Unveiling the Mystery: The Sixteenth Century Origins of Two Septuagint Manuscripts (Rahlfs 744 and 768)

Felix Albrecht
May 1, 2024

In 1518, an edition of the Greek Bible was published by Aldus Manutius in Venice, edited by Andreas Asolanus and later known as the Aldina. This edition is based on various manuscripts, including Ra 68, which is a copy of Codex Vaticanus B.[1]  The Aldina had great influence in the sixteenth century and was reprinted several times. The adaptation of the Aldina by Johannes Lonicer (1497–1569) was particularly influential.[2] This edition is considered to be the first Protestant Septuagint edition, which is why it was included in the Index Librorum Prohibitorum of the Roman Catholic Church. It was published in 1526 and, in addition to the Old Testament books contained in the Aldina, also included the Fourth Book of Maccabees. The edition was printed by Wolfgang Köpffel in Strasbourg.[3] This edition by Lonicer was of course – how could it be otherwise – reprinted. Such a reprint, which in turn was reprinted, was published by Andreas Wechel in Frankfurt in 1597.[4] It also considered the Sixtina published in 1587.

For his edition of Sirach, first published in 1965, Joseph Ziegler analysed the manuscript sources of the printed editions.[5] According to Ziegler’s investigation, in the case of Sirach, the printed edition of the Aldina, published in 1518, in his opinion is based on Ra 744, and the printed edition by Andreas Wechel, published in Frankfurt in 1597, in his opinion is based on Ra 768. Ziegler writes: “Während jedoch Aldina auf die Minuskel 744 zurückgeht, stützt sich Wechel auf die Hs. 768, die eine Schwester von 744 ist.”[6] Unfortunately, in both cases Ziegler has misjudged and completely misrepresented the situation as regards tradition.

To anticipate the result: In the case of the Book of Sirach, the Aldina does not depend on Ra 744, but Ra 744 depends on the Aldina. And Wechel’s edition does not depend on Ra 768, but Ra 768 on Wechel’s edition. In the following, I would like to provide evidence for my refutation of Ziegler, briefly present the two manuscripts in question, which I have described and dated anew for the Göttingen Septuagint, and finally present my counter-arguments.

1. The Witnesses

Manuscript Rahlfs 744 (Codex Vindobonensis phil. gr. 271) is a miscellany manuscript written between 1540–1560, which contains only Sirach.[7] The later origin of Ra 744 alone shows that Ziegler misjudged the relationship of dependence. The examples cited by Ziegler,[8] which in his opinion show that the Aldina does not depend on Ra 68 but on Ra 744, illustrate that these are simple scribal errors in which the correspondence of Ra 744 with the Aldina is always due to the fact that Ra 744 depends on the Aldina.[9] The question now is from which edition Ra 744 depends: Directly from the Aldina published in 1518, or rather from one of its numerous reprints? Well, the layout alone shows that Ra 744 is very probably directly dependent on the Aldina. Three clues point to this:

  1. The chapter references, which have only been available since Lyoner’s edition, are missing in Ra 744; in the Aldina they are only noted for the Book of Sirach from chap. 45 (f. 247v) in the inner margin of the printed columns.
  2. The title of the Book of Sirach in Ra 744 (f. 47r) is the same as in the Aldina (f. 238v): Σοφία ησο υο Σειράχ. The initial Π is florally decorated in a similar way in both cases.
  3. Moreover, the Sirach prologue printed on a single page in the Aldina (f. 238r, before the Sirach Book) is also singled out and written on a separate page in Ra 744 (f. 87v, after the Sirach Book), having the same heading as in the Aldina (πρόλογος Σοφία ησο υο Σειράχ), whereby again in both cases the initial Π is decorated.

Manuscript Rahlfs 768 (Codex Athos Λαύρα 1085) can be dated to the seventeenth century.[10] It is written in an upright archaising minuscule which is typical for Mount Athos and resembles the so-called Hodegon style. It contains Prov-SapSal-Sir; Sus-BelDr; Judith, 4Macc). For the large Göttingen Septuagint edition, this text witness has so far only been used for Sirach. This is probably due to the fact that Göttingen only had (historical) photos of the Sirach part of this manuscript; photos of the Sapientia Salomonis part of the manuscript are now also available. This explains why neither Ziegler-Munnich (in the case of Susanna, Bel et Draco) nor Robert Hanhart (in the case of Judith) included this witness in their editions.

The contents of this manuscript reveal at first glance where to look for the source of this manuscript: since the Fourth Book of Maccabees is included, Johannes Lonicer is the earliest possible source. In contrast to the Aldina, Lonicer’s edition and the editions dependent on Lonicer contain the Fourth Book of Maccabees, as does Ra 768. And just as in Ra 768, in Lonicer’s edition and the editions dependent on him, Sus-BelDr follows Sirach (and is independent of Daniel).[11]

A further clear indication that Ra 768 follows in the footsteps of Lonicer is the fact that in Ra 768, as in Lonicer and subsequent prints (but unlike in most books of the Aldina), the chapters are indicated within the biblical text.

2. The Evidence

The following readings show the consistent convergence of Ra 768 with Wechel:[12]

SapSal 18a

οδες μή B 𝔖𝔦𝔵𝔱] ο δε μ 68-122 𝔄𝔩𝔡; οδ μ 𝔏𝔬𝔫 𝔚𝔢=768.

SapSal 18b

οδ μ 𝔚𝔢=768] οδ μ 68 𝔄𝔩𝔡 𝔏𝔬𝔫; οὐδὲ μήν B 𝔖𝔦𝔵𝔱.

SapSal 619

ποιεῖ B 𝔄𝔩𝔡 𝔏𝔬𝔫 𝔖𝔦𝔵𝔱 𝔚𝔢=768] ποδε 68; ποδ 442.

SapSal 1118b

σθμα B 𝔄𝔩𝔡 𝔏𝔬𝔫 𝔖𝔦𝔵𝔱(ἆσθμα) 𝔚𝔢(ἆσθμα)=768 442interlinear] ᾄσομαι 122; ἔσομαι 68 442txt.

The following special readings of the Aldina show that Ra 768 does not directly follow the Aldina, but rather Wechel, who also took the Sixtina into account:

SapSal 161a

δι’ μοων B-68 𝔖𝔦𝔵𝔱] δ’ μοως 𝔄𝔩𝔡 𝔏𝔬𝔫 𝔚𝔢=768.

SapSal 1613a

ξουσαν χεις B-68 𝔖𝔦𝔵𝔱 𝔚𝔢=768] ξουσαν ν χεις 𝔄𝔩𝔡 𝔏𝔬𝔫.

SapSal 194b

συμβεβηκτων B-68 𝔖𝔦𝔵𝔱 𝔚𝔢=768] βεβηκτων 𝔄𝔩𝔡 𝔏𝔬𝔫.

The readings below show that Ra 744 always follows the Aldina and Ra 768 always follows Wechel:

Sir 2420b

κηρίον] κηρο B-68 𝔖𝔦𝔵𝔱 𝔏𝔬𝔫 𝔚𝔢=768; κυρο 𝔄𝔩𝔡=744; κηρίου rel.

Sir 4012b

καὶ πίστις εἰς B 𝔖𝔦𝔵𝔱] κα τς εἰς 68; κα τ εἰς 𝔄𝔩𝔡=744 𝔏𝔬𝔫 𝔚𝔢=768.

Sir 4210d

μήποτε στειρωθ] μήποτε στειρσῃ B 𝔖𝔦𝔵𝔱 𝔚𝔢=768; μήποτε τηρσῃ 68; μήποτε τηρώς 𝔄𝔩𝔡=744 𝔏𝔬𝔫.

Sir 5021a

ἐδευτέρωσεν B-68 𝔖𝔦𝔵𝔱] λευτρωσεν = 𝔄𝔩𝔡=744; λευθρωσεν[13] 𝔏𝔬𝔫 𝔚𝔢=768.

3. The Final Decision

As a result, Ra 744 and Ra 768 must be excluded as witnesses to the Septuagint text, since they depend on printed editions whose manuscript sources are known. In the case of Ra 744, a direct dependence on the Aldina is evident, and in the case of Ra 768 a dependence on Wechel’s edition from 1597, which in turn is based on Lonicer’s Aldina derivative and in which the Sixtina is also taken into account.

[1] For the following see F. Albrecht: The History of Septuagint Studies. Editions of the Septuagint, in: Salvesen, A.G./Law, T.M. (eds.): The Oxford Handbook of the Septuagint, Oxford 2021, 53–70, here: 54–55.

[2] J. Lonicer: Τῆς θείας γραφῆς παλαῖας δηλαδὴ καὶ νέας ἅπαντα. Divinae scripturae veteris novaeque omnia, Strasbourg 1526.

[3]  A. Lumini: La Bibbia. Edizioni del XVI secolo (Biblioteca di bibliografia italiana 162), Florence 2000, ns. 6 & 96.

[4] A. Wechel: Τῆς θείας γραφῆς, παλαῖας δηλαδὴ καὶ νέας διαθήκης, ἅπαντα. Divinae scripturae, nempe veteris ac novi testamenti, omnia. Recens a viro doctissimo et linguarum peritissimo diligenter recognita […], Frankfurt 1597.

[5] J. Ziegler (ed.): Sapientia Iesu Filii Sirach (Septuaginta. Vetus Testamentum Graecum auctoritate Academiae Scientiarum Gottingensis editum XII/2), Göttingen 32016. The first edition (1965) was twice reprinted: The second edition was published with no changes in 1981, the third edition with no changes in 2016.

[6] Ziegler: Sirach (see n. 5), 44.

[7] Cf. my online description of the manuscript Rahlfs 744.

[8] Ziegler: Sirach (see n. 5), 41.

[9] In this respect, I must correct what I had unquestioningly accepted from Ziegler, cf. Albrecht: History (see n. 1), 54.

[10] Cf. my online description of the manuscript Rahlfs 768.

[11] The order of the Book of Proverbs at the beginning and the Fourth Book of Maccabees at the end, as found in Ra 768, is also found in Lyoniker's edition and in Wechel's adaptation of Lyoniker's edition. The fact that Sus-BelDr follows Sirach is also the case in these editions and in Ra 768.

[12] 𝔄𝔩𝔡 = 𝔄𝔩𝔡𝔦𝔫𝔞 1518; 𝔏𝔬𝔫 = 𝔏𝔬𝔫𝔦𝔠𝔢𝔯 1526 (see n. 2); 𝔖𝔦𝔵𝔱 = 𝔖𝔦𝔵𝔱𝔦𝔫𝔞 1587; 𝔚𝔢 = 𝔚𝔢𝔠𝔥𝔢𝔩 1597 (see n. 4).

[13] Ziegler, Sirach (see n. 5), 41, erroneously notes for Ra 768: “ηλευτ.”