A New-Found Majuscule Psalter (Rahlfs 1301)

Georgi Parpulov
August 3, 2023


The oldest known copies of the Septuagint Psalter are written in majuscule script without breathings and accents. Most of them form the basis of the standard edition published by Alfred Rahlfs in 1931. A few substantial witnesses, however, only came to light after that date: Ra 2029, Ra 2110, Ra 2149, Ra 2151.[i] One was noticed so recently that the revised census of LXX manuscripts which Detlef Fraenkel completed some twenty years ago does not list it. At the very turn of the current century, Paul Géhin and Stig Frøyshov observed (p. 171) that a manuscript discovered at the Sinai Monastery in 1975 had been written on reused (palimpsest) parchment over erased older text, that of the Psalms. At some point between 2010 and 2013, said manuscript was photographed in both visible and ultraviolet light for the Sinai Palimpsest Project. The resultant high-quality images are now accessible via a special website (requiring user registration and login), where Giulia Rossetto and Agamemnon Tselikas provide informative descriptions of their content. A second palimpsest that might perhaps include further fragments from the same Psalter remains, to my knowledge, unstudied.

The original order of the palimpsest leaves can be tentatively reconstructed as follows: 4, gap, 7, gap, 5, gap, 6, gap, 2, gap, 13, gap, 12, gap, 1, gap, 15, 9, 16, 10, gap, 14, gap, 11. Their erased text is in a type of handwriting conventionally called ‘biblical majuscule’ and in the present case datable ca. 700–800 CE. Once transcribed (to the extent possible), this witness will be included in the editio critica maior of the Septuagint Psalter. An interesting feature is its ordering of the biblical odes: the only other codices where Mary’s Canticle (Lk 1:46–55) follows directly upon that of Hannah (1 Sam 2:1–10), as it does on f. 14v here, are Ra T and Marc. gr. 535. The latter contains a Psalter commentary (CPG 6553) ascribed to Hesychius of Jerusalem

f. 4r: Ps 9:49, Ps 10:1–5; f. 4v: Ps 10:6–7, Ps 11:1–6 

f. 7r: Ps 17:5–11; f. 7v: Ps 17:11–17 

f. 5r: Ps 32:18–22, Ps 33:2–4; f. 5v: Ps 33:4–10 

f. 6r: Ps 35:12–13, Ps 36:1–6; f. 6v: Ps 36:6–11 

f. 2r: Ps 113:25–26, Ps 114:1–9; f. 2v: Ps 115:1–10, Ps 116:1–2, Ps 117:1 

f. 13r: Ps 118: 1–8; f. 13v: Ps 118:9–17 

f. 12r: Ps 118:117–124; f. 12v: Ps 118:124–131 

f. 1r: Ps 138:4–12; f. 1v: Ps 138:12–18 

f. 15r: Ps 143:13–15, Ps 144:1–5; f. 15v: Ps 144:5–13 

f. 9r: Ps 144:13–21; f. 9v: the first verse is Ps 145:1 

f. 16r: the text ends with Ps 147:1–2; f. 16v: Ps 147:2–9? 

f. 10r: the text is too damaged to be legible; f. 10v: the last verse is probably Ps 149:9 

f. 14r: Ode 3:3b–10; f. 14v: Ode 3:10, Ode 9:46–48 

f. 11r: Ode 12:9–13; f. 11v: Ode 12:13–15

[i] Rahlfs was familiar with Ra 2029 but did not trust James Rendel Harris’ edition of its text. A black-and-white photographic reproduction of the manuscript is now available online.