Scribal Corrections in Codex Sinaiticus

Here is an interesting analysis of a recent article by Peter Malik, courtesy of my friend Larry Hurtado…. BW3

Earliest Corrections in Codex Sinaiticus
by larryhurtado

The latest issue of The Bulletin of the American Society of Payrologists includes a valuable study (by Peter Malik) of the earliest corrections in Codex Sinaiticus, as evidenced in the Gospel of Mark: Peter Malik, “The Earliest Corrections in Codex Sinaiticus: A Test Case From the Gospel of Mark,” Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 50 (2013): 207-54.

Malik identifies two key scribes in the text of Mark in Sinaiticus, whom he labels “Scribe A” and “Scribe D,” and gives detailed analysis of the nature of their respective corrections in the text.

So, for example, Malik identifies corrections made “in scribendo” (i.e., made in the process of copying the text), and those made subsequently. Those corrections ascribed to Scribe A and made “in scribendo” tend heavily to correct “nonsensical” readings accidentally made by the scribe. “Scribe A’s tendency to create nonsensical readings has been well documented, and it seems that precisely these readings also caught his attention during the copying process to a greater extent than other errors” (p. 249).

Malik also shows that the correcting process was far from thorough. Instead, even in corrections made after the Markan text was copied, “the overall impression is that of a rather hasty, almost cursory proofing of the text with an exemplar” (p. 251).

Interestingly, he detects only five corrections made toward an manuscript other than the one copied, all of these corrections from Scribe D. He can find no clear pattern of textual affinity in the corrections (p. 252).

In his conclusion he states, “Regading the earliest corrections in Sinaiticus, we must conclude that they reflect a genuine attempt of scribes to free their work from error. Just as in copying, however, their quality was not always adequate to carry out this intention fully, and most errors were left uncorrected [although the errors in question are all rather small things, such as accidental omission of one or two words]. Moreover, we have detected no signs of theologically motivated revision in Mark of Sinaiticus. . . . Thus, at least in this respect the scribes of Sinaiticus may be viewed as discipline, though imprecise.” (p. 254).

Malik’s study seems precise, his conclusions carefully based and sound. And the article is a model, especially perhaps for other emergent scholars