Some notes on the transmission of Salvian’s “Ad Ecclesiam” and Letter 9

There is an entry for Salvian in the continuation of Jerome’s De viris illustribus by Gennadius, written ca. 470 AD.  It forms chapter 68, and may be given in the NPNF translation:

Salvianus, presbyter of Marseilles, well informed both in secular and in sacred literature, and to speak without invidiousness, a master among bishops, wrote many things in a scholastic and clear style, of which I have read the following: four books On the Excellence of virginity, to Marcellus the presbyter, three books Against avarice, five books On the present judgment, and one book On punishment according to desert, addressed to Salonius the bishop, also one book of Commentary on the latter part of the book of Ecclesiastes, addressed to Claudius bishop of Vienne, one book of Epistles. He also composed one book in verse after the Greek fashion, a sort of Hexaemeron, covering the period from the beginning of Genesis to the creation of man, also many Homilies delivered to the bishops, and I am sure I do not know how many On the sacraments. He is still living at a good old age.

The “Against Avarice” is of course the Ad Ecclesiam, listed by content rather than addressee — the text given in the Sources Chretiennes edition[1] has “four books”.  The “On the Present Judgement” is the De Gubernatione Dei.  The two works alone have come down to us.

A portion of the book of letters has also survived, in a single 15th century Italian manuscript containing only 7 letters, the last of which (numbered letter 3 in our editions) is incomplete.  This manuscript exists today divided into two fragments;

  • Paris, BNF lat. 2174, fol. 113-115 (the ms. otherwise contains De Gubernatione Dei);
  • Berne, Bibl. mun. E 219, fol. 1-8, a stray quaternion of the same manuscript.

Salvian letter 8 is transmitted with the works of Eucherius of Lyons.

Letter 9 is transmitted with the Ad Ecclesiam (but not always).  Only a few manuscripts preserve the Ad Ecclesiam.

There are two medieval inventories that mention copies of the Ad Ecclesiam that existed in the middle ages.  The catalogue of the abbey of Saint-Riquier, made in 831, lists a copy.  So does the well-known 10th century catalogue of the abbey of Lorsch. Both catalogues may be found in G. Becker, Catalogi Bibliothecarum Antiqui, 1885. Saint-Riquier is §11, p.26: 102. Timothei libri IV et tractatus Peregrini contra haereticos et epistolae Theophili ad episcopos totius Aegypti in I vol.; Lorsch is §37, p.108: 359. Timothei ad ecclesiam libri IIII et Peregrini lib. I pro catholicae fidei antiquitate. et epistolae Theophili Alexandrinae urbis episcopi contra Origenistas et aliae epistolae paschales in uno codice.  It is obvious that some relation exists between these two copies.

The surviving manuscripts are as follows (notes abbreviated from the SC edition):

  • A.  Paris, BNF. lat. 2172 (9-10th c.), from the abbey of Saint-Thierry of Reims, where it was still in 1480; later it belonged to Pierre Pithou, who edited Salvian in 1580; and later still in the Colbert and Royal collections.  Folios 1-65 contain the Ad Ecclesiam.  Letter 9 is not present.  The opening words of Ad Ecclesiam, “Timotheus minimus servorum dei … Amen” are formatted as if they were the title, but preceded by the words “incipit liber primus”, out of sequence.  Fol. 65v onwards contains the Commonitorium of Vincent of Lerins, with the title: Incipit tractatus Peregrinui pro catholicae  fidei antiquitate aduersus profanas omnium haereticorum nouitates; then various letters of Theophilus of Alexandria, Epiphanius of Salamis, and Jerome.
  • B.  Paris, BNF. lat. 2785 (10th c.).  It starts with letter 9, headed Incipit epistola Saluiani ad Salonium.  Then follows the Ad Ecclesiam, beginning with the opening words and then the incipit of book 1.  This work is followed by excerpts from Ambrose and Augustine; and then the Commonitorum, with almost exactly the same incipit as A.
  • b.  Paris, BNF. lat. 2173 (12th c.).  The beginning of the manuscript is lost; it starts part way through Ad Ecclesiam I, 4.  After Ad Ecclesiam, there are the same excerpts from Ambrose and Augustine; then the Commonitorium, and then letters of Jerome in the same order as in A.
  • C.  Berne, Bibl. mun. 315 (11th c.).  This contains a crudely abridged (by about 20%) and interpolated version of the Ad Ecclesiam, made in the 6th c., and preceded by a letter headed: Incipit prologus Timothei episcopi operis sequentis.  After the final words of the prologue — and it would be interesting to know what this says — appear the words, explicit prologi, incipit liber Timothei episcopi.
  • p.  Edition of Jean Sichard, Basle, 1528, entitled Antidoton contra diversas omnium fere seculorum haereses.  On fol. 181v-182v is the editio princeps of letter 9, with the title: Salviani episcopi Massiliensis in librum Timothei ad Salonium episcopum praefatio.  The Ad Ecclesiam then follows, with the title Timothei episcopi ad Ecclesiam catholicam toto orbe diffusam.  Then follows the Commonitorium, and then the letters of Jerome found in A and b; note that letter 99, incomplete in b, is complete in Sichard.  Sichard gives no indication of what manuscript he used, but it was probably the now lost manuscript of Lorsch.

A, B, and b are all related to one another, as is fairly obvious from the similar contents of each physical volume.  The text found in these shares certain errors and omissions, not found in the abbreviated text in C, nor in the full text in p.  No doubt these are related to the French Saint-Riquier manuscript in some way.

C and p are not related to each other, nor to the common ancestor of the Paris mss.  p. is derived from the German Lorsch manuscript, while C has its own transmission from a 6th century epitome of the text.

So we have essentially three families here; a French family, a German family, and the peculiar C manuscript.  Yet the French family is split: A does not include letter 9; B does (and the start of b is lost so we can’t tell if it did contain it).  The peculiar C ms. does not have it, and instead a substitute prologue was composed, which could suggest that a 6th century copy existed where there was no letter 9 as a preface, or alternatively that its omission was part of the activity of the 6th century editor.  The German family represented today by Sichard’s edition (p) does have it.

But the witness of the French family is confusing.  If the common ancestor of the French mss. did not contain letter 9, then where did it come from and why did it get attached to the work?  We know of no independent circulation of the letter, after all.   On the other hand it is easy to see that a short piece on the first folio might get detached, and thus a tradition started without this piece.  It would seem easiest to suppose that the French family common ancestor did indeed begin with letter 9, and that the ancestor of the B/b branch of its children omitted it, or suffered the loss of a leaf at the start.

All this tends to suggest that the Ad Ecclesiam was sent forth by its author with Salvian’s letter 9 to Salonius at the front.  Yes, the 6th century abbreviator omitted it, composing his own preface; but an abbreviator might do that anyway.  Yes, a French manuscript dropped it or lost it; but that happens in transmission.  But otherwise letter 9 is found in both the German and French versions of the full text, preceding the work.  It is, therefore, most likely in the position in which Salvian put it.

All the same, it is also worth noting that in no case is the letter treated as part of the work, as a prologus.  In each case it has a different author.  In each case the Ad Ecclesiam is attributed to Timothy.  What we learn from this, then, is that letter 9 is not an integral part of the text of the Ad Ecclesiam, as originally set forth; it was an afterthought.

This last conclusion is one that we might have reached anyway from the content of letter 9, and this we will discuss next.

  1. [1]Georges Lagarrigue, Salvien de Marseille: Oeuvres I. Les Lettres. Les livres de Timothee a l’eglise. SC 176. 1971.

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