More notes on tables of contents and chapter titles from the Sources Chrétiennes

I’m still looking at the question of whether ancient books had divisions within a book into “chapters” of some sort, and whether they had tables of chapters at the head of each book, and whether the divisions were numbered, and whether the titles in the tables were in the text or not, and whether any of this was authorial.

The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius was edited in the SC series at an early stage.  Books 1-4 of the HE appears in 1952 in SC31, edited by G. Bardy, in a volume which contains only a brief introduction, and then the text (reprinted from the GCS, 1909) and translation.  It is all a far cry from the sophisticated volumes we know today, but from such little acorns has such a forest of mighty oaks grown. 

The manuscripts of the HE contain tables of contents at the head of each book.  Bardy writes only (p.vii):

In the manuscripts, following the ancient usage, the table of chapters appears at the head of each book.  But in the text, each chapter is prefixed only with a number in sequential order.

Two more volumes contained the remainder of the HE; but by 1960 it was clearly felt that a proper volume of introductory material should have been required, and Canon Bardy was at work on such when he died.  It finally appeared in 1973.  It contained a section on “books and chapters” on p.101-113.  The first ten pages are devoted to the division into books, made by Eusebius himself.  The remainder consists of assertions about chapters rather than useful discussion.  The conclusion is the same as above.

In SC 206 (1974) J. Sirinelli addresses the same question in his edition of the Praeparatio Evangelica (p.52).

The division into books of the PE is by Eusebius himself.  The author refers several times to this division himself.  Very often he mentions that he is coming to the end of a book, or is beginning one.  We are thus assured that the division into books is indeed his work.

It is worth remarking how much better reasoned this is than the vague assertions of Bardy on the same subject.  After remarking that Eusebius himself says that he is ending a book because it has grown too long, rather than for any reason of design, Sirinelli then continues:

As regards the titles of chapters, it is generally admitted that, for the Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius himself divided the books into chapters and composed the titles for them himself.  On the other hand there have been disagreements concerning the Praeparatio Evangelica.  In his 1628 edition Viger reproduced the titles and the summaries of the books.  Valcknaer in his Diatriba de Aristobulo wanted a more rigorus edition created in which the titles and divisions would be suppressed, in which according to himself Eusebius had no part.  Finally Gaisford himself wrote with decided authority “Lemmata, quae in prioribus editionibus non singulis tantum libris sed et librorum capitibus praefixa orationis nexum saepe perturbant, amovi”, and on his own initiative created a new division, which is currently the basis of reference and was followed by Gifford.

Karl Mras, basing himself on an article by J. Bidez [Revue Critique  d'histoire et de littérature, N.S. 61, 1906, p.506; a review of Gifford], sensibly reintroduced these titles and summaries, which in all appearance are the work of Eusebius himself.  In fact in various ways the titles supply us with indispensable information, not given by the text itself.  This is because, reasonably, the author knew that he had furnished these in the title.  For example we may look at chapter 3 of book IV, and chapter 3 of book X.  The title alone contains the reference to the citation which follows.  We place ourselves alongside the opinion of Mras, therefore, and while retaining the division of Gaisford, we give in the appropriate places the titles of the chapters.

This is not a matter of indifference.  The division of Gaisford is arbitrary, and sometimes unfortunate for the sequence of ideas.  On the contrary the division into chapters given by the manuscripts, far from disturbing the flow of the argument, permits us in some cases to restore with more clarity the sequence of thought by Eusebius.  We will have occasion to refer to this again.

A footnote follows to this last sentence:

But with caution; because, for book I, the situation is complicated by divergence between the manuscripts.  One of them, V, reproduces the titles at the head of the chapters in the body of the text.   In the other manuscripts, at least for the first chapters, the text of the title of the chapter appears only in the summary at the head of each book.

I think we may infer from this that the chapter divisions are marked and numbered even in V, but it is a shame that this is not made clearer.  However I suspect all this is derived from Mras.  In SC369, on p.34 we find the remarkable statement:

The chapters indicated in Arabic numerals are those of the Mras edition; reference is always to these.  No modern edition takes account of the ancient division into chapters (with titles) which derives from the Greek manuscripts.

This problem — that the witness of the manuscripts is not published in modern critical texts — renders it very difficult to acquire the necessary information about how ancient texts were divided.

UPDATE: I have found Bidez’ review online.  One remark is interesting in an otherwise not very useful review:

… Gifford was wrong not to place the titles at the head of each chapter.  Sometimes these titles are the only fact we have on the provenance of an extract (e.g. book XV, ch. 17, for a chapter taken entirely from Numenius).

Revue critique d histoire et de littérature / publiée sous la direction de MM. P. Meyer, Ch. Morel, G. Paris, H. Zotenberg
Revue critique d histoire et de littérature / publiée sous la direction de MM. P. Meyer, Ch. Morel, G. Paris, H. Zotenberg
Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France

UPDATE2: I find that I have a copy of volume 1 of Mras’ edition also.On p.viii of the foreword he discusses chapter titles.  I give the German word used to facilitate searching.  The  volume references are to Mras own edition in the GCS.

3.  Eusebius not only prefixed the books with tables of contents (“Inhaltsangaben”), but also intended the headings (“Überschriften”) for the chapters in the manuscripts.  J. Bidez has rightly complained in his review of the Gifford edition that the editors since Gaisford have omitted these headings.  There is hard evidence that these originate with Eusebius:  that the third chapter of the fourth book is from a work of Diogenianus we learn neither from the text, nor the table of contents (“Inhaltsverzeichnis”) of the fourth book, but only from the chapter heading (“Kapitelüberschrift”) (Vol. 1 p. 169, 21); the title of the work of Porphyry — and the number of the book – quoted in the third chapter of the tenth book,  is only given in the chapter heading (Vol. 1, p.561, 12f.); book 11, chapter 30 begins Πάλιν Μωσέως καὶ τούτους; this τούτους is incomprehensible without the preceding chapter heading Περὶ τῶν κατ’ οὐρανὸν φωστήρων; likewise chapter 32 (vol. 2, p.68, 15) Καὶ περὶ τούτου is incomprehensible without the chapter heading Περὶ τῆς ἀλλοιώσεως καὶ μεταβολῆς τοῦ κόσμου; XV 5, 1 (vol. 2, p.355, 17)  πρὸς τοῦ δηλωθέντος — who is meant here we discover only from the chapter heading.  The author cited and his work are listed only in the headings of the chapters or sections in the following cases: IX 14,3 (vol. 1 p. 500, 9f.); X 10 (vol. I p. 591,6): only at the end (p.595, 18) is Ταῦτα μὲν ὁ Ἀφρικανός named (without the title of Africanus’ work, however; the title is missing also in the table of contents of the book); XIV, 7 (vol. 2, p.303, 11f.) : in the table of contents only the name of the author is given *;  XIV, 22 (vol. 2, p.320, 13) gives the name of the work, Philebos (the table of contents of the book says only Ἀπὸ τοῦ Πλάτωνος — Plato); XV 14 (vol. 2 p.378, 17f.): in the table of contents both the name of the author and the work are absent; likewise XV 17 (vol.2, p.381, 9).  As we can see, the more accurate information is in the chapter headings, as is natural; the author first provides for each chapter the appropriate indication of contents; gathering these into tables of contents at the start of the book is then a copyist task.  This explains some small differences (although they are never contradictions).  Of course it is Eusebius who has ordered that these collections should be placed at the head of each book.

* Do not be deceived by the Κεφαλαίων καταγραφή of Gaisford, Dindorf and Gifford; they present a mishmash from the tables of contents and the chapter headings.

There is a lot of solid information in there.  One thing that I do not see, tho, is discussion of whether these symptoms could be accounted for by damage to the inherently fragile tables of contents, rather than by the priority of the material embedded in the text.

2 Responses to “More notes on tables of contents and chapter titles from the Sources Chrétiennes”


  1. Charles Sullivan

    Wouldn’t Codex Sinaiticus indicate how chapters and divisions were standardly done during this period of Greek literature? Just a thought…

  2. Kristopher Weinzetl

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