Re: Punctuation in Codex Bezae (on the web)

From: MikeBzley (
Date: Mon Apr 13 1998 - 10:27:44 EDT

Dear Steve,

On 12 Apr 1998 you wrote:

>> Hi George
        Interesting question but at least in modern languages
        not having pronunciation, or even not having spaces in
        between words, (or even not having vowels), definitely
        does not affect the speed of reading outloud

As someone who is rather better at writing and speaking English than B-Greek,
I have to disagree with you as far as punctuation in English is concerned. I
am a lover of poetry and a rather bad writer of it, and my job involves a
great deal of writing English to be read and English to be spoken.

I firmly believe that punctuation is much more important for meaninful
delivery out aloud to an audience than for the private understanding of what
one reads. Poets, playwrights and speechwriters make far more use of
punctuation devices (including variable spaces and line beginnings and
endings) than do prose writers. Both speaking and listening become extremely
difficult without them; try it and see! When reading something privately, one
has the time to question punctuation and experiment with it in order to
enhance understanding. This is not possible when listening.

I agree with George that the early manuscripts are unlikely to have been
written for direct public reading. I am sure that, in those days of
widespread illiteracy when professional story-tellers and orators abounded,
they were written to be memorised and for reference by the literate as in e.g.
Acts 17. The orator would himself supply the punctuation as he saw fit, or as
he had received it from another.

It seems to me that punctuation became necessary as literacy increased and as
more people became Christians and wanted to read the Scriptures for
themselves. Also, the firming-up of the canon required the removal of doubt
about meaning, and much of the doubt resides in the punctuation rather than in
the grammar.

I find it helpful to look at the unpunctuated textus receptus when trying to
understand a difficult passage, because the punctuation in modern versions of
the Greek text may hide a possible interpretation which might otherwise be
more obvious.

Happy Easter and Passover to all,

Mike Beazley
Bushey, Hertfordshire, UK

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