Thursday, June 23, 2011

Is the Reason that Mar Saba Contains So Many Single Stroke Lambdas Because the Callinicus Was Copying a Tenth Century Byzantine Exemplar Written in Miniscule?

I have been telling a number of scholars about the similarities between the writing of Callinicus and Mar Saba 65. They agree that Callinicus's handwriting looks quite similar in places to Mar Saba 65 (it changes so much it is difficult to figure out what his 'real' handwriting looks like). Yet many remain stuck on the differences between the frequency of single stroke lambdas in each writer.  Indeed it was Stephen Carlson who first brought up the issue in his Gospel Hoax.

It is there that Carlson notes that:

a major anomaly in the formation of the letters in Theodore when compared with manuscripts written at Mar Saba is the one-stroke “hook” lambda in free variation with a two-stroke lambda. For both forms of the letter, the left leg intersects the right leg near the bottom. These forms are strikingly different from the manuscripts written at Mar Saba, which consistently employ a two-stroke lambda with the left leg intersecting very high up on the right leg. (p. 46)

Now Carlson of course attempted to turn this observation into a proof that Morton Smith was the forger and his arguments have been thoroughly dismissed by those arguing the other side. Most crushing of all is the fact that Agamemnon Tselikas, a man who has more familiarity than anyone alive with the style of writing at Mar Saba, doesn't bring up the one stroke lambda. Nevertheless I can't help noting that as I go through Callinicus's writings there is a consistent preference for two stroke lambdas.

How can we explain that Mar Saba 65 doesn't just prefer one form to the other but rather demonstrates a "free variation" as Carlson puts it of single and double stroke lambdas?

I have been thinking about this all night as it is certainly the most difficult part of reconciling Mar Saba 65 with Callinicus. To be sure, Callinicus uses single stroke lambdas. However there is definitely a preference for the double stroke lambda. What I do notice is that when Callinicus is citing passages from scripture or the Church Fathers - and the writing style as a whole becomes more structured and elegant - the single stroke lambdas are preferred to double stroke lambdas.

Then I went back to Tselikas's reconstruction of how the Letter to Theodore might have come down to Callinicus (or whoever's handwriting is now on the text):

The text under consideration shall be transmitted by a single witness, that is the two leaves in the edition of the works of Ignatius of Antioch which are written by a hand that can be dated without doubt from the late 17th century until the late 18th. According to history about the tradition of the works of Clement of Alexandria no oldest manuscript does not contain the text before this date. The scribe who copied the text at the time mentioned should have a model in miniscule writing certainly dating from the 9th century onwards. For example, the ms No. 414 of the collection of the Holy Sepulchre contains the work of Clement "Who is the saved rich. " The ms dates to the late 17th century, is written in Jerusalem, and seems to be a direct copy of the ms 23 of the collection of the Monastery of the Holy Cross, which dates from the 9th century and in much earlier years was in the monastery of St. Sabba (until to 1857 or 1864). It is worth noting that all the manuscripts of the monastery, except for a few modern and historically lower or some that were forgotten in the cells, as well as some foreign language (Arabic and Russian) moved from the Patriarch Nicodemus the year 1887 and joined the central library of the Patriarchate in Jerusalem.

It could be assumed that the model of the copyist was lost. This assumption is reasonable. But why did not exist in any other manuscript that transmit the Clement’s letter? If this, the only witness, was a parchment leave dated back to early times, eg the 10th, 11th or 12th century would be very reasonable to assume that indeed the model of its scribe is lost.

Now many of my readers might not be aware of what 'miniscule writing' means but it is illustrated by the example on the right side of the image above.  If the reader looks carefully the one stroke lambda of Mar Saba 65 might naturally develop from Callinicus imitating the miniscule text that was in front of him.  I haven't examined whether or not later Greek writers unconsciously imitated the text as they were copying them out, nevertheless I can demonstrate that Callinicus's handwriting inevitably changes when he citing scripture and often the Fathers of the Church.

My point would be that when Callinicus is just writing from his own imagination he - like most contemporary writers preserved at Mar Saba and elsewhere - naturally draws out the lambda with two strokes.  Yet when copying out miniscule forms of letters, he unconsciously imitates their original letter forms.

It is quite easy to demonstrate this with respect to Callinicus's writings with respect to scriptural citations. The point here that everyone seems to forget with respect to the handwriting of Mar Saba is that the author is transcribing an ancient text.  It should not be surprising that at least of his natural writing habits change when carrying out such a function.  I wonder whether such a tendency to unconsciously imitate the text you're copying has been demonstrated in the literature ...

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