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The Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism

Block Mixture
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 ?nd 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 turned 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
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, in different places, of multiple exemplars.
One might give an analogy from baking. One can take a measuring cup of sugar, and a
measuring cup of ?our. The sugar might be Alexandrian readings, the ?our Byzantine.
As long as the sugar is in one cup and the ?our in another, the texts are block mixed. If
we take the two and mix them together, then put them back in the cups, they are mixed,
not just block mixed.
Or let's try another analogy: Let's think of ordinary mixture as being like mixing paints,
while block mixture is like mixing tiles. If you mix red and yellow paint, you get orange
paint — not paint with splotches of red and splotches of yellow. The two are thoroughly
united; you can't take them back apart or point to one section of paint and say “this is
from the can of red paint.”
But, instead of painting the wall or ?oor, think of covering it with tiles, some red, some
yellow. Whoever laid the tiles brought in several boxes. He laid red tiles until the box ran
out, then started on the yellow, then perhaps went back to red. For any given tile, you
can tell which box it came out of. The overall ?oor is not red or yellow, but there is no
The Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism