Saturday, June 18, 2011
The hand is generally agreed to be that of an experienced writer and scholar. The small size of the letters together with the rapidity at which they were evidently written, the remodeling of the letters to fit the flow of the hand, their unusually even alignment and the tasteful, but economical, placing of the text on the page, all right-hand margins and, like many writers of the eighteenth century, fills out his short lines with two dots (:) to keep the margin straight. His tiny writing, too, is an eighteenth-century trait and one closely connected with scholarship. That century produced innumerable manuscripts of classical Greek texts with interlinear translations into modern Greek or with scholia in hands so minute that it is impossible to read them without a glass.
That the writer was a scholar is also shown by his spelling. Although confusion of the various vowels sounded as e was common in his time, he has only once fallen into it (ἐξανλτῆται for ἐξανλτεῖτα Il.9 unless ἐξήνλτηται is to be read). He always writes iota subscript and writes it as subscript. He usually writes the coronis. He frequently distinguishes grave from acute accents, and does so correctly; there is only one misplaced accent in the whole text (βλασφημόν for βλάσφημον II.7) and this is probably due to haste rather than ignorance, as is his use of in the preceding line and his omission of the accent of at the ends of the lines (I.2,7 and III.11). That he consistently accents Μάρκος rather than Μᾶρκος reflects the usage common in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. His most frequent fault is one to which modern Greeks are especially liable — failure to notice rough breathings. He has written what are probably smooth breathings in four places where rough breathings should have appeared (1.23,26, II.21,22), and he once has instead of before a rough breathing (III.13). These errors do not prove that the manuscript he copied was incorrect in these points; nor does the usual correctness of his spelling prove that it was generally correct. He probably copied by reading the phrases and then repeating them as he wrote them down. Therefore it is not surprising that what he wrote should sometimes reflect either his knowledge of his pronunciation, rather than the reading of the text he was copying.
That he was a scholar is shown also by the shapes of his letters. The whole style of the hand shows the influence of the Greek typography of western Europe. I am indebted to A. Angelou for the observation that the shape of the nu, in particular, is characteristically western. Western influence, however, is no proof of western origin, and here the basic hand, on which the influence has been exercised, seems to be native Greek. Most of the larger and many of the smaller Greek monasteries stocked their libraries, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with western editions of the Church fathers, and the type used in these editions perceptibly influenced monastic hands. Professor Scouvaras has produced an eighteenth-century ecclesiastical document in a native Greek hand strikingly similar to that of our manuscript. (See Plate IV.) A number of the mus, in particular, are practically identical. Since Scouvaras' document is an autograph codex of the Oecumenical Patriarch Callinicus III and was written about 1760 in the Phanariot hand which had been formed in Constantinople shortly before that time, we may suppose with some probability that the writer of the present letter had been trained in the Patriarchal Academy in Constantinople.
Further proof of the writer's scholarship is his familiarity with many of the older Greek manuscript abbreviations and ligatures. A list of all his abbreviations and a number of his more drastic ligatures will be found in Appendix A; it contains perhaps slightly more of these forms than would normally be found in a manuscript of the mid-eighteenth century. The writer's usage of these special forms is universally correct, though sometimes ambiguous. The use of a flourish to indicate both the smooth breathing and the circumflex reduces both οῦ and οὐ; the circumflex combined with the rough breathing is sometimes no more florid than without (= οὗ). In general, the hand is remarkably cursive.
As the manuscript progresses the cursive character of the hand becomes more marked. The writer was evidently in a hurry. It may be that lack of time forced him to break off, as he did, in the midst of a page and of a sentence; on the other hand, the text he was copying may itself have been a fragment and have broken off at this point. The copyist's haste appears unmistakably in the greater size and sweep of the letters at the end of his text, by comparison with those at the beginning. It is shown also by a number of minor mistakes of writing besides those already mentioned, probably for ταταυτοῦ, in I.19 may reflect uncertainty rather than haste, and ἀποθνήσκων written over ἀποθανωνn(?) in 1.28 may be a deliberate correction of the reading of the manuscript he was copying. But II.20 τῶν seems to have been omitted by haplography after αὐτῶν (though such omission of the article is not uncommon in later Greek prose), and on III the curious ligature at the end of the first word probably results from correction of a minor slip of the pen, immediately after it was made; the π of ἐπί in III.8 shows another slip of the pen, uncorrected, and the (ligature) of ἔστιν in III.17 shows yet another, caught and correct at once. For the most part, however the text is amazingly correct, especially considering the small size and obvious speed of the writing. These characteristics prove it to be a copy of some earlier manuscript. That anyone in the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries should have written such Greek at such speed as an original composition in incredible.
From all these observations taken together it would seem that our text was copied probably in the eighteenth century, by a monk (he began his work with a cross) who pronounced his words in modern Greek fashion but had an excellent knowledge of patristic Greek. His handwriting had been influenced by his study of patristic texts in western editions which were presumably available to him in his monastery and had probably come by way of Venice. He was interested not only in patristics, but also in the beginnings of western critical scholarship, for the book into which he copied our text - Voss' edition of the genuine epistles of Ignatius - was no mere reprint of a standard author, but one of the more advanced works of scholarly criticism of its time.
Since the copyist was a scholar, it is impossible to decide how far his copy owes its amazing orthographic correctness to him. For the same reason it is difficult to say whether the avoidance of hiatus by elision, when it is thus avoided, is due to the copyist or to the original. Admittedly the copyist was in a hurry while he copied, but he might previously have studied the text and inserted minor corrections. For the time being we shall assume that his corrections, if any, were minor. With this assumption we proceed to the primary test for authenticity - examination of the wording. [Morton Smith, Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark p. 1 - 4]
Posted by Stephan Huller at 1:33 AM