This blog, by Richard Fellows, discusses historical questions concerning Paul's letters, his co-workers, Acts, and chronology.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Barnabas is female in P46 Gal 2:1

At Gal 2:1 Paul says he went to Jerusalem with Barnabas, having taken (μετὰ Βαρναβᾶ συμπαραλαβὼν) Titus with him. While Paul wrote "ΒΑΡΝΑΒΑ", which is the normal genitive form of the name, P46, the oldest manuscript of Paul's letters, adds a sigma to the end of the name to make: "ΒΑΡΝΑΒΑΣ".

Royse writes that this is “presumably an unusual genitive in –ας, for which there seems to be no parallel” (1). However, he must mean that there is no male parallel, for it is an ordinary genitive of a first declension feminine name (2).

The name is otherwise unattested as a female name, and the male form was extremely rare, with only two cases listed in the Lexicon of Greek Personal Νames, for example. It is therefore plausible that the scribe of P46 (or a predecessor) did not know whether to expect a male name or a female name, but they would know to expect a genitive. They would therefore know that if the name was female there would be a sigma following the final alpha, and there would be no such sigma if the name was male. It seems that, on finding the sigma they then naturally assumed that the name was female and took the word to end after the sigma, not realising that the sigma was the initial letter of the following word. The doubling of the sigma is therefore explicable if the scribe had no prior knowledge of Barnabas's gender.

Edgar Battad Ebojo did not consider the possibility that the scribe thought he was writing a female name, and wrote that the error resulted from "a visual difficulty with initial sigma immediately following an open vowel"(3). He cites 1 Cor 2:4 as another case where P46 doubles the sigma to create a text that makes no sense. However, this textual variant does not demonstrate a tendency of P46 since it is in the other early manuscripts as well. The only other example of P46 doubling an initial sigma is at 1 Cor 16:19, where the female name, Prisca, is changed to the (unattested?) male name, Priscas. As I mentioned in my last blog post, the name Prisca has an ambiguous gender in Rom 16:3 since it is in the accusative. Prisca there is mentioned before Aquila and is highly praised so a scribe might have made the sexist assumption that Prisca was male (even though it is a well attested female name) and, when reaching 1 Cor 16:19, the scribe would have been primed to read the sigma of σὺν as the last letter of Prisca's name, which precedes it.

There is therefore no tendency in P46 to double sigmas to make text that the scribe would have considered nonsense. We can therefore assume that at Gal 2:1 a scribe thought he/she was writing a woman's name, and at 1 Cor 16:19 a scribe thought he/she was writing a man's name. An interesting implication of this is that in neither case could the scribe have been familiar with the Acts of the Apostles, where the genders of the two people are unambiguous. The influence of Acts presumably explains why these errors are not seen in other manuscripts (all of which are later).

Barnabas's gender is unambiguous at Gal 2:13, but P46 has a textual variant there and things get complicated.

(1) James R. Royse, Scribal Habits in Early Greek New Testament Papyri, NTTSD 36 (Leiden: Brill, 2008) 332.
(2) Compare, for example, ΜΑΡΙΑΣ (Matt 1:16; John 11:1; Acts 12:12).
(3) A scribe and his manuscript: an Investigation into the Scribal Habits of Papyrus 46 (P. Chester Beatty II – P. Mich. Inv. 6238). PhD thesis. 275-7.

Monday, October 1, 2018

P46 presented Prisca and Junia as men

There seems to be a consensus that early scribes subtly altered the text of the New Testament to diminish the authority of women in the church. Back in 1984 Ben Witherington explored this phenomenon in the western text of Acts.[1] P46 is our earliest text of Paul’s letters and dates from around 200 CE and Edgar Battad Ebojo has recently shown that P46 has some textual variants at 1 Cor 11:9; 1 Cor 16:19, Gal 3:28; and Eph 5:24 that subtly reduce the standing of women in the church.[2] Dominika A. Kurek-Chomycz did a helpful study of the anti-Priscan tendency in the manuscripts.[3] Surprisingly, a comprehensive study of the phenomenon is lacking. In this blog post I will not attempt such a huge task, but will focus on Prisca and Junia in P46.

Name order reversals that demoted women

There are just 11 occasions in the NT when a woman is listed along with one or more men. On 4 of these occasions the woman is named last; “Aquila and Prisca” (1 Cor 16:19); “Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris” Acts (17:34); “Andronicus and Junia” (Rom 16:7); Eubulus and Pudens and Linus and Claudia (2 Tim 4:21). There are 7 cases where the woman is named ahead of at least one man:

1.     “Mary and Joseph” (Luke 2:16)
2.     “Prisca and Aquila” (Rom 16:3)
3.     “Prisca and Aquila” (2 Tim 4:19)
4.     “Priscilla and Aquila” (Acts 18:18)
5.    “Priscilla and Aquila” (Acts 18:26)
6.    “Philolous, Julia, Nereus and his sister …” (Rom 16:15)
7.     “Philemon … Aphia … Archippus” (Philem 2)

The Center for New Testament Restoration ( collates all manuscripts dating to before about 400 CE. They show only four cases of names being reversed in order:

1.     W – Codex Washingtonianus places Elijah before Moses at Matt 17:4. There is a simple explanation: after writing the phrase μιαν και, the scribe’s eye skipped to the second instance of the phrase and therefore he wrote the second name first.
2.     The same text promotes Andrew ahead of James and John at Mark 3:18, presumably to conform the text to that of Luke and/or Matthew, or to place Andrew with his brother.
3.    D – Bezae places Priscilla behind Aquila at Acts 18:26, where Priscilla (according to the original text) takes the lead in teaching Apollos, an educated man.

4.    P46 reverses Julia and Nereus at Rom 16:15, as well as Patrobas and Hermas at Rom 16:14 (see below).

It is surely no coincidence that 2 of these 4 reversals are among the 7 cases in the NT where women precede men, and that these two cases occur in manuscripts that are known for their misogyny. There are about one hundred opportunities for name switches in the NT so it is clear that woman have been demoted by the process disproportionately compared to men. I will discuss Julia in more detail below.

Women becoming men

In the text of Vaticanus, among, others, Col 4:15 sends greetings to “Nympha and the church in her house”. Νυμφαν και την κατ οικον αυτης εκκλησιαν. Most other manuscripts, however, change αυτης (her) to αυτων (their) or αυτου (his). It is very likely that the transmitters of the texts were uncomfortable with the idea that a woman led a house church, so they took Νυμφαν to be the accusative of the male name Νυμφς and altered the pronoun accordingly. Here is the text in Sinaiticus:
The Index apostolorum discipulorumque, ascribed to Epiphanius, identifies both Junia and Prisca as men (Ἰουνίας and Πρίσκας). Attempts to change the gender of Prisca were doomed to failure since Acts 18:2 is very explicit that Priscilla was a woman. However, P46, being a collection of Paul’s letters, contained no text of Acts and we do not know whether Acts was known to those who transmitted this text. At 1 Cor 16:19 P46 adds a sigma to the name Πρισκα making Πρισκας, which is masculine in form.
Prisca appears in Paul’s letters elsewhere only at Rom 16:3 and 2 Tim 4:19, but in both places the name is in the accusative (Πρισκαν) so its gender is ambiguous. The effect of the Πρισκας variant at 1 Cor 16:19 in P46 is therefore to make Prisca a man not only there but also at Rom 16:3.

In Romans Paul acclaims Prisca very highly and greets her ahead of her husband and indeed before anyone else. This would have been uncomfortable for misogynist transmitters of the text and they solved their problem in P46 by the simple addition of a sigma to Prisca’s name at 1 Cor 16:19. They may have assumed that Πρισκαν in Rom 16:3 must have been a man and, primed to read Πρισκας at 1 Cor 16:19, they may have been encouraged to do so by the sigma at the start of the following word (συν).

Kurek-Chomycz points out that the manuscripts are fairly evenly split over whether the name should be Prisca or Priscilla at 1 Cor 16:19. This demands an explanation since nowhere in Acts did the scribes change Priscilla to Prisca, and none of them change Prisca to Priscilla at 2 Tim 4:19. Even at Rom 16:3, where we are given a lot of information about Prisca, she is not changed to Priscilla until the seventh century, as far as we know. Why then is the form of the name at 1 Cor 16:19 so disputed among the early manuscripts? Kurek-Chomycz struggles with this question, but a possible answer can be offered. The Πρισκας textual variant at 1 Cor 16:19 would not have lasted long when the communities started to use Acts extensively, for it directly contradicts the clear statement of Acts 18:2. Scribes would replace Πρισκας with Πρισκιλλα or Πρισκα to remove that contradiction. I do not know whether the original text read Πρισκιλλα or Πρισκα, and it matters little. My point is that if the Πρισκας textual variant was widespread in the early decades of the church, it could have given rise to the even split that we see between the Πρισκιλλα and Πρισκα forms of the name. Is there a better explanation?

Another male version of the name Prisca is found in Sinaiticus, which has Πρισκον instead of Κρισπον at 1 Cor 1:14. Πρισκον is the accusative of the common male name Πρισκος (Latin Priscus).[4] It is hard to know how to interpret this variant. A second hand has corrected it by placing two letters above the line.

Junia and Julia
If the misogynists behind P46 were embarrassed by Prisca, were they also embarrassed by Junia, who was prominent among the apostles and was in Christ before Paul?
Whereas most manuscripts read οι και προ εμου γεγοναν, P46 reads ος και προ εμου γεγονεν. Thus, while the original text stated that Andronicus and Junia were in Christ before Paul, P46 says that only Andronicus was in Christ before Paul. James Royse writes, “Perhaps we have here a reluctance to include a woman among those who were “in Christ” before Paul.”[5] But there is more. P46 also changes Ιουνιαν to Ιουλιαν (Julia), and this is significant, as we will see, because this manuscript also messes with Ιουλιαν at Rom 16:15.

P46 has the names Ιουλιαν and Νηρεα reversed. It has also replaced the first letter of Ιουλιαν with an alpha and the first letter of Νηρεα with a beta. This corruption of the two names has recently been convincingly explained by Royse.[6] “In the exemplar the names were marked for transposition by the use of the letters A and B, as is known from other manuscripts.” The scribe then saw the letters A and B written above the start of the two names and misunderstood the intent of the corrector. He then replaced the initial letters of the two names with the A and B (just as someone copying Sinaiticus would convert Πρισκον to Κρισπον – see above). P46 also reverses the names Patrobas and Hermas two lines above, and it seems to me that we now have a likely explanation. The corrector who wrote the A and B, or someone else, wrote “switch the names” in the margin. A scribe did not know that this referred (only) to the names Julia and Nereus so he swapped Patrobas and Hermas as well as (or instead of) Julia and Nereus. The exchange of the names Patrobas and Hermas is likely collateral damage from an attempt (successful or otherwise) to switch Julia and Nereus. I am undecided whether the corrector who wrote the A and B was trying to move Julia behind Nereus or return her to her original position. Nor do I know whether he placed the A over the name that he wanted to come first or incorrectly over the other name (which could have caused the scribe’s confusion). In any case, at some time someone made (or intended to make) a manuscript that read Ιουλιαν και την αδελφην αυτου (Julias and his sister). The pronoun αυτου is gender specific and makes the claim that Ιουλιαν is the accusative of a man’s name (presumably Julias). By simply transposing the names Julia and Nereus someone has turned Julia into a man. This is important because it would have cast doubt on the gender of Junia of 16:7 (who has been transformed into Ιουλιαν by P46). Misogynists would have been able to say, “Andronicus’s partner was probably a man because his name appears later in the text as a man’s name. Even if it refers to a different person of the same name, it shows that it was a man’s name in Paul’s day and in Paul’s accent/spelling.” In their determination to cast Prisca and Junia as men, they were, it seems, undeterred by the fact that the masculine names Priscas and Julias were rare or unattested. In much the same way, some, to this day, see Junia(s) as a man, undeterred by the fact that it is unattested as a male name.


P46 made subtle changes to the text to cast doubt on the gender of both Prisca and Junia, who were the two women who most offended patriarchal assumptions. P46 could, theoretically, have added the sigma to Prisca at 1 Cor 16:19 by accidental dittography, but we should no longer give it the benefit of the doubt since the exchange of the names Julia and Nereus can only have been an attempt at deliberate deceit, because name switches did not happen without good reason.

[1] Ben Witherington III, “Anti-Feminist Tendencies of the ‘Western’ Text in Acts”, JBL 103 (1984), 82-84.
[2] Edgar Battad Ebojo, “Sex, Scribes, and Scriptures: Engendering the Texts of the New Testament” Journal of Biblical Text Research vol 36, 367-94. Here 386-7.,%20Scribes,%20and%20Scriptures%20(Edgar).pdf
[3] “Is There an “Anti-Priscan” Tendency in the Manuscripts? Some Textual Problems with Prisca and Aquila”, JBL 125.1 (2006) 107-127.
[4] The name is attested 228 times in the Trismegistos People database.
[5] James R. Royse, Scribal Habits in Early Greek New Testament Papyri (2008) 322 n690.
[6] Scribal Habits 333-4.