Another 9th century Greek Gospel book?


(originally posted on 2010-09-22)
R. Varteni Chétanian - Michael E. Stone, Deux pages d'un même manuscrit grec de l'évangile selon Jean dans deux manuscrits arméniens, REArm 30 (2005-2007) 419-432.

The authors present and discuss two folios from a "Gospel according to John" ms found in two different places. One has been used in the binding of a 12th century Armenian ms currently housed in Dublin (Chester Beatty 624). The other one is kept as a separate sheet in Yerevan (Matenadaran fragm. 15). Appended are two beautiful colour images of the rectos of the two folios.
In addition Matenadaran fragm. 15 is presented in the detailed "Catalogue des fragments et manuscripts grecs du Matenadaran d'Erevan Brepols: Turnhout 2008" by R. Varteni Chétanian, one of the two authors. On p. 227 of the said catalogue we find a colour photo of the verso of fragm. 15. We can therefore view and study three of the four pages written in two columns with 24 lines. The Chester Beatty 624 folio contains text from John 16:27-17:9 and the Yerevan folio John 17:24-18:11. The authors conclude that the two folios not only come from the same manuscript but also from the same quire with exactly one folio missing in between. By way of comparison with "Harlfinger et alii, Specimina Sinaitica. Die datierten griechischen Handschriften des Katharinen-Klosters auf dem Berge Sinai 9. bis 12. Jahrhundert, Berlin, 1983" the folios are dated to the 9th century and assigned a "palestino-sinaïtique" origin.

From my perspective this analysis is sound and should be accepted. Moreover, the registration of the two folios in the Gregory-Aland list is also duly reported. The 2005/07 article, however, leaves room for possible misunderstandings, which I would like to address.

The terminology that the authors use to denote the object appears to be slightly undecided as to whether we are dealing with a continuous text manuscript or a lectionary. The title of the article has l'évangile selon Jean suggesting that it might be a continuous text manuscript. This interpretation is supported by the descriptions of the objects that are found in the 2008 Catalogue. The "Index Thématique" (p. 215-6) distinguishes between "Lectionnaires" and, e.g., "Évangile de Jean", "... de Luc", etc. as if these are denoting different types of books, i.e. lectionaries versus continuous text mss. On one occasion, however, the authors refer to the object, that the two folios once were part of, as "sans doute un évangéliaire" (REArm 30, p. 429). This, as it appears, leaves room to interpret the original unit as a liturgical Gospel book, hence a lectionary. What kind of book are we dealing with? Consequently, in which GA-Liste category does it belong?

One feature on the recto of fragm. 15 should have settled the case easily. On the upper margin above the second column a rubricator placed ΕΥΑΓΓΕ(ΛΙΟΝ) Β and on the fifth line of the same column probably another rubricator placed ΕΚ Τ(ΟΥ) ΚΑ(ΤΑ) ΜΑΘΤ(ΑΙΟΝ) [sc. ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΟΥ]. This is a standard lection header and the fifth line has been spared for this reference, which indicates that the object was designed as a lectionary. Moreover, line six and seven have the standard lectionary opening Τω καιρω εκεινω ... and the text is equipped with ekphonetic signs, usually also a clear indication of a lectionary.

On the other hand, the text of the two complete and the one reconstructed folios carry continuous text from John 16 through to John 18. Moreover, the supposed lection header is clearly wrong as a lection header, because the text that follows is that of John 18. This oddity may have prompted the speculation of Gilles Dorival (as reported on p. 426-7, note 17) that this manuscript could have been a kind of ancient synopsis referencing parallel passages. This speculation, however, seems unwarranted, since the aforementioned wrong lectionary header is clearly in the right position, i.e. after ... και οι μαθηται αυτου (John 18:1) and before Τω καιρω εκεινω εξηλθεν ο ις και οι μαθηται αυτου ... (John 18:2 with lection opening). John 18:1 marks the ending of the first Gospel reading of the passion that covers all of John 13:31-18:1. John 18:2 starts the second, running through to John 18:28, hence the ΕΥΑΓΓΕ(ΛΙΟΝ) Β by the second rubricator. The incorrect reference to Matthew probably came from the third Gospel reading (Mt 26:57-75). Rubrications were normally added during a different stage in the work than the writing of the main text and can therefore attract their own mistakes.

In other words, the two folios in all likelihood once belonged to a 9th century Gospel lectionary and will be counted among the lectionaries in the GA-Liste.

Incidentally, when browsing the known uncial lectionaries and continuous text manuscripts from the 9th century, one encounters only one continuous text manuscript with the same layout (2 cols, 24 lines) and similar provenance ("palestino-sinaïtique"), i.e. 021, but at least six lectionaries, i.e. l178, l511, l808, l1082, l2234, l2413. In my view, this is additional circumstantial evidence that the two folios published by Chétanian / Stone may have belonged to a distinguishable group of lectionaries from the 9th century. Despite clear similarities with the mentioned lectionaries, the two folios do not belong to any of them. Hence, they represent another Greek Gospel uncial lectionary counted as lect 2450 in the GA-Liste.


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