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Thread: Bernard Janin Sage (P. C. Sense) questions great uncial dating edifice

  1. Default Bernard Janin Sage (P. C. Sense) questions great uncial dating edifice

    Sage makes a number of solid points in his book. He has his own late dating ideas for the Gospels that are not of much interest, but when he goes into discussing textual criticism and palaeography, and in spots the turgid, obtuse, illogical and incomprehensible writing of Hort (an incredible section, that needs PBF placement, there is an element of that in p. 282-284 having to do with his "thousandth" nonsense) he writes superbly. His Sinaiticus section is also very good.

    For textual criticism and palaeography, rather than the quotes here, you might want to simply read online:

    A critical and historical enquiry into the origin of the third gospel (1901)
    P. C. Sense
    https://books.google.com/books?id=QnlCAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA288
    https://archive.org/stream/MN41469uc.../n309/mode/2up

    The "must read" on textual criticism and palaeography is p. 288-301.
    This will include all the quotes below except a short group about Augiensis on p. 305-306.


    For now here are some extracts (emphasis added), more planned:

    Our two learned theologians have not indeed cancelled the fact that the Greek Uncial Manuscripts are absolutely without a history, and that their knowledge of them as evidential documents amounts to nil, but the singular volubility of Dr. Hort has succeeded in covering up the fact with the folds and graces of language and thus preventing it from standing out prominently in the sea of words, so that it does not attract the attention of the reader. Such statements as he could make about the date of the Uncials are said, and he declares that the current belief that the chief Uncials were written at Alexandria is a delusion, and that it is really unknown where they were written, whether in Europe, Asia or Africa, but he is inclined to surmise that the Codex Vaticanus and Alexandrinus were both written probably in Rome. I do not remember seeing in the whole dissertation any expressions of diffidence, that the ground is not firm, that information is sadly defective, and that all conclusions are merely tentative and conjectural, similar to the qualifications and reservations made by palaeographers, who are scientists who have the desire to state the whole truth. On the contrary, the tenor and drift of Dr Hort's remarks impress the reader with the feeling that the great Uncials are valuable and acceptable documents, whose evidence is unimpeachable.1 These documents, in fact, are practically represented and employed by Bishop Westcott and Dr Hort as trustworthy evidences of the original text of the New Testament, as written by its authors; whereas being without a history, without evidence of who wrote them, or where they were written, who used them, or who certified them, with an exceedingly uncertain and purely conjectural date, they are not documents which could fairly and judicially be regarded as admissible as evidence, according to the first principle of textual criticism, that knowledge of documents should precede final judgment upon readings. These Uncial Manuscripts of the New Testament are absolutely worthless for the purpose for which our two learned theologians and their congeners have deliberately, and with full knowledge of their worthlessness, actually employed them. They are in the position of dead bodies of men found floating in a stream or lying in a ditch, naked and without the means of identification, about whom no living man can provide any reliable information. These ancient manuscripts, far from being instruments that can be employed in the recovery of the original text of the New Testament writings, should be, in the view of a sincere and earnest textual critic, who has no ulterior interests to serve, and who is bound by the common-sense principles of textual criticism, simply objets de vertu, until their history can be discovered. p. 296-297

    1 Dr Hort winds up his account of the Uncials with the following remark: "The approximate outlines of the relative or sequential chronology appear, however, to have been laid down with reasonable certainty; so that the total impression left by a chronological analysis of the list of uncials can hardly be affected by possible errors of detail " (sect. 100).

    ...I think the modern history of these objets de vertu will interest the reader, but I regret that the information that I have been able to gather from books accessible to me is scanty and defective.
    My difficulty has been due to the circumstance that theologians appear to be in league to suppress in a great measure and to muddle the knowledge of the modern history of the Uncial manuscripts.

    ... Of all the modern English theologians that have come under my view, I must name Scrivener as the only one who has had the sagacity or strength of mind to say that he has 'reasonable doubt' of the conventional early dates assigned to the four great Uncial Manuscripts.

    ..... All these uncial manuscripts are worthless for the effective purposes of textual criticism, because they are without a history, with the exception of one, which has a history. This one, the Codex Augiensis, is said by Scrivener to be "a Greek and Latin manuscript of St Paul's Epistles, written in uncial letters, probably of the ninth century, deposited in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge." p. 305-306
    Last edited by Steven Avery; 05-15-2016 at 01:35 PM.

  2. Default Vaticanus retracing

    From Sage on Vaticanus retracing:

    A Critical and Historical Enquiry Into the Origin of the Third Gospel (1901)
    By P. C. Sense
    https://books.google.com/books?id=QnlCAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA294
    https://archive.org/stream/MN41469uc.../n315/mode/2up

    The fact of the renewal of the ink of the whole of the text of the Codex Vaticanus, in probably the tenth or eleventh century, with the exception of words and letters that were rejected as readings, is a clear proof to my mind that the Codex was in actual use at that period. It cannot be believed that the Codex was written in the fourth century for the purpose of preservation and not for use. It would thus appear that the Codex was in use from the fourth to the tenth or eleventh century, i.e. for a period of seven or eight centuries. Could any manuscript of vellum and ink endure the wear and tear of constant use for so prolonged a space of time? I say not. It is more consistent with experience and reason to believe that the Codex was in use for half or even three-quarters of a century before the faded ink was renewed. On the above reasonable grounds the date of the Codex Vaticanus would be fixed at the ninth or tenth century, when uncial manuscripts were superseded in universal use, which is an historical fact. p. 294
    The retracing (or overwriting) in the ninth or tenth century (or 11th) is a theory of Tischendorf that is not based on any actual knowledge or clearly explained reasoning. An alternate theory was held by Fabiani and roman catholic scholars that it was retraced in the 15th century:

    [textualcriticism] Vaticanus retracing - 15th century date traces to Enrico Fabiani, by monk Clement
    Steven Avery - Nov 12, 2013
    https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/textualcriticism/conversations/messages/8176

    The footnote on Zacynthius is also helpful. It points out the arbitrariness of lots of uncial dating, when based on features like the shape of the letters.

    The section of Tregelles, where he explains that it is only the catena that causes the later date of Zacynthius is here:

    Journal of Sacred Literature (1859)
    Description of the Codex Zacynthius

    https://books.google.com/books?id=BWMoAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA171
    The text is in round full well-formed Uncial letters, such as I should have had no difficulty in ascribing to the sixth century, were it not that the catena of the same age has the round letters (Grk) so cramped as to make me believe that it belongs to the eighth century.



    Would
    this similarity of feature between Vaticanus and Zacynthius support Vaticanus also being of the later date? The similar textual features are significant, and we know that the terminus post quem of Zacynthius is about 700 AD, it can not be any earlier. This similarity would be consistent with Vaticanus being produced around the same time.
    Last edited by Steven Avery; 06-16-2018 at 02:10 PM.

  3. Default Michaelis and the dating of Codex Alexandrinus


    Johann David Michaelis and the dating of Codex Alexandrinus.

    Johann David Michaelis (1717-1791)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._D._Michaelis


    By the time of Michaelis, the dating and history of Codex Alexandrinus had really been subject to searching study. Today we are facing scholars who try for a very limited date range on many mss (papyri and parchment.) Yet the terminus ante quem of a ms. is often very difficult to determine. Often the transition from uncial to minuscule scripts is considered a transition point (yet even that is questionable if there is a deliberate attempt to write in the old style). Allowing that changeover point, you still have uncials possible from something like 200 AD to 900 AD. Often the earliest date, the terminus post quem, is possible, if a known name is referenced, or a feature is included that is known to begin at a certain time, but that is only one side of the equation.

    There are times that a ms. has a fixed date, for various reasons. A ms. of Pedanius Dioscorides is said to be clearly 6th century, and that can be a guideline ms. for the scripts of its day. The problem is that too much can be read into that, script styles can last a long time

    That all said, let's go to Michaelis, who had handled Alexandrinus.

    Introduction to the New Testament (1823 English edition, from the German c. 1780)
    Johann David Michaelis
    https://books.google.com/books?id=Kis-AAAAYAAJ&pg=PA188

    "It is written with uncial letters, without marks of aspiration, accents, or intervals between the words. This shews its high antiquity, and that it was not written so late as the tenth century, which some of its adversaries have asserted. p. 188"
    A bit later:

    That the antiquity of our manuscript cannot be precisely determined ; that those who refer it to the fourth century, ascribe to it too great an age, and that they who place it in the tenth make it on the other hand by far too modern, as appears from the form of the letters and the general character of the manuscript itself, will be observed in the description taken from the third edition, where I have examined the arguments for and against its antiquity. Whoever would examine this subject with still greater accuracy, may consult Woides Preface", 41—50. who has likewise examined the arguments of the patrons and adversaries of its antiquity, without having seen what I had written on this matter in the third edition of this Introduction '\ The result of my inquiries was the following; that the limits of the period in which it was written, cannot be confined to a space that is less than two hundred years: it cannot possibly be more ancient than the sixth century, and I would hardly venture to place it in that early age; but, on the other hand, it is equally impossible that it should be more modern than the eighth century. I would not allow it therefore the foremost rank among the manuscripts of the Greek Testament, not even in respect to its antiquity; nor would I denote it by the first letter of the alphabet, as Wetstein has done, (though in other respects he is no admirer of this manuscript) an honour to which it is as little entitled in respect to its internal excellence, and the value of its readings p. 189
    Grabe's Notitia, Casimir Oudin published at Leyden, in 1717, Trias Dissertationum Criticaruin, in which he argues against the antiquity of the Codex Alex, and contends that it was written so late as the tenth century, for the use of a monastery belonging to the order of Acoemets.
    Michaelis continues with a lot of the historical discussion, and then comments:

    As so many of the learned have employed their pens on this manuscript, various conjectures have been unavoidably made, that rest on unstable ground ; and those critics especially who draw their arguments for its antiquity, and country, from the internal evidence of the text itself, seem to forget that it must have been copied from one that was still more ancient. The tokens of antiquity therefore, which they find in the text, and which are likewise alleged as proofs of its having been written in Egypt, may be used as arguments, that the ancient manuscript, of which the Alexandrine is a copy, was written in that age and in that country, but they lead to no positive conclusion in regard to the Codex Alexandrinus itself. p. 195
    Which is quite similar to the points made by P. C. Sense above. This is explained again on p. 204.

    The conjecture of Oudin, which was adopted by Wetstein, that the manuscript was written by an Acoemet is worthy of attention, because it contains a catalogue of the psalms, that were to be sung at every hour, not only of the day, but of the night. A description of the Acoemets, or monks, whose office was to sing psalms night and day, may be seen in Helyots History of religious orders Vol. I. c. 29. p. 201
    The antiquity likewise of this manuscript can be determined with no certainty, though it appears from the formation of the letters, which resemble those of the fourth and fifth centuries, and the want of accents, that it was not written so late as the tenth century. In this century it was placed by Oudin, while Grabe and Schulze have referred it to the fourth, which is the very utmost period that can be allowed, because it contains the epistles of Athanasius. Wetstein, with more probability, has chosen a mean between these two extremes, and referred it to the fifth century: but we are not justified in drawing this inference from the formation of the letters alone, for it is well known that the same mode of forming the letters was retained longer in some countries and monasteries than in others; nor must we forget to take into the account the above-mentioned likeness between these and the Sahidic characters. ... p. 201
    That the reader may be able to see with what little certainty we can judge of the antiquity of this celebrated manuscript, I will produce the principal arguments which have been used both for and against it. He will probably learn, from the following statement, to pay less adoration to the Codex Alexandrinus than many eminent critics, and from this example will see the preference that is due in many respects to ancient versions before any single manuscript, because the antiquity of the former, which is in general greater than that of the latter, can be determined with more precision. p. 202
    Michaelis goes on for a number of pages.

    ... Oudin .. written in the tenth century, an age extremely fertile in the invention of spurious productions. p. 205
    While Michaelis is disagreeing, from our perspective we can forget that spurious productions abounded in many different periods, not just the 1800s.

    ... that there is a circumstance which excites a suspicion, that the Alexandrine manuscript was written after Arabic was become the native language of the Egyptians, that is, one, or rather two centuries after Alexandria was taken by the Saracens, which happened in the year 640. The transcriber confounds, and that, if I am not mistaken, in many instances, the two letters M and B, an exchange which frequently takes place in Arabic. See my remarks on 1 Mace. ii. 1. and iii. 16. According to my opinion therefore, the Codex Alexandrinus is not more ancient than the eighth century.p. 207
    The Latinizing discussion is interesting in many places, including here on p. 208, however the emphasis in this part is age.

    The notes of Herbert Marsh on the above begin:
    https://books.google.com/books?id=vVAHAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA650 Vol 2 Part 1 1823 or
    https://books.google.com/books?id=52suAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA650 Vol 2 Part 2 1802

    The scholarship was entering a new period that really desired early uncials for theoretical purposes, as the base of a new text. One purpose of this inquiry will be to see if there really is any basis to the drastic change in the dating of Alexandrinus. From that proposed by Michaelis to that which is commonly given today. Michaelis had a much greater range, and was comfortable with an eight century date, while some others went even later. Today, it is dogmatically stated 5th century (maybe allowing 6th). Why?

    One special reason this is important is the interconnectedness of the "great uncial" dating. Vaticanus, Bezae and Alexandrinus and even Sinaiticus are dated in reference to each other. None has an external, solid date marker. Thus if any one can be dated hundreds of years too early, so can any other. (i.e. If they are even authentically from the first millennium, rather than a later replica, forgery or special work-piece.)

    This was the question raised by P. C. Sense earlier in the thread. Is there really any basis for the cluster of 4th to 6th century dates for these mss?
    Last edited by Steven Avery; 03-19-2016 at 04:12 PM.

  4. Default hardly any secular documents to be found earlier than the ninth or tenth century

    Returning to Sage, he has an interesting section

    The vague and unsatisfactory reliance upon "the best judges' and palaeographers is very much discounted by the fact which Hort refers to, that these gentlemen, probably theologians and ecclesiastics or complaisant believers in them, had to deal almost entirely with ecclesiastical documents, for there are hardly any secular documents to be found earlier than the ninth or tenth century. One can hardly think that the destruction of manuscripts, from the effects of time and the changes in the habits and doings of man, was less operative in the case of ecclesiastical than of secular documents. How could the 'best judges' and palaeographers discover the landmarks of time with accuracy without assistance from history, when they had before them only one class, and that a most suspicious class, of manuscripts, and hardly any of the other class? It is more reasonable to conclude that time and other causes of destruction acted pari passu and with equal force on both classes of manuscripts. p. 292
    The later discovered papyri are of limited importance here, since they only represent one desert climate, they were often simply thrown away in a trash heap, and they generally show no signs of the long-term heavy use that is a key point from Sage.

    Next Sage goes into the discussion of Edward Maunde Thompson, one of the few true palaeographers who has written about Sinaiticus (without any indication given of having seen and handled either major section of the ms.) Here we are discussing Vaticanus:

    Circumstantial evidence is as absolutely wanting as direct evidence of date. The caligraphic and other characteristics of an early age may be fairly considered to have been preserved to a much later age, in the execution of a manuscript, written by a member of an obscure and backward Christian community of which nothing is known. It can hardly be regarded as inconceivable that a mode of writing and arranging a manuscript prevailing in the fourth century, remained as a survival to the ninth or tenth century amongst a simple people.1 The fact of the renewal of the ink of the whole of the text of the Codex Vaticanus, in probably the tenth or eleventh century, with the exception of words and letters that were rejected as readings, is a clear proof to my mind that the Codex was in actual use at that period. It cannot be believed that the Codex was written in the fourth century for the purpose of preservation and not for use. It would thus appear that the Codex was in use from the fourth to the tenth or eleventh century, i.e. for a period of seven or eight centuries. Could any manuscript of vellum and ink endure the wear and tear of constant use for so prolonged a space of time ? I say not. It is more consistent with experience and reason to believe that the Codex was in use for half or even three-quarters of a century before the faded ink was renewed. On the above reasonable grounds the date of the Codex Vaticanus would be fixed at the ninth or tenth century, when uncial manuscripts were superseded in universal use, which is an historical fact. p. 294
    The footnote 1 gives the example of the Codex Zacynthius.

    Sage then goes into what he sees as a linguistic marker of a late date for Vaticanus, in the form of Elisabeth.

    This we might want to put together with the Latin linguistic note of Hort.
    (Which caused him to place the production of the document in Rome, an idea which is universally rejected today without, however, finding an alternative explanation for the linguistics.)

    In the face of these indications and reasonable grounds for assigning a late date to the Uncials, the great dearth of paleographic data, the apologetic appeals of diffidence made by palaeographers, their positive assurance that they can only make conjectures and evolve 'some sort of chronology,' the opinions of the "best judges' and of palaeographers, on which our two learned theologians absolutely rely, cannot be accepted as scientific; but should be regarded as expressions of complaisance or politeness made for the delectation of a wealthy, genial and hospitable hierarchy, on a par with the scientific sentiments regarding the merits of the imbibition of champagne, semel vel bis in die, and of a visit to a French watering-place in the summer, gravely enunciated by the family doctor from considerations of domestic policy.p. 295
    As he continues on p. 295-296, Sage really cuts to the chase, and the next part is on our opening post on the thread.

    The criticism here is 100% valid, and the Hort misdirection is now standard fare in textual circles.


    Last edited by admin; 04-30-2018 at 03:56 PM.

  5. Default

    For the heavy wear and use that is ascribed to Sinaiticus see:

    Sinaiticus through the centuries in the 4th century paradigm
    http://www.purebibleforum.com/showthread.php?t=137

    See also Morozov and the comments like those of Helen Shenton of the "phenomenally good condition" of the Sinaiticus ms.

    For a related note from Sage given a separate thread:


    Tischendorf in 1859 did not have the 4th century date for Vaticanus or any uncials
    http://www.purebibleforum.com/showthread.php?t=291


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