The Byzantine Civilization in the 12th Century

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EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 140 books. Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

This article is meant to add context to the Byzantine text that was starting to be standardized in the 12th-century C.E. [Byzantine Kr/family 35 Text-Form]. the footnotes in this article are full of substance and of great interest. The Byzantine text form has been standardized four times: two in ancient times and two in modern times. The Byzantine Empire got its beginning about 330 C.E. and ran all the way up to 1453 C.E. The capital Constantinople was then the center of the Greek-speaking church. “This process of making changes and corrections continued for perhaps three centuries or so, with the result that the readings characteristic of Constantinople (the Byzantine readings) became the generally accepted form of the biblical text, and the readings characteristic of other regions were largely neglected.” – Greenlee, J. Harold. The Text of the New Testament: From Manuscript to Modern Edition (pp. 41-42). Baker Publishing Group.

So, the first time the text was standardized was in the early 5th to the 6th centuries where we end up with a standard Byzantine text, which contains the same text as the Alexandrian text 80-85% but the other 15-20% was Byzantine readings, many substantial changes, from words to phrases, to sentences, whole verses, even up to 12 verses in two specific cases. So, the Byzantine text was standardized again beginning in the 12th century, which gives us out text form above.

And it has been standardized yet again in modern times by way The Greek New Testament according to the Majority Text, 2nd ed. (Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers, 1985) by Zane Clark Hodges, Arthur L. Farstad, and William C. Dunkin. Then again with The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform 2005, with Morphology by Maurice A. Robinson and William G. Pierpont. 

Some Byzantine supporters argue that “It [Byzantine Kr/family 35 Text-Form] is the most carefully controlled and textually unified group of Byzantine MSS that were produced.” Moises Rodrigues Coimbra, a Facebook New Testament Textual Studies group has said it this way, “it is very common to hear (at least for those who defend this MSS family) That the Byzantine Kr/family 35 text-form is the most precise and uniform grouping of New Testament manuscripts ever produced.” Astonishingly, that sounds quite impressive; when, in fact, really, it is not! You see, some have mistakenly taken these types of comments and the careful scribal work to produce a standard text of sorts from the Byzantine family of manuscripts to produce the Byzantine Kr/family 35 text-form with also being the most accurate text. The Byzantine Kr/family 35 Text-Form of the 13th-15th centuries is the Textus Receptus before there was the Textus Receptus. The Textus Receptus is a corrupt critical text by Desiderius Erasmus in the 16th-century made from about half a dozen 12th-century Byzantine manuscripts. It is a Majority Text before there was the Majority. The Majority Text was produced in the 20th-century by Zane C. Hodges and Arthur L. Farstad as well as Robinson & Pierpont. It is called the Majority Text because it is considered to be the Greek text established on the basis of the reading found in the vast majority of the Greek manuscripts (Byzantine Family). The Textus Receptus differs from the Majority Text in 1,838 Greek readings, of which 1,005 represent “translatable” differences.

The Byzantine Kr/family 35 Text-Form (1261-1453 C.E.)

Now, let’s turn to civilization in the 12th-century.

Mosaic Authorship HOW RELIABLE ARE THE GOSPELS WHY DON'T YOU BELIEVE

The Civilization of the Byzantine Empire
in the 12th Century

During the 12th century, the civilization of the Byzantine Empire[1] experienced a period of intense change and development. This has led some historians to refer to a 12th-century ‘Renaissance’[2] in Byzantine cultural and intellectual achievement.[3] These changes were particularly significant in two areas of Byzantine civilization: its economic prosperity, and its artistic output.

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Economic Expansion

Recent research has revealed that the 12th century was a time of significant growth in the rural economy, with rising population levels and extensive tracts of new agricultural land being brought into production. The widespread construction of new rural churches is a strong indication that prosperity was being generated even in remote areas. A steady increase in population led to a higher population density in many areas of the empire, and there is good evidence that the demographic increase was accompanied by the return of a thriving network of revitalized towns and cities. According to Alan Harvey in his book Economic Expansion in the Byzantine Empire 900–1200, Archaeological evidence from both Europe and Asia Minor shows a considerable increase in the size of urban settlements, together with a ‘notable upsurge’ in new towns. For example, Harvey explains that in Athens[4] the medieval town experienced a period of rapid and sustained growth, starting in the 11th century and continuing until the end of the 12th century. The ‘agora’ or ‘marketplace’, which had been deserted since late antiquity, began to be built over, and soon the town became an important center to produce soaps and dyes. Thessaloniki,[5] the second city of the Empire, hosted a famous summer fair which attracted traders from across the Balkans and even further afield to its bustling market stalls. In Corinth,[6] silk production[7] fueled a thriving economy.

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Emperor Manuel I Komnenos who reigned from 1143 to 1180. He is shown wearing imperial regalia

Further evidence is provided by the coinage of the empire in this period. After a long period in the early Middle Ages during which the only coins were struck in Constantinople, the 12th century saw the return of a provincial mint regularly operating at Thessaloniki. Yet the most convincing evidence for what Harvey calls a “substantial increase in the volume of money in circulation” comes from the quantity of coins found on archaeological sites. Thousands of coins have been found both in Athens and in Corinth. Some idea of the scale of the expansion that took place here can be gained from comparing the number of Corinthian coins dating from the reign of Theophilus[8] (813–842), at the start of the expansion, with the number of coins dating from other periods. Harvey states that “About 150 coins can be attributed to this emperor compared with only twenty from the previous century”. By contrast, excavations in 1939 revealed 4495 coins dating from the reign of Alexios I Komnenos[9] (1081–1118) and 4106 coins from that of Manuel I Komnenos[10] (1143–1180). At Athens, coins from the Komnenian period have also been found in abundance (over 4,000 from Manuel’s reign).

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Similar evidence of economic expansion has been discovered elsewhere in the empire, especially in the European provinces. In Asia Minor, some areas had become depopulated due to Turkish[11] raiding in the late 11th century. Yet as the Komnenian emperors built up extensive fortifications in rural areas during the 12th century, repopulation of the countryside took place. The restoration of order in western Asia Minor enabled the demographic trend to resume its upward course after the setbacks of the late 11th century, and indeed it was in the 13th century that this process reached its peak. It is quite possible that an increase in trade, made possible by the growth of the Italian city-states, may have been a factor in the growth of the economy. Certainly, the Venetians[12] and others were active traders in the ports of the Holy Land,[13] and they made a living out of shipping goods between the Crusader Kingdoms of Outremer[14] and the West while also trading extensively with Byzantium and Egypt.

Overall, given that both population and prosperity increased substantially in this period, economic recovery in Byzantium appears to have been strengthening the economic basis of the state. This helps to explain how the Komnenian emperors, Manuel Komnenos in particular were able to project their power and influence so widely at this time. Yet this is by no means the only effect of economic expansion in the empire; the effect on Byzantine Culture and society was also quite profound, as we shall see.

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Artistic Revival

The new wealth being generated during this period had a positive impact on Byzantine cultural life. In artistic terms, the 12th century was a very productive period in Byzantine history. There was a revival in mosaic art,[15] for example, with artists showing great interest in depicting natural landscapes with wild animals and scenes from the hunt. Mosaics became more realistic and vivid, with an increased emphasis on depicting three-dimensional forms. In the provinces, regional schools of Architecture[16] began producing many distinctive styles that drew on a range of cultural influences. All this suggests that there was an increased demand for art, with more people having access to the necessary wealth to commission and pay for such work. According to N. H. Baynes in Byzantium, An Introduction to East Roman Civilization.

‘The Lamentation of Christ’ (1164), a fresco from the church of Saint Panteleimon in Nerezi near Skopje. It is considered a superb example of twelfth-century Komnenian art.

by Wikipedia and Edward D. Andrews

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[1] The Byzantine Empire also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages when its capital city was Constantinople. It survived the fragmentation and fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD and continued to exist for an additional thousand years until it fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453. During most of its existence, the empire was the most powerful economic, cultural, and military force in Europe. “Byzantine Empire” is a term created after the end of the realm; its citizens continued to refer to their empire simply as the Roman Empire, or Romania, and to themselves as Romans. Several signal events from the 4th to 6th centuries mark the period of transition during which the Roman Empire’s Greek East and Latin West diverged. Constantine I reorganized the empire, made Constantinople the new capital, and legalized Christianity. Under Theodosius I, Christianity became the state religion and other religious practices were proscribed. In the reign of Heraclius, the Empire’s military and administration were restructured and adopted Greek for official use in place of Latin.

[2] The Renaissance of the 12th century was a period of many changes at the outset of the High Middle Ages. It included social, political and economic transformations and an intellectual revitalization of Western Europe with strong philosophical and scientific roots. These changes paved the way for later achievements such as the literary and artistic movement of the Italian Renaissance in the 15th century and the scientific developments of the 17th century.

[3] Magdalino, Paul, The Empire of Manuel I Komnenos 1143–1180

[4] Athens is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world’s oldest cities, with its recorded history spanning over 3,400 years and its earliest human presence started somewhere between the 11th and 7th millennium BC.

[5] Thessaloniki, also known as ThessalonicaSaloniki, or Salonica, is the second-largest city in Greece, with over 1 million inhabitants in its metropolitan area, and the capital of the geographic region of Macedonia, the administrative region of Central Macedonia and the Decentralized Administration of Macedonia and Thrace. It is also known in Greek as η Συμπρωτεύουσα, literally “the co-capital”, a reference to its historical status as the Συμβασιλεύουσα or “co-reigning” city of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, alongside Constantinople.

[6] Corinth is the successor to an ancient city and is a former municipality in Corinthia, Peloponnese, which is located in south-central Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform, it has been part of the municipality of Corinth, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit. It is the capital of Corinthia.

[7] Byzantine silk is silk woven in the Byzantine Empire (Byzantium) from about the fourth century until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.

[8] Theophilos was the Byzantine Emperor from 829 until his death in 842. He was the second emperor of the Amorian dynasty and the last emperor to support iconoclasm. Theophilos personally led the armies in his long war against the Arabs, beginning in 831.

[9] Alexios I Komnenos, Latinized Alexius I Comnenus, was the Byzantine emperor from 1081 to 1118. Although he was not the founder of the Komnenian dynasty, it was during his reign that the Komnenos family came to full power. Inheriting a collapsing empire and faced with constant warfare during his reign against both the Seljuq Turks in Asia Minor and the Normans in the western Balkans, Alexios was able to curb the Byzantine decline and begin the military, financial, and territorial recovery known as the Komnenian restoration. The basis for this recovery were various reforms initiated by Alexios. His appeals to Western Europe for help against the Turks were also the catalyst that likely contributed to the convoking of the Crusades.

[10] Manuel I Komnenos, Latinized Comnenus, also called Porphyrogennetos, was a Byzantine Emperor of the 12th century who reigned over a crucial turning point in the history of Byzantium and the Mediterranean. His reign saw the last flowering of the Komnenian restoration, during which the Byzantine Empire had seen a resurgence of its military and economic power and had enjoyed a cultural revival.

[11] The Turkic peoples are a collection of ethnic groups of Central, East, North, and West Asia as well as parts of Europe and North Africa, who speak Turkic languages.

[12] Venice is a city in northeastern Italy and the capital of the Veneto region. It is situated on a group of 118 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by over 400 bridges. The islands are located in the shallow Venetian Lagoon, an enclosed bay that lies between the mouths of the Po and the Piave rivers. In 2018, 260,897 people resided in the Comune di Venezia, of whom around 55,000 live in the historical city of Venice. Together with Padua and Treviso, the city is included in the Padua-Treviso-Venice Metropolitan Area (PATREVE), which is considered a statistical metropolitan area, with a total population of 2.6 million.

[13] The Holy Land is an area roughly located between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea that also includes the Eastern Bank of the Jordan River. Traditionally, it is synonymous both with the biblical Land of Israel and with the region of Palestine. The term “Holy Land” usually refers to a territory roughly corresponding to the modern State of Israel, the Palestinian territories, western Jordan, and parts of southern Lebanon and of southwestern Syria. Jews, Christians, and Muslims all regard it as holy.

[14] The Crusader states were Latin Catholic polities created in the aftermath of the First Crusade at the beginning of the 12th century on the Levantine littoral. These medieval French states became known as Outremer or outre-mer, a phrase derived from outre or beyond and mere or sea.

[15]mosaic is a pattern or image made of small regular or irregular pieces of colored stone, glass, or ceramic, held in place by plaster/mortar, and covering a surface. Mosaics are often used as floor and wall decoration and were particularly popular in the Ancient Roman world.

[16] Architecture is both the process and the product of planning, designing, and constructing buildings or other structures. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural symbols and as works of art. Historical civilizations are often identified with their surviving architectural achievements.

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