Textual Evidence

Codex Sinaiticus Re-Examined

Exerpted from the thread: Textual Evidence for John 8:1-11,

Page Index

Last Updated: Feb 19, 2009

Section 1: - Introduction
Section 2: - Examining Sinaiticus
Section 3: - Sorting the Dots:
Section 3b: - Dot Usage by Correctors and Readers
Section 4: - Frequency and Function
Section 5: - The Dots on Folio 53a (Jn 7:52-8:41)
Section 6: - Questions and Answers on Approach
Section 7: - Initial Observations on Various Marks
Section 8: - Preliminary Notes on Remaining DOTS
Section 9: - Examining the Six Key Dots
Section 10: - Tischendorf's Facsimile: a comparison
Section 11: - Conclusion

Return to Index


Codex Sinaiticus: The Need for a Detailed Examination

We have already noted previously that there are tell-tale marks indicating a knowledge of John 8:1-11 in 3 out of 4 of the oldest manuscripts of John:

The Top Ten Early MSS for John 8:1-11 <-- Click Here for early MSS

The oldest of these, P66 (Papyrus #66, late 2nd century or early 3rd), shows evidence that the mark used (a DOT AND SPACE) is a 'text-critical' mark, and not some kind of punctuation.

Since the second-oldest MS, P75 (early 3rd century) seems to use the DOTS differently, (apparently as 'verse markers'), it is important to test the question of how the DOT is used in Codex Sinaiticus (early 4th century).

If Sinaiticus uses the dots the same way as P66, and these were copied from an earlier manuscript, this would be good evidence that Sinaiticus is a copy of a much older text, as is currently believed.

How to test the question?

We do this by examining both the dot at John 7:52/8:12 and also the other dots on the page, and even elsewhere in the manuscript.

Return to Index

Examining Sinaiticus

Quick Review:

We begin by reviewing the basic evidence:

And here is Tischendorf's facsimile printing of the same page:

Two Basic Categories of DOT

The two basic cases from an investigative viewpoint are these:

(1) Dots included in (or incorporated into) the text on the first pass by the original scribe.

(2) Dots added AFTER the page was penned, either by the original scribe or another hand.

Many of these dots can be easily differentiated on the basis of two things:

a) the original scribe didn't allow a space for them, and so they are not a true "space and dot" but just a dot added later by an unknown hand.

b) they are often in the margin or at the end of a line. The obvious problem with these dots is that they can't be given any credible authority since they cannot be associated with certainty to the original scribe any other scribe, or even the age when they were added.

For instance, Codex Sinaiticus has been worked over by a dozen or more hands over almost eight centuries, and anyone of those 'correctors' or even other unknown parties could have added the dots, at any time between the 5th to the 15th centuries.

Because of this, the second group of dots, those added by later hands, cannot be given any authority, or even a fixed single meaning or purpose.

So the obvious procedure is to initially ignore the dots subsequently added by later parties and only consider the dots that can definitely be or with high probability be assigned to the original scribe. Only these dots can be granted the same date and authority as the original scribe who executed the manuscript in about 320-330 A.D.

We have to distinguish carefully and clearly between dots that can be established as by the original hand of the scribe who penned Sinaiticus, copying it from an older exemplar or incorporating it into the text himself, and many unverifiable markings of subsequent 'correctors'.

And in that direction, we would methodologically eliminate the dots that appear at the end of a line as well. ( - as in the second dot appearing on the page of interest: see photo below.)

Dot Usage by Correctors and Readers

Nonetheless, even the dots that appear to be from later hands can tell us something about how these dots were understood and used by many copyists and readers.

Here below we see three different cases in three lines at John 9:25. One dot at the end of a line (the hand can't be determined), one dot in a space in the middle of a line (probably original), and one squeezed between letters to mark an insertion (a corrector's hand). The third case is clearly from a corrector (although it too could be from the original scribe on a 2nd pass). The dot indicates where to re-insert the missing word "palin", which has been added between the lines:

This example shows that at least some scribes and correctors freely used the single dot to indicate text-critical variants.

Frequency as an Indicator of Function

Again, methodology is the key here. While various dots may be "all over" Sinaiticus, few (less than a third) can be identified as by the original scribe.

The actual dot density is extremely important, because it clearly establishes that the dots are not normal or standard punctuation or breathing-marks.

What readers may not be able to tell from mere close-ups is that one page of Sinaiticus ( ) contains three or four times as much text as a single page from P66 .

Since there are about the same number of legitimate dots on a page of Sinaiticus as on a page of P66 , this means that P66 has four times as many dots from the probable hand of the original scribe as Sinaiticus, per unit of text.

So a more careful analysis then reveals that dots are not "all over Sinaiticus" with even a quarter of the frequency of P66 . And even P66 hasn't enough dots to allow any convincing claims of a simple grammatical function for the dots.

They are clearly secondary to punctuation and relatively rare; in the case of Sinaiticus, four times as rare as in P66 .

The Dots on Folio 53a

Now lets turn to the very page under consideration: Folio 53a of John for Codex Sinaiticus (Jn 7:52-8:41a).

We are providing page two columns at a time at a reasonable resolution, with the following highlights added:

(1) "DOT AND SPACE" - meaning a dot with ample space, indicating it was planned and executed by the original scribe who spaced out the letters. We have highlighted these with a RED Circle. there are only SIX on the entire page of four columns that can be so identified with reasonable surety.

(2) "DOT NO SPACE" - meaning dots with all the appearance of being added later on a second pass, either by the original scribe or a second hand. There is no way of determining the case. These we have marked with a BLUE SQUARE. There are at least 36 such marks squeezed inbetween the letters penned by the original scribe, averaging over TEN per Column.

(3) "DOT at End of Line" - meaning a SINGLE DOT at the end of a line, whether the line is shorter, or the same length and average # of letters as other lines. We have marked these with a GREEN TRIANGLE. There are again only FIVE of these. There are almost a dozen cases of a very small sigma ("C" in uncial script) or an omicron ("o"), but these should not be confused with the DOTS, which are not letters.

There are three plain lines that fall far short of a full line of letters, and they seem to indicate paragraph or section endings copied from the original exemplar. Two are marked with a COLON (NOT a dot), and one is unmarked. None of them are marked with a dot.

In NO CASE was a line filled to the end with a dot, row of dots, or other glyph for the apparent purpose of preventing further additions, or decoration. This means that the idea of the DOT as a short End Of Line Marker is a complete dud.

Codex Sinaiticus:
Photo of Jn 7:52-8:41

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Questions and Answers about the Dots

As a result of lively discussions on the topic in various forums such as Internet Infidels etc., a number of important questions have been raised, in particular about the approach used. This gives us an opportunity to put these issues in a 'Question and Answer' format, to help clarify issues for subsequent readers.

What prevents the original scribal work from having left a generous amount of spacing, and then someone coming along later and inserting a dot?

Absolutely nothing, in principle. But we can simply inspect the manuscript to see if this is a statistically significant possibility. In the case of codex Sinaiticus, there are more spaces than spaces with dots, so it is unlikely that a corrector went along filling up spaces.

For example, if a later scribe saw the original, extra spacing, they might be worried that someone might try to fill it in, perhaps by inserting an unauthorized change. So this later scribe might want to prevent that from happening by inserting a dot to fill up the space (or at least make it easy to detect any future tampering).

Indeed. And this sometimes happened, that a scribe would fill up the end of a row of letters, or add a flourish to the end of a book to prevent someone adding to it. But most of these cases can be identified, and we simply don't find scribes using DOTS for this purpose, but rather OTHER larger glyphs, like pointed arrow-brackets and mini-scrolls. And again in the case of Sinaiticus, this just didn't happen. We have to move from the general to the specific.

If you're admitting the possibility of tossing away valid, original dots because the spacing is too tight, then what kind of boundaries does that put on any of your conclusions? It seems to me that your statements ought to be highly tentative.

In fact, I'm certain of tossing away a few valid dots highly likely to be have been from the original scribe. But not enough to significantly skew the results of a study of the purpose of the dots, which is the whole point.

As a test, we can always insert the other dots back into our data and see if there is a significant difference, or a new purpose suggested by the new larger group of dots that might change our conclusions.

But instead of worrying about a bunch of 'what ifs', we can proceed ahead and test and get answers. So why worry?

The approach is reliable enough.

Most people can easily understand that marks added AFTER the manuscript was written, and squeezed into the cracks and margins are most likely to be by ANY unknown hand, especially when we KNOW that a dozen hands have worked the manuscript over.

Most people would only accept marks that look like they likely were made by the original scribe. And these would have to be marks that looked like they belonged there, because the scribe planned for them and allocated space for them.

On the [DOT] after [Jn] 8:12 [in Aleph] I do not understand why you would omit that as from the original scribe (whatever the meaning). You point out that the space is extra at the end of the line. Therefore deliberate, it would seem, and therefore designed to be a dot-indicator. Why exclude it from the data set ?

The short answer is that we have less surety about it than a case where a space is left in the middle of a line where the normal practice is not even to put spaces between words, and even to break up words over to the next line.

Yes, the space at the end of the line (a couple of letters in size) has a significant appearance, but its very rarity works against its weighting. lines are left unfilled by letters so rarely that we must admit the sampling is an order in magnitude smaller in size (per unit text) than the normal case of a space in midline.

Some of the strength in the type of phenomenon comes from its statistical base or 'sample size'. Even if we can't quantify such features with hard numbers, we can at least order them in terms of relative magnitude and importance.

We can always say that examining the cases of 'space and dot' in the middle of lines will give us more reliable information, because there are more cases.

Another thing works in our favour here too. Because the case of a dot at the end of a line is so much rarer, we can ignore it with less worry about the result of our analysis.

This is not to say that we should or need to ignore any data, but you are perfectly familiar I am sure, of the idea of the relative weight of different qualities and kinds of witness to a fact.

We can ignore the handful of cases of a dot at the end of a line, because they are so rare and relatively insignificant for our question of what MOST of the dots are doing.

We should initially ignore this handful of cases, because we are less sure that they are from the original hand, since we have a less certain indicator than a simple single space tailored to the size of the dot. We work from the better known to the lesser known, to the unknown.

The problem is that there is another factor, one that you mentioned in another context. This is the same book, the same manuscript, the same page. (And the dot is almost surely the same scribe.) Ergo such an example is far more significant in trying to understand how this scribe meant the dot than most others in the forthcoming data set. Same scribe, same text, same time.

You might weigh it a smidgen less because it is end-of-line rather than mid-line. However the upsides above are more important than being at the end-of-line. Especially as we can see immediately that the end-of-line spacing is ususual for that scribe on that page. We can compare it visually with eight other lines and note that it has an extra character off all of them, a strong marker for the dot being related to the first scribe's text.

Shalom, Steven Avery

If you want to include this dot in the group to take under consideration initially, this is fine. My inclination was also that it was by the original scribe. Either way I don't think it will significantly affect the final results in terms of evaluating the range of meanings possible for the 'space and dot' in Sinaiticus.

One important point (and it should be underlined) is that it is extremely likely that the scribe is here copying the dots from his master-copy, hence the variation in the position of the dots and the length of a less than complete line ending with a dot or a full 'colon'. That is, these marks are not invented by the scribe of Sinaiticus, nor is their meaning.

Originally Posted by Riverwind:
if you'd just back up or even elaborate a bit more on the following claims:

(1) ...that the "space and dot" is a truly a "space and dot" as opposed to a "space dot space", "space dot no space", or "no space dot no space"

We can't conform the evidence to our own notions of categories. The categories above are largely inefficient and seem to be unnecessary groupings, that probably can't be sustained by the nature of the physical picture.

All I ever claimed to be able to distinguish with reasonable certainty in most cases, is this: There are dots that show no signs of the original scribe allowing a space to accomodate it, and hence are suspected of being added later, either by the same scribe performing a different task, or else a different 'corrector' entirely. Which might be the case is by its very nature indeterminable, and so these dots ("dot no space") cannot be used in the same way that dots clearly in the hand of the original scribe can be.

The other kind of dot is that which CAN be determined with reasonable certainty to be by the original scribe, since he appears to have left a space for it. Whatever the purpose of these dots ("space and dot" - not to be understood as being in some particular order, but a much simpler idea: a dot occupying a space, usually in about the middle, or perhaps with a little more space on the right), whatever their purpose, this can be determined by examination and analysis, but this discovery cannot be carried over to dots (e.g. "dot no space") that can't be determined to be by the original scribe.

If anything is to be made of the dots that CAN'T be identified as by the original scribe, it must be done separately, and with far less surety, all else being equal.

(2) ...that the "space and dot" where John 7:53-8:11 should be is actually a text-critical mark intentionally acknowledging and marking the absense of those verses.

(3) ...that at least one (preferably more) other of these dots ("space and dots" or whatever) marks another variant somewhere in the New Testament (anywhere, Nazaroo!)

These can be investigated by and by.

Initial Observations on Various Page Markings

The methodology is fairly simple here. We examine all that can be examined piece by piece, for the purpose of eliminating the trivial, the obvious, and the reasonably certain. We may then categorize whatever is left over and attempt to account for it in the most plausible manner.

One observation immediately apparent concerns the 'BLUE SQUARE' dots (the DOT NO SPACE type) which appear to have been added later. A large majority of them appear to be marking the separation of words, and sometimes clauses, for the simple purpose of assisting in reading the manuscript. This is a very good indication that whoever added these dots was NOT the original scribe, (because the original scribe forsaw no problem in reading the MS as he penned it).

Thus we seem to be able to distinguish a difference in the ability of the reader who added this group of dots and the original scribe, a professional Greek reader and calligrapher. These dots may have been added for liturgical use (i.e. public reading), anticipating the difficulty volunteer readers might experience. They could even have been added by an appointed reader.

This would also allow for the possibility of a large space of time between the penning of the MS and the addition of these particular dots.

Next, as we remarked earlier, there is no indication that the dots are 'decorative' or added for the purpose of thwarting additions or emendations. The three largest blank lines have no SINGLE DOTS at all, and plenty of space.

A certain number of single dots can be identified clearly as indicators that a word, a group of letters, or a single letter are to be inserted into the text at the DOT point. These we have left unmarked, as their meaning and purpose is not under serious dispute. It is important to note that the apparent 1st Corrector of the MS used the 'SINGLE DOT' (no space) this exact way: that is, for textual emendations to the text.

Thus this single page of the MS supplies a significant number of examples where the DOT (no space) is a TEXTUAL MARKER, not an indicator of any grammatical morpheme, such as a modern semi-colon, colon, or period. For examples see column Two line 8 and 34 end, etc.

This evidence should satisfy even skeptics that the DOTS used by Correctors are often TEXTUAL in nature .

On several contractions of the name Jesus ( IC. ) a dot as well as an overline is added, probably again by a second hand. Here once again, the dot has a purpose, but it is not a grammatical mark or accent: Rather its a generic indicator for the reader to look more closely (and notice the Noma Sacra).

To continue in this vein, I want to consider next the SINGLE DOTS at the end of a line:

These dots could be grouped as EITHER "DOT AND SPACE" (original scribe) or "DOT NO SPACE" (possible later corrector). The problem is, there is no demarcation AFTER the dot to tell us if the original scribe planned the dot.

In fact, almost half of these (unmarked on photos) are at the end of a line that has NO space on it (missing letters) and look suspiciously like later additions. Again this fits in well with our observed purpose of the "DOT NO SPACE" (Blue squares) already discussed above. For examples see Column One line 17 etc. They again seem to be reader's marks, indicating clause endings, or pauses.

We may also mention the 'real' colons, marking apparent paragraph endings. Although one paragraph end is missing a colon, the others (judging by the fading) appear to be either original or at least very ancient (unlike the majority of DOT NO SPACE which seem too dark and clear to be that old).

Thus one colon seems to be almost disappearing.

On the topic of inserted letters or short words, in many cases, no DOT or other mark is used, but rather the letters are inserted in whatever space is available when possible, even if the letters must be written so small as to risk being mistaken for a DOT!

In these cases, we may suspect a few corrections made long after the original scribe wrote and proofread his MS. Sometimes a mini-scroll is used in a way similar to the "Obelisk" found in Codex Vaticanus. In any case the meaning is clear: the marginal letters are to be inserted into the manuscript as corrections. Its worth noting that apparently 90% of the mistakes caught by the corrector(s) are accidental omissions of a letter or two, or a short word. But the Pericope de Adultera cannot be classed as 'accidental' in this period (3rd - 4th century), so this is not directly applicable to our problem.

The original scribe (and apparently subsequent correctors) was frugal with accents, averaging one true accent (pronunciation assist) every 2 to 5 lines. The following correctors (and Tischendorf apparently identified nine or more) did not add much to this, even if they are responsible for most of the accents now extant.

One last comment is in regard to the use of an upper 'mini-scroll' to represent the 'Moveable N' at the ends of words. Interestingly, most of these seem to fall at the end of the line, and this indicates that the original scribe is responsible for at least the bulk of them. (the moveable n is sometimes dropped but replaced with a small mark to keep a neat appearance and constant width for most lines in the MS.) It is at the end of a line that this opportunity presents itself, and the timing (spacing) can be anticipated somewhat by the original scribe.

This contradicts the usage of a very similar 'mini-scroll' by the corrector, and seems to indicate two different people responsible for the two uses.

Other marks we need to recognise as independant and later additions are the 'Eusebian canons' and other marginal numberings designed for ecclesiastical use.

Like the 'Blue Squares' (DOT NO SPACE), i.e, reader's helps, these marginal markings (usually on the left side of a column) were always added later, after a manuscript was copied, to prepare them for church service.

Preliminary Notes on the Remaining Six Dots

That just about covers all the markings and special features of this page of the manuscript, except for the remaining six (DOT AND SPACE) RED CIRCLES.

These are found two per column, excepting the 3rd column, and so for convenience we skip that column and move the 4th column over. Keep in mind that there is then a long paragraph (and two shorter ones) between the dots in the 2nd column and the 4th.

These, we noted previously, are the best candidates for markings that could be plausibly and reasonably ascribed to the original copyist.

The first thing to note is that they are spaced so far apart and clustered seemingly randomly, and completely independant of recognizable paragraph or section beginnings /endings. At the same time, they are too infrequent to be standard grammatical markings.

Because the standard practice of a professional copyist on the 'first pass' is to copy verbatum everything he finds in the mastercopy (excluding obvious errors), there is strong precedent to attribute these six marks to the exemplar.

The scribe of Sinaiticus is a careful and accurate copyist, even when he shows awareness of suspicion or error in his exemplar. This is part of the function of a 'second pass', in which corrections and notes are added by a corrector.

All those who have studied Sinaiticus have come to similar conclusions about quality of the original copyist. Early assessments of his 'sloppiness' or 'carelessness' were based upon a comparison of his text with that of the Byzantine (traditional) text, without due consideration to the fact that he was copying an earlier mastercopy complete with its errors and idiosyncrasies.

It is now widely recognized that the bulk of significant variants ('errors') in Sinaiticus are traceable to his exemplar, which indicates the seriousness with which he was willing to copy it, even when it plainly made no sense.

This tendency of the original scribe of Sinaiticus to copy precisely come hell or high-water means he is likely to have copied any marks or important variants as well, like the 'DOT AND SPACE' we see embedded in the text.

This may also explain why he only copies two colons, even though logic would dictate he copy three. If there was a missing colon in his mastercopy, his work-ethic may have caused him to reproduce the missing colon also.

Examining the Remaining Six Dots

Lo and behold, when we come to examine the remaining six dots, which stand out by virtue of rather certainly being from the hand of the original scribe, we find just what critics would insist upon to support a thesis that the meaning of the dots is text-critical: each represents a serious and significant textual variant in the verse so marked.

DOT 1: (7:52 - column 1 line 11) Obviously, the omission of 7:53-8:11, duly noted by the original scribe or his exemplar.

DOT 2: (8:16 - column 1 line 42) - There are actually two serious variants here, both noted by the critical apparatus of UBS for instance, and one not so noted.

a) the contraction of και εαν to καν by Sinaiticus.

b) the substitution of αληθης for αληθινη (incorrectly reported by UBS).

c) the omission of πατηρ by Aleph, along with codex D and the Syriac!

Given the ancient age of these variants and their diverse support, it is quite plausible that they were known and noted by Sinaiticus or his exemplar.

DOT 3: (8:20 - column 2 line 22) - the omission of a whole clause(!):

διδασκων εν τω ιερω .

This looks like an omission by haplography (similar ending to previous line), and would quite reasonably be marked for notice by the copyist.

DOT 4: (8:21 - column 2 line 29) - again several variants all in the same verse:

a) substitution of ελεγεν for ειπεν .

b) omission of παλιν .

c) substitution of verb forms ζητησεται , δυνασθαι .

Enough serious variation in one verse to merit a DOT by the copyist once again.

DOT 5: (8:34b/35a - column 4 line 16) - again an interesting variant:

Aleph has της αμαρτιας , whereas Codex D, Italian, Coptic, Syriac MSS as well as Clement, Cyprian, Faustus and Gregory omit this phrase. It is plainly a very ancient reading, as is its variant.

Our verse numbers are of course modern divisions of the text, but the close proximity of the inclusion prior to the DOT shows its placement to be precisely similar in style as the others.

But the BIG eye-opener is the omission by Aleph of another whole clause, undocumented by UBS, right at the position of the DOT:

ο υιος μενει εις τον αιωνα .

This again is an incredibly significant error by haplography, duly marked by either the original scribe or the scribe of the master-copy he is following.

DOT 6: (8:38 - column 4 line 30) - another complex variant

Here Sinaiticus reads:

α εγω εωρακα παρα τω πατρι ΜΟΥ λαλω (no punctuation dot here as in critical text) και υμις (sp) ουν α ΕΩΡΑΚΑΤΕ ( P66 , D etc.) παρα του πατρος ΥΜΩΝ ποιειτα (SPACE AND DOT HERE).

Unusual added words are capitalized.

Here the text, besides being much fuller ( i.e., modifiers for 'Father'), agrees with the 2nd century P66 and D against both the majority of MSS and the critical text too.

That this place was recognized as a textual variant is shown by the attempt at a partial correction in the margin by a later (but still early) hand.

Another important and obviously very early Egyptian variant has been flagged by someone. Of note is the fact that the text is wordier overall, indicating that the original text is not always shorter, even in Alexandria.

Tischendorf's Facscimile

Even though photos of Codex Sinaiticus have been posted on the internet, we cannot just dispense with Tischendorf. Many of the pages of Sinaiticus are difficult to read, and can only be double-checked by comparison to Tischendorf's transcript. It must be remembered that Tischendorf collated Sinaiticus and spent more time examining it firsthand than any other textual scholar, living or dead.

Operating with the photos alone would be like putting out one eye in order to explore the continent of Africa.

Codex Sinaiticus:
Tischendorf's Facsimile of Jn 7:52-8:41

it is instructive to turn to Tischendorf, the principal editor of the famous Codex Sinaiticus, who created a special typefont in order to print an accurate and detailed facsimile of the manuscript (before there was reliable photographic methods).

Tischendorf, acknowledged world-wide as the person most familiar with and knowledgeable about Sinaiticus, showed his critical judgement in his decisions as to what markings to include and what to ignore as spurious, in his careful printing.

And remarkably, Tishchendorf's judgment coincides almost identically with ours:

He also felt it only appropriate to include SIX single dots in his facsimile, the same ones as ours, excepting one difference. He dismissed our DOT 3 as spurious, but included the DOT at the end of column 1 line 19.

We have marked this dot below. We are not claiming that Tischendorf necessarily agreed with our interpretation of the dots, or was even aware of their potential meaning as text-critical marks.

However, as one of the few men who personally examined the manuscript for many man-hours, we trust his judgement that these dots and only these, were convincing to him as by the hand of the original scribe.

We may also note in passing that many of what appear to be 'dots' on the mediocre quality photos were in fact easily decipherable by Tischendorf as LETTERS completing or embellishing a word, and correcting simple errors and omissions of single letters and/or endings.

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At least one internet 'textual critic' has publicly remarked online,

"...So far as I can tell, I don't think I've ever denied that the dots have 'the appearance of text critical markings'.

And I think this is a good indicator of the state of things at this time. Recent studies have revealed previously unnoticed or poorly understood 'text-critical marks' in Codex Vaticanus (the so-called 'umlauts', because these horizontal pairs of dots in the margin resemble German pronunciation-marks.)

Umlauts in Codex Vaticanus <-- Click here for more info on 'Umlauts'

It really should be no surprise that Codex Sinaiticus would turn out to have similar text-critical markings, and many scholars have suspected this for years. In fact, textual critics have been quietly reversing the extreme hacking of previous generations, often replacing readings previously removed as 'interpolations'.

The simple fact is, a large number of textual critics and other scholars today suspect that the enthusiastic but over-zealous deleting and substitions of 50 to 100 years ago were simply a result of a naive and uncritical application of ancient witnesses like Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, without duly appreciating the nature of these documents.

It is quite possible that textual critics have been suffering from a basic misunderstanding of how early scribes and correctors went about their business, and what the consequences of this are for textual critical methods.

The Single-Dots of Codex Sinaiticus

It appears to us that there is good evidence that the single 'DOT WITH SPACE' may have performed the same function in earlier times as the more sophisticated 'Umlauts' did in Codex Vaticanus shortly afterward.

We now think that the copyist responsible for Sinaiticus was copying a much earlier manuscript, and that his own professional technique ensured that he copied 'verbatum' what he found there. However, either he or his predecessors who copied the ancestor of his text seemed to have had a very simple but effective technique when executing a 'first pass'.

These early scribes would, whenever they noticed something they knew to be wrong (typically an accidental omission due to haplography or some similarly obvious error), they would insert a 'DOT AND SPACE' into the text, either at the point, or immediately afterward (as soon as the problem was noticed).

The scribe (or his corrector) would then be expected to take note of the spot and check an independant copy or a known 'correction-copy', and decide whether to insert the missing text in the margin.

In this way, the scribe could stay true to the text he was copying with a degree of fidelity unsurpassed, and at the same time warn future copyists of a potential problem. It would be up to the 'second-pass' man, the corrector, to apply an independant text to the question raised by the dot.

The inclusion of the dots of course would cause no immediate harm or change to the text, and if a corrector could not find anything of note at this point, he could and probably would simply ignore the dot.

This very simple system of copying would simultaneously guarantee the best fidelity to the text being copied, while flagging the most errors possible given the specialization which was developed to improve efficiency in copying.

Efficiency was needed, especially in times of persecution, to supply manuscripts, and this forced specialization, the splitting and assigning of the separate tasks of copying versus 'proofing'. Those best at copying would then be able to copy, while those best at proof-reading could practice their own talents.

Whoever developed this early 'dot-system' was brilliant. That it is perhaps the simplest and most elegant solution to the difficult problem of maintaining textual purity and efficiency seems self-evident.