BibleWorks 9 - Manuscripts Project IIIWritten by Michael Hanel on June 29th, 2011
Nick Norelli posed the question whether can one be a textual critic apart from working with actual manuscripts. Obviously it’s one of those questions that will make you think about the new possibilities that exist in our world today. Someone commented on his blog about how Samuel Tregelles once went to Rome in order to transcribe the famous Codex Vaticanus, but was ultimately thwarted. Indeed this was the case, in the prolegomena to his Greek New Testament (which is available on the BibleWorks blog as a free download, but is now part of the base package of BibleWorks 9, incidentally), he says,
One principal object which I had in going abroad [in 1845] was to endeavour to collate for myself the Vatican MS. (B). This important document was collated tor Bentley by an Italian named Mico, and this collation was published in 1799; it was subsequently collated (with the exception of the Gospels of Luke and Job) by Birch. A third collation (made previously to either of these, in 1669,) by Bartolocci, remains in MS. at Paris. As this is the most important of all New Testament MSS., I had compared the two published collations carefully with each other: I found that they differed in nearly two thousand places: many of these discrepancies were readings noticed by one and not by the other. I went to Rome, and during the five months that I was there, I sought diligently to obtain permission to collate the MS. accurately, or at least to examine it in the places in which Birch and Bentley differ with regard to its readings. All ended in disappointment. I often saw the MS., but I was hindered from transcribing any of its readings. I read, however, many passages, and have since noted down several important readings. (pages xxii-iii of The Greek New Testament 1857-1879)
Certainly because of the work of scholars like Tregelles, things have become better, but his description of two collations of the same Codex Vaticanus with nearly 2,000 differences should be eye opening. In textual criticism, it’s always important to be your own eye-witness and verify the work of others. Formerly that was impossible. Today, we’re closer to being able to do that than ever before.