Codex Schøyen 2650 -- By: James M. Leonard

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 65:1 (NA 2014)
Article: Codex Schøyen 2650
Author: James M. Leonard

Codex Schøyen 26501

James M. Leonard

Codex Schøyen 2650 (hereafter, mae2) is a fragmentary yet substantial manuscript of Matthew’s Gospel. It was written in a rare dialect of Coptic (Middle Egyptian). This thesis is the first substantial text-critical assessment of its implied underlying Greek text.

Mae2 is significant for multiple reasons. First, it is often cited as having an early Fourth Century date, and as such, eleven of its chapters in their entirety, and a large number of verses elsewhere, may be the earliest witnesses to those respective parts of Matthew’s Gospel. Secondly, it provides substantial attestation of a minor Coptic dialect which was hardly known until the second half of the Twentieth Century. Thirdly, its subdialect is hitherto unattested. Fourthly, it is independent from all other Coptic versions of Matthew. Fifthly, the text of mae2 is probably one of the earliest Middle Egyptian Coptic translations, and thus from it one might infer the boundaries early translators may have had in translation technique. Finally, as I have argued, when translational phenomena are identified and accounted for, mae2’s strong alliance with both Sinaiticus and Vaticanus is evident, and this has implications for establishing the initial text of Matthew’s Gospel and its early transmission history.

Mae2’s editor, H.-M. Schenke, would reject this last point about mae2’s textual affinity with Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. Rather, Schenke argued that mae2 is significant for its attestation to an otherwise lost version of Matthew’s Gospel, and not the Matthew well known through the Greek manuscript tradition (‘canonical’ Matthew). Indeed, in keeping with his well known assumption that the early New Testament text was transmitted chaotically, Schenke argued for a complex textual history of mae2 involving an Aramaic Matthew that would make the two source hypothesis for the synoptic problem untenable.

Initially, I was in fact quite impressed by Schenke’s exposition of mae2’s strikingly different readings, such as the women going to the tomb ‘in the night of the Sabbath, early in the morning at the hour of light, while the stars were still above’, or that the guards at the tomb ‘arose like dead men’ (28:1, 4), or the shift from third person to first person so that Jesus conveys, ‘If I had not made those days short, no flesh would be saved. But on account of my elect, I will make those days short.’ Moreov...

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