The text tradition of Hippolytus “Commentary on Daniel”

A question has reached me about the Commentary on Daniel of Hippolytus, especially with regard to the passage in 4.23.3:

For the first advent of our Lord in the flesh, when he was born in Bethlehem, eight days before the kalends of January [December 25th], the 4th day of the week [Wednesday], while Augustus was in his forty-second year, [2 or 3BC] but from Adam five thousand and five hundred years.  He suffered in the thirty third year, 8 days before the kalends of April [March 25th], the Day of Preparation, the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar [29 or 30 AD], while Rufus and Roubellion and Gaius Caesar, for the 4th time, and Gaius Cestius Saturninus were Consuls. (tr. Tom Schmidt).

But what is the textual basis for this?  It doesn’t appear in the Ante-Nicene Fathers version of the text.

A look at the Sources Chretiennes (14; p. 64) edition tells me that the Greek text of the work is entirely recovered from quotations in catenas.  In a catena, each quotation appears underneath the relevant biblical verse, and is labelled with the name of the author from whom it has been taken.  So the sequence is fairly clear, even if all you have is extracts, provided that the original author wrote his commentary in the same sequence as the biblical text.

The process of recovering the commentary began with one of the great 17th century editors, B. Corderius, who printed the first fragment of the text in his Expositio patrum graecorum in psalmos, vol. 3, Anvers, 1646 on p.951.  In 1672 Fr. Combefis, Bibliothecae graecorum patrum auctarium novissimum, vol. 1, p. 50-55 printed two more important fragments, this time commenting on Susanna.  Since then various editors have accrued more and more fragments from the catenas, and are listed in Bonwetsch’s edition of 1897.  A list of mss. and editions appears on p.xxviii of Bonwetsch (p.43 of the Google books PDF).

The remains seem to be divided into four books.  The last addition to the stock was in 1911, when Dioboutonis printed new fragments from a 10th century manuscript from the monastery of Meteores.  The end result is a text which contains few obvious lacunas.  However there must still be material which is lost, especially in book 1.

The text cannot be said to be in good condition.  The manuscripts in which the material is preserved are often in a poor state, or illegible.  The most recent edition, that of Bonwetsch in the Griechische Christlicher Schriftsteller 1 in 1897 (online, thankfully) often indicates words added by conjecture or asterisks where there are gaps impossible to fill.

But one compensation is that an Old Slavonic translation exists of the entire work as it once existed in Greek.  This tells us, of course, that the Greek text must still have existed in the 10th century when these translations were made.  Four manuscripts of this translation exist, none complete, but which fortunately have their omissions in different places.  This means that we can read the whole work pretty much as it came from the hand of the author.  The most ancient manuscript is 12-13th century.  Fortunately Bonwetsch translated the Old Slavonic into German, and the translation was used by the SC editor to help with the Greek.

Our passage is extant in Greek, and appears on pp.306-7 of the SC edition.  But the SC editor queries whether part of the text –“Gaius Caesar, for the 4th time, and Gaius Cestius Saturninus” — was interpolated by a later writer.

The apparatus of Bonwetsch (p.242; p.295 of the PDF) tells us that this passage was quoted by the Syriac writer  George, Bishop of the Arab tribes.  The apparatus also refers to George Syncellus, and Cyril of Scythopolis as using bits of it.  The text is given in mss. ABP and S; A= Athos, Vatopedi 260 / Paris suppl. gr. 682 (10-11th century); B=Chalcis 11 (15-16th c.); P=Paris gr. 159 p.469f.; S=the old Slavonic.

So… the text is reasonably well established, and reasonably reliable.  The Greek for our passage seems sound, with only a couple of bits in brackets.  We have a good early witness for the text, and also a translation in a 7th century Syriac writer and a 10th century translation.

8 thoughts on “The text tradition of Hippolytus “Commentary on Daniel”

  1. Dear Roger:

    You have done excellent work on this question and cleared up a good many questions for me. It is wonderful to see someone so dedicated to classical scholarship and providing a clear exposition of ancient Christian sources.
    Thank you for your diligent and hearty efforts.
    If ever you can, it would be most helpful to see pictures of some of these ancient manuscripts and to provide annotations of the University libraries or museum archives where they are held.
    Again, thanks and best wishes from a friend in Texas.

    Joseph D. Rhodes, M.A.
    Plano, Texas

  2. Thank you very much for your kind note.

    Yes, you and I would suppose that pictures of the pages would be freely available online. But it is not so. Images of manuscripts are guarded jealously by those who hold them, with few exceptions. Only monochrome images are sold, often of very poor quality. Imagine petty bureaucrats at their worst, and you will know what scholars have to contend with!

    The major collections of Greek manuscripts are in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris; the Vatican Library in Rome; and the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice (where the library of Bessarion still reposes). There are also substantial collections in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, the British Library in London (who are supposed to be looking at placing online in some hard-to-use format some of their Greek mss); the Biblioteca Mediceo-Laurenziana in Florence, where the library of Lorenzo the Magnificent has been augmented by the collections of many of the renaissance scholars; and of course any number of Greek monasteries in the east, especially on Mt. Athos. There are about 50,000 Greek mss in the world, although some perish every year through war and accident.

    Old Slavonic is hard to find out about. There are major collections in Moscow, as you would expect.

    The manuscripts of the Commentary on Daniel are listed above:A= Athos, Vatopedi 260 / Paris suppl. gr. 682 (10-11th century); B=Chalcis 11 (15-16th c.); P=Paris gr. 159 p.469f. Athos is Mt. Athos in Greece; Vatopedi is one of the cluster of monasteries on the Holy Mountain. The two Paris mss are both in the BNF as above. The “suppl. gr. 682” identifies the manuscript by “shelfmark”. These are arbitrary labels, used to identify mss, and they differ from collection to collection. Generally collectons are composed of a number of earlier collections that have come together. So “Paris number 682” says this is manuscript 682 in the “suppl. gr.” collection (which in this case means ‘supplementary greek’). It looks as if the Athos ms. was stolen and ended up in the BNF, but I’m not sure. P is just BNF “manuscript greek number 159”. I have no idea where the manuscripts of “Chalcis” might be; some local public library, perhaps.

    A little more on shelfmarks: Vatican manuscripts are sometimes “codex Vaticanus graecus 1209” (meaning ms. no 1209 of the Greek mss); sometimes “codex Vaticanus Ottobonianus gr. 1234” meaning “manuscript 1234 of the Greek mss in the Cardinal Ottoboni collection, and so on.

    Medieval manuscripts look like big thick books, like telephone directories. They’re written on parchment (later paper) which is a by-product of farming. They’re written in largeish letters in a formal “book hand” for readability.

    I must run, but I could point you to a number of mss online!

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