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Unintentional copying error and the re-sharpening of the pen in P46

December 7, 2011

In their 1997 NTS article, “Re-Inking the Pen…”, Head and Warren made a good case for identifying unintentional scribal errors due to the copying necessity of re-inking the pen or quill.

During my recent autopsy of the Michigan leaves of P46, I found another factor that can cause unintentional error: the re-sharpening of the pen/quill. I haven’t made any comparative study yet of papyri of similar age but one case is sufficient to drive home the point. The 4th line of folio 79 recto of P46 (covering the last two clauses of Eph 4.28) reads το αγαθον ιν εχη μεταδιδοναι τω χρειαν. The textual anomaly here is the reading ιν which is an error for the conjunction ινα. James Royse (Scribal Habits, p.253) listed this as a singular reading, exemplifying loss of a vowel due to an elision. However, this case can also be alternatively explained. By including the physical aspect of the manuscript in the investigation, it is more probable, I think, that the error emerged because the scribe re-sharpened his pen/quill too soon, leaving the final alpha out. This is corroborated by the fact that this is the only occurrence of the incomplete ινα throughout the extant pages of P46. The change in ink density between the first four lines (until ιν) and the following lines is unmistakable. But more importantly, those who have access to a good digital image of this page will immediately have an idea as to why the scribe re-sharpened his pen/quill at this point… the presence of the kollesis marking on the actual spot/space where the final alpha should have been written. Needless to say, integrating the study of the physical (codicological-palaeographical) features of particular manuscripts vis-a-vis textual study will certainly open up new portals for appreciating textual variations in the transmission history of the text of the New Testament. (Attached image courtesy of the department of Papyrological Collections, University of Michigan).

From → New Discoveries

  1. Interesting. The way i see it, you could easily consider that this was a whole other writing session, possibly a whole other pen. i mean, how often does a scribe resharpen a pen anyways? It just seems like something more likely to do at the beginning of a session.

    • Another pen is also possible, Jerdna, but perhaps not a whole new session altogether. Admittedly, we need to have a complete data of the “inking profile” of this scribe to answer your question on frequency–a desideratum indeed 🙂

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