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Wasserman on P45 and Codex W

January 7, 2015

Tommy Wasserman (long-time friend and colleague in the field) contributes a fresh study of textual relationships of Codex Washingtonianus and P45 (P.Chester Beatty I) that largely confirms the results of my own study done some forty-odd years ago:  “P45 and Codex W in Mark Revisited,” in Mark, Manuscripts, and Monotheism:  Essays in Honor of Larry W. Hurtado, eds. Chris Keith & Dieter T. Roth (London:  Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2014), 130-56.

The two main conclusions of my earlier analysis confirmed are these: (1) Codex W and P45 have a special relationship in GMark that sets them off from other “control” witnesses, and other major textual clusters, and (2) these two manuscripts don’t actually have any special relationship with the key witnesses to the so-called “Caesarean text” of Mark, and are not, thus, the early stage of that “Caesarean” text.

My own study was done as my PhD thesis (1973), later published in lightly revised form:  Text-Critical Methodology and the Pre-Caesarean Text:  Codex W in the Gospel of Mark (“Studies and Documents,” 43;  Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1981).  It was my first major contribution to NT studies, and I have been gratified to note that its conclusions gained sufficient acceptance to require the revision of textbooks in NT textual criticism, and a consequent dropping of the view that the “Caesarean” text was an early text-form.  To my knowledge, mine was also the first book-length study employing the quantitative method proposed by E.C. Colwell for determining the relationship of a given manuscript to major “text-types” (the method slightly modified in my work).  Colwell’s method was a major advance in all previous scholarly approaches to establishing textual relationships of manuscripts.  (Ernest C. Colwell, Studies in Methodology in Textual Criticism of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969, esp. pp. 56-62.)

In my study, to calculate agreements of P45, I simply chose passages that were substantially well-preserved, yielding some 103 points of variation (“variation-units”) where Codex W and the “control” witnesses included in my study could be compared.  By detailed study of the new, high-quality photos of the Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri produced by the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) with the cooperation of the Chester Beatty Library, Wasserman was able to identity an additional 59 variation-units where P45 could be compared with the other witnesses. (You can read about these new photos of the CBL papyri in a previous posting here.)

The specific results of Wasserman’s study are these:  (1) a confirmation that P45 and Codex W in Mark do have a conspicuous level of agreement (taking account of the additional variation-units, these two manuscripts have a 76% agreement, far closer than either’s relationship with any of the other control witnesses); (2) the agreement of P45 and Codex W includes an increased number of “special” agreements (i.e., where they are the only Greek witnesses to the variant-readings in question); (3) P45 and Codex W “cannot be labelled ‘pre-Caesarean’,” and so don’t comprise an early stage of the text that we see in Codex Θ and key witnesses to the so-called “Caesarean” text of Mark.

Graciously referring to my own study as “groundbreaking work” that “convincingly undermined” the once-common view that P45 and Codex were specially related to (and early witnesses of) the “Caesarean” text of Mark, Wasserman posits that his own analysis “confirms and reinforces Hurtado’s significant result:  There is indeed a close textual relationship between P45 and Codex W.”

I fully accept Wasserman’s several corrections to my 1973 study and his widening of the database of variation-units to consider.  His essay is a genuine enhancement of, and advance on, my work, and should be noted in any further discussion of P45 and Codex W in Mark and the question of the “Caesarean” text.  As already indicated, it is gratifying to find one’s work so ably and cogently confirmed, and to see that it has stood the test of the 40+ years of time (thus far!).

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