NA27 presents the conjecture as τεσσάρων being read instead of δεκατεσσάρων. But do Greek numerals work that way? And why did Grotius propose the conjecture in the first place? And why is such a conjecture mentioned in the Nestle edition anyway? And what does min. 1241s add to the picture?
Ad fontes, then.
In the case of conjectures attributed to Grotius, the source is never difficult to guess: one has to consult his Annotationes. There, we read on Gal 2:1 (in my provisional translation):
I accept the manuscripts if there are that have τεσσάρων [four] instead of δεκατεσσάρων. Indeed, as numbers were written with abbreviations, it could easily occur that through error ἰ was added before δ΄; and we pointed out at Lk 4:26 and elsewhere how from one copy of scripture faults often have flown into many others. Moreover, copyists made many errors in numbers, as we have shown for many Old Testament places. I find nothing more plausible than that here the same journey by Paul is recorded as the one mentioned in Acts 15:2, which cannot have been a whole fourteen years after either Paul’s conversion or, if one prefers, the end of his stay in Arabia.1I used the 19th-century edition by Petrus Hofstede de Groot; Grotius’ annotations on Acts and the Epistles were first published in 1646, just after his death in 1645. Thus the conjecture can be dated to 1646 (but see below).
The main reason for the conjecture is obvious: if one tries to establish a chronology of Paul’s life by combining somehow Galatians and Acts, and the most obvious option is taken, namely to identify this journey to Jerusalem and Acts 15, then the fourteen years mentioned in Gal 2:1 are bound to become problematic.
H.J. de Jonge takes a rather harsh view of Grotius’ effort here; he writes:
Sometimes ... Grotius’ critical faculty is to be found wanting in his Annotationes. One example of this is that he shares with his contemporaries the deeply-rooted inclination to impose harmony upon the contradictions between parallel reports in the Gospels, and between Paul and the Acts of the Apostles. His conjecture of ‘four’ instead of ‘fourteen’ in Gal. 2:1 is an example of this: it strives to identify the journey mentioned here with that in Acts 15:2.2Perhaps the example of Gal 2:1 does not entirely support de Jonge’s point. Every scholar of the New Testament will have to answer the question of the relationship between the Paul of the (authentic) letters and the Paul of Acts. There may just be a subtle difference between a genuinely historical approach and potentially bibliolatric harmonisation. In any case, there is more at stake than just the ‘reconciliation’ of two texts.
Following a lead in Bowyer’s collection of conjectures,3 I discovered that probably Grotius was not the first to propose this conjecture. In 1634, a book was published by Ludovicus Cappellus (Louis Cappel, a French Huguenot theologian), known as Historia Apostolica. It is one of the first thorough efforts to establish once and for all the chronology of early Christianity, especially of Paul’s life and letters. And, of course, the main sources are Paul’s letters and Acts combined.
Its full title is Historia Apostolica illustrata, ex Actis Apostolorum et Epistolis Paulinis, studiose inter se collatis, collecta, ordineque, secundum annorum numerum, accurate digesta, et in compendium contracta, eiusque cum historia exotica connexio certis κριτηρίοις demonstrata. Una cum verae Epistolarum Paulinarum (juxta temporis, quo singulae sunt scriptae, ordinem) seriei historica demonstratione. (‘The apostolic history illustrated on the basis of a diligent comparison of Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline epistles, inferred and accurately arranged according to the order, counted in years, with an abstract, and the demonstration of its connection with the external history according to reliable criteria. Together with a historical demonstration of the true sequence of the Pauline epistles. with the order of time in which the individual epistles were written.’) The advantage of such long titles, of course, is that they serve as introduction as well.
For the conjecture, everyone refers to the ‘appendix’ of the book, but ‘appendix’ is simply the name used for the explanations of the rather short chronological table at its beginning, the commentary being far longer than the table. The discussion can be found on pp. 53-57, especially pp. 56-57.
Cappellus as well identifies Gal 2 and Acts 15, and then offers two explanations of the ‘fourteen years’. The first is that the fourteen years actually count from Easter and Pentecost. The second, which he seems to prefer, is the conjecture. He shows how the computation of the years becomes smooth and easy when one reads ‘four’. Interestingly, his explanation of the origin of ‘fourteen’ differs from Grotius’; he assumes that διά was through error copied as δέκα and then supplied to give διὰ δεκα[τεσσάρων].
Who was first?
The chronology of the conjecture, just as Paul’s own time-keeping, is somewhat complicated. The notes by Grotius and Cappellus do not betray any relation between the two, in either direction, and perhaps Grotius had already worked out the idea far earlier than Cappellus. It can be established, however, that Grotius did not work on parts of the NT other than the Gospels until later in his life; and anyway, in case of doubt, the publication of an idea establishes its primogeniture.
Thus the authorship of the conjecture should be attributed to Cappellus. Why then is Grotius found in the Nestle editions, and not Cappellus? The cause may be found in Baljon’s edition,4 in which Cappellus is not mentioned. Or did for some reason (Erwin) Nestle or one of his informers think that Grotius was earlier than Cappellus? In general, though the Nestle editions purport to indicate the first author of a conjecture, the impression prevails that the matter of authorship was not seen as particularly important.
The conjecture can only be understood in the context of the chronological study of Paul’s life and letters. As this subject was to be part of all nineteenth-century introductions to the New Testament, the conjecture was intensely discussed (and accepted by many). Baljon, who also accepts the conjecture (though he does not adopt it in the text of his own Greek New Testament), refers to Reiche’s 1859 commentary.5 Part of Reiche’s long discussion is indeed an impressive list of (German) scholars who accepted the conjecture since Grotius’ and Cappellus’ days.
The Chronicon Paschale
An interesting but complicated aspect of the discussion, according to Reiche first indicated by Semler, is the so-called Chronicon Paschale, a seventh-century Byzantine chronology. (Indeed, the ‘computation of the years’ is not a (post-)Enlightenment invention, but a far older form of scholarship.) The Chronicon states that the period of fourteen years must be counted from the Jesus’ ascension in order to make sense. But then we read a puzzling sentence: καὶ εἰ μὴ τοῦτο δῶμεν, εὑρεθήσεται ὁ χρόνος ἀφ’ οὗ ἐβαπτίσθη καὶ ἀνέβλεψεν, ὡς περιέχουσιν αἱ Πράξεις, ἔτη δʹ.6 (‘If we do not accept that, the time from which he was baptised and regained sight will be found to be, as Acts says, four years.’)
The discussion on this text sometimes turns a little nasty, as to whether or not the Chronicon is, contains, or suggests some kind of attestation of the reading τεσσάρων in Gal 2:1. My impression is that the brevity of the explanation, its lack of context, and the reference to Acts preclude any firm conclusions. It remains interesting, however, that some problem transpires in the number ‘fourteen’, and that in that context the number ‘four’ is mentioned. Intriguing as well is the comparison with Cappellus’ discussion, which betrays a parallel structure. Perhaps Cappellus was inspired by the Chronicon, though he does not mention it (the Chronicon had already been published in his days).
NA27 mentions 1241s for the reading τεσσάρων. The supplement of 1241 seems to be rather good, and its having the conjectured reading would mean that the conjecture is anticipated (or confirmed?). Without some more information on the manuscript, however, I prefer not to draw any conclusions. For instance, it can be imagined that it is just an error in the manuscript, which in this case happens to agree with a scholarly conjecture.
As much as I like the fact that the great Dutch scholar Grotius is mentioned in the Nestle apparatus - though H.J. de Jonge rightly points out that this conjecture is not Grotius’ greatest achievement -, Grotius’ name should be replaced by Cappellus’ in future editions, if the conjecture is mentioned at all. In view of its important reception history, it still seems ‘noteworthy’.
1Grotius: Annotationes VI, Groningen, Zuidema, 1828), p. 555: ‘Assentior Codicibus si qui pro δεκατεσσάρων habent τεσσάρων [quatuor]. Cum enim numeri per notas scriberentur, facile fieri potuit ut ante δ΄ per errorem ἰ adderetur: et ex uno saepe exemplari scripturae vitia in multa fluxisse alia, ostendimus ad Luc. 4: 26 et alibi. In numeris autem plurimos admissos errores ab exscribentibus apertum fecimus ad multa Veteris Testamenti loca. Nihil autem credibilius reperio quam notari hic illud ipsum Pauli iter cuius mentio Act. 15: 2, quod non potest totis quatuordecim annis posterius fuisse aut conversione Pauli, aut etiam, si quid id malit, fine Arabicae peregrinationis.’
2Henk Jan de Jonge, ‘Grotius as an Interpreter of the Bible, Particularly the New Testament,’ in Robert Feenstra e.a, Hugo Grotius: A Great European 1583-1645. Contributions Concerning his Activities as a Humanist Scholar, Delft, Meinema, 1983, pp. 59-65 (ET of ‘Grotius als uitlegger van de bijbel, speciaal het Nieuwe Testament’, in Het Delfts orakel. Hugo de Groot 1583-1645, Delft, Het Prinsenhof, 1983, pp. 121-128), p. 64.
3Wiliiam Bowyer, Critical Conjectures, 41812, p. 508.
4Johannes Marinus Simon Baljon, Novum Testamentum Graece, Groningen, Wolters, 1898.
5Johann Georg Reiche, Commentarius Criticus in N.T. quo loca graviora et difficiliora lectionis dubiae accurate recensentur et explicantur. Tomus II. Epistolas Apostoli Pauli minores continens, Göttingen, Vandenhoeck et Ruprecht, 1859, pp. 1-10.
6Ludwig Dindorf, Chronicon Paschale ad exemplar Vaticanum recensuit ... (Corpus scriptorum historiae Byzantinae (ed. B.G. Niebuhr)), Vol. I, Bonn, Weber, 1832, p. 436 ll. 16-18.