Monday, January 17, 2011

Codex B Borders (cont.) & Mark's Ending

Here is a photo of the Ending of Mark, showing one of the rare places where the scribe(s) has left a whole blank column between books.  This is unusual, as the photos of every other border show.  (Click on the slideshow on right for a good look at the borders between O.T. books for instance).

In discussing this blank column, James Snapp Jr. quotes Dean John Burgon as follows:
P. 87 ~ RE: The size of the blank space after Mark 16:8 in Codex Vaticanus. “It requires to be stated that the scribe, whose plan is found to have been to begin every fresh book of the Bible at the top of the next ensuing column to that which contained the concluding words of the preceding book, has at the close of S. Mark’s Gospel deviated from his else invariable practice. He has left in this place one column entirely vacant. It is the only vacant column in the whole manuscript; - a blank space abundantly sufficient to contain the twelve verses which he nevertheless withheld.”
John Burgon, (italics - James')
The Last Twelve Verses...Vindicated (1871), p 87
  James goes on to give a more accurate and updated explanation of the last column of Mark in Codex Vaticanus (B):
"Technically, three other blank spaces exist in Vaticanus, in the Old Testament portion, but they constitute space leftover from where a copyist had finished his assigned books. Because one [the same] copyist was writing before and after the blank space at the end of Mark, on the front and back of the same page, [the blank column] is indeed unique.
Burgon’s statement that the blank space is “abundantly sufficient” to include Mark 16:9-20 is, however, inaccurate. A copyist could fit the passage into the blank space, by slightly reducing the size of his lettering. But a copyist who wrote with the same rate of letters per column that the copyist normally displays would not fit the entire passage into the blank space; when he reached the end of the last line on the page, he would still have four lines of text unwritten.
(On the very first page of his 1871 book, Burgon states that although he had seen a photograph of the end of Mark in Sinaiticus, “Every endeavour to obtain a Photograph of the corresponding page of the Codex Vaticanus, B, (MS 1209 in the Vatican,) has proved unavailing.” Thus it seems clear that he made the claim about the “abundantly sufficient” space without the benefit of a photograph.)"

Interestingly, below, I have taken a font which closely mimics Codex B, and used appropriate word, letter and line spacing, and then also allowed for narrower spacing for some letters such as IOTA as the scribe of B does, occasional additional letters at the end of lines written smaller, and finally, three expected contractions of Kurios/THeos.    The result is we only have two lines left over, including the Amen, which could easily be spread between the two columns (one extra line each).

Click to Enlarge, & Backbutton to return
Note that the last column is the same width as that bleeding through on the opposing side. It seems a reasonably good scribe could easily accomodate the passage without distorting the format or over-using the margin.  In fact, if we squeeze just one extra letter in on 29 of the new lines, and place the "Amen" right below (or omit it), we can fit the ending snugly in the correct number of lines, without reducing the size of 98% of the text.

Perhaps Burgon's natural instinct was essentially right after all.


Nazaroo examined my efforts, and suggested that if I were a scribe in training, and he were a diohortes, or overseer, I would be cleaning the stables until I learned not to waste valuable vellum.

So I have made a second effort, and by copying more closely the actual style of the letters in the first two columns, and tightening the column-width, I was able to get all but 9 letters and the amen into the space.   I have only randomly shrunk the last 1, 2, or 3 letters in every other line, just as the original scribe has habitually done to keep the columns better justified.   That was all it took to absorb another line, and this is perfectly consistent with what the original scribe would have done in any case.

Click to Enlarge, etc.
Of course these nine extra letters will probably mean nine extra lashes from the Abbot.

 Addendum 2:

James Snapp Jr. has added the following points on TC-Alt, to keep things real:
Mr. Scrivener:

To see what sort of letter-compression is needed to fit Mk. 16:9-20 into the blank space in B after 16:8, see

- where I have provided reconstructions using the copyist's usual rate of letters-per-column, and using slightly compressed lettering, with  normal use of smaller lettering at the ends of some lines.

Remember, btw, that since every indication is that the copyist would be recollecting a copy with the Alexandrian text, the phrase "και εν ταις χερσιν" should be included. Also, the word "ουρανον" should not be contracted, since the copyist tends not to do that elsewhere in the NT.

Also, the statement that I made about the blank spaces in B in the OT-portion, as cited by Naz, needs to be corrected/clarified along the lines of what I have already written (in, among other places, my review of Dr. Wallace's analysis in the 2008 "Perspectives" book about the ending of Mark):
The three blank spaces in the OT-portion occur (1) where one copyist completed his assigned portion of text and had some leftover space, (2) where the format changes from three-columns-per-page to two-columns-per-page, and (3) at the end of the entire OT-portion, where a blank column or columns would be left (unless the copyist happened to finish the text in the final column) because Matthew, and the NT-portion, would begin on a fresh page.

Thus all three blank spaces in the OT-portion are essentially "seams" elicited by special factors in the production-process, and not one of those factors is in effect after Mark and before Luke, where the copyist left an entire blank column between two books of the same genre, in the same format.

Yours in Christ,

James Snapp, Jr.

In order to improve the work further I've made one more effort, incorporating Mr. Snapp's points here:

Click to Enlarge etc.

 Alexandrian readings included (shown in red), text style, size, and line spacing is retained, small letters at line-end are used, abbreviations are as elsewhere in the MS, and the extra text is split, one extra line in each column.

Mr. Scrivener


  1. There is nothing stopping the second scribe from scrubbing the whole page, and spreading the extra material across 3 columns instead of 1 1/2.

    In that case, the full text would fit perfectly without resorting to compressed, crowded or undersized text.

    In for a penny, in for a pound. A good scribe scrubs.


  2. Nazaroo,
    Yes there is, obviously: the text of Luke 1! Any scribe would prefer a bit of letter-compression in a couple of columns over the prospect of having to rewrite four pages.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Hmmm...aren't you confusing Vaticanus with Sinaiticus?

    How does the text of Luke 1 come into play with Vaticanus?

    Scribe 2 comes along, notes there isn't quite enough space, scrubs off the first column and a half, and rewrites three columns, not four pages.

    Seems to me the only extra work really is in the scrubbing, which in the scriptorium with proper tools and fresh ink might not amount to much work at all, really.

    Scribe 2 now has to rewrite the last three columns (one page, not 4) of one side of the folio.

    Have I missed something?