Emmaous or Oulammaous? Luke’s Use of the Jewish Scriptures in the Text of Luke 24 in Codex Bezae
1 de gener de 2002
Les Actes dans le Codex de Bèze
1 de desembre de 2003

Tracing the readings of Codex Bezae in the Papyri Of Acts

PrelImInary Comments

The aim of this study is to trace the readings of Acts in Codex Bezae (D05)1 in the papyrus manuscripts of the book. It is not designed to be a definitive or conclusive study in itself, but rather an exploration of the topic that will provide a starting point for a subsequent inquiry into the development of the text of Acts in a wider context. Comparing the text of Codex Bezae with the papyrus witnesses is, to some extent, a rather arbitrary choice, since the uniform nature of the material on which  manuscript were written does not mean a uniformity of text. Moreover, the papyri of Acts span several centuries (from the early 3rd to the 8th), with D05 being dated to around 4002, so a variety of influences on and modifications to their text is to be expected. That said, the earliest Greek witnesses to Acts are to be found among the papyri and these have special value in consequence. In any case, even the later papyri cannot be simply disregarded as too late to be of interest, for the date of a manuscript is by no means necessarily the same as the date of its text. Furthermore, they were all found in Egypt and all therefore transmit a text known and read among the Egyptian communities, even if it did not originate there.

In comparing the papyri with the Bezan text, the other point of comparison will be the Alexandrian text, represented by Codex Vaticanus (B03) and Codex Sinaiticus (•01). Particular attention will be paid to the text of B03 because it is between this text and that of D05 that the difference is the greatest and the most consistent. The readings of •01 will nonetheless also be taken into account. By taking D05 and B03 as the two reference points with which to compare the papyri, we by no means intend to suggest that they represent two distinct traditions of Acts, two separate developments with which all other witnesses are to be assimilated and classified as having either a “D text” or a “B text”, either a “Western

  1. Uncial manuscripts will be referred to by their letter and number, except in lists of witnesses where numbers would be cumbersome.
  2. For discussion of the dating, see D.C. Parker, Codex Bezae: An Early Christian Manuscript and Its Text, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1994, p. 30.

text” or an “Alexandrian text”. Our analysis of the text of Acts3 leads us rather to the conclusion that the text of D05 and that of B03 stand at the two extremes of a period of development, a period in which changes were introduced progressively, and to some extent freely. The conclusion is somewhat tentative at this stage, since more detailed examination of the intermediate stages is needed in order to see if it can be confirmed. The picture that emerges from the study of the papyri tends, however, to point in that direction.

It is customary in studies of the history of the text of Acts to assume that D05 is a secondary text and that what Luke originally wrote was closer to that of B03 (which in Acts is usually the same as that of •01). The text of Acts in the editions of the Greek New Testament since at least Westcott and Hort at the end of the nineteenth century has thus been essentially that of •01/B03, and it is the one on which exegetical studies are generally based. While this choice may well reflect the most widely held opinion and, indeed, corresponds to the weight of the external evidence (notably the number of the witnesses), it ignores important internal evidence that points to the older nature of the D05 text: a) the cohesiveness of its language and the early grammatical or lexical forms it attests; b) the jewish perspective of the author, who writes with a highly sophisticated knowledge of jewish exegetical techniques and from within a jewish understanding of the history of Israel; and c) the criticism made by the author of the apostles, including Paul, who are not regarded as infallible heroes but as people struggling (and often failing) to come to terms with the teaching of jesus. Any one of these features is a challenge to the designation of D05 as “secondary”, just as their absence in •01/B03 is a challenge to the usual assumption that theirs is the earlier text; all three features together create a compelling enough reason for taking D05 as the starting point with which to compare other witnesses.


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