Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Family Π, Codex Alexandrinus, and a 4th Century Text of Mark

When I first began wading into the deep waters of textual criticism, any study of the later Medieval Greek manuscripts of the New Testament (those that are generally aligned with the Byzantine or Majority text) appeared less interesting. The earlier papyrus fragments, or the large ornate codices such as Vaticanus and Sinaiticus were certainly more glamorous and fascinating than the thousands of minuscule manuscripts that looked so similar to my untrained eye that they all blurred together. I think that I am not alone in my experience.

This view changed quickly after I was introduced to Amy Anderson’s research into Family 1. Here was a group of manuscripts, though late in date, preserved a textual history that reached back into the early centuries of the Christian era. This is when I realized that there is a largely unexplored world of Byzantine manuscripts that have deep roots into the fertile soil of the transmission history of the New Testament.

As I began to learn more about the rich textual history imbedded in these Medieval Greek codices, I came across a group of related manuscripts that were discovered to have a unique textual character in a book from 1936; Silva Lake’s monograph "
Family Π and the Codex Alexandrinus."According to Silva Lake, this group, Family Π, was first noticed by Wilhelm Bousset way back in 1894 in his work “Textkritische Studien zum Neuen Testament,” and was further examined by Hermann von Soden. 

Codex Π opened to Luke
The significance of this group of manuscripts are their apparent connection with Codex Alexandrinus and with an even older archetype. Silva wrote;
“[T]he reconstructed text of Family Π, therefore, represents a manuscript older than the Codex Alexandrinus and affords another witness to a text which must have existed in the early part of the fifth century, if not before. Moreover, both the text of Family Π and the Codex Alexandrinus were elements in the formation of the Ecclesiastical text,--since it differs from each about equally and to the same extent that Π differs from A.”
It has yet to be explored further (to my knowledge), but von Soden also noted that Family Π’s text in Mark showed great similarities with the text used by Victor of Antioch in his commentary on Mark. If this proves to be true, then it is further confirmation that this unique text has roots into the late fourth century.

Jacob Geerlings further explored the history of this family in his 1962 work, “
Family Π in Luke.” After considering the provenance of each codex, Geerlings concluded that the group originated from Mt. Athos, most likely the Laura Monastery. He surmised that Codex Π could have been gifted to the Laura Monastery when it was founded in 963 CE. The provenance of Codex Π before its presence on Mt. Athos is not as clear. However, Geerlings postulated that, because Codex Alexandrinus was probably copied in Constantinople at the Studios Monastery, Codex Π was likely produced there as well.

Since the time of these studies more codices have been discovered that show some connection to Family Π. Therefore, I hope to begin a fresh study, using the tools available today of this very interesting Family of Greek Bibles from Mt. Athos.

Bousset, Wilhelm.
Textkritische Studien zum Neuen Testament. 1894.

Champlin, Russell.
Family Π in Matthew. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1964

Geerlings, Jacob.
Family Π in Luke. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1962.

Lake, Silva.
Family II and the Codex Alexandrinus: The Text According to Mark. London: Christophers, 1936

von Soden, Hermann.
Die Schriften des Neuen Testaments. Berlin, 1902-1913


  1. This is exciting, I will follow your work with great interest.

    1. Right now, I am working through some of the MSS you have mentioned in your publications that might be related to the group, but their textual character has yet to be evaluated.