Dionysius Bar Salibi’s “Commentary on the Gospels”, Papias and Eusebius

The massive commentary on the Gospels of the 13th century Syriac writer Dionysius Bar Salibi has never been translated into English.  But at one point it looked as if it might be.  An Irish scholar named Dudley Loftus made use of a manuscript in Trinity College, Dublin, and made a Latin translation of the whole thing.  This still exists, in manuscript, and I have seen it in the Bodleian, among the mss. of Dr. John Fell, where it is numbered #6 and #7.  The ms is crumbling, and probably unphotographed; of course I wasn’t allowed to take a copy.

But it seems that Loftus found that he could not publish his translation.  Instead he made an English version of extracts, which he did publish as “A clear and learned explication of the history of our blessed Saviour Jesus Christ: taken out of above thirty Greek, Syriack, and other oriental authors: by Dionysius Syrus, … and faithfully translated by D. Loftus. / [by] DIONYSIUS BAR SALIBI, Bishop of Amadia ; Loftus, Dudley ; JESUS CHRIST. (1695)”

This contains some interesting material.  It contains a passage from Papias, which my friend Tom Schmidt is going to blog about.  But while looking for this, I also found a quotation from Eusebius!  The work is really something of a catena, and thus the statement of Eusebius about how the Lord was dead for 3 days appears in it, on p.58.

Eusebius; Mathew by way of Exposition adds after this, of the Evening of the Sabbath the dawning of the Firstday of the Week, denoting the Hour and time of the Night after the Sabbath, which was when the First day of the Week dawned. ‘Tis true, Mathew wrote in the Hebrew, and he who Translated the Scripture into the Greek Language, rendered the Dawning of tbe Day, the Evening of the Sabbath; and Mathew, by the Evening, means the whole Length and Evening af the Night; as John calls the passing away, or the least Part of the Night, Day; and therefore adds, whilest it was yet dark, least it should be thought, that he spoke of the Morning; so Mathew also, when he said, the Evening of the Sabbath, lest Men might think it was spoken of the Evening Season, he adds, When the First day of the Week began to dawn.

I suspect this is more the sense of Eusebius’ thought than his words; it will be interesting to see, when the Syriac fragments are properly published, how this compares.


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