Matthieu Cassin on the chapter titles of Contra Eunomium I

In the Sources Chretiennes edition of Gregory of Nyssa’s Contra Eunomium,[1] there is an annex which is of wider interest.  Annex II — p.359-364 — was written by Matthieu Cassin, and summarises rather nicely the question of indices and chapter titles in the manuscripts of this work. 

I know that French is a closed book to rather too many anglophone scholars, so, in the interests of wider access, here is my own English translation of portions of it. 

The kephalaia of book I

Immediately preceding the text of Contra Eunomium, the majority of the manucripts include a list of chapters of book 1, either as a summary or a table of contents.  The numbers of these chapters are then given in the margins of the text, at the location corresponding to the beginning of each chapter.  Some manuscripts, whether or not they preserve the table at the front, also give the title of the chapter, either in the body of the text or in the margin.  Finally others, which don’t include any portion of the chapters titles anywhere, still retain traces of marginal numerals.  The antiquity of this system of structuring the work is confirmed by the witness of the indirect tradition: in fact the Treatise against Damian written at the end of the 6th century by Peter of Callinicus, patriarch of Antioch, furnishes us with ample citations of the Contra Eunomium of Gregory, and specifies the chapter from which the passages come. These indications correspond, in the vast majority of cases, with the system which appears in the Greek manuscript tradition, except around the great lacuna in the later parts of the book. In fact the text which Peter knew had not yet suffered this loss, and the numbering accordingly had not been disturbed in this area by the loss of an important section of the text.

The following table gives in the first column the number of the chapter, in the second the paragraph where the chapter begins; if the latter does not begin at the start of a paragraph, the difference is signalled by + or – and specified in a note, giving page and line from the edition of W. Jaeger. The following columns, which each correspond to one of the witnesses of the text, indicate if the chapter mark is present (+) or absent (-) from the manuscripts, or if it has not been possible for me to determine its status (?); signalled by a ≠ is a reported difference from the norm. The indication ‘mut.’ is utilised when the manuscript is mutilated for this portion of the text; ‘lac.’ signals the lacuna of chapters 29-31.

The copies of manuscripts where the original is extant are not represented in this table, except for D, which allows us to fill in some of the lacunas of S. B. (Lesbiacus 6), to the extent that it gives a single chapter numeral (κβ’), on f. 340v, in its usual place in the text.

The manuscripts not cited do not include any indication of chapters: mostly these are recent copies, except for V (Vaticanus gr. 447, 12th c.). The latter manuscript, on the other hand, indicates the position of chapters for book III, and for the Refutation; the manuscript from which it was copied, like L, had undoubtedly deteriorated since it was written, and the marks of the chapters were no longer visible. Two manuscripts could not be consulted (Hagion Oros, Mone Vatopediou, 541; Sinai, Mone tes Aikaterines, Metochion 8). Another, equally inaccessible to me, signals the beginning of chapters and their numeral, according to the catalogue which describes it (Brescia, Bibl. civica Queriniana, A IV 3).

There then follow five pages of data on the chapters, which may be conveniently viewed in the SC edition itself. Dr Cassin resumes the story afterwards as follows:

The editio princeps of 1618, based upon recent manuscripts which did not specify the positions of the chapters, could not indicate them. Fr. Oehler, who was in a position to consult manuscripts which carried the numbers of the chapters in their margins, such as L or M, did not report them in his edition, which appeared in 1865. W. Jaeger, whose position on this point is less than clear, chose not to indicate their position, believeing that the manuscripts did not agree among themselves, even though he had access to the majority of the witnesses of the text.

All this is of great interest.

Firstly the work of Peter of Callinicus indicates that by the 6th century at least, the chapter titles were as we see them. Since the transmitted text is likewise equipped, this must be strong evidence that the titles, divisions, and numerals are authentic. Secondly the tendency of scribes to interfere with them seems to be shown — it’s not quite clear from the article — by tinkering with the numbering once a lacuna had appeared in chapters 29-31.

If the summary, the chapter titles, and the marginal numerals are all authorial — and it looks like it — then we have to ask whether this is an innovation by Gregory; or whether, in fact, he is merely adopting a trend active in his own time.

Speculating, I would suggest the latter.  Half a century earlier, Eusebius of Caesarea had given summaries in his Ecclesiastical History (doubtless based on earlier Greek histories which did the same), but also in his theological works like the Praeparatio Evangelica.  It is less clear whether these items had made it into the text, or whether there were numerals.  But who can say?  The influence of the EH on all Greek patristic literature means that possibly this was the catalyst.  Is it possible that the division of theological books into chapters with numbers and marked in the body of the text is a 4th century innovation?  And that it spreads to the Latin world in the 5-6th centuries?

How valuable the SC series is!  For increasingly I notice that they include a section of just what the manuscripts actually contain.  As Dr C. rightly observes, editors simply ignored this stuff.  Those days, thankfully, must be behind us.

  1. [1]Gregoire de Nysse, Contre Eunome I, SC 524, 2010: Greek text by W. Jaeger from WNO I.1, translation by Raymond Winling.

3 thoughts on “Matthieu Cassin on the chapter titles of Contra Eunomium I

  1. What about Hippolytus’s work Heads Against Caius? Could the ‘Heads’ (kephalia) be a reference to a book made up of chapters or chapter headings divided into various subjects? What about the work of Mani of the same name?

  2. Both good points. Part of the problem is the possible dual use of “kephalaia” to mean both “subject” and “chapter. But I appreciate the reminder!

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