I have continued to read a cheap reprint of Harnack’s Geschichte der altchristlichen Litteratur bis Eusebius, Theil 1, Halfte 2. The volume has no index, so I have amused myself by compiling one in pencil at the front, and scribbling English notes in the margins.
While doing so I came across his notes on catenas — medieval Greek commentaries compiled by linking together chains (catenas) of quotations from earlier writers. These seemed concise and useful, so I was thinking about transcribing and translating them. Then I found <blush> that I had already transcribed them on this blog here! Time to translate it, I think.
But I was looking at that data, and remarking on the statement of Harnack that Possinus printed the catena on Matthew of Nicetas of Serrae in 1646 at Toulouse. Now quite a few of the fragments of Eusebius of Caesarea’s Gospel problems and solutions come from Nicetas on Luke, published from a Vatican ms., and a few from Possinus; but Migne does not link the two.
So who was Possinus? A google search turns up the meagre information that he was a 17th century French Jesuit, Pierre Poussines, latinized as Petrus Possinus. He certainly published a Catena Graecorum Patrum in Evangelium secundum Marcum, Rome, 1672. He worked with Balthasar Corderius on a catena, Symbolarum in Matthæum tomus alter, quo continetur catena patrum Græcorum triginta … interprete Balthasare Corderio, Boude, 1647.
According to J. W. Burgon, The last twelve verses of the Gospel according to S. Mark vindicated, p.134, the 1673 catena was found by Possinus in the library of Charles de Montchal, Archbishop of Toulouse.
In the Oxford movement text of the Catena Aurea, vol. 3, pt. 1, p.ix., we find the following statement:
Mai has published a considerable part of another Catena, in his ninth vol. Vet. Script. Its date is very near the end of the 11th century, and it is entitled, ἀπὸ τῆς ἐκλογῆς τοῦ Νικητοῦ Σεῤῥῶν. He ascribes the first Catena to the same author, and a similar title is prefixed to a MS. in the Coislin Library, (Bibl. Coisl. No. 201.) of a later date, and containing a Catena on St. Luke of sixty-two Fathers. These three Catenae, though differing in date, yet very similar in the names and number of the authors cited, must all be traced to the same source. Nor does there seem any reason why they should not be successive copies, only increased as time went on, of the original MS. of Nicetas, whose name they bear. Nicetas flourished about 1077. He was at first Deacon at Constantinople, then Bishop of Serrae in Macedonia, afterwards Archbishop of Heraclea in Thrace. He is proved by Wolf (De Catenis) to have been the author of a Catena on Job, generally assigned to Olympiodorus; and Lambecius (v. 63. iii. 81.) describes a Catena of his on the Psalms. That published by Possinus on St. Matthew, from a MS. in the Library of the Elector of Bavaria, contains extracts from thirty Fathers, with a prologue and several expositions under the name of Nicetas. It seems very probable then that Nicetas was the author of a new class of Catenae, far exceeding in size and completeness those which previously existed. For among a great number of MSS. Catenae on the Gospels in the Paris, Venice, and Vienna Libraries, which bear date of the 10th or 11th centuries, there are scarcely any which number more than twelve Fathers, none certainly which approach to the extent of those above mentioned.
But much of this again relates to the catena on Luke. Hmm. Why so hard to find out much about Possinus? I did find a statement that his catena was mainly based on extracts from Chrysostom, but then most catenas are.
Perhaps we shall just have to wait until more older scholarship appears online.
While doing this search I stumbled across a reference to an Ante-Nicene Exegesis of the Gospels, ed. HD Smith, 6 vols. (London: SPCK, 1925). This apparently includes quotes from Possinus’ catena on Matthew. I must confess I had never heard of the book! But it sounds very interesting. I wonder if it is online?