The Testimonium Flavianum in Michael the Syrian, Jacob of Edessa and Eusebius’ Chronicle

The Chronicle of Eusebius ended with the Vicennalia of Constantine; that is clear from Jerome’s translation/expansion of it in Latin. From Michael the Syrian we learn that Jacob of Edessa commenced his Syriac continuation at the same point.

Looking at Michael’s text, it is clear that the Testimonium Flavianum quoted in it comes from the same material as the mention of Phlegon; that is, presumably from Eusebius Chronicle via some Syriac translation.

I think that we can presume that, like other works of Eusebius, the Chronicle was translated into Syriac early. Indeed that Jacob in the 7th century uses the same end point as Jerome in the fourth says that he was working with a translation made fairly early, as he then has to supplement it with material from Socrates and Theodoret! A later translation would probably have been from a revised edition of the Chronicle such as that of Annanias or Panodorus, or betray the signs of reediting that the Armenian translation does (itself a 5th century product). Both books must have been translated, judging from the presence of material from book 1 at the start of Michael the Syrian.

But the Testimonium never formed part of the Chronicle, so must be an addition, and probably after the text had been translated into Syriac. It seems unlikely that Josephus Antiquities was translated. But we do know that Eusebius Church History was, since it is extant in that language. What, then, is the version of the TF in that text?

Most people are familiar with the TF in Michael because it was published by Shlomo Pines when he published the version in Agapius. But although a printed edition of the Syriac Eusebius HE exists, no translation exists. The same applies to the Armenian text of the HE.

One interesting feature of Michael’s quotation is that it agrees with Jerome’s Latin version “He was thought to be the Christ”. If this did not come from Josephus, does it mean that the HE in Eusebius originally read thus?


More on Michael the Syrian and Phlegon

Today I was able to see the complete edition of Michael the Syrian by J.B.Chabot at Cambridge University Library.  It consists of 4 volumes.  There is an introductory volume, containing an introduction about Michael and his works, and the index for the whole Chronicle.  This is labelled volume 1; confusingly so is the next volume, which contains the first part of the Chronicle!

Each volume contains the French translation at the front, and the Syriac text at the back.  The Syriac is in what looks like a handwritten, unvocalised, and very small Serto script.  The layout is as per the manuscript — indeed it looks like a copy of the manuscript — and the tables are in their proper places.

Numerals in square brackets in the French translation indicate the page number in the Syriac.  Phlegon is on pp.91-90, in the right-hand column (for the text is in 2-3 columns most of the time, each giving a separate narrative and not linking up; very peculiar!).

Given my limited Syriac, I was highly delighted to locate the correct column.  This I did by looking in the French to see what came immediately after the page break, and then if it was a proper name, looking for that soon after the break in the Syriac. 

I wasn’t sure how Phlegon would be represented.  The French read “Phlegon, philosophe profane” (=’Phlegon, a pagan philosopher’).  To my great joy I found PLGWN (the letter waw can mean ‘o’); and the next word turned out to be HKIM, i.e. hakīm, which is the Syriac for ‘learned man’ (and indeed the same word in Arabic means the same; sitt hakim=lady doctor).  The next word began with BR.., which I vaguely remember meant ‘pagan’.  Not bad for someone who hasn’t looked at Syriac for 3 months!

I hope to transcribe and translate exactly that portion of the Syriac soon, and we can have it exactly online.  Blessed be the Rare Books people at CUL, they did me a photocopy of the page there and then for me!


Microsoft – how to access

Stephen C. Carlson kindly drew my attention to this blog post  at the Amsterdam NT Blog which explains why none of us can see anything on the much vaunted Microsoft rival to Google books.  Apparently only people whose browser language is set to ‘eng-us’ can see anything.   I customised my copy of Firefox to do this, and searched for ‘tertullian’ and, after a bit of a lag, voila!  Suddenly material appears.  The first item is the Dalrymple 1790 version of Tertullian Ad Scapulam.  There is a link to download the whole volume as a PDF (thankfully).

I’ve not explored this much but I would like to signal the availability of this material to non-Americans, not least since material gathered and paid for by the British taxpayer is being used to populate it courtesy of the British Library.


Phlegon in Michael the Syrian

In the 10th century world Chronicle of Michael the Syrian, there is a quotation from Phlegon (see Ben C. Smith’s page).  This is quoted in French by Shlomo Pines from J.B.Chabot’s edition and translation.   I thought that it might be interesting to obtain the Syriac and transcribe and translate it directly myself. 

I was advised that the passage could be found in volume 1, pp.143-4.  This I obtained by ILL, to discover that the copy sent to me was a French-only volume.  (It should have had the Syriac at the back). But the passage is there in the translation, at the foot of p.143, as Ben gives it.  Chabot adds a note that rather than ‘cursed the Jews’ the text says literally “they said, ‘Woe to the Jews'”.  (It seems rather strange not to say that in the translation, then).

Of course I opened the volume and started reading the introduction.  This is apparently lost in Syriac, but an Armenian epitome exists of the Chronicle, and Chabot restored it from there.  Interestingly he lists his sources.  The preface reads:

Studious and devoted Brothers, when I was considering the facts which it was important to know from the great number of chronicles, I decided not to go into detail on those things which can be found in the great number of [existing] narratives.  I have compiled in summary form that which was useful and relevant, from ecclesiastical and profane writers; in order to reveal the fleeting mortality of many things and to disperse the shadows of ignorance, lifting your sights to the reward for my labours.  I shall leave this treasure to the church, and to the teachers of the children of the new Sion, to pass on when my days are done.

At the start we must place the first of the human race, Adam, so as to build the edifice from the foundation.  This is useful to those who speak and those who listen.  — But it is necessary first to give the names of the historians from whom we intend to take the material for our edifice.

[Julius] Africanus, Jesus, Hegesippus, Jews, wrote down to the coming of Christ.  Annianus, a monk of Alexandria, wrote from Adam to the time of Constantine.

Eusebius Pamphili composed his book with the help of their writings and called it Ecclesiastical [History].

Zosimus, Socrates and Theodoret the heretic began their works with Constantine and continued to Theodosius the Younger.

John of Antioch and of Djebel, Theodore the Lector, of Constantinople, and Zacharias, bishop of Melitene, wrote from Theodosius to Justinian the Elder.

John of Asia wrote from Anastasius to Maurice.

Gouria wrote from Justinian to Heraclius, and on the entrance of the Arabs into the lands of the Syrians, which took place in the time of Heraclius.

St. Jacob of Edessa made an epitome of them all.

Dionysius the patriarch wrote from Maurice to Theophilus, emperor of the Greeks, and Haroun, emir of the Arabs.

Ignatius, bishop of Melitene, Saliba the elder, of Melitene, John of Kaisoum and Dionysius (of Alexandria) Bar-Salibi, made many chronicles from Adam to their own times.

After listing the chroniclers in whose day listeners were of studious disposition and so who wrote in strong colours, we [who live today] in days of decay, in view of our indolence, [we have written] briefly passing quickly over each [of the narratives above].

But it is not just studious men who need to calculate greater or lesser numbers of years, because of the truth of the Lord’s word, “The Father has given him knowledge of moments and years”.  In fact there is a great divergence betwen the version of the Septuagint and that which the Syrians possess, that which king Abgar had translated, and which Jacob of Edessa revised, employing the artifice of pretending to convert to Judaism, so that the Jews wouldn’t hide the truth from him.

The text then starts on book 1, on p.3.  But by p.6 I find some familiar names; “After Aloros the Chaldaean, nine others ruled successively until the flood…” whereupon the familiar list of 10 rulers that we see in Eusebius’ Chronicle book 1 appears: “First was Aloros, a Chaldaean of Babylon, who reigned for 10 sars, that is 98 years and 230 days.  The second, Alaparos, his son, reigned for 3 sars, that is 29 years and 215 days…”  A sar here is a reasonable number of years, not the vast number listed in Eusebius.   But the text in Eusebius does not convert the sar into years; “that is, 98 years…” is not in Eusebius.

Jacob of Edessa was a very learned man, who introduced Greek vowels to Syriac, and would have got them written on the line with the consonants if his countrymen would have allowed it.  The Chronicle of Jacob of Edessa mentioned above is partly extant in a fragmentary British Library manuscript, and is a continuation of Eusebius.  It seems likely, therefore, that Jacob did indeed summarise all the earlier material, and that Michael is here relying on his translation and recension of whatever Greek text was then circulating. 

As I skim further on, I see references to the mysterious town of Pautibiblon, which appears in the Armenian text of Eusebius Chronicle.  In fact as I continue, the debt to Eusebius is immense, at least in these early books.

It seems clear, therefore, that the reference to Phlegon is derived from Eusebius, and has merely suffered the intrusion of explanatory glosses from other sources, just as the text above has.

[Revised after seeing another copy].


Eusebius online: problems with numbers

While working on the first chunk of Eusebius, I saw a list of kings in Babylon.  There was quite a different between the lengths of the reigns in the German edition (Karst, 1911) and the Latin one (Petermann, 1870-ish).  The former was based on a photographic copy of E, the main manuscript; the latter on two hand-written copies of it in Venice.   If the numbers could vary that much in one generation, there must be real questions about all of the numerals.


Translating Eusebius’s Chronicle 1 online: why not have a go at a sentence?

The chronicle of Eusebius has never been translated into English.  But we have a simple Latin version, and also a German one.  Much of it is in short sentences or phrases, so even a novice at Latin would probably find something they could do.  

Would people be interested in having a go at this, as a collaborative online translation?

What I’ve done, is put online the entries for the preface, down to the start of quotes from Alexander Polyhistor on Berossus, and made it editable so that anyone can enter stuff. Each sentence is separately editable. There’s no passwords or logons involved. Anyone can edit anything by just pressing the edit button.

If you know any Latin at all, or German, why not buzz over to this page and contribute a sentence or two?

The intention is that the whole translation should be in the public domain and be put online for everyone.

I’ll add some stuff in, but by all means feel free to add notes to each bit you do if something is uncertain and see if someone else can find the answer!

It’s a bit of fun, not something serious — if you know amo amas amat, I think you could probably do a sentence or two! 


The last Roman in London

Mike Aquilina at Way of the Fathers reports a BBC news item.  It seems that a burial has been found in London (Londinium), of a grave from the early 5th century. The burial was at St. Martin-in-the-Fields church, near Trafalgar Square.

The man was buried in a Roman sarcophagus with a bit of Saxon pottery.  Test show that he died between 390 and 430AD.  The BBC call him the “Last Roman” and indeed he must have been one of the last Roman inhabitants; someone who saw the legions leave and the barbarians arrive.


Oxford Patristics Conference

The quadrennial 15th International Conference on Patristic Studies will take place in Oxford this year from Monday 6 August to Saturday 11 August 2007.   A list of papers has been sent out but is not on the website, for some reason, although abstracts are. I hope to attend at least some of it since I will be in Oxford, staying in my old college, for most of that week.

The most interesting to me is a paper being given in German “Wer war Paul der Perser?” — Who was Paul the Persian.  All I know about him is that he was an East Syriac writer of the 7th century, who composed at least two treatises, one of which was translated by Severus Sebokht into Syriac.  One of them was a summary of Aristotle, which he presented to the Shah.  According to Bar Hebraeus he sought to become a bishop, and apostasised to Magianism when he did not succeed.  I’m not sure that my German is good enough to hear the paper, tho.