Benjamin Harris Cowper on the Song of Songs, extensive artificial formatting, Psalms and rubrications,

Steven Avery

Journal of Sacred Literature (1863)
Benjamin Harris Cowper

Before speaking of the amazing number of the corrections, which are best seen in the notices of Dr. Tischendorf, we have another word or two to say about the phenomena exhibited by the printed text. The Psalms have rubricated titles. Not only so, the Song of Solomon has a twofold division, a greater and a lesser one. The larger divisions are indicated by the capital letters A, B, Γ, Δ. They are these,—
A. Chap. i. 1 to i. 14. Γ. Chap. iii. 6 to vi. 3.
B. Chap. i. 15 to iii. 5. Δ. Chap. vi. 4 to viii, 14.
With regard to the minor divisions, they break up the book into numerous fragments, to each of which an explanatory rubric is prefixed. These inscriptions distribute the dialogue among is prefixed. These inscriptions distribute the dialogue among the interlocutors, stating who they are, and often adding other details. They are of undoubted Christian origin, and belong to a period when the allegorical interpretation was established. That they are Christian will be seen in a moment from the following examples:—
I. 2. The bride.
I. 4. To the damsels the bride tells what concerns the bridegroom, what he has vouchsafed to her.
I. 4. The bride discoursing to the damsels. And they said.
I. 4. The damsels to the bridegroom proclaim the name of the bride :—Uprightness loved thee.-
I. 4. The bride.
I. 7. To the bridegroom, Christ.
I. 10. The bridegroom to the bride.
I. 12. The bride to herself and to the bridegroom.

In this way the book is divided throughout, and we hope to print at an early date the whole of the Song, according to this arrangement, in an English version. Meanwhile, we invite to the subject the attention of critics, and hope they will be able to say what bearing, if any, these rubrics have upon the question of the date of the Codex.
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Steven Avery


In fact, the whole Benjamin Harris Cowper (1822-1904) article is fascinating on many levels, on bringing the CFA to England after ducking Simonides, and the insight of Cowper on many Sinaiticus dating issues as well.

One where Cowper is very strong is the question about the sophisticated formatting and rubrications of the Song of Songs.

Journal of Sacred Literature (1865)
Benjamin Harris Cowper
p. 166
In the somewhat particular account of the Codex, which we gave in April, 1863, we called attention to the peculiar arrangement and features of the Song of Solomon, and we expressed the hope that we should give a version of it. On reconsideration, it has seemed unnecessary to translate the whole of the text. In lieu of this, therefore, we will insert on this occasion a version of the rubrics, which divide the text into parts, indicate the speakers, and explain a variety of circumstances. We only render so much of the Greek text as is necessary to shew the precise position of the headings, and the arrangement of the whole. The portions in italics are in the original in red ink, and occupy a place in the columns of the MS.

p. 166-169 detail of formatting

p. 169
We shall not justify or explain any of the previous renderings, because our object is less a precise translation, than an exhibition of the plan and structure of the Canticles. The arrangement will strike every one as elaborate and highly artificial, wrought out with care, and probably due to some eminent divine or expositor. Was this in the copy of the Scriptures used by the scribe? Did he himself draw it out in accordance with recognized principles of expounding the book ? Has he borrowed it from some commentary on the Song of Songs, now lost? To these questions an answer may not be easy. But it may be possible to ascertain, what stage in the growth of Christian exegesis and interpretation is represented by this epitome. We have too little of the undoubted commentaries upon Canticles written by Origen, to compare it with them. We may say that other early commentaries on the same book are lost. But towards the latter part of the fourth century we come upon Gregory of Nyssa, and in the fifth century we have Theodoret. From all we are able to gather out of these two, and especially the latter, we are strongly tempted to suspect that the anatomy of Canticles here shewn, belongs to the period between the two. To the same period, or some part of it, we naturally enough refer the MS., because it may he supposed to represent the latest or the most generally accepted arrangement and explanation of the Canticles. An analysis so minute and circumstantial scarcely belongs to the times before Constantine; it reminds us rather of an age which had realized the labours of great expositors like Chrysostom or a Jerome. It required a firm and practised hand to allot the Song of Solomon as it is here allotted; and we know of nothing which should lead us to think that such a process finds any parallel so early as the date to which Dr. Tischendorf assigns the Codex. We would not insist so much on the negative side,—that we have no similar example, as upon the positive one,—that it savours of an age when labours like those of Chrysostom had been accomplished. Here again, however, we are open to correction, and rather intend to lay down a problem than definitely to solve it. We only add that we suspect the scribe was not the author of these divisions and subdivisions, but a simple copyist of them for the reason we are about to mention.
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Steven Avery

To Jay Curry Treat
Greetings ! Related to your "Lost Keys" book, a friend from England, Rohan Meyer, was looking at the the Song of Songs in Alexandrinus and Sinaiticus ... at least at the beginning the connection is very strong as to how the speaking titles are given and indented. Do you know if this has been commented upon in the scholarship of the Songs? (I can send this over in email, if that is the best way.) Thanks!

(There is also the fact that Sinaiticus does not usually have a 2-column format and the line lengths are, surprisingly, almost identical.)