Block Mixture

Contents: Introduction * Noteworthy Block Mixed Manuscripts * Bibliography


All known manuscripts are copied and corrected from previous manuscripts. Usually the manuscripts are taken and corrected from a single exemplar, but this is by no means universal. A scribe's exemplar might be damaged as some point, forcing him to refer to another manuscript. Or he might come into the scriptorium one day to find his exemplar in use, and have to refer to another for that day. Or the exemplar might have been very thoroughly corrected in different places from different manuscripts. Or, conceivably, a scribe might have started to copy from one manuscript, decided he didn't approve of its text, and turn to another.

All of these are possible causes of block mixture, where a manuscript displays a sudden shift of text-type within a corpus. (If a manuscript shows a change in type between one corpus and another, this is not considered block mixture; this situation is too common to invite comment. We should simply keep in mind that the fact a document is Alexandrian in, say, the Gospels, does not mean it will belong to that type in other parts of the New Testament.)

Block mixture should not be confused with ordinary mixture, in which elements of different text-types occur constantly throughout a manuscript. Ordinary mixture is thought to be the result of correcting a manuscript of one type from a manuscript of another (meaning that readings from both manuscripts will become jumbled together), while block mixture arises from the sole use of multiple exemplars. (One might give an analogy from baking. One can take a measuring cup of sugar, and a measuring cup of flour. The sugar might be Alexandrian readings, the flour Byzantine. As long as the sugar is in one cup and the flour in another, the texts are block mixed. If we take the two and mix them together, then put them back in the cups, we they are mixed, not just block mixed.)

Block mixture is not overly common, but neither is it rare. Students should always be alert to it, and never assume, simply because a manuscript belongs to a certain text-type in one book or section of a book, that it will belong to that type in another section.

Noteworthy Block Mixed Manuscripts

The following list highlights some of the better-known examples of block mixture.


Davies: M. Davies, The Text of the Pauline Epistles in MS. 2344 (Studies and Documents 38, 1968)

Fee: Gordon D. Fee, "Codex Sinaiticus in the Gospel of John: A Contribution to Methodology in Establishing Textual Relationships," now available as Chapter 12 of Eldon J. Epp and Gordon D. Fee, Studies in the Theory and Method of New Testament Textual Criticism (Studies and Documents 45, Eerdmans, 1993).

Hurtado: Larry W. Hurtado, Text-Critical Methodology and the Pre-Cæsarean Text: Codex W in the Gospel of Mark (Studies and Documents 43, Eerdmans, 1981).

Metzger: Bruce M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (third edition, Oxford, 1992)

Richards: W. L. Richards, The Classification of the Greek Manuscripts of the Johannine Epistles (SBL Dissertation Series 35, Scholars Press, 1977).

Sanders: Henry A. Sanders, Facsimile of the Washington Manuscript of the Four Gospels in the Freer Collection (University of Michigan, 1912).

Streeter: B. H. Streeter, The Four Gospels: A Study of Origins (Macmillan, 1924)