a “particular kind of Latin majuscule.” The use of the term majuscule is recommended to “specify a
formal bookhand of fair size in which almost all of the letters are written between two notational lines.” With respect to Greek NT manuscripts the term majuscule refers to a manuscript 1) written in this kind of script, 2) on parchment, and 3) “with a continuous text rather than lections”. Many majuscule manuscripts are bilingual: Graeco-Latin, Graeco-Coptic, and Graeco-Arabic. The scripts come from various socio-political backgrounds. The main Mss come from a period after Constantine and before the dominance of minuscule: that is: the early 4th century to possibly the 12th century.

Parker turns to cover the “Majuscules in History and Scholarship” highlighting the odd phenomena of their disappearance and the likelihood that the greater part of them did not disappear in antiquity but rather as the minuscule copies gained preeminence the majuscules were subject to reuse/repurposing. This is evidenced by palimpsests and the number of majuscules being found used as book bindings later on. Following a brief summary of palimpsests Parker looks at the effects of the emergence of minuscule texts. He highlights the early reference to/use of majuscule texts: Codex Vaticanus by Bombasius and then Bessarion; Codex Bezae possibly the Council of Trent; Codex Regius and the use of some by Stephanus in his third (1550) edition. Then he lists the increasing usage of majuscules by the newer critical editions put out by Walton, Simeon, Fell, Mill, Kuster, and Wettstein. The nineteenth century saw the discovery of Codex Sinaiticus, and some classifications of minuscules which are now treated as majuscules. The 20th century saw the list of majuscules grow past 250. In the 21st century this list is 300 items, though there are not 300 majuscules due to complexities in acquisition of several parts belonging to the same manuscripts. The list does not include commentaries, lectionaries, marginalia, ostraca, or inscriptions. As of the writing the number of separate majuscule mss was 285.

In part 3 Parker discusses four pre-Constantinian majuscule mss dating before A.D. 312: 0220, 0171, 0189, and 0162, none of which are written in a common hand or in the hand that typifies biblical majuscule.

Part 4 highlights the biblical majuscule from the period of Constantine until the majuscule fades from use. A focus in this discussion is the paleographic classification of the hands used to write the mss.

Part 5 highlight the unique characteristics, abbreviations, and marks that identify particular scribal practices in the mss of which some features have suffered neglect; such as, “Miniatures and artwork such as decorative strips or coronae”.

Part 6 is a discussion of the relationship of majuscules to the papyri and the implications of the scholarship surrounding the papyri. Of particular note is the fact that the contents of the papyri have destroyed the notion of independent local recensions or text-types, the genealogical theory upon which Hort had based his historical reconstruction of the development of the NT text.


Part 7 covers the most recent scholarship on the major majuscule texts. Highlighted here are Text und Textwert, the International Greek New Testament Project (which contains all the majuscule mss of John), the website NTTranscripts, and some major studies on Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Petropolitanus, Codex Vatacanus, Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (which has not received proper attention), and the Graeco-Latin bilinguals. Lastly he covers major scholarship on Codex Beze. In this last case Parker points out the changing direction of TC study toward reconstructing history on the basis of textual variants. Here he raises some cautions, particularly the impact of literary criticism.

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