P46 Tendencies in 2 Corinthians (Part 1)

This is a 6 part series on the text critical paper that I presented at the 2013 SBL Annual Meeting in Baltimore, MD. I focused on the textual tendencies of the Ancient Greek manuscript called P46 which is the oldest extant manuscript that we have of Paul’s letters. For more information upon this manuscript see The University of Michigan’s Library and The Chester Beatty Library.


             A brief review of the published literature on Chester Beatty Papyrus II – more commonly known to biblical scholars as P46 – reveals that little work has been written on this important witness to the Pauline Corpus. While some attention has been given to the text of Romans, Hebrews, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, the Pastorals, paleographical dating, and the manuscript as a whole, not a single iota has been written upon the textual tendencies of P46 in 2 Corinthians.[1] Thus, in this paper, I have done a thorough examination of P46 in 2 Corinthians including its singular readings and found that, contra Fredrick G. Kenyon who published its editio princeps, P46 does not tend to be in alignment with the Alexandrian witness, but rather is wholly inconsistent (1) in preferring a particular textual family and (2) in agreeing with other extant MSS of 2 Corinthians among the variants. Overall, I argue that the only lasting tendency of P46 is inconsistency.


            Now before I begin, I must note the scope and limits of this study. With regard to scope, I will begin by assessing all 80 singular readings of P46 in 2 Corinthians. Next, I will summarize my examination of the textual variants I observed of P46 in 2 Corinthians. Finally, I will compare and contrast all this with Kenyon’s summary in the editio princeps. With regard to the limits, I will give little attention to secondary sources due to the fact that the purpose of this study is to provide primary research, though the other reason as already stated is that there is no secondary literature specifically on 2 Corinthians in P46. Also, I am limiting the textual foundation of this study to the latest and greatest Greek texts and critical apparati of the NA27 and UBS4 which I will call the NU text henceforth.[2] In addition, I will not be examining every variant within these apparati, but rather the majority of them and the most significant of them, 219 variants to be exact.[3] Lastly, I am adopting James Royse’s definition of “singular reading,” that is, when only one (or possibly two – this would be called “sub-singular”) Greek manuscript (not other versions such as those in Latin, Syriac, Coptic, etc.) has a particular reading or variant.


To begin, I will examine the 80 singular readings of P46 by first looking at the recurring types of variants and second by noting which MSS tend to agree with P46 in its singularity.

I. Types of Variants

With regard to the types of singular reading variants, almost half of them are omissions, 34 to be exact. Of these omissions, 23 are of single words, while 11 are of phrases. The next most recurring variant is changes in grammar and inflection which occur 21 times, over a quarter of the singular readings. Furthermore, there are 11 additions from the scribe, along with 8 changes in word order, and 6 word substitutions. Here is a chart summarizing these variants:




Omission: Single Words 1:5a, 5b, 9, 11; 2:14; 3:1b, 7, 18; 4:4, 10, 18; 5:8; 6:18; 7:4; 8:2, 22; 9:13; 10:12, 18; 11:9; 12:6; 13:7, 13. 23
Omission: Phrases 1:6, 13; 4:7; 5:14; 8:19a, 19b; 11:6, 12, 25, 27; 12:19b.


Grammar/Inflection Change 1:1; 4:8; 5:8; 7:1a, 1b, 5, 7, 8a, 8b, 11; 8:1, 14; 9:1, 6, 12; 10:7a, 7b, 8; 12:6, 11; 13:4.


Additions 2:14; 3:11, 18; 4:11; 6:8, 16; 9:2; 12:5, 19a; 13:3, 11.


Word Order Change 1:2, 19; 5:1, 6; 7:3; 8:7; 10:14; 13:10.


Word Substitution 3:1a; 4:11; 5:19; 7:1; 8:21; 10:12.


II. Agreement with Other Manuscripts

            With regard to agreement with other MSS in its singular readings, the OL MSS align with P46 most frequently, 5 times to be exact. Next, the Vg. agrees with P46 4 times. Then, the church father Ambrosiaster aligns with it thrice, while the Syr. Peshitta and the miniscule 1900 agree with it twice. All of the other MSS that agree in the singular readings occur once and are as follows: B, Y, 049, 33, 1720, 1319, Copt., Eth., Augustine, Cyprian, Speculum, and Tertullian. Here is a chart summarizing these agreements with P46 in singularity:




Old Latin 7:8a; 8:21; 9:12; 12:5, 19b


Vulgate 3:18a; 7:8a; 8:21; 12:5


Ambrosiaster 8:21; 9:12; 12:19b


1900 1:13; 5:14


Peshitta 7:5; 8:21


B03 1:13


Y044 5:14


049 5:14


33 8:19b


1319 8:19b


1720 8:19a


Coptic 7:8a


Ethiopic 9:12


Augustine 9:12


Cyprian 9:12


Speculum 3:18a


Tertullian 7:5


III. Conclusions from Singular Readings

            Overall, there are two possible conclusions that can be drawn from all this concerning the tendencies of P46 among the singular readings. First, with regard to the types of variants, P46 tends to omit the most, while also tending frequently to change the grammar and inflection of words in 2 Corinthians. Since scribes are more likely to add to their Vorlage rather than to omit, it is quite noteworthy that the scribe of P46 most often omits here. Seeing that P46 is the oldest extant MS of Paul’s epistles, perhaps its singular reading omissions indicate a preservation of an earlier reading of Paul, one that was later added to by scribes.

Secondly, with regard to its agreement with other MSS, P46 tends to be in alignment with the Latin type MSS in its singular readings; from the OL to the Vg., from Ambrosiaster to Tertullian and Cyprian, and from Augustine to Speculum. In light of all this, we can perhaps therefore infer that P46 maintains an older reading of Paul in the singular readings of 2 Corinthians, a reading that was contained mostly within the Latin Church which was later added to by scribes.

                [1] Much of discussion is centered around either the dating of P46 or whether or not the pastorals were included. For work on Romans see Michael W. Holmes, “The Text of P46: Evidence of the Earliest ‘Commentary’ on Romans?” et al. New Testament Manuscripts: Their Texts and Their World (Boston: Brill, 2006). For work on Hebrews see H. C. Hoskier, A Commentary on the Various Readings in the Text of the Epistle to the Hebrews in the Chester Beatty Papyrus P46 (circa 200 A.D.) (London: Bernard Quaritch, 1938) and G. Zuntz, The Text of the Epistles (London: Oxford, 1953). For work on 1 Corinthians see Zuntz. For work on Galatians see Howard Eshbaugh, “Textual Variants and Theology: A Study of the Galatians Text of Papyrus 46” JSNT 3 (1979): 60-72. For work concerning the inclusion of the Pastorals see Jeremy Duff, “P46 and the Pastorals: A Misleading Consensus?” NTS 44 (Cambridge: Cambridge University,1998), 578-590. For work concerning the dating of P46 see Young Kyu Kim, “Paleographical Dating of P46 to the Later First Century,” Bib 69:2 (1988): 248-257.


[2] I will henceforth refer to this base text as the “NU.”


[3] See Appendix II for a list of the variants examined in this study.


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