On the authenticity (or not) of 1 Corinthians 14.34-35: Philip Payne and Curt Niccum on Fuldensis and Vaticanus

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June 5, 2013 by jmar198013

People know 1 Cor. 14.34-35 as the passage where Paul tells women to shut up in worship assemblies. It’s a passage that’s caused much grief. But what if Paul didn’t write it after all? Scribal markings in two ancient manuscripts, Fuldensis and Vaticanus, may suggest that their scribes considered the verses spurious. This post reviews the observations of skillful textual critics Philip B. Payne (Fuller Theological Seminary) and Curt Niccum (Abilene Christian University) concerning the significance of the scribal markings in these documents.

The Scribal Sigla in Fuldensis and Vaticanus

The significance of the Fuldensis codex cannot be overstated. Written between AD 541 and 546 by the order of Victor of Capua, and personally corrected by him, Fuldensis (so named because it now resides in the Landesbibliothek in Fulda) contains the entire NT, as well as the apocryphal letter of Paul to the Laodecians (Metzger Text of the NT 77). Fuldensis is also the earliest dated Vulgate manuscript we have of the NT outside the Gospels.[i]

At this point, Payne enters into the discussion of the significance of our verses as they appear in the Fuldensis in his masterful article “Fuldensis, Sigla for Variants in Vaticanus, and 1 Cor 14.34-35” (New Testament Studies 41 (1995) 240-62). Payne argues that these verses are spurious. Frankly, it would be impossible to include all of Payne’s detailed research here, and I would urge anyone with a serious interest in the matter to read it for themselves.*** Nevertheless, we shall attempt to survey the key points of his work.

In the first place, Payne (“Fuldensis, Vaticanus, and 1 Cor 14.34-35,” 241-42) corrects Metzger. We noted earlier that in his Textual Commentary for the third edition UBS text, Metzger had said that “in Codex Fuldensis they [vv 34-35] were inserted by Victor of Capua into the margin of v 33, without, however, removing them from their place further down” (565). In fact, in the Fuldensis, vv 34-35 do not appear in the margin at all. It is the text of 36-40 which is in the margin, at the bottom of the page, not after v 33. When shown a copy of the Fuldensis codex by Payne in the early nineteen-nineties, Metzger admitted that he had been mistaken, and that judging from the handwriting at the bottom margin, Victor had probably ordered the text of 1 Cor 14.36-40 to be written into the margin by the same scribe he had conscripted to write the codex (Payne “Fuldensis, Vaticanus, and 1 Cor 14.34-35,” 242).

There are two fascinating aspects to this marginal reading. First, this is the single largest block of text to find its way into the margin of the Fuldensis. Second, the symbol , used eight other times in the Fuldensis to indicate where the marginal reading should begin, is placed after v 33. Taken together, according to Payne, this evidence points to Victor’s decision that vv 34-35 are inauthentic (“Fuldensis, Vaticanus, and 1 Cor 14.34-35,” 242-43). Payne also strongly urges that Victor’s judgments about textual variants ought not to be taken lightly, as he had access to many ancient manuscripts, some of which may very well be lost to us today. He points to Victor’s astute textual criticism elsewhere—namely his omission of the testimonium of 1 John 5.7-8, which has been vindicated by subsequent textual criticism—to demonstrate this point. Thus, in Payne’s view, Fuldensis serves as a witness to an original text without vv 34-35 (“Fuldensis, Vaticanus, and 1 Cor 14.34-35,” 241).

At this juncture, two very important points must be made. First, Payne’s account of his interaction with Metzger on our passage explains the latter’s change of opinion about these verses between the editions of his Textual Commentary. Metzger has removed the bit about vv 34-35 appearing in the margins and has left the matter of authenticity up to the reader’s critical judgment by simply asking the question, “Does the scribe, without actually deleting verses 34-35 from the text, intend the liturgist to omit them when reading the lesson?” (499-500)

Secondly, Payne’s article renders Ellis’ theory of our passage as a marginal reading originating with Paul inoperable. As previously stated, Ellis concluded that Paul himself inserted the verses in question into the margin in the original letter after v 33 (“Silenced Wives,” 434). However, Ellis’ proposal turns out to be ill-informed, as he had based his conclusion upon what turned out to be faulty information from Metzger concerning the location of these verses in Fuldensis (Payne “Fuldensis, Vaticus, and 1 Cor 14.34-35,” 246; cf. Ellis “Silenced Wives,” 433).

Now, Payne moves along toward demonstrating that Victor considered this passage to be spurious. In the first place, scribes of that period simply would not have taken the liberty of rearranging the text in this manner without some reasonable warrant; we certainly have no evidence of a scribal rearrangement of this magnitude in the other NT letters (“Fuldensis, Vaticanus, and 1 Cor 14.34-35,” 244-45). We may conclude at least that Victor felt justified in departing from the Vulgate text at this point. He must have had some evidence that led him to believe that the Vulgate was wrong there. All the other changes in Fuldensis which Victor marked with the -sigla and the marginal reading at the bottom of the page have been shown to have sufficient text-critical warrant (“Fuldensis, Vaticanus, and 1 Cor 14.34-35,” 245). Would it not be fair to also conclude that he may have had a reliable manuscript at his disposal which did not contain vv 34-35, even if this manuscript is lost to us now?[ii]

Payne is not content to stop with Fuldensis, however. He concludes his article by moving right along into Vaticanus. Vaticanus is quite possibly the most important manuscript of the NT available to us. Written about the middle of the fourth century AD, some authorities believe it to be one of the fifty copies of the Bible commissioned by the emperor Constantine (Metzger Text of the NT, 47). Aland calls it “by far the most significant of the uncials” (Text of the NT, 109). Payne notes that Vaticanus distinguishes 1 Cor 14.34-35 as a separate paragraph, not belonging with 33b, as do all the other ancient Greek manuscripts (“Fuldensis, Vaticanus, and 1 Cor 14.34-35,” 251). The paragraph is noted by a horizontal bar which protrudes into the left margin. Above the bar is a two-dotted character, similar to an umlaut. These bar-umlauts, when they appear in the interface between lines of text[iii], are used in Vaticanus to mark textual variants. Metzger (Text of the NT, 47) notes that at some point during its life, someone re-inked Vaticanus, tracing over the original writing. However, some of these bar-umlauts were not traced over, and Payne notes that the siglum over our passage was one of those left untraced (“Fuldensis, Vaticanus, and 1 Cor 14.34-35,” 251). The conlusion Payne draws is that even Vaticanus, which preserves the reading we currently have, recognizes a variant there.[iv]

Now someone will protest that we have ignored P46, which is from around 200 AD and contains vv 34-35 as we have them. This is true, and Payne concedes that “every readable letter in it agrees with Vaticanus” (“Fuldensis, Vaticanus, and 1 Cor 14.34-35,” 251 n.38). Yet, this does not necessarily offer evidence of the authenticity of these verses, for, as Metzger points out in his Textual Commentary, P46 shares a common archetype with Vaticanus (xviii).[v]

In summary, taken together, Payne’s arguments for vv 34-35 as a later gloss are quite weighty. First, Victor of Capua seems to have regarded them as inauthentic when he corrected Fuldensis, and he may have had access to manuscripts which are unavailable to us now. Second, Vaticanus notes a textual variant at these verses by way of a bar-umlaut after v 33. Thus, Vaticanus may provide something in the way of an explanation for Victor’s decision about these verses in Fuldensis. Finally, P46, which shares a common archetype with Vaticanus, is our earliest witness to these verses. Appearing as it does around 200 AD, it would still allow time for a gloss to enter into the text.

Payne’s work on the significance of scribal sigla in Fuldensis and Vaticanus for 1 Cor 14.34-35 has not gone unchallenged, however. Curt Niccum (“The Silence of Women: 1 Cor 14.34-35,” 242-55) argues that Payne has confused the scribal markings—the bars and the umlauts—which Niccum claims come from two very different points in time. The “bar,” says Niccum, is indeed a paragraph marker, and is original to the fourth-century text of Vaticanus. The umlauts, however, postdate the fourteenth century.[vi] Niccum observes that the fourth-century vellum of Vaticanus only runs through Heb 9.14, at which point a fifteenth-century scribe finished out the text of the NT. The umlauts, however, continue on through Hebrews 10.1. At that point, the text abruptly switches to the Byzantine text type. The simplest explanation, according to Niccum, is that the scribe, comparing Vaticanus to another text, recognized the discrepancy between the two text-types and chose to discontinue the markings (“The Silence of Women: 1 Cor 14.34-35,” 244-45).

Niccum also disagrees with Payne’s interpretation of the evidence provided by the Fuldensis codex, rehearsing (“The Silence of Women,” 246) the story of our passage in Fuldensis in slightly more detail than does Payne. As Victor of Capua[vii] was making the Fuldensis, he used two manuscripts for the Pauline writings. One of them was strongly mixed, with many Old Latin readings. However, when Victor had finished 2 Corinthians, he realized that the other manuscript, of northern Italian provenance, preserved a superior text. He finished copying the rest of Paul’s letters from this manuscript, then went back and corrected Romans and the Corinthian correspondences in keeping with this second exemplar. The first text contained vv 34-35 after v 33. The northern Italian one did not. Victor then transcribed vv 36-40 to the bottom margin of Fuldensis. Payne, it may be recalled, concluded that Victor’s omission of vv 34-35 in the correction pointed to an exemplar missing these verses. Niccum, however, argues that the evidence may be explained differently. Victor began to write the comparison text at the point where the two texts differed, that is, after v 33. When he reached what we know as vv 34-35 in the comparison text, he stopped, as they were already present in Fuldensis

Niccum’s arguments are indeed weighty—particularly in regard to the scribal sigla in Vaticanus. If the sigla in Vaticanus are late in origin, as Niccum contends, then Payne’s thesis is damaged. Moreover, his explanation for vv 34-35 being absent in the corrected reading of the lower margin of Fuldensis is arguably as convincing as Payne’s.

Payne, however, has not let the matter rest. With Paul Canart of Vatican City[viii], he heralds the discovery that the text critical markings of Vaticanus are, contra Niccum, indeed original to the text. As we have already observed, a scribe in the Middle Ages traced over the fading text of the Vaticanus—every letter, unless it appeared incorrect. Expert analysis of un-reinforced letters and scribal sigla—such as the umlauts—reveals that the sigla were original to the fourth-century text, and not the work of a later scribe (“Originality of Text-Critical Symbols” 105-07). Our text is one of the places where the umlaut has not been reinforced (“Originality of Text-Critical Symbols,” 108-09).


***Links to pertinent articles from Payne:

[i] We do, however, have some Vulgate citations from the Pauline corpus in the works of some early fifth-century Pelagians (Aland Text of the NT, 192).

[ii] Though we have no manuscripts missing the verses, they do not appear in very early Christian writings. As far as we know, their first documented usage was in Tertullian (AD 160-240) and Origen (AD 185-254; cf. Payne “Fuldensis, Vaticanus, and 1 Cor 14.34-35,” 248; Kovacs 1 Corinthians 239-40). It may indeed be telling that Origen was, in fact, using these words to discredit the Montanist prophetesses Maximilla and Priscilla (Kovacs 1 Corinthians 239). Likewise, Tertullian employed the verses against women in the Marcionite movement (Payne “Fuldensis, Vaticanus, and 1 Cor 14.34-35,” 250). Yet these verses are not employed by the Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr (AD 165), Athenagoras (ca. 177, though he quotes vv 32 and 37), or Clement of Alexandria (pre-215), even when addressing the matter of women’s conduct (Payne “Fuldensis, Vaticanus, and 1 Cor 14.34-35” 247-248).

[iii] Payne elsewhere notes the presence of the bar-umlaut between John 7.52 and 8.12 (“A Response to J. Edward Miller,” 108).

[iv] J. Edward Miller argues that Payne has overstated the case for the use of the bar-umlaut in Vaticanus, especially in regard to 1 Cor 14.34-35, saying that Vaticanus uses this notation after a textual variant, not before it (“Text Critical Function of Umlauts,” 235). This is problematic, as there is no significant variant at v 33 which would warrant such a signal. In Payne’s response (“A Response to J. Edward Miller,” 108), he refutes Miller’s misapprehension of his work, stating that the umlauts simply mark the interface between a text and a variant reading, whether retention or omission of the variant reading follows.

[v] Might the appearance of P46 with vv 34-35 near the beginning of the third century explain why we don’t encounter these verses in second-century works?

[vi] Niccum states that the assertion for the late date of the umlauts is found in T. C. Skeat “The Codex Vaticanus in the Fifteenth Century” Journal of Theological Studies 35 (1984): 454-65. I have read this article, however, and cannot find where Skeat mentions the umlauts—his concern was with the restoration of the codex, mostly in matters of ornamentation and replacing of soiled or damaged pages, in preparation for its presentation to the Pope—not scribal markings. The data concerning the location of the sigla was collated by Niccum himself (“The Silence of Women: 1 Cor 14.34-35,” 245).

[vii] Niccum speaks as though Victor himself wrote the codex, but Metzger (Text of the NT 77) and Payne (“Fuldensis, Vaticanus, and 1 Cor 14.34-35,” 242) state that Victor corrected the codex, but employed a scribe to do the writing.

[viii] Canart is a paleontologist at the Vatican whose work with the Vaticanus has spanned decades. Incidentally, Skeat’s article on the Vaticanus (454) referenced by Niccum speaks approvingly of Canart’s work.

Works Cited

Aland, Kurt and Barbara Aland.  The Text of the New Testament. Rev. ed. Erroll F. Rhodes, trans. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989.

Ellis, E. Earle. “The Silenced Wives of Corinth (1 Cor 14:34-35)” New Testament Textual Criticism: Essays in Honour of Bruce M. Metzger. Eldon J. Epp and Gordon D. Fee, eds. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981. 213-20.

Kovacs, Judith L. 1 Corinthians Interpreted by Early Christian Commentators. The Church’s Bible. Robert Louis Wilken, ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005.

Metzger, Bruce M. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament, Third Edition. New York: American Bible Society, 1971.

—. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (Fourth Revised Edition). 2nd ed. New York: American Bible Society, 1994.

The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Miller, J. Edward. “Some Observations on the Text-Critical Function of the Umlauts in Vaticanus, with Special Attention to 1 Corinthians 14.34-35.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 26.2 (2003): 217-36.

Niccum, Curt. “The Voice of the Manuscripts on the Silence of Women: The External Evidence for 1 Cor 14.34-5.” New Testament Studies 43 (1997): 242-55.

Payne, Philip B. “Fuldensis, Sigla for Variants in Vaticanus, and 1 Cor 14.34-35.” New Testament Studies 41 (1995): 240-62.

—.“The Text-Critical Function of the Umlauts in Vaticanus, with Special Attention to 1 Corinthians 14.34-35: A Response to J. Edward Miller.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 27.1 (2004): 105-112.

Payne, Philip B. and Paul Canart. “The Originality of Text-Critical Symbols in Codex Vaticanus.” Novum Testamentum 42.2 (2000): 105-13.

Skeat, T. C. “The Codex Vaticanus in the Fifteenth Century” Journal of Theological Studies 35 (1984): 454-65.


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