Apocryphal and then some: The so-called “Synopsis” of so-called Dorotheus of Tyre

A correspondent asks me about Dorotheus of Tyre, Synopsis.  This is a patristic work of which I had never heard.  A Google Books search shows that scholars refer to the work from the 16th to the 19th century, after which there is a sudden silence.

The Synopsis is a work that was first published in 1557 in a collection in Latin of the works of the Ecclesiastical Historians, edited by Joachim Camerarius, and printed at Froben in Basle.  Fortunately this edition is online.[1]  The start of the Dorotheus section reads as follows:

Quomodo Apostoli et Prophetae vixerint ac mortui sint, Synopsis Dorothei Episcopi Tyri, viri Spiritu Dei praediti et martyris, qui sub Diocletiano et Magno sancto Constantino claruit, et ad tempora usque Iuliani Apostatae duravit, sub quo et martyrium passus est.  Vuolfg. Musculo interprete, nunc primum in lucem aedita.

In what manner the apostles and prophets lived and died.  The summary of Dorotheus bishop of Tyre, a man called by the spirit of God and a martyr, who flourished under Diocletian and holy Constantine the Great, and remained until the times of Julian the Apostate, under whom he received martyrdom.  Translated by Wolfgang Musculus, now published for the first time.

The work is in four parts; a short introduction De ipsius Dorothei vita ac morte (On the life and death of Dorotheus himself); the lives and deaths of the prophets; the lives of the 12 apostles; and a list of the 70 disciples.

The translation of Musculus proved popular.  It was reprinted as part of an edition of the works of Salvian in 1560 (also online), although the anonymous editor thoughtfully left out the name of Musculus. He also rearranged it, to place the prophets first, and to add material of his own part way through the prophets.[2]  According to Lipsius, the Musculus was reprinted in 1570, again at Froben.[3] I have also come across Latin editions from 1564 and 1587.[4]  English writers generally refer to the work as the Synopsis, and some even call Dorotheus the “ecclesiastical historian”.  (Evidently they had the Froben edition to hand!)

But something was obviously wrong, and it did not take scholars long to see this.  Eusebius mentions Dorotheus of Tyre (HE VII c.32).  He tells us that Dorotheus was appointed by the emperor Diocletian as manager of the factory in Tyre that produced the famous imperial purple dye.  But he doesn’t call him a bishop, and he doesn’t mention any literary productions extant.  Since Tyre is close by, and the two are nearly contemporaries, this silence is worrying.

Attempts to locate the Greek text from which Musculus printed the work were also instructive.  Henry Dodwell was able to find a text in two of the Barroci manuscripts in the Bodleian library in Oxford.[5] (His 1715 biographer, Francis Brokesby, records that Dodwell was rather proud of unmasking the Dorotheus forgery)[6].  The Dorotheus text proved to be related to similar lists in the Chronicon Paschale.[7]

Furthermore, it was found that each part of the work was transmitted separately.  The Synopsis as such did not even exist.  What actually existed were three unconnected works:

  •  The Lives of the Prophets
  •  The Lives of the 12 Apostles
  •  The List of the 70 disciples

But this was not all.  Each of these works existed in a range of recensions.  For the Lives of the Prophets, at least six recensions are known.

Nor are these recensions attributed to Dorotheus.  Only one of them, recension “B” in the classification of Schermann (below), has the name of Dorotheus attached to it in the manuscripts.  Other names, such as Epiphanius and Hippolytus, are attached to other versions.  The same problem arises with the other two works.

As for the prologue on the life and death of Dorotheus, obviously not by Dorotheus himself, it appears to be very similar to a passage in the Chronographia of the 6th century historian Theophanes.  Mango felt that the prologue was the origin of the statement in Theophanes; but of course the opposite is possible.

Even worse, examination of some versions of the list of the disciples – especially the “Dorotheus” – reveals the interpolation of a certain “Stachys” as coming from Byzantium, and this is used by medieval orthodox writers to bolster the claims of Constantinople.  The need for an apostolic connection to the see of Constantinople only arises in the 8-9th century, when the schism with Rome begins.  The appearance of Stachys indicates that this recension is the product of deliberate editing of a pre-existing tradition, for political reasons.

In conclusion, the Synopsis is not a single work at all; and it is certainly not by Dorotheus of Tyre.  So there is no reason to refer to either.  It would be interesting to know whether the arrangement in the Musculus edition was the work of Musculus himself, to sell a few more copies of his book; or whether a manuscript existed collecting them all together.

Not all of this was apparent at first, but the work ceases to be referred to in the mid-19th century.  A good summary of the reasons for this is found in 1838 in the widely-read works of Nathaniel Lardner.[8] However even today there are popular writers who repeat older writers without verifying who this Dorotheus might be.

Let me end with a few notes on this literature.

The whole question of the nature of these texts was examined in 1907 in two volumes by Theodor Schermann, who went back to the Greek:

  •  Theodor Schermann, “Propheten- und Apostellegenden nebst Jüngerkatalogen des Dorotheus und verwandter Texte”, (“Legends of the Prophets and Apostles and catalogues of the disciples of Dorotheus and related texts”) in Texte und Untersuchungen 31, Heft 3, Hinrichs, 1907.  Online at Archive.org here.
  •  Theodor Schermann, Prophetarum vitae fabulosae, Indices Apostolorum Discipulorumque, Domini Dorotheo, Epiphanio, Hippolyto aliisque vindicata, (The legendary lives of the Prophets, Lists of the Apostles and Disciples, attributed to Dorotheus, Epiphanius, Hippolyus and others) Leipzig: Teubner, 1907.  Online at Archive.org here.

Schermann edited the texts from the Greek, and established a list of recensions for each, and the author to whom they are attributed.  For the Lives of the Prophets, the Dorotheus text is recension B.

The Lives of the Prophets

This Old Testament apocryphon has been the object of quite a lot of research.  Most of us have limited German, so many will be glad to learn of a book by David Satran, in English, in 1995, with a Google Books preview online.[9]  Satran feels that the work in its present form cannot be of pre-Christian Jewish origin, as some have held, but must reflect the 4th century AD.

In Emil Schürer, The history of the Jewish people in the age of Jesus Christ: (175 B.C. – A.D. 135), vol. III.3, A&C Black, 1973, p.785, (revised by Geza Vermes and others) we find the following useful summary of the recensions:

The Lives have survived in five Greek recensions, designated A-E in Schermann’s edition. Recension A, preserved in medieval manuscripts and dating to the sixth century A.D., has been transmitted as a work of Epiphanius. Recension B, from the third or fourth century according to Schermann, has circulated under the name of Dorotheus of Tyre or Antioch, a martyr under Diocletian. The sixth century recension C, also attributed to Epiphanius, is shorter and older than B, and derives from D. The latter is conserved in the sixth century Codex Marchalianus (Vat. Graec. 2125). It is the oldest recension (probably from the third century), free of the many interpolations detectable in the other versions. Equally from the sixth century comes Recension E, called after Hesychius of Jerusalem, and attested again in medieval codices. For a full description, see Schermann, Prophetarum vitae fabulosae (1907), pp. xiii-xxxi; cf. also Denis, IPGAT, pp. 85-7. Denis (ibid., pp. 87-8) further mentions a sixth recension contained in Christian hagiography (synaxaria and menologia).

The Vitae prophetarum are represented also in various forms in Syriac, mostly dependent on Recension D and normally attributed to Epiphanius. There are, moreover, Armenian, Ethiopic and Arab versions.

The “IPGAT” is A. M. Denis, Introduction aux Pseudepigraphes Grecs d’Ancien Testament, Brill, 1970, which does contain a useful overview.

The Lives of the Prophets has benefited by an edition with English translation by C.C.Torrey (1946, online here).  The translation is online in HTML here.

See also Ky-Chun So,Jesus in Q: The Sabbath and Theology of the Bible and Extracanonical Texts, 2017, p.183, for a useful summary of opinion.

The Lives of the Apostles

This text, and the list of the 70 disciples, appear to be circulating in some form already in the 6th century AD.[10]  Peterson gives the following statement about this work, in the context of the legends of Andrew:

A worthy successor to Pseudo-Epiphanios is the famous forgery known as Pseudo-Dorotheos or Pseudo-Procopios. Altho full of the most amazing anachronisms, it is still quoted extensively by Greek Orthodox scholars as the main proof that Andrew ordained the first bishop of Constantinople. Its literary influence is such that all later texts bear its influence, whether in Greek or in Syriac, while a modern scholar lists it among the pseudepigraphs of the New Testament. The alleged author is Dorotheos of Tyre, who is said by the forger to have died about 361; the translator claims to have done his work in 525; the absence of any reference to the villain of the story (one Zeuxippos) until after Nicephoros Callistos, shows that the composition is from the first half of the ninth century, at the earliest. Photios (see below) had no mention at all, either of Pseudo-Epiphanios or of Pseudo-Dorotheos; so perhaps the dating is later. The Photian controversy, however, seems the likely period to have inspired such a document.[11] The most original part of the document is here given.

“For Andrew, having crossed the Pontus, came to preach Christ to the Byzantines. At that time, a blood-thirsty man, Zeuxippos, was ruler. He used to ask foreigners, upon their arrival in Byzantium, about the Christ, before he would permit them to enter the city. If anyone confessed Christ, (Zeuxippos) ordered him bound hand and foot with chains and to be sunk into the sea. Hearing this and sailing around Byzantium, Andrew settled in that part of Thrace nearest Byzantium, at one stadion’s distance, in Argyropolis for a period of two years, during which he established a congregation of truth-loving and law-abiding men. As soon as he had some two thousand in the congregation, he erected an altar to Chrst, and ordained Stachys as bishop.”[12]

Pseudo-Epiphanios is also quoted word for word, but no credit is given to any author other than Dorotheos, bishop of Tyre.[13]

There is an article by Cyril Mango, “Constantinople’s Mount of Olives and Pseudo-Dorotheus of Tyre”, Nea Rhome 6 (2009), p.157-70 (online here).  Also the work is discussed in Francis Dvornik, The idea of apostolicity in Byzantium and the legend of the apostle Andrew, Harvard, 1958 (online here).  P.M.Peterson also wrote “The genealogy of the Andrew legends”, in his Andrew, brother of Simon Peter: His history and legends (Brill, 1958) which apparently discusses the subject further.  But the Andrew legends are a subject beyond the scope of this post.[14]

One of the few modern references to Dorotheus is in Sean McDowell, The Fate of the Apostles, Routledge, 2016, p.248, where we find a snippet in translation: “Simon Zelotes traversed all Mauritania, and the regions of the Africans, preaching Christ. He was at last crucified, slain, and buried in Britain”.  But the quote is from a 1861 book.[15]

The Lives of the 70 Disciples

I found an English translation of some version of the text here.  Musculus states that Dorotheus died a martyr at the age of 107; this version curiously suggests 170!  But the online translation is not of the same recension of the text.

    *    *    *    *

I hope these notes will be useful to someone!

  1. [1]Joachim Camerarius, Ecclesiasticae historiae authores Eusebii … historiae ecclesiasticae lib. X Vuolfgango Musculo interprete. Ruffini … lib. II. Eusebij … De uita Constantini lib. V. Socratis Scholastici … lib. VII. Theodoriti … Ioachimo Camerario interprete lib. V ; Hermij Sozomeni … Musculo interprete lib. IX. Theodori Lectoris … lib. II. Euagrij Scholastici … lib. VI. …  , Froben: Basiliae, 1557. Online at the Bavarian State Library here.  Dorotheus starts on p.806.
  2. [2]The 1560 Latin edition of Sulpitius Severus (Guillard: Paris, 1560, online here) contains Dorotheus as an appendix on fol.120, under the title De vita prophetarum et apostolorum synopsis: “Sulpitii Severi, … Sacrae historiae a mundi exordio ad sua usque tempora deductae libri duo. Item Dorothei, episcopi Tyri … de Vita prophetarum et apostolorum synopsis. Quibus accessit rerum et verborum index copiosus”, Parisiis : Apud G. Guillard et A. Warencore, 1560.  No editor is listed, but there is a dedicatory epistle by a certain “Jacobus Faber”, plus a “Life” of Sulpicius Severus from Gennadius.  I found online evidence of a reprint at “Köln, apud Johann III Gymnich, 1573”.
  3. [3]Lipsius, Die apokryphen Apostelgeschichten und Apostellegenden ein Beitrag zur altchristlichen Literaturgeschichte, vol.1, 1883, p.194.  Online at Archive.org here.
  4. [4]Salviani, episcopi Massiliensis, De vero judicio et providentia Dei libri VIII. Maximi Taurinensis homiliae. Paciani Barcilonensis de penitentia, & confessione. Sulpicii Severi sacrae historiae libri duo. Dorothei Tyrii de prophetis, & discipulis Domini. Haymonis Halberstattensis Sacrae historiae epitome. Adjunctis in tres posteriores Petri Galesinii notationibus… / Romae : apud Paulum Manutium Aldi f. in aedibus populi romani , 1564.  Eusebii Pamphili, Ruffini, Socratis, Theodoriti, Sozomeni, Theodori, Evagrii, et Dorothei Ecclesiastica historia, sex propè seculorum res gestas complectens : latinè jam olim à doctissimis viris partim scripta, partim è graeco à clarissimis viris, Vuolfgango Musculo, Joachimo Camerario & Johanne Christophersono Britanno, eleganter conversa : et nunc ex fide Graecorum codicum, sic ut novum opus videri possit, per Joan. Jacobum Grynaeum locis obscuris innumeris illustrata, dubiis explicata, mutilis restituta : chronographia insuper Abrahami Bucholceri, ad annum epochae christianae sexcentesimum : & lectionis sacrae historiae luculenta methodo exornata. Unà cum indice rerum & verborum locupletiss. / Cum gratia & privilegio Caesareae Majestatis. Basileae : ex officina Eusebii Episcopii, & Nic. fratris haeredum. M. D. LXXXVII. , 1587
  5. [5]Barroci 142, no. 23; and Barroci 206, no.5.  His handwritten transcription is preserved as Ms. St Edmund Hall 19, folios 23r-29r.    This from Jean-Louis Quantin, “Anglican scholarship gone mad? Henry Dodwell (1641-1711) and Christian Antiquity”, in: Christopher Ligota, Jean-Louis Quantin (eds), History of Scholarship: A Selection of Papers from the Seminar on the History of Scholarship Held Annually at the Warburg Institute, OUP, 2006, p.327-8. Preview here. “Dodwell also discovered and transcribed from two Baroccian manuscripts the original of Pseudo-Dorotheus of Tyre’s Synopsis of the life of the seventy disciples. The text, purporting to derive from the fourth-century bishop and martyr Dorotheus, had been known previously only in a Latin translation. The Greek text discovered by Dodwell possessed a lengthy postscript which provided the key to its origin: it was a forgery intended to enhance the apostolicity of the see of Constantinople. It was also the earliest occurrence of the legendary Byzantine catalogues of the bishops of Constantinople, from Andrew onwards.123 Dodwell gave his transcription to William Cave, who published it, with a commentary, in his Historia literaria of 1688.124 The complete text was simultaneously published in Paris by Du Cange from a manuscript in the library of the King of France. Du Cange yet again propounded conclusions very close to those of his Anglican counterparts.125″.  The Cave reference is William Cave, Scriptorum ecclesiasticorum Historia literaria, London, 1688, 114-25.
  6. [6]F. Brokesby, The Life of Mr. Henry Dodwell, London, 1715, p.516: “Dr. Cave takes a particular notice of Mr. Dodwell, as one of the persons he was obliged to… To name no more, he furnished him with a Greek fragment out of two Baroccian MSS. by himself, which plainly detected the fraud of that person who obtruded on the world that Synopsis that appeared under the name of Dorotheus, forged in the time when the dispute for precedency was managed betwixt the Bishops of Rome and Constantinople;  that as the former pretended S. Peter as their first bishop, so the latter, the rivals of the former, might derive themselves from his brother S. Andrew, from whom this Pseudo-Dorotheus derived a succession of bishops at Byzantium. This is in Histor. Liter., p. 114, 115, &c. The Contrivance of which Forgery, I have heard Mr. Dodwell recount, and which he and I have read together with some Pleasure.”
  7. [7]See here.
  8. [8]See Vol. 3, chapter 55, p.159 f.
  9. [9]David Satran, Biblical Prophets in Byzantine Palestine: Reassessing the Lives of the Prophets, Brill (1995). Preview here.
  10. [10]Peter Megill Peterson, Andrew, Brother of Simon Peter: His History and His Legends, Brill, 1958, p.17: “For this section, I am relying greatly upon Schermann’s publication of the texts and partly upon his commentary. But to his collection of pseudonymous and anonymous texts, I add a few texts from known and datable Byzantine fathers. Probably the oldest of the later lists of the Apostles and Disciples of the Lord is the Syriac text found in Codex Sinaiticus Syrus 10, whose handwriting is of the ninth century but whose origin is probably directly from a sixth century source. It reads concerning Andrew and Stachys simply: “Andrew, Simon’s brother, died in the city Patrae.” After the Twelve is found a list of “The Names of the Seventy Apostles, Composed by Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon,” and some “Six More were with Peter of Caesarea”, which includes as sixty-first: “Stachys.”

    Probably also from the sixth century is a Greek translation of a Syriac text similar to the above, but by someone cognizant of the Acts of Andrew, which gives the simple statement: “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, having preached in Greece, at Patrae was killed by Aegeates.””

  11. [11]Schermann, Vitae, p.xli-xlv; Propheten p.182-7. (This and the next two references are copied from Peterson.)
  12. [12]Schermann, Vitae, p.146 f.
  13. [13]Ibid. p.153-7, cf. p.108 f.  Cf. Lipsius, Ap. I, in many places.
  14. [14]See also this web page, by Milton V. Anastos, “Constantinople and Rome”, taken from M. Anastos, Aspects of the Mind of Byzantium (Political Theory, Theology, and Ecclesiastical Relations with the See of Rome), Ashgate Publications, Variorum Collected Studies Series, 2001, for a summary.  See also F.L.R. Lanzillota’s 1969 thesis The apocryphal acts of Andrew, (online here) which repeats the idea of the 9th century origin for ps.Dorotheus.
  15. [15]Note 14 reads: This quote is from Doretheus, Synopsis de Apostol, as found in Richard Williams Morgan, St. Paul in Britain; Or, The Origin of British As Opposed to Papal Christianity (Oxford: J.H. and Jas. Parker, 1861), 151.

7 thoughts on “Apocryphal and then some: The so-called “Synopsis” of so-called Dorotheus of Tyre

  1. Thank you so much – this is magnificent! (And with what a delightful lot of the resources available online!)

    Just the other day, something (I can’t recall just what!) got me wondering what more might be known about the background to the lively contemporary Orthodox attention online to the Seventy/Seventy-Two: you’ve given me places to look!

    (Tangentially, fine to see Cyril Mango going strong at 81 – and perhaps he still is, at a month after his 89th birthday!)

  2. Funny, I’ve just been reading up on the same thing.

    Since a lot (maybe all) of Pseudo-Dorotheus has come down to us as front matter to manuscripts of the Greek Bible, it has attracted some notice from text critics.

    For example, on pp. 39f. of the fourth edition of The Text of the New Testament, Bart Ehrman writes:

    “The hypothesis (ὑπόθεσις, Latin argumentum) is a prologue or brief introduction to a book, supplying the reader with a certain amount of information concerning the author, content, and circumstances of composition of the particular book. The form and content of such hypotheses are often conventional and stereotyped. In some manuscripts, the hypotheses for the Gospels are ascribed to Eusebius, but more often they are anonymous….

    “A longer statement of traditional information concerning the life of each evangelist (called his βίος) sometimes appears with the hypothesis. The lives are attributed to an otherwise unknown Dorotheus of Tyre or to Sophronius, the patriarch of Jerusalem in the first half of the seventh century.

    “Several different prologues that define the word gospel and provide general information about all four Gospels collectively occur in various manuscripts. Besides lists of the 12 apostles, the traditional names of the 70 (or 72) dLsciples in Luke 10.1 ff. are given on the authority of Dorotheus and Epiphanius.”

    I don’t know whether the βίοι of the four evangelists are thought to be by the same pseudepigraphist who wrote those of the twelve apostles, but I suspect the answer is in the first volume of the introduction to Von Soden’s Greek New Testament (Von Soden discusses the Dorothean matter on pp. 304ff.)

  3. As Andrew is recorded as evangelising around the Black Sea it is certainly within the relm of possibility that he established a community at Byzantium. There was certainly a community there at the start of the 3rd century.

  4. Curiously enough, I’ve just been looking at the same thing — but in Slavonic. Here the text usually has the form of notices (they are far too brief to call them lives) of the twelve apostles, attributed to Epiphanius of Cyprus, followed by the seventy, attributed to Dorotheus. The text is quite variable, and has evidently been translated more than once, and from different states of the the Greek. It is usually found attached to the Apostolos (the book of the Acts and Epistles), as an optional part of the prefatory material. It is to be distinguished from the Hypotheseis and other paratext which consitute the so-called Euthalian Apparatus (after Euthalius the Deacon, who proably did compose and arrange some of it) and which are much more intimately associated with the individual books to which they refer.

  5. Thank you – that is really interesting! Epiphanius is one of the names attached to this material. I suppose it is not a surprise that the material migrated from Greek into Slavonic. Quite interesting to see that multiple translations were made, though.

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