Papyrus manuscript of Didymus the Blind’s “Commentary on Ecclesiastes” online!

Quite accidentally I find that colour photographs of the pages of Didymus the Blind’s Commentary on Ecclesiastes are online here.  I can only say “wow!”

This work was lost until 1941.  In that year, the threat of Rommel’s Afrika Corps caused the British Government to order works carried out at the Tura quarries near Cairo, to store ammunition.  The quarries themselves were used in ancient times.  At some point native workmen discovered a pile of leaves of papyrus hidden under apparently random chunks of stone.  They promptly spirited them away and sold them for a song to the antiquities dealers.  But word got out, and most of the find was recovered.  The main portion of it was biblical commentaries by Didymus the Blind and Origen.

Now wouldn’t it be nice if an English translation of this work was also online?


Some notes on Parthenius of Nicaea, and his “Peri Erotikon Pathematon”

Until a few weeks ago, I had managed to go through life without ever encountering the name of the ancient writer Parthenius of Nicaea, or being aware of the absence.   However today I found myself looking at his work, and so obliged to discover who he was, when he lived, and so forth.[1]

Our best information on Parthenius comes from the Suda.  Under the headword Παρθένιος (Adler number pi,664) we find the following text:

Son of Heracleides and Eudora (but Hermippus says Tetha was his mother). From Nicaea or Myrleia. A poet writing elegies and in various metres. He was taken by Cinna as war booty, when the Romans defeated Mithridates [sc. VI Eupator] in war. Then he was freed by reason of education and lived until the time of the Emperor Tiberius. He wrote elegies, Aphrodite, the funeral elegy for the wife Arete, an Encomium of Arete in three books, and many other works.

He wrote about metamorphosis.

The Stoa Online project adds helpfully:

See generally Oxford Classical Dictionary(3) p.1116.

and that Nicaea was enslaved in 73 BC.[2].

From this we learn that he was brought to Rome as a young man as a slave in 73 BC, and lived into the lifetime of Tiberius (born 42 BC, but who only became emperor in AD 14), and that he was famous as a poet.    From the 5th century writer Macrobius we learn that he was Vergil’s Grammaticus in Graecis,[3], which may mean his teacher of Greek, or possibly merely a literary consultant.  Aulus Gellius quotes a line of Parthenius which Virgil imitated.[4].  He was the favourite poet of the emperor Tiberius[5] and the emperor Hadrian thought highly of him and restored his grave in Tivoli.[6]

The only work surviving, however, is his prose Erotica pathemata, or The Sorrows of Love, a collection of 36 stories, all more or less mythological.  Consequently he may be included among the mythographical writers.

The work is dedicated to Cornelius Gallus, with a prefatory letter, indicating that Gallus might find it useful:

Thinking, Cornelius Gallus, that the collection of suffferings in love was very appropriate to you, I have selected them and sent them to you in as brief a form as possible. For those among the present collection that occur in certain poets where they are not narrated in their own right, you will find out for the most part from what follows. You too, will be able to render the most suitable of them in hexameters and elegiacs. Think none the worse of them because they lack that quality of refined elaboration which you pursue. For I have collected them after the fashion of a little notebook and they will, I trust, serve you in the same way.[7]

Gallus himself was a poet, and nine lines of his verse, lamenting an unhappy romance, turned up in a manuscript from the dusty Roman fort at Qasr Ibrim in Nubia.[8]

The text of the Peri Erotikon Pathematon is extant in a single manuscript, Vaticanus Palatinus gr. 398, of the 10th c. AD, which also contains the work of the mythographer Antoninus Liberalis.  In both writers each story is preceded by a heading, which states from which work the story had been obtained, and even the book number of that work.  Effectively both works are divided into chapters, and, since it is hard to believe that anyone but the author could have annotated the work with its sources thus, the division is authorial.  But of course a compendium must inevitably be divided into sections.

An English translation exists, thankfully, by S. Gaselee (1916), in the volume of the Loeb Classical Library series which contains Daphnis and Chloe.[9]  It is undoubtedly a minor piece of literature.  But it adds something to our knowledge of the literature of the late Republic.

  1. [1]The Loeb volume supplies some information; more came from the Suda Online entry; finally from Jacqueline J. H. Klooster, “The erotica pathemata of Parthenius”,  here.
  2. [2]The Stoa Online entry, to which I wish I could link directly, also gives the following useful bibliography: Clausen, Wendell, Virgil’s Aeneid and the Tradition of Hellenistic Poetry (Cambridge, 1987) 5-8; Dyer, Robert R., “Where did Parthenius Teach Vergil?” Vergilius 42 (1996) 19-24; Lightfoot, Jane L. Parthenius of Nicaea: the extant works (Oxford, 1999); Brodersen, Kai, Liebeslieden in der Antike: die Erotica Pathemata des Parthenios (Darmstadt, 2000)
  3. [3]Macrobius, Saturnalia, book V, 18: rendered by the Loeb as: “The following verse is by Parthenius, who was Virgil’s tutor in Greek.”
  4. [4]Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights, book XIII, 27: “…lines of Homer and Parthenius which Virgil seems to have imitated.”
  5. [5]Suetonius, Tiberius, 70.2.
  6. [6]IG xiv 1089 (Kaibel Ep. gr.1089; GVI 2050; Page, FGE p.568-571), an epigram to commemorate the restoration of Parthenius’ grave in Tivoli.
  7. [7]Klooster, p.314; “οἱονεὶ γὰρ ὑπομνηματίων τρόπον αὐτὰ συνελεξάμεθα, καὶ σοὶ νυνὶ τὴν χρῆσιν ὁμοίαν, ὡς ἔοικε, παρέξεται”. The translation is by Jane Lightfoot.
  8. [8]R.D. Anderson, P.J. Parsons, & R.G.M. Nisbet, “Elegiacs by Gallus from Qasr Ibrim”, Journal of Roman Studies 69 (1979) p.128
  9. [9]The Loeb translation may be found at here. Most usefully it translates the quotations or references in later literature.

Detlefsen on the “indices” of Pliny the Elder’s “Natural History”

Pliny the Elder states, at the end of his preface to his Natural History, that a list of contents of the work follows.  In our modern editions this forms book 1 of the work.  The indices to each book are also found sometimes at the start of the book to which they relate.  The text of the NH was established by German scholars of the 19th century such as Sillig, Jan, Mayhoff and Detlefsen, and the only article on the transmission of these indices that I could find dates from that period.[1]  Although the author plainly does not have all the information he needs, and sometimes is less than clear, it is still quite interesting.  I have translated a large portion of that article using Google Translate, and it seems useful to give that extract below.  I cannot guarantee exact accuracy, note.  (In p.711 the technical detail became too dense for my command of German, but also less relevant to my investigation, and I was obliged to omit from there up to the top of p.716.)

Readers may find my previous post on the manuscripts of Pliny the Elder helpful.  To summarise what it said, there are the remains of 5 ancient codices, and then a mass of medieval mss.  The medieval mss. are divided into two groups, the vetustiores (=older) and recentiores (=younger).  I have not yet found a stemma for any of this.

Let us hear what Detlefsen has to say.

*    *    *    *    *

[p.701] 38a. The indices of the Naturalis Historia of Pliny.

(See above p. 284).

In connection with the earlier report on Pliny studies (p.284-337), it may be appropriate to mention a special portion of the NH, which has recently and rightly been receiving special attention, the indices.  Long neglected by scholarship, and disfigured by incredible corruptions and interpolations, they have for the first time in our own day been published by Sillig in a form that could satisfy the demands of scholarship.  How important they are for Pliny studies was demonstrated by Brunn in his useful work, de auctorum indicibus Plinianis, Bonn 1856, which on the one hand, proved from the NH that the principles of the ordering of the lists of authors arose from use intended, and on the other hand sought to determine what sources these were with more precision. Much that has come out about the results obtained so far has not been researched, although because of Jan’s edition and my own, as well as the recension of Urlich (Jahn’s Jahrb. bd. 71, 256 ff), questions raised by Jan (ibid., vol. 95, 858 f), and against Urlich’s recension of the text by Brunn (ibid., vol. 75, 336 ff) have produced better justification and new light on the subject. But work in this area is far from complete.

For us the work of Pliny is a treasure trove of notes of all kinds, of course depending on the sources of very different value, collected “ex exquisitis auctoribus centum” “lectione voluminum circiter II” (Plin. praef. 17); if we count the authors referenced by him, [p.702] the result is actually 146 Roman and 327 foreign authors. The ultimate goal of the necessary investigation must be to document in detail, what Pliny owes to each of these writers, to deconstruct his mosaic-like text into its component pieces, a process which, on the one hand, by looking at extant writers directly, can work out what has been borrowed, and on the other hand, where this is not possible, can only reach a conclusion through careful analysis.  In this connection, Brunn’s greatest service was to first make scholarly use of the indices auctorum; but I believe that the principles established by him require some modification.

Firstly, it seems to me that a careful examination of the NH. itself can show joins in the text not considered by Brunn, which may be exploited to uncover the history of the origins of the text, and which likewise may shed new light on the composition of the indices. But any investigation in this direction requires a sound basis of diplomatic corrected texts of the indices; and this correction must not refer solely to the individual words of the indices, but also on the sequence of lemmata. In that area, I confess that in my own edition I often just followed the statements of Sillig and Jan; it was difficult, almost impossible, to accurately give the many strange and rarely occurring names, particularly of plants, before the same were corrected in the text of the books from the relevant manuscripts.  However, I have tried to establish the order of the lemmata from the manuscripts more accurately than my predecessors, and you will often perceive deviations from the latter in my edition. For they had arbitrarily ordered some lemmata so that they exactly corresponded to the order in the text of the relevant books, while the manuscripts gave an entirely different order. In such cases, I have definitely followed the latter, although in some cases I do not know whether carelessness by the copyists, or by Pliny himself, or some other cause should be blamed for the inconsistency.  A repeated examination of the manuscript sources led me to ask the following questions.

For the last book of the NH., a special investigation was required to get clarity about its text tradition, different from that of the remainder of the book (see Jahn’s Jahrb. 95, 77 ff).  Likewise the data on the tradition of the first book offers special difficulties. Just like the last book, [p.703] it is either not found in most of the older manuscripts, or only partially.  It is well-known that the first and last leaves of manuscripts are particularly exposed to the rigours of time, but there is yet a further problem, that critically editing book I is one of the most difficult parts of the task of editing the NH.

However I now have far richer materials than before, provided by Sillig’s edition, and although it is now possible for me to determine the basic features of the transmission, I do not conceal from myself that further study on the manuscript tradition is desirable. From Sillig’s preface, and from his notes on book I, an insight into the outline of the tradition can only be obtained with effort.  In many places he obscured or misreported the truth, and only after lengthy collating of the manuscripts have I succeeded in discovering the key points in this part of the NH to which attention should be directed.  But very often the opportunity was lacking, and there was not enough time to examine the manuscripts a second time more precisely.  However I believe that the most important thing is to make known the preliminary results of my work, because the details are of some importance for the understanding of the transmission of the text and for the correction of it.

Sillig states in his first note on book 1 that, until the Hardouin edition of 1685, the indices as printed were simply erroneous, interpolated and spurious; and that Hardouin’s edition also suffered from careless distortions, which have caused confusion ever since.  He himself says, “Hinc neque Dalecampii neque Harduini vel Broterii editionibus in hoc indice respectis ego editionem eius, si ita dicere licet, principem feci, cuius haec ratio fuit, ut singulorum librorum indices e codi­cibus, qui eos continent et quorum sigla cuique libro apposui, ede­rem.

From this anyone without a personal knowledge of the manuscripts of Pliny would suppose that the problem is fixed.  It cannot be denied that Sillig’s edition of the indices marks a very significant degree of progress over all previous editions.  But as remarked, he has overlooked some serious problems.  He further states:  “In universum vero tenendum est in aliis codd. (Tbd = cod. Tolet. e d of my edition) hunc indicem suo loco legi et proinde primum naturalis historiae esse, in aliis (BVAp; the latter = O of my edition) ipsis libris, in aliis (Ra = RE in my ed.) et hoc loco omnibus libris et rursus singulis praemitti, ut bis in iis exstet, unde suspicio oritur paulo post Plinium exstitisse li­brarium, qui in lectorum suorum commodum indicem Plinianum [p.704] bis scriberet, semel suo loco, tunc in initio singulorum librorum.”

The three classes of manuscripts, which Sillig puts forward here are correctly distinguished, but not all the manuscripts that he cites have been classified correctly, as we shall soon see.

This study will concentrate on those manuscripts which I, in my edition, and in the article on p.284 f., on the mss. of Pliny, have named the “younger” manuscripts.  The main manuscripts of this group are the most complete that have come down to us, and the details of the transmission of the indices can be seen most clearly in them.  There is no doubt that in their archetype, X, the indices were not only united into a book which preceded the others, but also that each individual book had its respective index placed at the front of it.  This is what we find in mss. RF, and substantially in E, where book I is at least partially preserved, and we may presume that the same was originally true in D+V+G, where book I is now absent while the respective indices stand before the individual books, and the books themselves are numbered from 2-37.  (I should add that what I will show here is occasionally in conflict with my statement above, p.288 ff, that F is a direct copy of the single manuscript D+V+G, now divided into three pieces.  I have now received full collations of F and V from Leiden University, thanks to the kindness of Prof. Pluygers and Dr. du Rieu). Some significant exceptions should be noted, however.

In EF, the index for book II is not repeated at the start of the book, and no doubt it will have been the same in D and the other cited mss., where the start of book II is not preserved. The omission of this was no doubt because it had seemed superfluous to the scribe, who had already copied this index at the beginning of book I, to repeat it again before he had written even a word from the actual text of the NH.  No doubt in the archetypus X the same situation was to be seen.  But the index to book III is also missing in ED and its copy F, perhaps because here the repetition still seemed superfluous; whether it is absent in R, I have not noted, and Sillig gives no information on this. R agrees with ED, so this omission must have been found in X. Of the other peculiar omissions, in E, we will talk after we have discussed the other two classes of manuscript given by Sillig.

In both families, in the one in whose manuscripts the indices are purely collected in book I, as well as the one whose members  [p.705] completely omitted book I and where the indices are given only in the individual books, are, compared to the other younger codices, only relatively later.  To the scribes of these mss., it seemed a pointless effort to write each index twice, and they therefore soon left out the duplicate, and soon the first book.

The indices are only contained in book I, in the following descendants of E (see above p 299 ff.):  Vat. 1954, Borbon. V. A. I  and V. A. 2, Angelicus or Passionaeus, Paris. 6798, 6800, 6802, 6803, Taurin. CDLXv/vi, Luxemburg.; — in the following, probably associated with the archetype X3 (see p 303):  Borbon. V. A. 4 and Leopoldo-Laurent. CLXV; — in the following derived from F (or D+G+V) (see p. 289 ff.): Tolet., Paris. 6797, 6799, Vat. 1953, Vindob. CCXXXV; — in those probably related to R: Vat.-Palat. 1559 (see p. 295); — finally in the following manuscripts of uncertain lineage: Vat. 1951, 1952, 1955, 1956/7, 3533, Vat.-Ottob. 1593/4, Chigianus, Barberin. 758, 2303, Laurent.-S. Crucis XX sin. 1, Parmensis H. H. 1. 62, Ambros. E. 24 inf.

By contrast, in the following the indices are found only in the individual books: in the closely related to E: Vindob. a (= w in Sillig), which we will discuss in more detail below, and Vat.-Urb. 245 (see p.302 f.); — in the offspring of F (see p. 289 ff.): Laurent.-Slaglosianus, Laurent. LXXXII, 3 und 4; — and in the manuscripts of uncertain origin: Vat. 1950, Barberin. 2503, Borbon. VA. 3, Marcianus CCLXVI,
(see Sillig’s praef. p. XXI, Jan, observ. p. 11).

From this list we learn that the copyists already, from saec. XII onwards, regularly omitted one or the other copy of the indices which were duplicated in the older codices.  Certainly by far the majority of the younger manuscripts not mentioned belong to one of these two classes.  The youngest manuscript that I have recorded which provides the indices in both places is F, the eleventh century copy of D + G + V.

Let us return to the study of codex E by comparing it with the transmission of its nearest relative, Vindob. a.  We have already remarked that in E, book I was present; but the first and last leaves have been ruined with damp, are very old, and only partially readable.  Sillig makes the same observation in his editorial note.

Instead let us look at Paris. 6796 A (e in my edition), the oldest direct copy of E.  In this, the duplicate indices are missing from before books II and III, as already stated.  That before book IV is present, those before books V and VI are missing again, the one before book VII is present, although [p.706] the first half has fallen out together with the close of book VI, and been replaced by parts of the second volume added from a codex belonging to one of the vetustiores manuscript group (see. p.298). The indices are again missing before books VIII-XIII, that before book XIV is present, they are missing before books XV-XIX, and there is none before book XX either, but it is present before book XXI, and is there introduced with the following words: Libro XXI continentur; but it is not the index which belongs to this book, but rather the one for book XX.  The beginning of book XXII is now missing in E, and with it most likely its index.  That before book XXIII is present.  That before book XXIV is missing together with the start of the book.  Finally all are present for books XXV-XXXII, and the remaining books, whether they had indices or not, are no longer present in the manuscript.  (Sillig’s description of the codex is so very poor).  Apparently the presence of absence of an index before the individual books of E is random.  This naturally leads to the supposition that the original intention of he who laid out the manuscript was to write the indices only in book I, but that some of the copyists who succeeded him in the work added, here and there, an index to individual books because they found it in the original; so that for book XXII would not have been present, as originally intended.  Of course the arrival of the index for book XXI [in front of book XXII] must have happened in some other way.

Let us compare this with the tradition in codex a, the next nearest relation to E, which likewise is descended from archetype X3, but is not descended from E itself (see p.303, and Rhein. Mus. 15, 380 ff.).  From this relationship it follows that peculiarities in the tradition of the indices which are found in both must be attributed to that archetype.  One such feature is that, although the scribe of a completely omitted the indices in book I, he still often numbered the other books from 1-36, although not consistently.  Likewise in a before book XXI is found the index corresponding to book XX.  This is also found in E, but is then followed by a second index, really belonging to book XXI, but not the same one found in book I, but another, probably compiled by the copyist himself, or copied here from elsewhere.  It seems to be compiled from the text, like the chapter titles found in many other manuscripts which do not agree in wording with the lemmata of the genuine indices.  The peculiar displacement of the index of book XX must certainly be traced back to the archetype, X3.  Moreover a has the correct index before every book, except that it has the index to book XX twice and that of book XXI not at all in the manuscript.  Furthermore, for books XXII, XXVII, XXX, and XXXI, [p.707] after the genuine indices there are shorter items of the same type, like that for book XXI, and finally before book XXXII only the front half of the genuine index is present, followed by a shorter one of the same type, at the end of which is placed the list of authors used for the book, absent from the other shorter indices.

This relationship of E and a to one another, and to the other manuscripts and to the editions, is instructive in many ways for the history of the transmission of the indices.  From it we may conclude the following.

The matching testimony of all the older manuscripts of the younger group shows, that in their common archetype, X1, the indices were found both as book I, and before the individual books, except before book II and probably book III.  This arrangement persisted in archetype X2, a descendant of X1 and its older descendants D+G+V and R.

In contrast, the second descendant of X1, archetypus X3, from which E and a are descended, was different.  Book I remained in its place, but already a number of the indices before individual books had perhaps been omitted, and the index for book XX was placed before book XXI.  More of these indices fell out in E.

In contrast, the writer of a followed a different principle, left out book I, and placed indices once more before the individual books, although he was unable to provide the proper index before b. XXI. For this purpose he placed new indices before some books, and these are probably the ones which then gradually displaced the real ones, and finally until Hardouin’s edition even took their place in book I. Unfortunately, I can find no manuscripts other than a in which they may be found.  More information about such, and in particular the tradition of the indices in the manuscripts more closely related to E and a (see p. 298 ff.) would certainly allow a clearer insight into these complex relationships.

Let us now consider the tradition in the manuscripts belonging to the older group (see p. 306 ff.).

Very little can be said with certainty or probability, because from all of them we have only fragments, but none of them contain book I of the NH.  That Pliny himself prefixed the indices as book I to the following books is certain from his own words in the dedicatory letter to Titus 33, and the running count of the other books from II-XXXVII in all the older manuscripts demonstrates that this arrangement is authentic. One might therefore consider it certain that likewise in AMOB, the fragments of which have a similar numeration, that book I was originally present. [p.708] This is probably correct for the others, but for A it can be shown with certainty that book I was always missing.

Codex A is composed of thirty sequentially ordered pages:

(“quaternionzeichen = “quaternion numbers”; “gezeichnet” = “labelled”)

The quaternion marks, which are written in the original hand, show that only two quaternions are missing from the beginning of the manuscript.  If we calculate what these contained, based on what survives, it follows that the manuscript must have begun with book 2, and did not contain book 1, nor probably even the letter to Titus.  By contrast the index for book 2 probably was present, just like the indices for books 3-5, and the same arrangement can be assumed for the following, now missing, books.  Can this arrangement of the codex be attributed to the emendator, Junius Laurentius?  Note that we cannot suppose that this led to the similar arrangement in codex a and the other younger mss, since there is no other trace of a connection between the two.

In the following manuscripts of the older group, other than A, indices are preserved before the individual books.  In M they are preserved in fragmentary form before books XI-XV.  In O (p in Sillig), the same is true before book XXXIV.  In B they are preserved before the last six books.

Finally, it seems that some of the variants in book I, and in the indices before individual books, derive, as already noted, from a second hand in the [p.709] codex underlying ERD+G+VF (see p.306 f.), and in E the first half of the index to book VII comes entirely from this source.  In respect of the tradition of the indices in book I, however, we remain mostly in the dark for this large group of manuscripts.

So we have determined the scope and nature of the sources from which the text of the indices is to be taken.  This leaves the difficult question of how to use them, what their value is, compared to each other.  In this area Sillig and von Jan have gone completely in the wrong direction. The latter says only in his praefatio to vol. 1, p. iv: “In emendando libro I, qui continet ceterorum indicem, ut Silligius nihil fere re­cepi quin inveniretur in exemplaribus manuscriptis, sed e codicibus qui hunc librum continent ille magis secutus est Riccardianum (R) et Parisiensem primum (E), ego Toletanum et Parisiensem secun­dum (d), ut qui magis consentirent cum ipsis ceterorum librorum verbis.”  Both lack insight based on an in-depth investigation into the relationship of these manuscripts to one another and to the other sources.  The questions to be asked are as follows: if the indices are found twice in the base manuscripts of the younger group, what is the relationship between the two transmissions?  Are there interpolations or lacunae in one or the other of the divergent traditions? And how do they relate to the text of the older group?  For the sake of brevity, I shall refer in what follows, when discussing the text of the indices which are placed before the individual books, using the bracketed siglum of the codex.  E.g. I shall use R to refer to the text of the index in book I, and (R) for the text of the index repeated at the start of the relevant book.

First let us identify some key features of the text that will make it possible for us to learn about these questions. The most important of them are the following. The lemmata at the conclusion of book XXXIII from 52 quando repositoriis on, together with the index auctorum missing in one tradition;  instead of these are the lemmata of book XXXIII §.19 nobilitates ex aere, together with the index for this book, repeated, except for the words on p.65, 33 of my edition, CCLVII. Ex iis ad canis morsuus until p. 66, 1 contra lymphationes. Summa: res.  This is found in ERF (see Sillig’s praef. p. xiii; ind. 33 n. 53; 34 n. 15) and so it was, no doubt, in D, the original of F; the defect must also have been present in the archetype X. (What Sillig gives in the index auctorum on book XXXIII for FR is only a demonstration of his carelessness (see especially n. 71); it refers entirely to the wrongly repeated index for book XXXIV, [p.710] and in this area is the cause of a significant interpolation in index XXXIII, which we will discuss below).  From Sillig’s notes we learn further, that this alteration is not found in (B) (V) d and Toletanus; nor is it found in (F), the copy of (V), nor in (a).  We cannot say anything about the situation in (E), because the manuscript today ends at book XXXII, 135; but an investigation of manuscripts derived from it (see p.299 ff.) would perhaps permit conclusions about the original tradition.  In (R), however, the situation is as in (B)(V), although Sillig says nothing about it, as this source is first used from the index to book XXXIV (see Sillig ind. 34 n. 15).

—  So this change is found only in the text of book I in the younger group of manuscripts, except not in B in the index before book XXXIII.  The origin of this seems to be explicable in the following way.  The lemma at book XXXIII, 52, quando lances immodicae factae, must have been at the end of a leaf or a page in an archetype prior to X.  The copyist of the latter must have skipped a leaf or a page, and continued with the next leaf which began with nobilitates ex aere, and continued happily until the directory of authors at the end of book XXXIV.  Since he believed that he had copied the index of book XXXIII, he began with the beginning of index 34, and carried on, without ever detecting and correcting the error made earlier, so that the latter half of index 33 is missing, and that of index 34 is duplicate.  The size of the supposed leaf or page is 34 lines of Jan’s edition, so it is difficult to draw any other conclusion.  It remains only to suppose that the origin of the error was in the same codex in which the materials in books II-V were first switched (see p.288 and Rhein. Mus. 15, p.369), however the evidence for this is difficult to produce, because the indices were probably written intermittently and at longer intervals than the rest of the text, so this and that must be calculated according to different methods.

It should be noted that the change is not found in D and Toletanus (see Sillig’s notes), nor from my information in Vindob. CCXXXV. These three manuscripts derive, as I think I have probably said (see p. 289 ff.), from F (and I would very much like to know whether they too have the features of F described there), so we must assume that the copyist, who took the deviant arrangement from F, only gave the text of the indices in book I (see above), either compiled from those standing at the front of the individual books, [p.711] related to the originals, or else at least corrected the error in book I from the existing index before book XXXIII.  We will refer below to other similar cases, from which we may obtain some clarity.

Now we must discuss the interpolation of the index auctorum of book XXXIII mentioned earlier.  In book I of our best manuscripts, as noted, it is not present, so we are dependent on the tradition of (B)(V)(a) alone, and maybe also d Toletanus; because Sillig’s citation of RE has already been shown to be incorrect.

[snip technical details pp.711-716]

Let us briefly put together the general results of this investigation.  It has been found that the principal basis for the text of the indices is found in the manuscripts of the younger group, which are only present in the older group in rare cases.  In the archetype of these, as well as in book I, every index, with the exception of book II and sometimes even book III, was repeated in front of the book to which it related.  This arrangement must be very old, because individual errors in their archetype, X1, show that they were present in an even older manuscript, or possibly even be derived from Pliny himself and his publication of the NH.   The value of both texts is about equal; they complement and correct each other.  Little can be said here about the manuscripts of the older group.  Even the copyist of codex A omitted book I completely.  In this group the indices before b. XXXIV and XXXVI have been interpolated, and that interpolation is already present in book I in the oldest archetype of the younger group.  In the archetype X3, derived from X1, the arrangement was changed so that the individual indices before each book were omitted.  This  approach was followed both in E,  which was descended from X3, and in many more recent mss, while in a, and some others, book I was omitted instead, as in A.  To these belong d and Toletanus, whose text of book I, from combining the duplicate texts of their originals, …. Their value is, compared to other sources, only secondary and often doubtful.

D. Detlefsen.

  1. [1]D. Detlefsen, The indices of the Naturalis Historia of Pliny, Philologus 28, 1869, p.701-716 High res. PDF here.

Buying images of pages from a manuscript in the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg – part 1

I need to look at some pages from a Syriac manuscript in the collection of the National Library of Russia in St Petersburg.   Rather than flying out there, paying for a hotel, it might be cheaper to just purchase a few digital photographs.  At least, one would hope so!

After a look at page on the website which talks about electronic copies, I have composed an email in English and sent it off.  It will be interesting to see whether they are cooperative or not.  Manuscript libraries can be very bolshy!

I will let you know.


Leithart’s “Defending Constantine” – an interesting idea

Constantine gets a bad press these days.

It’s all down to the Hapsburgs and the Romanovs, really.  When you are trying to overthrow an autocrat who justifies his rule by appealing to Constantine as the source of authority, then the urge to rubbish Constantine is going to be strong.  And we find just this sequence events during the agitation of the 1840’s.  Ever since, there has been this tendency to suppose that Constantine hijacked the church.

I myself have always been rather a non-combatant on this one.  I don’t find, in the primary sources, most of the negative myths spread about him.  So I was interested to learn that IVP Academic have brought out a volume on the subject, by Peter Leithart, Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom (2010). (Amazon link)

Sadly the paperback is priced at £16, around $20, which is far too much for me to buy a book on a whim that I might never read again (and no, publishers do not send me review copies; and, most of the time, I am very grateful for that).

But if you have access to it, it may well be worth a read.  There is no reason why, in 2013, we should allow the politics of 1848 to determine how we look at one of the key figures of history.


A Christian inscription from Palmyra dated 135 AD?

A discussion in a forum raised an interesting issue, and since I ended up translating material to answer it, it seems right to give it a wider currency.

Steven Ring in his chronology of Syriac history here makes the following interesting comment:

Dated Christian tomb inscriptions written in the Palmyrene Aramaic dialect were made in Palmyra, Syria. These demonstrate that Christianity probably existed in Syria before the turn of the second century AD.

A. Vööbus, Researches on the circulation of the Peshitta in the fifth century, Baltic University: Pinneberg (1948), p.56.  This states:

Tatian introduced the Diatessaron in Mesopotamia after the year A.D. 172. But it must be recognized that traces of Christendom reach further back [2], and they go to show that in the decades before the arrival of Tatian there must have existed early Christian congregations in Osrhoene although of Jewish Christian descent.

[2] Traces of Christendom reach even further back. In Palmyra, inscriptions to the memory of Christians dating from the early part of the second century, A.D. 135, are to be found. Inscriptions Sémitiques de Syrie Centrale, éd. par Melchior de Vogüé (Paris 1868).

The relevant part of this book, Inscriptions sémitiques; Pt. 1. Inscriptions araméennes, is online at the Bavarian State Library here, and may be downloaded in PDF form.  The inscription is #76, on p.55.

It would be useful to add a translation of what de Vogue says.  Whether modern epigraphists would agree with his conclusions I cannot say, but certainly de Vogue is very careful and scholarly for his day.


Altar 1 metre high, in the Moslem cemetary. – Copied by Waddington. – Wood, II.

To He whose name is blessed for eternity. Made by Salmon, son of Nesa, son of Tsaida, son of Barak, for his safety and that of his children.

In the month of Nisan, of the year 447. (=April 135).

The proper names in this inscription are not composed of the name of any pagan deity; there is nothing to oppose the idea that they belong to Jews.

XXX pacificus, and XXX fulmen, are found in the bible. XXX sustulit (Deus) is not, but names so composed are innumerable; the form XXX (munus Dei) exists (Gen. 25:14, 1 Par. 1:30). I have spoken elsewhere of XXX, venatio or venator, which could have been borne by a Jew of the 2nd century.

So it is not impossible that the authors of the inscription and the monument were part of the Jewish emigration settled at Palmyra.

That said, I must draw attention to the two X which surround the date at the end. These are not punctuation marks; when present, this role is normally played by ivy leaves. Our inscription offers just such an example at the end of the second line. It would be impossible, I think, to offer a Greek inscription from Syria in which the X is used for this purpose. As for the semitic inscriptions discovered so far, they do not use it either, as the reader may discover by looking through this volume.

What then is the significance of this sign, or rather this symbol?

If we were in the West, the reply is simple: the letter X, because of its double role of being cruciform and the initial of the
name Christos, is used there from very early times as a Christian symbol. De Rossi, in his learned commentary on the Christian inscriptions of Carthage (Spicileg. Solmense, IV, p. 523, 530) places it in the first rank of symbols which, before the 4th century, were used by Christians to conceal the cult of the Cross; he has collected very numerous examples from the catacombs, traces on funerary marbles, on the lime which seals tombs, and on the walls of sepulchral chambers. Was it the same in the East? There is no direct proof to authorise us to say so, but the answer is obviously yes. So far no Christian catacomb before the 4th century, no Christian monument definitely authentic erected before the peace of the church, has been discovered so far in Syria. It is therefore not astonishing that material evidence is lacking. But logic furnishes us with some definite facts; the entire history of the primitive church is there to show us a permanent current running from East to West, which we can see in the oriental customs, and particularly in the use of the Greek language, the origin of titles, formulae, and Christian symbols. It is thus almost certain that the use of the symbol in the west was preceded by the use of the same symbol in the east. After Constantine, this priority applies equally to epigraphic formulae; the forms given to the cross, at the start or end of the lines of Greek inscriptions of Syria, are in advance of those in Latin epigraphy. This fact, already signalled by de Rossi, is fully illuminated by the simultaneous publication of Christian inscriptions and monuments from central Syria. So there can be no doubt that the X was employed very early in Syria as a Christian symbol; we find it on the very first monuments erected after the triumph of the church, whether isolated, as at Chaqqa, or in a monogram with I, R or MG, as on a mass of edifices of the 4th century, too numerous to cite. As for this latter monogram, XMG, whatever it may signify (doubtles Christos Michael Gabriel), its Christian character is evident; it is proven by the numerous examples which we have collected; but it is found on monuments prior to the 4th century, as in the inscription of the great tomb of Bassus at Chaqqa (Waddington, Inscr. syr. no. 2145), where nothing else makes any allusion to Christian teachings. So we see, in Syria itself, an example of X used, with other letters it is true, to disguise the Christian beliefs of a family, i.e. to reveal it to initiates, but hiding it from those indifferent or persecutors. We may conclude, then, that even on its own, this same letter was used with a symbolic and secret sense, in Syria just as in Rome or Carthage.

From this discussion we conclude that our inscription could be Christian. If there were Christians at Palmyra in the 2nd century, they were certainly part of the Jewish community; the proper names could be Jewish; the final symbol can only be Christian, and as for religious formulae, although borrowed from the local pagan ritual, they are perfectly orthodox; the first corresponds almost word for word to the invocation Sit nomen Domini benedictum, etc., and the second may also be understood as eternal safety/salvation in the Christian sense, as well as the health of the body. So all the probabilities are in favour of a Christian character for this little monument, at least in my opinion. If scholars concerned with Christian epigraphy agree, the little altar at Palmya will be the most ancient Christian monument known, raised in public and bearing the more or less disguised sign of the cross.


The manuscripts of Polybius

The Greek writer Polybius wrote a history in 40 books which recorded events from 264 BC down to the fall of Carthage in 146 BC.[1]  The work must still have existed in a complete form in the Byzantine era, when extracts were made from it, but has not come down to us intact.  However a great deal of it survives.

The remains can be classed as follows:

  • Books 1-5 survive complete.
  • Long extracts of books 6-18 are preserved in a collection known as the Excerpta Antiqua.  The oldest manuscript of this, F, in fact also contains excerpts of books 1-5, but later manuscripts omit these.
  • Shorter extracts from all the books are included in some of the massive historical compilations made at the command of the emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (d. 959 AD).

A monograph with a detailed study of the manuscript tradition was published by J.M. Moore.[2]

Manuscripts of the full text

The following are the manuscripts:

  • A = Vaticanus graecus 124 (once 126). 10th c., probably AD 947.
  • B = London, British Library, Add. 11728. AD 1616.
  • B2 = Marcianus gr. VII, 4. 15th c.  Copy of B.
  • B3 = Florence, Mediceo-Laurentianus Plutei 69, 9. AD 1435, made for Filefo.
  • B4 = Marcianus gr. 371. Mid 15th c.  Once belonged to Bessarion.
  • B5 = Marcianus gr. 369. AD 1470. Copied for Bessarion.
  • C = Munich gr. 157. 14th c.  Polybius is on f.1-91v, the remainder containing Herodian and Heliodorus.  It came from Constantinople after 1453, as a note on f.169r states; then to the library of Matthias Corvinus , King of Hungary (d. 1490), then to Joachim Camerarius who presented it to Albrecht V of Bavaria (d. 1579), whose library forms the nucleus of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek today.
  • C2 = Vaticanus Urbinas gr. 101.  Written between 1455-1474.
  • Z = Vaticanus gr. 1005. 15th c.
  • Z2 = Constantinople, Top Kapu Serai, fonds Ahmet III, 25. 15th c.
  • D = Munich gr. 388 (also contains Excerpta Antiqua). 14th c.
  • E = Paris, BNF, graecus 1648. Once Medici Reg. 1859.  Late 14-early 15th c.
  • J = Vienna phil. gr. 59. 15th c.  A damaged and disarranged ms.
  • F = Vaticanus Urbinas gr. 102 (contains Excerpta Antiqua for books 1-18). 10-11th c.
  • C3 = Paris, BNF, gr. 1796 + Oxford Bodleian Laud. gr. 4. Mid. 16th c.
  • C4 = Paris, BNF, gr. 1649. AD 1547.
  • C5 = Paris, BNF, Coislin. 318. 16th c.

The following mss. contain only a single short excerpt from book 2.  They are all 15th c. except Z4 which is 16th c.

  • Z3 = Paris, BNF, gr. 1739.
  • Z4 = Paris, BNF, gr. 462.
  • Z5 = Paris, BNF, gr. 2376.
  • Z6 = Milan, Ambrosianus, gr. F88 sup.
  • Z7 = Leiden Scal. gr. 51.

All the mss. above derive from a copy in which there are certain common errors.  In book 4, 20:7 some words preserved by Athenaeus are lost, for instance.

A is the best ms.  From it derive B and its children and C4.

An independent manuscript which contained at least books 1-18 is the origin of the remaining mss.  From this ms. was made the Excerpta Antiqua, preserved in Ms. F.  and also another ms, from which the other mss descend; C, Z, D, E and J.

C3, C4 and C5 are copies of the editio princeps, which was printed from C.

The Excerpta Antiqua

There are two pages of mss. containing portions of these.  The principal mss. are:

  • F = Vaticanus Urb. gr. 102, as above.
  • F2 = Vaticanus gr. 1647. 15th c.
  • F3 = Florence, Mediceo-Laurentianus plutei 69, 21. 16th c.
  • D = Munich gr. 388, as above.
  • D2 = Vaticanus gr. 125. 16th c.
  • D3 = Oxford, Bodleian, Archbishop Selden B 18. 16th c.  Once belonged to Casaubon.
  • G = Florence, Mediceo-Laurentianus Plut. 69, 9. Ms. B3 above is also in the same physical volume. 16th c.
  • K = Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale Francais, gr. 2967. 15th c.

F is unique in two ways.  Firstly it contains excerpts from books 1-5.  Since the full text of these was available elsewhere, these did not get copied.  Secondly it not only contains the lengthy extracts, but in the margin it contains a large number of short passages from the sections not included in the main excerpts.  Most of these are also in F2, but not in the other mss (with 3 exceptions).

F, K, G and D are independent of each other.

The Constantinian Excerpts

Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus ordered the creation of a number of compilations of excerpts from earlier texts.  Most are now lost.

The extracts from books 1-5 in these compilations derive from a manuscript which is independent of the tradition we have.  The lacunae in all the mss. of the full text are not found in these excerpts.

  • P = Turonensis 980 (once 955) (Tours, Bibliotheque Municipale). 10th c. Contains the Excerpta de virtutibus et vitiis.  Two folios at the beginning praising Constantine VII were printed, but are now lost.
  • M = Vatican gr. 73 (once 91).  10-11th c.  Contains the Excerpta de sententiis.  A palimpsest, discovered by Angelo Mai with the use of chemicals, but now many pages are entirely black and unreadable.  Only ms. for this compilation.
  • Q = Scorialensis Ω 1 11 (once 1K3, 1Z2). 16th c. Biblioteca del Monasterio de San Lorenzo el Real, El Escorial.  Contains the Excerpta de insidiis.
  • T = Paris, BNF, Suppl. gr. 607. 10th c. Contains the Excerpta de strategematis.

There are also extracts from Polybius in the Excerpta de legationibus, extant in a number of 16th c. manuscripts, all derived from a manuscript lost in the fire at the Escorial in 1671.

  1. [1]This from the introduction to the 1922 Loeb edition.
  2. [2]J.M. Moore, The manuscript tradition of Polybius, Cambridge (1965).  This post is derived mainly from this source.

The manuscripts of Pliny the Elder’s “Natural History”

Pliny the Elder, who died in the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, has left us only a single work out of his vast literary activity.  This is the Historia Naturalis, a compendium of information about natural phenomena of various sort.  The work consists of a prefatory letter, addressed to his friend, the emperor Vespasian Titus, followed by 37 books.  The first book is composed entirely of a list of contents for each book from book 2 onwards.  At the end of each list is a list of the authors used to compile it.

Ancient manuscripts

Pliny’s work was read continuously and epitomised throughout antiquity; indeed the Collectanea of C. Iulius Solinus is largely derived from Pliny and can be used for the establishment of the text.   Unusually, therefore, the remains of no less than 5 ancient codices have come down to us.

  • M = St. Paul in Carinthia, Stiftsbibliothek 3.1 (25.2.36; xxv.a.3) (CLA x.1455) (=codex Moneus), 5th century.  Discovered at the Austrian monastery where it still resides in 1853 by F. Mone, hence the name.   The manuscript contains Jerome’s Commentary on Ecclesiastes, written around 700 AD in Luxeuil minuscule on reused parchment.  It also contains a 15th c. ex-libris for Reichenau.  But the book is a palimpsest.  The lower text consists of large sections of books 11-15, partly visible, in a 5th century uncial hand.  The manuscript has been treated with chemicals to try to bring out more of the ancient text. The text is of high quality. A description of the ms. and a complete transcript is available as most of vol. 6 of Sillig’s edition (Gotha, 1855).  The codex is also online here, although hard to use.
  • N = Rome, Bibl. Naz. Sessor. 55 (CLA iv.421), 5th century, uncial.  Also a palimpsest, containing patristic texts and written in the second half of the 6th century, the lower text consists of a few passages from books 23 and 25.  Both texts were written in Italy.
  • O = Vienna 1a (CLA x.1470), first half of 5th century, uncial.  Probably written in the south of Italy, it consists of fragments of 7 leaves, reused for bindings.  It contains part of books 33 and 34.
  • P = Paris lat. 9378, folio 26 (CLA v.575).  A single folio, seemingly of Italian origin, written at the end of the 6th century and containing part of book 18.  It was found, apparently, in the binding of a manuscript from St. Amand in France.
  • Pal. Chat. = Autun 24 + Paris 1629 (CLA vi.725), 5th century, uncial, containing a few sections of books 8 and 9.  Presumably from Italy, it was overwritten in the late 6th century with Cassian’s Institutions, probably in Southern France.

It is telling that 3 ancient manuscripts, M, P and Pal.Chat, found their way to France but were turned into clean parchment before they could generate a tradition in that region.

The medieval manuscripts have been divided by editors into two classes, the older or vetustiores, and the newer or recentiores.  Unfortunately the dates of the mss. have been so confused that the division is not as clean as it should be.

Medieval manuscripts – vetustiores

  • Q = Paris lat. 10318 (CLA v.593), written in central Italy ca. 800 AD, in uncial.  This contains the Latin Anthology, and includes medical excerpts from books 19-20.  The source manuscript used for this was of high quality.
  • A = Leiden, Voss. Lat. F.4 (CLA x.1578), first third of the 8th century, insular, written in the north of England.  Contains books 2-6, with large gaps.  Other books may have been known to Bede, and Pliny is listed in Alcuin’s list of books present in York.  Not as good as M or Q, but better than most continental mss.
  • B = Bamberg, Class. 42 (M.v.10), first third of the 9th century, in the palace scriptorium of Louis the Pious.  It contains books 32-37, and is the only one to preserve the ending of the work.  Of excellent quality, and clearly copied carefully from an ancient codex whose notae it carefully preserves.  Online here.

There are also a number of collections of excerpts made in this period which preserve portions of the text.  They seem to be associated with the court of Charlemagne and the scholars who communicated with it.

Medieval manuscripts – recentiores

The vetustiores do not give us anything like a complete text, unfortunately.  For most of the work we are dependent on the inferior recentiores.  These contain small lacunae, but give a more or less complete text.

The main mss., which all descend from a common parent, are:

  • D+G+V = Vatican lat. 3861 + Paris lat. 6796, ff. 52-3 + Leiden, Voss. Lat. F. 61 (CLA x.1580 + Suppl. p.28), written ca. 800 AD in north-east France, perhaps in the Corbie area.  This manuscript was later divided into three.  It contains most of the work.
  • Ch = New York, Pierpont Morgan Library M.871 (formerly Phillipps 8297), first half of 9th century, written apparently at Lorsch by a scribe using the style of St. Vaast.  Contains books 1-17.
  • F = Leiden, Lipsius 7, written first half of the 9th century, by a scribe from Luxeuil collaborating with one from Murbach, possibly at Murbach.  Contains books 1-37.   Possibly copied from D+G+V before it was corrected.
  • R = Florence, Bibl. Ricc. 488, second half of the 9th century, perhaps at Auxerre.  Contains books 1-34.
  • E = Paris lat. 6795, 9-10th century, France.  Contains books 1-32.

All five mss. are related; their ancestor suffered a dislocation, where leaves from book 2-3 were swapped with some from 4-5.   Attempts were made to fix this in D and E, in a botched way.

E was prone to accident; leaves were lost in the ms. from which it was copied, and then in E itself.  Unfortunately it was E that dominated all later copies.  However some of them were clearly corrected from otherwise unknown copies of the older and better tradition, in D2, F2, R2,  and E2.

Medieval manuscripts – later recentiores

  • h = Berlin (East), Hamilton 517, 11th c.
  • X = Luxembourg 138, 12th c., from the Abbaye d’Orval.
  • Leiden, Voss. Lat. Q.43, 12th c., from Orleans.
  • n = Montpellier 473, 12th c., from Clairvaux; mainly medical excerpts.
  • Co = Copenhagen Gl.Kgl.S.212 2°, ca. 1200 AD.

All these are derived from E.

  • Oxford, Bodl. Auct. T.1.27 + Paris lat. 6798, 12th c., Mosan region.
  • C = Le Mans 263, 12th c.  A beautiful book, apparently of English origin. (Image of one opening here).

These are very close to E, and may derive from it.

  • e = Paris lat. 6796A, 12th c.  A faithful copy of E.
  • a = Vienna 234, 12th c.  Not derived from E, but from its ancestor.
  • d = Paris lat. 6797, third quarter of 12th century, Northern France, probably St. Amand.  Contains a substantial amount of the older tradition.

There are many more manuscripts, many of which have not been explored for their textual value.  One which is online is Ms. British Library, Harley 2676, written in Florence in 1465-7.  The BL site adds, ” identifiable as the missing Pliny from the Badia of Fiesole (according to unpublished notes of A. C. de la Mare at the Bodleian Library, Oxford)”.

Critical editions

The text of the NHwas established by the work of German scholars in the 19th century; J. Sillig, D. Detlefsen, L. von Jan, and K. Rück.  This culminates in the second Teubner edition, that of L. Jan and C. Mayhoff (5 vols, 1892-1906).  Much of the fundamental work on the recension was done by Detlefsen, in a series of papers[1] and in his edition (5 vols, Berlin, 1866-73).  The 20th century has only produced the Budé edition, now in more than 30 volumes, containing limited and rather stale information.


I am indebted for all this information to L.D. Reynolds, Texts and Transmissions, Oxford, p.307-316.

UPDATE: My thanks to J.B. Piggin for extra links.

  1. [1]Rheinisches Museum 15 (1860), p.265-88 and 367-90; Philologus 28 (1869), p.284-337; Hermes 32 (1897), p. 321-40.

Stephen Langton and the modern chapter divisions of the bible

If you read any book on the text of the bible, you will sooner or later come across a statement that the chapter divisions in our modern bibles are not ancient, but are the work of Cardinal Stephen Langton, the medieval Archbishop of Canterbury, who died in 1228 AD.  I have never seen this claim referenced to primary sources, however, which means that it is hard to check.

One of the better versions of this story is in Metzger’s Early versions of the New Testament.[1]  It reads as follows:

The custom of referring to chapters when quoting from the Scriptures was rare before the twelfth century. [1] The development of the lecture and reportatio method, however, must have shown the convenience of such a practice. The chief difficulty to its adoption arose from the lack of one generally agreed-upon system, for several systems of chapter-division from late antiquity and the early medieval period were current. The diversity was felt most acutely at the University of Paris, where the international provenance of the student body showed most clearly the absolute need for a standardized system of capitulation,[2] as well as a standardized canonical order of scriptural books.[3]  Uniformity was introduced amid such chaotic conditions by the Paris scholars, notably, as it appears,[4] by Stephen Langton (d. 1228), then a doctor of the University of Paris, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the barons in the struggle which gave birth to the Magna Carta. His system, which is substantially the one in use today, was adopted in the earliest printed editions of the Vulgate. The chapters were at first subdivided into seven portions (not paragraphs), marked in the margin by the letters a, b, c, d, c, f, g, reference being made by the chapter number and the letter under which the passage occurred. In the shorter Psalms, however, the division did not always extend to seven.

[1] Cf. O. Schmidt, Über verschiedene Eintheilungen der heiligen Schrift (Graz, 1892), and A. Landgraf, ‘Die Schriftzitate in der Scholastik um die Wende des 12. zum 13. Jahrh.’, Bib., xviii (1937), 74-94.
[2] On the diversity of earlier chapter divisions, see the tabulation of differences in P. Martin, ‘Le texte parisien de la Vulgate latine’, Mu, viii (1889),444-66, and ix (1890), 55-70, and especially the important monographs by De Bruyne, Sommaires, divisions et rubriques de la Bible latine (Namur, 1920); for a summary of part of De Bruyne’s research, see Patrick McGurk, Latin Gospel Books from A.D. 400 to A.D. 800 (Les Publications de Scriptorium, vol. v; Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam, 1961), pp. 110-21.
[3] For a list of 284 different sequences of scriptural books in Latin manuscripts, see Berger, Histoire de la Vulgate, pp. 331-9; and for a list of twenty different sequences of the Pauline Epistles in Greek, Latin, and Coptic manuscripts, see H. J. Frede, Vetus Latina, xxiv/2, 4te Lieferung (Freiburg, 1969), pp. 290-303, and id., ‘Die Ordnung der Paulusbricfe’, Studia Evangelica, vi, ed. by E. A. Livingstone (TU cxii; Berlin, 1973), pp. 122-7.
[4] On the ambiguous evidence supporting the attribution to Langton, see Beryl Smalley, The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages, 2nd edn. (New York, 1952), pp. 222-4.

The absence of primary sources in this bibliography may be noted.

Recently I was reading Diana Albino’s article on chapter divisions and chapter titles in ancient texts[2] and found some interesting statements:

The modern division into chapters of the books of the Bible was carried out in the West by Cardinal Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury (+ 1228), rather than by Lanfranc, also Archbishop of Canterbury (+ 1089), to whom it has been erroneously attributed.

In a manuscript in the Bodleian, no. 487, probably written in 1448, we find this precise testimony: “1228: Magister Stephanus de Langueton, archiepiscopus centuariensis obiit qui biblia apud parisium quotavit.” [28]. (I.e. “1228: Master Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury died, who divided up the bible at Paris.”)

Another witness, equally precise and also older, is that of Nicolas Trivet (1258-1328) [29], who wrote about Stephen Langton: “Hic super totam Bibliam postillas fecit et eam per capitula, quibus nunc utuntur moderni distinxit; ….”. (“Here he made postillas throughout the whole bible, and split it into chapters, which are now used by modern people; …”)

Otto Schmid [30] has collected the evidence of the manuscripts of the Bible, from which we may deduce with certainty that Stephen Langton divided the Bible into chapters.

We also know that the work was performed in 1204-1205, when he was a professor at the University of Paris [31]. This information was obtained by Martin from manuscript 1417 of the National Library of Paris. The Langtonian division into chapters was introduced in 1226 in the edition of the Vulgate known as the Paris Bible.

[28] According to the lexicon of Du Cange, “quotare” means: to divide into chapters and verses.
[29] N. Trivet, Annales sex regum angliae, ed. A. Hall, Oxford, 1719, p. 182.  [; p.216 of the 1845 reprint]
[30] O. Schmid, Ueber verschieden Einteilungen der heiligen Schrift, insbesondere über die Capitel-Einteilung Stephan Langtone im XIII Jahrhunderte, Graz, 1892, p. 56-106. [Google books]
[31] Paulin Martin: Introduction à la critique générale de l’Ancien Testament, Paris, 1887-1888, t. II, p. 461-474.

These statements are very interesting, but for more details we need to refer to Schmid’s work, On the divisions of Holy Scripture and the chapter divisions of Stephen Langton in the 13th c.

Schmid states on p.56 that the first statement may be found on fol. 110 of Ms. Bodl. 487.  On p.58 he states that it first became known to scholarship via Casimir Oudin, Comment. de scriptoribus eccles., Lips. 1772, vol. 2, col. 1702.  This was repeated by later scholars.

According to Schmid, Trivet’s statement was also copied by a considerable number of scholars, whom he lists.

Schmid also has something to say about Paulin Martin’s statement.  Notably the ms. is not 1447, as Albino gives it, but Ms. Paris, BNF lat. 14417.  This codex is a 13th c. miscellaneous codex of 316 folios, originally from St. Victor.  On f. 125v-126v there is a list of chapters of scripture. (This is followed by commentary on scripture by Langton)  The list of chapters is headed, Capitula Canthuar. archiepiscopi super bibliotec. (Chapters of the archbishop of Canterbury on the bible.)  Schmid then gives an edition of the chapter title list verbatim on p.59-92. He then goes on to say (p.92):

From this list it will be seen that the chapter divisions of Stephan Langton are generally the same as those contained in the Clementine Vulgate, but are not the same in terms of both number of chapters of individual sacred books, as well as with regard to the beginnings of some chapters of the same. The difference is most striking for Judith and Esther.  The books Paralip., Esdras and Nehemiah are counted as one book, but otherwise the difference in the number of chapters is usually only 1. We give below a brief overview of the difference in the number of chapters, where there is one, between Langton’s division and the Clementine Vulgate. ….

We cannot decide whether Langton made and published a number of versions of his division of scripture into chapters, nor whether the version above is a later redaction of it, or the only version.  However it certainly leaves us with the question of when and where he worked out the division.

Trivet (see p.56) in his report leaves it vague as to where Langton worked on his chapter division.  But H. Knyghton  specifies Paris explicitly; apud Parisium quotavit.  This gives us a guide to determine the date.  Langton was made a cardinal on 22nd June 1206 by his patron Innocent III, who had studied in Paris and probably had Langton as a colleague.  This meant that Langton in 1207, when there were great disputes about the next appointment to the see of Canterbury, was elected to it in Rome.

From this he concludes that the work was done not long after 1201, probably in 1204-5, while he was teaching in Paris.  Robert de Courson, also an Englishman, quotes passages of scripture using the new system in his Summa, written between 1198-1216 (since it refers to Petrus Cantor, d. 1197, and a council held in 1201, but not to the revocation of a decretal in 1216).  It is extant in Ms. lat. Bibliotheque Nationale 8268, 8269 and other mss.  He adds:

Denifle in his Archiv für Literatur und Kirchengeschichte, l. c., p. 291, expresses the opinion that Langton’s divisions were propagated to France and other countries through the Paris Bible, the Exemplar Parisiense (so-called by Roger Bacon), on which Denifle’s thorough investigations have shed new light.  This view can only be accepted, since Paris and France in the 11th century, as in the 12th and 13th century, was the seat and centre of theological learning, where many distinguished men settled and where anyone who sought to study theology would choose to come.

The returning students, who had learned and used the new division in Paris, brought it back to their homes.  Langton’s work was also disseminated by the numerous copies of the Paris bible.  Sam. Berger has found confirmation of the author of the new division in ms. 340 of the town library of Lyons, in which the proverbs begin with the words, Incipiunt parabole Salomonis distincte per capitula secundum mag. Stephanum archiepis. (Here begin the parables of Solomon split into chapters according [to the system of] master Stephen the archbishop.)  The divisions are also found in the Paris, Bibliotheque Mazarine ms. 29, written in 1231 AD.  Certainly it will have appeared in bible manuscripts before this date.

It is not clear what inspired Langton’s work.  Perhaps it was the wish of the Paris theologians to have a simpler system by which to cite the scriptures, or, as some think, the chaos of different divisions and numbers in the manuscripts caused a need for a unified system.  Perhaps it was the industrious Langton’s studies on scripture – we have glosses from him on almost the whole of scripture – which led him to consider a simpler division as desirable.

Denifle, in his work, Die Universitäten des Mittelalters, Berlin 1886, and in other places, and in his Chartularium Univers. Paris., tom. I, Paris. 1889, Introd. p. VIII-X, notes that the university of Paris was born from the union of different teachers between 1200-1208, pretty much around the time when Langton was teaching in Paris and performing his division of the scripture into chapters.  Possibly it was this circumstance that caused Langton to perform his work for the newly formed institution.

He continues that in the 13th century older divisions are still seen, but either the new ones are added and the old erased, or else the new ones would be added in the margin.  This was so even in old manuscripts like the Codex Amiatinus, where the new divisions appear in the margins.  In the new 13th c. mss. the new divisions were placed right in the text.  In older mss. notes appeared in the margin: hic non notatur/signatur capitolum (here the chapter is not marked); hic non incipit cap. (here the chapter does not begin); or, secundum libros bene correctos hic debet incipit cap.( according to well-corrected mss, here the chapter should begin.)  Mixed witnesses appear in some mss., such as ms. Graz c. 186.  Writing a bible took time.  In this case it was begun with capitulationem at the start of the book and stichometric numbers at the end, and divided according to older systems.  Suddenly the new system appears, and the old Capitula, Tituli, Breves  and verse numbering is omitted.

Schmid then discusses the evidence for further tweaking of the system from the manuscripts.  Some books that he had treated as one were divided into  two (e.g. Esdras).  But the difference between the original and the Clementine Vulgate is usually only a verse or two.  He says that there is still some variation, even once printing begins.

The new divisions also made their way into Hebrew mss. of the Old Testament, although only marked in the margins by Christian hands.  The first printed edition of the Hebrew bible to have them was the 1523 Venice edition by Dom. Bomberg.

Greek manuscripts of the New Testament acquired these divisions only in the 15th century, especially after the fall of Constantinople, as Greeks fled to the west with their manuscripts.

Interestingly Schmid also discusses (p.108) the modern division into verses by Robert Stephanus, the printer.  In the preface to his 1551 bilingual edition of the New Testament, Greek and Latin, Stephanus states:

Quod autem per quosdam ut vocant versiculos opus distinximus, id vetustissima Graeca Latinaque exemplaria secuti fecimus, eo autem libentius sumus imitati, quod hac ratione utraque translatio posset omnino e regione graeco contextui respondere.

That is, he split the work into what are called “versiculos”, because in this way anyone could cross-reference the translation and the corresponding passage of Greek.

Schmid then continues with further details of how the division into verses appeared in the early editions, but at this point we must leave him.

  1. [1]B. Metzger, The early versions of the New Testament: Their origin, transmission and limitations, Oxford University Press (1977), p.347.
  2. [2] D. ALBINO, La divisione in capitoli nelle opera degli Antichi, in Università di Napoli. Annali della Facoltà di lettere e filosofia 10 (1962-63), pp. 219-234; see p.232.

Christians in the madhouse of the early 21st century

Via Monday Evening I discover an amusing post, Anthony Esolen’s Welcome to the Mental Ward. The author points out that, in our day, the people who have power have reached such a point that their demands make no sense, even from their own point of view.  The article is impossible to epitomise, but is well worth reading.

The author fails to make the connection, but there is one.  The common link is convenience.  These are the demands of people who feel that they have total power, and feel no need to be logical.  Whatever they want, they want, and that is an end of it.

Those who see this as the consummation of the 60’s generation, the “if it feels good, do it” generation, are very likely correct.

But how should we respond to all this?  It would be easy to read the article as a right-wing rant against the PC society.  But I think we must look beyond this.  Those of us who are Christians need to recognise that the picture is fair, and assess that picture against eternity.

We must, of course, refuse to be conditioned.  There is nothing to be said, rationally, for conforming willy-nilly to the demands of such people.  We must keep their nonsense out of our heads, despite the bombardment they make with the mass media.  It is hard, in truth.  Nor should we disengage with society, for we must talk to the fellow-souls here on earth.

We must also beware of allowing our political tendencies to shape our response.  Those on the political left have it harder here, for the rulers are of the left; they may find themselves tempted more than those on the political right.  The right may be tempted to bewail the “good old days”, not least because baiting the right is part of the policy of the masters.  But both must resist being contaminated, either by conforming or reacting.  Instead we must conform our minds to Christ, and submit to the word of Scripture.

It is easy for us to feel anger and fear at the actions of the dominant groups in our society.  Nor are these irrational responses; these groups are full of hate, fond of intimidation, and quite happy to send people to prison for doing or saying what every man and woman in the west has said or done for a thousand years. But we should remember that God is in charge.  None of these people may do anything, without Him allowing it.

It may amuse us to learn that, in England, these people have abused the power of appointment to ensure that no Christian has been made a bishop since 1997, and all candidates have to be in favour of making women and homosexuals bishops.  I do not entirely despair to seeing the same people, one day, obliged by the puppeteers to endorse the appointment of a horse for archbishop.

With that, we may recall how it was in the 1st century AD.  The emperors brought Roman society into contempt.  Educated Romans mocked at the worship of the gods.  Martial and Statius flatter Domitian, suggesting that Jupiter and Hercules are far inferior to the god on the Palatine, on whom they depend.  Other writers of the period make their doubt that there are any such deities explicit.

Readers of Martial’s De spectaculis can see how the Romans began to depict their religion in the arena.  Those brought up to revere the courage of Scaevola, who sacrificed his hand to the flames rather than betray his country, were able to see a condemned man do the same, because he had been threatened with being burned alive if he did not.  In the process, the Romans must have been led to think less of Scaevola.  The selfishness of the era of Nero and Domitian degraded those who practiced it, and dissolved the religion and society which they lived in.

We may recall, however, that the same people were quite willing to persecute Christians for not sacrificing to the gods in which they themselves did not believe.  For their real belief was to bow to the powerful.

Let us instead look beyond the purely human side to this.  The scripture tells us that we must obey the authorities, but that we must see that we battle with powers and principalities in this life.  These people, whom we despise or fear or treat with disgust, these debauched creatures desperate to debauch others, are victims themselves.  They profess to be wise, yet they are playthings of a mightier intelligence, one that is not their friend.  They have chosen to place themselves in Satan’s power.  They have chosen to reject God; and He has punished them, by allowing them to experience the consequences that they desired.  They have rejected his wisdom, as inadequate, and He has allowed them instead to fall into madness.  Against this, humanly, we may have little power.  But God is mighty, and prayer effective.

In human terms this nonsense will not last.  It is far too toxic for any society to endure for long.  History is a series of reactions against preceding periods.  As the baby-boomers die, sanity will reassert itself.  In 30 years we will look back and wonder at the craziness.  But in the meantime we must endure it, but not be stained by it.  It will limit us, in what we can do in this society.  But do it we must.  Quietism is not an option.

We must also pray.  We must pray for God’s grace, that we may keep safe.  We must put on our armour each day.

We should pray for the victims; those whose lives are ruined by vice, greed, selfishness and the consequences thereof.

Finally, we must pray for those men and women who do the evil.  For they are doomed, unless God takes pity on them and causes them to repent.

It doesn’t matter if the world goes to hell.  One day it will, or so the scripture says.  But it matters a great deal how we respond to the world as it does so.