Textual Evidence

Birdsall on the
Georgian PA (Jn 8:1-11)

Excerpt for review: J.N. Birdsall, The Pericope Adulterae in Georgian,
14th Int. Confr.on Patristic Studies, Vol.39, (Princeton, 2006)

Page Index

Last Updated: Mar 4, 2010

The Pericope Adulterae in Georgian: J.N. Birdsall
    Study of the Georgian - resources
    The Text of George - later edition
    The Earlier Text - readings related to Family 1/13
    Closing Discussion - questions and hints

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Birdsall on the
Georgian PA


Excerpt for review:
J.N. Birdsall, The Pericope Adulterae in Georgian,
14th Int. Confr.on Patristic Studies, Vol.39, (Princeton, 2006)

Headings/formatting may have been added for clarity and navigation purposes.

The Pericope Adulterae in Georgian

J. N. Birdsall

The Pericope Adulterae [P.A.] is the main literary deposit of a floating tradition about Jesus. It recounts his confrontation by a lynch mob led by ecclesiastical personages who seek his support for their threat to execute by stoning a woman apprehended in the act of adultery. Moses commanded this: what does Jesus say?

Jesus receives their challenge with studed indifference, writing upon the ground. He punctuates this act once to say, 'Let the one amongst you without sin throw the first stone.', and returns his attention to the ground. The mob evaporates, the woman remains unaccused, Jesus declares he does not condemn her and sends her away with the injunction to 'sin no more'.

The story in scripture is usually in the Gospel of John, but there is a strong phalanx of ancient Biblical witnesses, Greek and versional, in which it is not found at all. As new information appears, a salient feature to be investigated is whether the P.A. is contained in John, and if so at what point, or in another gospel, or not at all.

The Study of the Georgian Version

The 20th century was the period in which information about the version in the Georgian language began to be scientifically investigated. The American scholar Robert Peirpont Blake of Harvard published the four gospels from 1928 onwards, John being published in 1950. 1

Another edition, partly from different manuscripts (MSS), was published in Georgia itself by Akaki Shanidze in 1943. 2 These editions covered the two earliest versions which were made in about the 5th or 6th century, Christianity having been planted in Georgia in the 4th century.

The P.A. is not found in either recension of this four-gospel corpus.

In the 10th century, the Georgian monastic house on Mount Athos, the Iveron, was established. In that century and in the following, versions of the gospels were made, the earlier by Euthymius the Athonite, one of the founders of the Iveron, the later by George the Athonite. A critical edition of these did not appear until 1979, edited by Ivane Imnaishvili. 3 It is based on two MSS for the work of Euthymius, and on three for that of George. This report is based on that edition.

Before its publication, I had investigated the data of the presence of the P.A. in Georgian MSS as these were available to me, concentrating on the position within the gospe. of the P.A. when present.

Visits to the Vatican Library and to the Osterreichische Nationbibliothek in Vienna enabled me to examine MSS there, one in each library. Wider investigation was possible on two widely separated visits to Manchester. I was able to take advantage of the presence there of the microfilm collections made for the Library of Congress between the years 1949 and 1953 in the Greek and Armenian patriarchates in Jerusalem, 4 in St Catherine's monastery on Mount Sinai, 5 , and in the monasteries of Mount Athos. 6

Sets of films are to be found in the John Rylands U. Library of the Victoria U. of Manchester. The vigilance of the late T.W.Manson, former Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism there, had caused them to be purchased and placed there. From this resource I was able to collect various data, examining 15 MSS in all. Time was limited on all those occasions. I was able to supply data about the occurence of the PA to Prof. B.M. Metzger for two of his publications. 7

But it was not until I was recently making a study of the later Georgian versions on behalf of my successor Prof. D.C. Parker, that I turned my attention more closely to the text of this pericope.

The Text of George the Athonite

I start my report on the text with the later version. This is based on the published ed. of 3 MSS, one in Etschmiadzin, two in Tbilisi. Additionally my own gleanings had revealed 10 others, mainly at the Orthodox patriarchate, Jerusalem, which agreed in position and text. No comparison with the rest of the gospel was possible.

In the Greek tradition there are 7 or 8 main text-types for this pericope. The Georgian text of this later version agrees with one of two forms most regularly found in late Byzantine gospels. Amongst other variants, it attests most significantly one of the embellishments to which Jesus' mysterious bending down and writing lent itself.

The crowds as they disperse are said to be "convicted by their own consciences", that is challenged by Jesus' word, "Let the one amongst you without sin throw the first stone.". Some exegetes and some text-types of the Greek suggest also that Jesus wrote out the sins of each member of the crowd.

The text has been established on the basis of 3 MSS:

    Tbilisi Inst. of MSS A 1335 (siglum in edition: H);
    Tbilisi Inst. of MSS Q 908 ( in edition: K);
    Etschmiadzin Eccles. Museum Rt XIX No.1 (in edition: I);

The text is identical with that printed in the authorized edition of the Georgian Catholicate (1963). This was used for collation in the earlier research described above, and the following MSS showed identity of text:

   Sinai, St Catherine's Monastery Georgian MSS 19 and 31;
   Jerusalem Greek Ortho. patriarch. Georgian MSS 39 93 102 103 122 153 160;
   Mount Athos Monastery of Iveron Georgian MS 62.

At the points of variation the readings of the version rendered by George the Athonite are as follows. I give the Greek word alone if the version agrees with the text of NA27, but followed by a colon and variant reading if there is any difference. If a word-for-word variation can be given in Greek this is used, otherwise an English rendering.

οικον αυτου
8:3γυναικα επι μοιχειαπρος αυτον γυναικα εν μοιχεια. This adverbial phrase is rendered as a relative clause with an addition: 'who publicly before the people was taken in adultery'. This uses the adverb 'publicly' found in verse 4 ostensibly for επ'αυτοφωρω. The phrase 'before the people' is not paralleled in Greek.
αυτω+ πειραζοντες
8:5εν δε...ενετειλατοΜωσης δε ενετειλατο εν τω νομω ημων
λιθαζεινλιθοβολειν. The Georgian verb ('to pile up stones') here agrees formally with the latter.
8:6κατηγορεινThe Georgian uses an infinitive construction here.
κατεγραφενThe Georgian uses its imperfect tense of the root without any prefix. As the Greek compound is not found elsewhere in the TN and simple γραφω is generally rendered into Georgian by a compound verb, no absolute certainty is possible whether the simple or the compound Greek from was found in the exemplar of this version.
γηνThe Greek has the variant +μη προσποιουμενος. The Georgian gives 'and went-on-saying nothing' which is not paralleled by a Greek variant, but may legitimately be construed as a paraphrase.
8:7επ αυτην
8:7κατακυψαςκατω κυψας. The latter form appears as a variant here, but in v.6 there is no variation. The Georgian varies using an adverb 'to the earth' in v.6, but the adverb equivalent to κατω here. Does this betoken a distinctive textual difference between the two verses in the exemplar?
8:9ακουσαντες+ ελεγχομενοι υπο της συνειδησεως εξηρχ. ε.κ.ε. Georgian equivalent is in this order.
μονοςThe Georgian gives a pronoun before the equivalent of this Greek as if reading [αυτος μονος], for which no parallel is found. THis might be due to the need for clarity, Georgian having no category of gender.
8:10Ιησουςκαι μηδενα θεασαμενος πλην την γυναικα
εισιν+ οι κατηγοροι σου
8:11ειπεν δε ο Ιησουςequivalent of ο δε Ιησους ειπεν αυτη. The word order is Georgian; the addition of the pronoun is textually significant.

In the same edition of Imnaishvili, the earlier revision by Euthymius is given in parallel wiht that of Giorgi. It is established on the basis of two MSS:

Tbilisi Inst. of MSS A 28 (siglum in Ed.: F);
ibid, MSS H 1741 (in Ed. G)

In G the pericope is not found. In G it is found after 7:44. Other MSS where it has this location are Sinai St. Catherine's Monast. Georg. MS 16 and Vatican City Bibliot. Apost.Vat. MS iber 1.

The Earlier Text

p.189 of Birdsall, containing part I of the variants chart for version II is not avail for review online.

The last half of the second chart appears on 190 as follows:

εν μεσω'before Jesus'
8:10 ανακυψας'and he saw'; compare the variant αναβλεψας
εισιν+ οι κατηγοροι σου
κατεκρινενThis recension renders with a present tense, MSS H I K with aorist.
8:11ειπεν δε ο Ιησουςο δε [και ο] Ιησους ειπεν αυτη. Georgian corresponds to such an order.

This is a text very different from that which has found a place in Giorgi's recension, but one harder to place. That is basically the text of von Soden's Group μ5; this has other features, but does not coincide with the profile of any one of those groups. We see a number of readings shared by the majuscule U and by minuscule MSS and families, for example Family 1: 1 118 209; Family 13; 579 700; and occasional concurrence with Old Latin MSS and Armenian witnesses.

As well as the question of affiliation within the variety known in the MSS, we have the more profound question intimated above. Is the form without the pericope or that including this distinctive text of the passage to be ascribed to Euthymius? We have some few data which may help us in the analysis from which this last stage of the investigation arises.

This is a collation of the materials edited by Imnaishvili made by me as a contribution to the establishment of the Byzantine text proceeding at Birmingham. The extent of this is the first 10 chapters of John and the collations were related to a series of Testellen provided by the Institut fur Neutestamentliche Textforschung at Munster. To make the collation more informative, I included the older recensions edited by Blake and Shanidze. In this way, we have record of the whole process of the Georgian version over the first 10 chapters.

Closing Discussion

It is first to be noted that the readings of the version generally denoted as Georgian 2 are more frequently than not shared by the first of Imnaishvili's versions, which we may term Georgian 3. They rarely stand alone. In many cases the 2nd of Imnaishvili's versions (Georgian 4) shares the reading, the version of the Adysh MS standing alone: in some fewer cases, it is the latest version that stands apart, the Adysh MS sharing the reading of 2 and 3. Georgian 3 stands alone very rarely. In these 10 chapters (within the bounds of the Testellen), we find only two readings singular to Gg 3 (in addition to the PA) and 3 where a variant in Gg 3 has been retained in Gg 4. In Gg 3, MSS F and G differ from one another only in 3 places in addition to the distinction over the PA.

... p.191 not avail. for review

...group named Family 1. Two or three other readings seem to be sub-singular to that family. But such agreements are found also with several other groups or individual MSS as given above. Family 1 was thought by Lake to be a local text of Constantinople. The oldest family member, 1582, unknown to Lake, is now on Athos, but was written in Constantinople by the well-known scribe Ephraim. There might then be a link with Euthymius' sojourn there, but his apparent lack of Greek literacy according to the hagiography makes his consultation of such MSS in Constantinople slightly improbable.

We turn in closing to the latest version. Although not germane to the main topic of this report, it is of interest to note that later in the gospel (John 18:35), a verbal form belonging to the quite distinct conjugation pattern of Modern Georgian appears. Why the translator used the vernacular form (as it must have been) at this one point and this alone has not yet been explained. No such phenomenon is found in the work of Euthymius mad less than a 100 years earlier.

Original Footnotes:

1. Robert P. Blake, The Old Georgian Version of the Gospel of Mark, PO 20.3 (Paris, 1928); idem, T.O.G.V of the G. of Matthew, PO 24.1 (Paris, 1933); Blake & M. Briere, T.O.G.V of the G. of John, PO 26.4 (P., 1950); Maurice Briere, La Version Georgienne Ancienne de l'Evangile de Luc, PO 27.3 (P,1955).

2. Akaki Shanidze, Two Old Recensions of the Georgian Gospels acc. to three Shatberd Manuscripts, Monuments of the Old Georgian Language 2 (Tbilisi, 1945); title also in Russian & Georgian.

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