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Medieval and Early Modern Greek Manuscripts : Gospels, Act and Epistles book

Medieval and Early Modern Greek Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This manuscript, copied in 1315/16, contains almost the entire New Testament, combining the normal content of a Gospel book and an Acts and Epistles book. The text is unusually significant for a copy of such late date, containing numerous unusual variant readings, and it has been used as a witness for many New Testament editions.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>There are an unusual number of brief supporting texts included along with the main content. Most of the individual books are preceded by their own supplementary materials. For each Gospel and Epistle there is a standard introductory hypothesis, describing the circumstances of its composition. For each Gospel, further information of this sort is provided by an excerpt from a 6th-century geographical work, the <i>Topographia Christiana</i> of Kosmas Indikopleustes, which was not infrequently used for this purpose in Gospel books. Each is also preceded by a poetic epigram and a chapter list.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The one exception to this is the Gospel of Matthew, the first text to appear in the sequence. The same prefatory texts are provided for this as for the other Gospels, but rather than preceding it they appear towards the end of the manuscript. This suggests that the inclusion of the supporting materials was a revision to the original plan of production, introduced very early in the process of copying, after Matthew had been begun but before the scribe had continued to the Gospel of Mark. Rather than insert additional folios for the supplementary texts to Matthew, they became an appendix after the end of the main content. A hypothesis to the Acts of the Apostles, presumably another afterthought, also appears late in the manuscript.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>There is also an array of more general supporting texts. Before and after the Gospel of John are two epigrams on the four Evangelists as a group. At the end of the Gospels and of the Acts and Epistles is a table of lections identifying the passages to be read in church through the year, a very common feature. There are also, at the end of the manuscript, an array of less usual texts: further guidance on the lection cycle and other liturgical matters, additional brief historical excerpts on the authors of biblical books, a list of lesser disciples and apostles, some prayers, and a canon law selection drawn from the canons attributed to the apostles and from the decrees of various ecumenical and early provincial councils.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The scribe provided a colophon recording the completion of the manuscript. This appears at the end of the Gospels (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(328);return false;'>f. 160v</a>), but refers also to the Acts and Epistles as forming part of the content. This suggests that the scribe returned to add the colophon in blank space remaining between the texts, rather than that the project was originally only supposed to contain the Gospels but expanded later, or that the work was originally divided into two volumes but subsequently bound together. He gave the year, identified himself as the hieromonachos (priest and monk) Iakovos and indicated that he did the work on Mount Sinai. It cannot be assumed from this that he was a monk established there, as this is not specified, and Sinai was a pilgrimage destination.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The scribe goes on to record that he sent the manuscript to a monastery on the island of Chios, dedicated to the Theotokos of the Cave, which was perhaps his home monastery. This part of the colophon was later crossed out, probably by a subsequent owner wishing to cancel the indication of its former ownership. Such deletions of ownership notes are common. A final portion of the colophon has been more emphatically cancelled by erasure. Traces of surviving letters and the typical conventions of notes of ownership suggest that this text pronounced a curse on anyone who deprived the monastery of the book. Presumably the later owner was more particularly concerned to remove this disturbing content, and went to greater lengths to render it entirely illegible.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Dr Christopher Wright</p>

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