Polychronius, Porphyry and Daniel

One of the 5th century commentators on scripture was Polychronius, brother of Theodore of Mopsuestia (ca. 430 AD).  He belonged to the Antioch school of biblical interpretation, who took a fairly literal approach to scripture.  His works are lost.   But the interpreters of that school were used extensively by the compilers of catena-commentaries from the 6th century onwards, and Polychronius was among them.  The result is that the Patrologia Graeca contains hundreds of pages of fragments culled from these catenas.

It’s fairly obvious why someone compiling a commentary on scripture from the Fathers would tend to prefer Antioch to Alexandria, literal to allegorical.  An allegorical interpretation might be interesting, but as a comment on a passage is much less useful than someone who is dealing directly with what the passage says.

Polychronius is interesting because he was one of the few Fathers to agree with Porphyry — “the impious Porphyry” as he is universally referred to — on the subject of the date of portions of Daniel.  These he considered were additions made in the Hellenistic period, in the times of Antiochus IV Epiphanes.  The latter monarch led the attack on Judaism and is the subject of the books of Maccabees.  The portions are Bel and the Dragon, Susannah, and the Song of the Three Children.  In Daubney’s Three additions to Daniel I read:

Polychronius, Theodore of Mopsuestia’s brother, refused to comment on this piece because it was not part of the original Daniel, nor in the Syriac, ο  κεταιν  τος  βραϊκος    ντος  Συριακος βιβλίοις.

I’ve had a proposal to translate the fragments on Daniel, amounting to some 50 columns of Migne.  This is quite a bit, and would cost quite a bit too!  I’ve queried whether perhaps we might cherry-pick some of the best bits, solely from a cost-saving point of view.  But it’s not an impossible sum.

The fragments of Daniel were published by Mai in Volume 1 of Scriptorum Veterum Collectio Nova, in part 2, p.105.  They start on p.556 of the Google Books PDF.


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