Who was “Euthalius”, and what did he write?

The Catholic Encyclopedia contains the following paragraph:

The martyrdom [of St Paul] took place towards the end of the reign of Nero, in the twelfth year (St. Epiphanius), the thirteenth (Euthalius), or the fourteenth (St. Jerome).[1]

But who is this “Euthalius”?

In medieval Greek bible manuscripts, there is a mass of commentary material.  For instance, in the margins are explanatory comments, made up of chains (catenae) of quotations from the fathers.

But there is also a bunch of material of various types for the following three chunks of the New Testament; first, the letters of Paul, then Acts, and then the letters of the other apostles.  This appears in manuscripts which are generally fairly late.

There is a prologue for each of these three “chunks”, and the prologue usually has a title.  In each case, the title usually attributes the prologue to a certain Euthalius.  In some manuscripts he is referred to in the title as “the deacon”; in other manuscripts, as “bishop of Sulca”, although this bishopric is not known.[2]

Nothing is known for certain of this Euthalius.  The prologues refer to the Chronicle of Eusebius, which means that Euthalius is later than that – perhaps much later.  Any date from the end of the 4th century onwards is possible. There is a confession of faith by a much later Euthalius of Sulca,[3] but it seems unlikely that this is the same man.

The prologue to the letters of Paul falls into three sections, the first and last being a life of St Paul.  It is to this prologue that the Catholic Encyclopedia refers.

British Library manuscript additional 28816, f.1r – Euthalius’ prologue.

As with all commentary material, the material is made up of all sorts of things, present in different amounts in different manuscripts.

Willard considered that there are 4 different types of material, all perhaps by this Euthalius.  The major pieces consist of:

  • The three prologues
  • “Lesson lists”, or “large sections” – which divide the bible text (except for the Gospels and Revelation) up into 57 readings suitable for church.  These are the “Euthalian sections”, and were generally adopted in the Greek church.[4] There is also a division of the books into short stichoi or versus (i.e. “lines”) of regular length.[5]
  • Quotation lists – lists of Old Testament quotations in the bible text
  • Chapter lists – a list of chapter headings, kephalaia-titloi, unnumbered, which taken together indicate the contents of the letter. They do not correspond to the modern chapter divisions.

In addition there is other material, which has little claim to be considered by the same author as the prologues.  This includes a Martyrium Pauli; a collection of argumenta / hypotheses, i.e. summaries of the content of each book; some miscellaneous pieces, and, at the end of some manuscripts, notably Codex H 015, a colophon.  This reads as follows:

I wrote and edited this volume of Paul the Apostle, arranging it in verses according to my abilities, so that the text of our brothers may be clearly written and easy to understand, and I ask all of them for forgiveness for my audacity, that I may receive acceptance through prayer for my [work (?)].

The book was compared with a copy in the library of Caesarea, written with the hand of the holy Pamphilus.

Address: I am the Coronis, teacher of the divine doctrine. If you lend me to anyone, you should get a receipt, because borrowers are evil.

Answer:  I keep you as a treasure of spiritual blessings, one which is longed for by all men, combined from many parts and adorned with writing in various colors. In truth, I will not rashly give you to anyone, nor again will I grudge the […][6]

The same colophon is found in the 12th century minuscule 88, where the first word is “Evagrius”.  It is possible that the erased first line of Ms. 015 began likewise.  Some scholars have supposed that Euthalius was really this Evagrius.

For lack of any better collective term, all this non-catena material tends to be referred to as the “Euthalian apparatus” for these books of the bible.  The material also exists, naturally, in the languages into which the medieval Greek New Testament was translated, namely Syriac, Armenian, and Georgian, and Slavonic[7]; although there seems to be no more than the list of chapter headings in Latin.

The “Euthalius” material was first edited by itself by L. A. Zacagni in 1698.  His edition is conveniently reprinted by Migne in the Patrologia Graeca 85, columns 627-790.  Far more useful to most of us is an English translation and commentary, with von Soden’s text, which has been published recently by Blomqvist.[8] There is an excellent 2009 study by Willard, based on a 1970 thesis, which includes a well-organised survey of all the material and of more than 400 manuscripts.[9] At Google Books there is a preview of an article by Dahl which seems to cover some of the discussion.[10]  There is very extensive discussion of the material, much of it from before 1914, which can be referenced from Blomqvist and Willard.

This material is perhaps mainly of specialist interest.  Euthalius’ comments on Paul can only be derivative.   The text of his apparatus may preserve variant readings of the bible.  The development of chapter divisions must have been influenced by this work, and reflects the rise and progress of sections and chapter divisions.  But all the same, it is useful to know about this work.

Let us end by hearing something from the author.  Few indeed will have access to Blomqvist’s invaluable volume.  So perhaps it would be useful for readers to end with most of his translation of the prologue to the letters of Paul (PG 85, cols. 693-713).  I have omitted the summary of the contents of the letters in the middle.  The statement, to which the Catholic Encyclopedia referred, is at the end, and I have placed it in bold.

    *    *    *    *

Prologue by the Deacon Euthalius, prefixed to the Book of the Letters of Paul the Apostle

Admiring your zealous love of learning, most honored father, I have obeyed your authority and your persuasive powers, and set out through a certain narrow strait and passage, that of scholarship, to write this prologue about the deeds of Paul. In fear of being disobedient, I promised a work far beyond my faculties, because I knew what is said in the Proverbs, that ‘the disobedient son shall perish’, while the obedient will be exempted. But come, offer your prayers for me, and, as though you were furnishing me with steering oars on both sides, stretch out your hands to God, just like the great Moses himself once extended his hands when he gave aid to Israel, drawn up for battle. Pray that even I may escape the rising winds of the air, and that keeping the course straight till the end, I may bring for you the vessel of my work into a calm harbor.

Beginning now this speech, I will describe what contains the truth. Paul the Apostle was a Hebrew by race, of the tribe of Benjamin, belonging to the party of the Pharisees, educated in the Law of Moses by Gamaliel, the faithful teacher.

Further, he lived in Tarsus, the eye-stone of Cilicia, persecuting and seeking to destroy the Church of God. For this very reason, he was present at the slaughter of Stephen, the apostle and the martyr, and he was also then taking part in the killing, as he received the mantles of all those who stoned him, to watch over them so that he could use the hands of all to kill. And he was seen everywhere as the most prominent among the rioters, eager to destroy the elect of the Church. Many and grave were the deeds that he committed against the Church, and he left nothing behind in excessive fury, because in this he believed he was acting piously and that he was setting the greatest things right, as both he himself confesses in his letters, and as Luke tells us in his second book. For not only did he in the beginning hate and turn away from the message of truth, like most Jews did, but he now nourished in himself an anger even greater than that of the whole people. For when he saw the radiance of the message and the blossoming word of truth growing stronger than the Jewish teaching, suffering because of this, and considering the greatest things offended as their teaching was being overthrown, he created in himself great zeal and eagerness directed against the nurslings of the Church, that they either should renounce the true teaching or suffer just punishment for their faith in Christ.

And when Paul at that time had received letters from the priests and the teachers to the Jews in Damascus, he set out, roaring like a violent river, thinking he would dash against the disciples in Damascus from all sides and send them into the pit of perdition. Since the Lord knew that he had somehow acquired his unjust fury from a just intention, He appeared to him in the middle of the road, and with the intensity of the light, He took away his sight. And he changed to such a degree that he who used to contrive all terrible things against the Church and planned to wipe out all the disciples, suddenly, right there, was considered His beloved and a most faithful man. For the enemy became straightaway a follower of Jesus, and having cast off his furious condition, he advanced to become an entrusted delegate, he confessed his faith in Christ and was sent to a certain Ananias, a disciple in Damascus. When God, the examiner of truth, saw that he was acting prudently and had become a better man who had left the evil ones behind, He declared that he should be exempted from punishment in no other way than this. So he went to Ananias and was baptised, he shared in unspeakable mysteries and became a remarkable defender and champion of the message.

And entrusted with a new message from God, he received a newer way to salvation. The blessed Paul changed so much that he even changed his name, having become true to his new name – for Saul  indeed used to shake the entire church, but Paul had now ceased to persecute and destroy the disciples of Christ. Thus he transformed his zeal into the utmost piety, strengthening the pious disciples with letters if he sometimes happened to be absent, in order that they for the future might acquire the teaching not only through his deeds, but also through his words, and, being strengthened by both, they might carry an unshakeable stronghold of piety within their souls.

After some time, Paul again went up to Jerusalem, to see Peter. Then they also divided the whole world between them, and after Paul received the part of the Gentiles, as it befell Peter to teach the Jewish people, he traversed many cities and many lands, and he almost filled all of Illyricum with the teachings of faith in Christ. Truly, he suffered and endured countless horrors for the sake of his belief in Christ, and he went through many and various dangers for the sake of the Gospel, as he himself recounts, but, having struggled hard for faith, he vanquished them all. For at that time, God still wanted Paul, and the unspeakable plan and decision of the Lord kept him living among men until he had proclaimed the Gospel to all nations.

And in the late hour, Paul again goes up to Jerusalem to visit the saints there and to help the poor. In the meantime, sedition took hold of the city, and the people were in a great uproar, as the Jews were rousing the crowd, because they considered it a terrible and heavy burden to be accused by the man who once protected them and shared their fury, and they were eager to kill him. But soon the chief captain Lysias took him away and sent him with military escort to the ruler in Caesarea. They arrested him and brought him to the governor. Felix was his name. When Paul realized that the Jews were plotting against him, he soon appealed to the emperor before the tribunal. His case was suspended, and the plot that the Jews had prepared against him came to nothing. And now the authorities sent him to the emperor in Rome, and there he proved himself worthy in the same struggles and he worked hard for the same prizes. Finally, he even departed from life for the sake of the doctrines of truth, as he considered life with Christ better than this life, which leads to death. For when the emperor Nero shortly afterwards wanted to lead him out of this life, he in fact bestowed true and genuine life upon him, and he made the man he took from earth a citizen of the heavens. So there the blessed Paul, having fought the good fight, as he says himself, received the crown of the holy and victorious martyrs of Christ.

The Romans, having enclosed his remains in the most beautiful kingly buildings, attend a festival to his memory once a year, on the third day before the calends of July, on the fifth day of the month Panemos, celebrating his martyrdom.

[There then follows a summary of the contents of the 14 letters]

Thus, the book as a whole includes every aspect of proper social conduct arranged according to progress.

So far, let this be said about them as described in our epitome. But in the following, we will prefix to each letter a short exposition of the chapters, worked out by one of the wisest of our fathers, a Christ lover. Not only that, but by going over the reading of the text we have with scholarly method indicated briefly the accepted list of the divine testimonies, and the most accurate division of the readings. This we will present just after this prologue.

I also considered it necessary to indicate briefly the period of time covered by the preaching of Paul, by making a summary based on the chronological tables of Eusebius, the disciple of Pamphilus.

When I get the book in my hand and open it, I find that the passion of our Savior, His resurrection on the third day, and the assumption of Christ back to heaven happened in the eighteenth year of the emperor Tiberius. And I saw there that the apostles after a few days elected the well-named Stephen and his companions to serve as deacons. I learn that after this there was a huge insurrection among the Jews, as we have already stated, and that Stephen then fought his fight, while Paul indeed approved of the murder. Soon he met the leaders of the Jews and received letters to the Jews in Damascus against the disciples. But in the middle of his journey the call came to him from God. This was a short time before the end of the year. When the nineteenth year of the emperor Tiberius began, Paul began to preach the message, the story tells, and he traversed the whole world preaching faith in Christ, until the thirteenth year of the emperor Claudius, when Felix was governor in Judaea. When Paul was accused by the Jews, he defended himself before him. But he kept the Apostle for two years in the prison of Caesarea. When Porcius Festus succeeded him in office, he soon wanted to reopen his case, thus presenting a great favor to the Jews. Then, as the blessed one understood that he could not escape the treachery unless he appealed to the emperor, he did so before the tribunal and was sent to emperor Nero in Rome. With him he had Aristarchus, whom he rightly called his fellow prisoner somewhere in the letters, and Luke, who consigned the acts of the apostles to writing. So there, in the city of the Romans, Paul was again kept under guard for two whole years.

Luke tells the story up to this point in the Acts of the Apostles, as this was the time when he finished his book. Since he had no knowledge then of what happened later, he did not include his martyrdom, as Luke and Aristarchus then left him and went away. But Eusebius, who has accurately described the following period, has told us also the story of his martyrdom in the second book of his History of the Church.

He says that Paul lived as a free man, and he confirms that he preached the word of God, no one preventing him. It is said that Paul, having defended himself before Nero, was sent from the emperor as a free man to serve the message, and that he preached the gospel for ten more years. When Nero reached the height of his madness, he killed Agrippina, his own mother, and also his father’s sister, his own wife Octavia and countless other relatives. After that, he instigated a general persecution of the Christians. And thus, he was roused to bring slaughter upon the apostles. Then, having called Paul to him, he once again placed him before the tribunal. Luke was with him also this time. Then it happened, in the thirty-sixth year after the passion of our Savior, in the thirteenth year of Nero, that Paul died as a martyr by having his head cut off by the sword.

From the nineteenth year of the emperor Tiberius, when he began to preach the gospel, till his twenty-second year, there are four years, and the years of Gaius are also four, but the years of Claudius are a little less than fourteen. His successor, Nero, killed the Apostle in the thirteenth year of his reign. Paul the Apostle says this about his first defense, writing to Timothy: ‘At my first defense no one stood by my side; all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength to proclaim the word fully, that all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.’ By this he means Nero. He says this about his second defense, in which his martyrdom was completed: ‘Fulfill your good ministry. For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has drawn near.’ Shortly after this, he writes that Luke is with him again: ‘Luke, who is with me, greets you’. The entire period of Paul’s preaching is twenty-one years, another two years he spent in prison in Caesarea. In addition, he was again two years in Rome, and the last years amount to ten.  Thus, all the years from his calling until his perfection number thirty-five.

But let no one rebuke me for this and reject the events following Acts, saying that Luke does not confirm them. To this a prudent man would respond: ‘My good friend, if you do not accept the period following Acts, show me,’ he would say, ‘where Luke tells the story of the martyrdom of Paul!’ For if Luke had told us about the martyrdom and estimated Paul’s stay in Rome to be only these two years, there would be no need for us to elaborate the chronology. But since he does not tell us about the martyrdom, as it happened much later than the time he covers in his book, trust for the remainder the chronicler Eusebius, and accept his history with benevolence, as a friend. For the disciples of Christ, receiving for their edification the teachings and traditions of the fathers with obedience and faith, are made heirs of the heavenly kingdom.

  1. [1]Article on St Paul; I first encountered the statement second hand in the strange hoax volume, “King Jesus: King of Judaea and Prince of Rome” by Ralph Ellis, p.212, which read: “It is said that his death took place in the 12th, 13th or 14th year of Nero, depending on whether you read St. Epiphanius, Euthalius or St. Jerome, which translates as either AD 66, 67 or 68.”  But this unreferenced statement seems to be derived from the Catholic Encyclopedia article.
  2. [2]All this from chapter 12 of Willard’s monograph.
  3. [3]See Jack Finegan, Encountering New Testament Manuscripts, Eerdmans (1980) p.45, online here.
  4. [4]There is more information online in the old Wace, Dictionary of Christian Biography article here.
  5. [5]Again see the old Wace, Dictionary of Christian Biography article here; and this article, E M Thompson, Handbook of Greek and Latin paleography, chapter 6, on στίχοι.
  6. [6]Blomqvist, p.16.
  7. [7]An article on the Slavonic by W. Veder, “The Slavonic Translation of the Euthalian Apparatus to the Acts and Epistles”, is here.
  8. [8]Vemund Blomqvist, Euthalian Traditions: Text, Translation and Commentary, De Gruyter (2012).
  9. [9]Louis Charles Willard, A Critical Study of the Euthalian Apparatus, De Gruyter (2009).  Google Books preview here.  This uses the Aland numbers, rather than the shelfmarks, to refer to the manuscripts.  For some reason Willard left the Greek untranslated, which means that only those with reasonable Greek can follow some of the argument.
  10. [10]N.A. Dahl, “The ‘Euthalian apparatus’ and the affiliated ‘argumenta'”, in: Studies in Ephesians, Mohr Siebeck (2000), p.231-278.  Dahl is mainly concerned with mentions in the prologue of an “edition” of the Corpus Paulinum, the collection of Paul’s letters.  I was unable to access more than a selection of pages.

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