Looking for Gregory the Great, “lib. vii, ep. 64”?

The letters of Gregory the Great do exist in English, as they were translated, complete, a few years ago.  Sadly none of us have access to them, unless we have $150 to spare.  But today the question was raised of just where a certain letter of Gregory’s can be found. 

In various online sources, apparently — the questioner didn’t specify — a reference is present to “lib. vii, ep. 64”.  Yet if you look in the Patrologia Latina 77, and go to the back, there is a list of all the letters, and book 7 only has 45 letters.

An article here on Gregory and the Papal supremacy refers to “Fr. Edward Hawarden, Charity and Truth (1728) pp. 233-243″ and gives the following text:

Again, “As to what they say of the See of Constantinople, who doubts but that it is subject to the Apostolic See, as both the Emperor and the Bishop of that See constantly own?” says St. Gregory, in a letter to John, Bishop of Syracusa.2 And writing to the same Bishop concerning the Byzantine primate in Africa: “Whereas he owns himself subject to the See Apostolic, when bishops commit a fault, I know not what bishop is not subject to it. But when there is no fault to be punished, by way of humility, all are equal.”3

[2] Lib. 7, Ep. 64, p. 1348, D.
[3] Lib. 7, Ep. 65, p. 1349, AB.

Hmm.  So … to what edition does this refer?

I suppose it would be prudent to check the transcription against the original.  This is here, where footnote 2 is (30) and the Latin is given:

(30) Nam de Constantinopolitana ecclesia quod dicunt, quis eam dubitet Sedi Apostolicae esse subjectum?  Quod et piissimus Dominus Imperator, et Frater noster eiusdem Civitatis episcopus assidue profitentur. L. 7. Epist. 64. p. 1348. D.   Nam episcopi nomen proprium in melioris notae codicibus MSS. deest.  Vide Nat. Alex. de Scriptis S. Gregorii.  Saec. VI. Cap. iv. Art. xvi.

A search on the Latin brings up this link to the NPNF-212, where the reference is given to Lib. IX, Ep. 12.  Doubtless the standard numeration has changed since that rather remote day.

5 thoughts on “Looking for Gregory the Great, “lib. vii, ep. 64”?

  1. The origin of the question was a piece of work on the Roman Canon. The key phrase in the letter is “quam scholasticus composuit”. The citation is as late as Adrain Fortescue in his article in the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1908 who gives “Lib VII,64 or Lib IX,12”, interestingly some years after the publication of PL.

    What wasn’t clear was whether these were infact references ot two parallel texts or two references to the same text. Modern texts on the canon lacked the reference to Lib7: the remaining question was what had happened to it.

    Perhaps an interesting indication that even in the early years of the 20th century, Migne was not quite the standard reference that it enjoyed some years later.

  2. I was unaware of the context — thank you! But it sounded like the sort of question that might come up again, and where the process of discovery ought not to vanish in an email exchange. I certainly learned a bit about the letters of Gregory in the process.

    It sounds as if the Hawarden book — a Catholic work — is drawing on some other source, equally likely to be referenced by the Catholic Encyclopedia; perhaps some volume of proof-texts connected to the Roman canon? It would be most interesting to learn what.

    What would also be really interesting to find is the edition referred to! We have, after all, the page number.

    But one would need some kind of list of early editions to consult. Probably it would be a counter-reformation edition of the 17th century. 16th century editions might not be acceptable later on, and I know that portions of Rhenanus’ editions of Tertullian (1521 etc) found their way onto the Index, to be triumphantly referenced in the protestant Junius edition of 1597.

  3. The letters are 9.26 and 9.27 (i.e., Book 9, letters 26 and 27) on pages 561–563 of The Letters of Gregory the Great, translated by John R. C. Martyn, Medieval Sources in Translation 40 (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2004). (This is volume two of a three-volume set with continuous pagination.)

    Martyn translated from what is now the standard edition: S. Gregorii Magni Registrum epistularum, ed. Dag Norberg, Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 140, 140A, 2 vols. (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1982). This edition replaced both the PL reprint of the Maurist 1705 edition and the 1887–1889 MGH edition. There are also at least two other recent translations: a 1991 partial translation into French (Books 1–2 only) and a 1996–1999 complete translation into Italian, both with Norberg’s Latin facing the translations.

    The passages in Martyn’s translation are as follows.

    “For considering what they say about the church of Constantinople, who could doubt that it is subject to the apostolic see? And our most pious Lordship, the emperor, and our brother, bishop of the same city, admit this continually. And yet, if this or another church has some good feature, I myself am prepared to imitate even my inferiors in what is good, while I prohibit them from illegal acts. For foolish is the man who thinks himself better than others, but refuses to learn from the good qualities that he sees in others. “ (9.26, pp. 562–563).

    “For, in that he says that he is subject to the apostolic see, if any fault is found in bishops, I know not what bishop is not subject to it. But when fault does not demand it, all are equal in accordance with the degree of humility.” (9.27, p. 563)

    My apologies for not providing complete scans of the two letters, but that would have required breaking the spine of my copy of Martyn — and that I will not do. I should add that if you want a copy of this admirable set, the Pontifical Institute’s website (http://www.pims.ca/publications/catalogue1.html) lists it at $94.95. Unfortunately, Brepols, the European distributor, lists it at €95. Well, you do get almost 1000 pages and a complete translation for your money.

  4. This rang a bell with me. I have the following notes on a related quote in Luke Rivington’s book: “PL77, 996, pdf-506: Et valde dubium est utrum pure an certe, quia a coepiscopus suis impetitur, nobis modo talia loquatur; nam quod se dicit sedi apostolicae subjici, si qua culpa in episcopis invenitur, nescio quis ei episcopus subjectus non sit. Cum vero culpa non exigit, omnes secundum rationem humilitatis aequalies sunt.” The pdf-506 lists the page number of a PDF file I found on the internet somewhere of Patrologia Latina Vo. 77.

Leave a Reply