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Andrist, Patrick [Éd.]


Le manuscrit B de la Bible (Vaticanus graecus 1209). Introduction au fac-similé. Actes du Colloque de Genève (11 juin 2001). Contributions supplémentaires.


Lausanne: Éditions du Zèbre 2009. 310 S. u. 8 Tfn. m. Abb. gr.8° = Histoire du texte biblique, 7. Kart. EUR 39,00. ISBN 2-940351-05-8.


Johann Lust

In his monograph on the Septuagint and Modern Study (Oxford, 1968), Sidney Jellicoe describes the greater uncials of the Septuagint in the order of their relative importance. Codex Vaticanus 1209, commonly designated B, comes first, and is followed by Codex Sinaiticus, commonly designated א or S. B is usually said to date from the mid-fourth century CE, and its orthography is superior to that of most other uncials.
In his recently published Trajectories of Ezekiel: Part 1, in Currents in Biblical Research, John W. Olley notes: »Throughout the last century, B has been widely accessible in the quality photographic edition of Mercati … Unfortunately, on several pages the Ezekiel facsimile is unclear, with text from reverse pages bleeding through and causing confusion. This was also the case in TIFF digital images kindly supplied to me in 2002 by the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. In celebration of the new millennium, the Vatican published a high quality colour facsimile edition, bound in parchment (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana 1999). In this edition, all pages are exceptionally clear, and the colour enables better examination of scribal corrections, providing a superb resource. Due to cost, copies are few, but the quality compared to the 1907 facsimile warrants any effort to track down a copy and personally examine it.«
The facsimile is accompanied by a separate volume comprising a useful Preface. This brings us to the present introduction. Its first part contains a re-edition of the said Preface. Paul Canart (vice prefect emeritus to the Vatican Library) describes the material aspects of the manuscript. Pierre-Maurice Bogaert (professor emeritus of the Catholic University of Louvain) focuses on the Books of the Old Testament as preserved in manuscript B. Stephen Pisano (Professor and Rector of the Biblical Institute in Rome) evaluates the manuscript as an important witness to the New Testament. The first two contributions are written in French, the third in English. The original pagination is indicated in the text. The numbering of the notes has been preserved and new notes are signalled by asterisks. A postscript added to the first article discusses the ruling of the manuscript and takes stands in the discussions concerning its origins.
The second part publishes the acts of a colloquium conceived by Paul Canart, and held in Geneva in 2001, two years after the publication of the facsimile and of an important article by Theodore Skeat defending the Caesarean origin of the manuscript. It gives an answer to the suggestions and questions raised by Olley in his recent work on Ezekiel: »It would be good to know the place of origin of B. This could help us discover possible influences on the manuscript’s scribes. However, there is no explicit indication in the codex as to its history prior to its arrival around 1475 in the Vatican Library … Whether or not it was originally copied in Alexandria (as seems likely on balance), it soon became an important resource in the library of Caesarea.« (143–144)
The colloquium opens with Pisano’s contribution (English) on the history of the manuscript and the unpublished notes on that topic by Mercati. Most of the following papers deal more directly with the origins of the manuscript. J. Keith Elliott (French; Leeds University) defends and develops Skeat’s thesis holding that B and א were composed in the same scriptorium in Caesarea.
Bogaert (French) agrees with Skeat and Elliott in as far as the pa­laeographical and ornamental similarities between B and א are concerned. The English summary of Bogaert’s paper says that he also agrees on their origin in the same scriptorium (154). To me, Bogaert’s conclusions seem to be more hesitant, and allow for a different place of origin of the two codices (149–154). In his view, the geograph­ical origins of the manuscripts is, however, less important than the nature of these texts, which is definitely Alexandrian. With his codicological skills and expertise, he studies the ordering of the quinions in B, the role of the semi-quinion as a yard stick, and convincingly demonstrates the relation of the codex to the Athanasian canon.
Referring to Athanasius’ Apologia ad Constantium, Bernard Am­phoux (French, CNRS, Université de Provence) develops the theory holding that Athanasius prepared the codex B in Rome and sent it from there to the emperor. The correctness of Amphoux’s view largely depends on the acceptability of his interpretation of one sentence in Athanasius’ Apologia 4 concerning a command given by the emperor: καὶ ὅτε, πυκτία τῶν θείων γραφῶν κελεύσαν­τος αὐτοῦ μοι κατασκευάσσαι, ταῦτα ποιήσας ἀπέσ­τει­λα. He trans­lates this as follows: »et lorsque, lui m’ayant ordonné de préparer un exemplaire des saintes Ecritures, je l’ai fait et le lui ai envoyé« (159–160). This translation, implying that πυκτία refers to a biblical codex, may be acceptable, although it goes against the translation given by Szymusiak in his edition in SC 56bis. On the other hand, Amphoux’s suggestion that Athanasius prepared the said copy in Rome remains questionable. It is indeed more likely that he did do so in Alexandria, before his voyage to Rome. Am­phoux, however, finds further support for his thesis in the textual similarities between the Latin Vulgate and the text of the gospels in codex B.
Barbara Aland (German; Director emeritus of the »Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung«, Münster) praises the quality of B’s New Testament text and underlines its important role in the history of the text. Jorge M. Mejia (English; Vatican Library, emeritus) presents the closing comments to the colloquium.
The third part presents two supplements. Following the lead of Canart, Philip B. Payne (English; Fuller Theological Seminary Northwest) searches the meaning of the enigmatic distigmai in the margins of the New Testament. Patrick Andrist (French; Conservator of the Bongarsiana, Bürgerbibliothek Bern) contributes some new observations concerning Eusebius and the origins of the codex.
The careful character of the volume’s edition by Patrick Andrist is remarkable. The book comprises several useful indexes and an excellent bibliography. At the end of the volume, a series of clear colour photographs of a number of pages of the manuscript, and of details of pages, provided with accurate references, illustrate the discussions. Mention should also be made of the letter of Theodore Skeat (English; Former Keeper of Manuscripts at the British Mu­seum) addressing the participants of the colloquium, and of the Homage to Theodore Skeat, deceased in 2003, written by Elliott (English).
The main topic of the Geneva-Colloquium obviously was the origin of codex B. Three scriptoria may have been its cradle: Caesarea (Skeat, Elliott), Alexandria (Bogaert), Rome (Amphoux). The topic is not new. Already in 1926 James Hardy Ropes dealt extensively with it and concluded: »The place of origin has now been established as Egypt in spite of the contention of some earlier scholars…« (The Text of Acts, XXXIV). The present discussion elaborates on the argumentation of the predecessors and adds some new insights, for instance on the quinion structure of B and on the organisation and ordering of the biblical books in these quinions. For those who do not have access to the beautiful Facsimile and its Preface, the present volume is the best surrogate. For those who do possess the Facsimile it offers a valuable discussion of several enigmatic questions that still surround this most important codex.