Does Victor of Vita quote from the Three Heavenly Witnesses?

Victor of Vita lived in Roman Africa after its conquest by the Vandals.  The Vandals were Arians, and their kings persecuted the Catholic clergy.  In 484 Victor wrote an account of the persecutions, which has come down to us in a number of manuscripts.  These I list from C. Halms 1878 edition in the Monumenta Germanica Historiae, series: Auctores Antiq., vol. 3.1. Online here.  There is also the CSEL 7 edition by Petschenig (1881).

  • A = Laon, Codex Laudunensis 113 (9th c.)  Contains only book 2, and a list of Catholic bishops at the synod of 484, which alone is preserved in this copy.  Another used by an early editor no longer seems to exist.
  • B = Bamberg, Codex Bambergensis signatus E, 3, 4. (9th c.)
  • C = Upper Austria, Codex monasterii Cremifanensis, sign. 36 (12th c.)
  • L = Berlin, Codex Berolinensis lat. quart. 1. (12th c.)
  • M = Munich, Codex Monacensis 2545 (previously cod. Alderspacensis) (12th c.)
  • P = Paris latinus 2015 (once Colbertinus 905)(10th c.)
  • R = Brussels, Codex Bruxellensis 1794. (10th c.)
  • V = Vienna, Codex Vindobonensis 583 (previously “Univ. 239”)(10th c.)
  • W = Vienna, Codex Vindobonensis 408 (formerly Admontensis from the abbey of Admont) (11th c.).  Contains some crude interpolations.  Derived from V.
  • a = Codex Abrincensis 162 (12th c.) Both mutilated and interpolated.
  • b = Berne, Codex Bernensis 48. (Once Floriacensis)(11th c.)  Similar to R but inferior.
  • s = Admont, Codex Admontensis 739 (12th c.).  Derived from V.

Analysis of the readings means that the manuscripts fall into two families, both derived from O, the original now manuscript (manuscripts in Greek letters are lost ancestor manuscripts of one family or another).  The tree of which manuscript was copied from what (the stemma) looks like this:

The editio princeps, the first edition is actually “Parisiis ab Iano Parvo (=Jehan Petit) Ludovico XII. regnante impressa”.  This undated edition was unknown to editors who generally thought that this was the edition of Beatus Rhenanus at Basle in 1535.

There is a modern English translation in the Liverpool University Press series: Victor of Vita: History of the Vandal Persecution, tr. John Moorhead, Liverpool (1992); series: Translated Texts for Historians 10.

The passage that refers to the Comma Johanneum, the interpolated passage in 1 John 5:7 which discusses the Trinity, is in book 2, chapter 11 (section 82; p.34 of the edition).  Halms’ edition (which Moorhead translated) reads:

82. Vnde nullus ambiguitatis relinquitur locus, quin clareat spiritum sanctum et deum esse et suae voluntatis auctorem, qui cuncta operari et secundum propriae voluntatis arbitrium divinae dispensationis dona largiri apertissime demonstratur, quia ubi voluntaria gratiarum distributio praedicatur, non potest videri condicio servitutis: in creatura enim servitus intellegenda est, in trinitate vero dominatio ac libertas. Et ut adhuc luce clarius unius divinitatis esse cum patre et filio spiritum sanctum doceamus, Iohannis evangelistae testimonio conprobatur.  Ait namque: tres sunt qui testimonium perhibent in caelo, pater, verbum et spiritus sanctus, et hi tres unum sunt. Numquid ait: tres in differenti aequalitate seiuneti aut quibuslibet diversitatum gradibus longo separationis intervallo divisi? sed, tres, inquit, unum sunt.

The CSEL text is the same, and the apparatus contains only trivial variants.

This is rendered by Moorhead (p.56):

82 And so, no occasion for uncertainty is left. It is clear that the Holy Spirit is also God and the author of his own will, he who is most clearly shown to be at work in all things and to bestow the gifts of the divine dispensation according to the judgment of his own will, because where it is proclaimed that he distributes graces where he wills, servile condition cannot exist, for servitude is to be understood in what is created, but power and freedom in the Trinity. And so that we may teach the Holy Spirit to be of one divinity with the Father and the Son still more clearly than the light, here is proof from the testimony of John the evangelist. For he says: ‘There are three who bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one.’ Surely he does he not say ‘three separated by a difference in quality’ or ‘divided by grades which differentiate, so that there is a great distance between them?’ No, he says that the ‘three are one.’

That’s that, pretty much; this 5th century Latin text definitely mentions the Three Heavenly Witnesses as part of the text of 1 John.

Moorhead adds a comment on the text of scripture used by Victor (p.xix ff.):

To avoid a multiplication of footnotes I have supplied references to biblical quotations and allusions in parentheses, without troubling to register minor ways, whether due to the text which Victor or the authors of the Book of the catholic faith were familiar with, faulty memory, or some other cause, in which they differ from modern printed versions of the Bible. The chapter and verse numbers of the psalms are those of the Vulgate, but the names of books of the Bible are those by which they are generally known in English. Where ‘Vulg’ is added, the text Victor cites is similar to the Vulgate and differs significantly from the modem translations readers may have at their disposal; where ‘cf’ is added, Victor’s text is significantly different from both the Vulgate and modem versions.[23]

The footnote:

23. It must be said that some of the variants which occur in the Book of the catholic faith constitute amendments in a Trinitarian direction.

It is perhaps inevitable in the circumstances, if undesirable, that the most useful reading was preferred.


More on Project Hindsight

Back in 2010-11, I became aware of Project Hindsight, a series of privately published English translations by Robert H. Schmidt of ancient astrological texts.  These are draft translations, coming out of the modern astrology community.  But it is unlikely that anybody will ever translate these highly technical texts, and copies are very hard to find.

For some reason today I started thinking of Antiochus of Athens, and then found myself wondering whether I ever acquired copies of this collection.  In fact, I find, I acquired the volumes containing Antiochus and Hephaestio.  Today I wrote and enquired about getting copies of all the rest, except for those with Vettius Valens and Ptolemy.  We shall see what they say.

I wish I could get copies of all these into a major research library or two.

UPDATE: 5th Oct. 2018.  I wrote to order five of these, and I learn that the paper copies are out of print.  However PDF versions can still be purchased of the entire library at $25 each.  There is a discount for several volumes.  The entire set can be purchased for $225.  I’ve just purchased 6 volumes.  After all, who knows when anybody will translate astrological texts again?

List of Greek Track PDFS — 1785 total pages! — you get everything below for $225

VOL. I: PAULUS ALEXANDRINUS. INTRODUCTION TO ASTROLOGY. (Complete). 378 A.D. Composed as an introduction for his son, and representing the main line of the tradition, it is the best way to get an overview of the major themes and concepts of Hellenistic astrology. It exhibits considerable sensitivity to the subtleties of the astrological language.

VOL. IIa: ANONYMOUS OF 379. ON THE FIXED STARS. A substantial chunk survives of this ambitious treatise, including elaborate natal delineations for 30 fixed stars when on the angles and when configured with the planets. The only work of its kind.

VOL. IIb: ANTIOCHUS OF ATHENS. FRAGMENTS FROM HIS THESAURUS. 2nd century A.D. The best source for the definition and clarification of specialized astrological terminology taken for granted by Ptolemy and others.

VOL. III: PTOLEMY. PHASES OF THE FIXED STARS. Circa 150 A.D. Astrological weather prediction based on heliacal risings & settings of 30 fixed stars, showing evidence of having been excised from the Almagest–perhaps censored? Complete calendar of predictions for every day of the Alexandrian year. Hints at the broader philosophical importance of the phasis concept.

VOL. IV: VETTIUS VALENS. ANTHOLOGY, Bk I. 160 A. D. The most definitive compendium of antiquity containing a critical assessment of the astrological thought of Valens’ predecessors, thereby preserving much ancient astrology for posterity. Notable for its highly personal style and its emphasis on experience rather than theory alone. Book 1 contains extensive treatments of the nature and effects of the planets singly, two by two, and three by three. Similarly complete treatments of the 12 signs, and many other matters.

VOL. V: PTOLEMY. TETRABIBLOS, Bk I. Circa 150 A.D. A marvel of literary architecture, badly in need of a new translation. Book I first argues eloquently for the possibility and usefulness of astrology, and then presents Ptolemy’s “scientific” framework for astrology within the context of Aristotelean natural philosophy. Deals with the special natures of the planets, signs, and configurations. Derives the dignities with reference to a tropical zodiac.

VOL. VI: HEPHAESTIO OF THEBES. COMPENDIUM, Bk I. 380 A.D. Treats of general principles of astrology & universal astrology, blending Ptolemy with Dorotheus and others. Highly interesting delineations of the decans. Also contains a very long excerpt from Nechepso/Petosiris on detailed eclipse delineation. Preserves an ancient Egyptian method of prediction using the Dog-Star alone.

VOL. VII: VETTIUS VALENS. ANTHOLOGY, Bk II. On the general subject of happiness and good fortune. Rough trimester predictions based on trigon rulers. Houses, Lots, and a derived house system reckoned not from the Ascendant but from the Lot of Fortune, with emphasis on the Place of Acquisition. Aspect delineation. Numerous other subjects. All illustrated with many sample charts.

VOL. VIII: VETTIUS VALENS. ANTHOLOGY, Bk III. On the general subject of length of life. The method of primary directions. The bound ruler. The combination of ascensional times with planetary periods. Prenatal new and full moons. Numerous examples of these life expectancy calculations. A large amount of dense but suggestive material on numerous alternative traditions.

VOL. IX: TEACHINGS ON TRANSITS. The four surviving Greek texts on transit delineation, attributed to Dorotheus, Orpheus, Anubio, and Valens. Some highly unexpected delineations suggest a different underlying principle. Indications as to the context in which transits were employed, and when they were to be taken into account.

VOL. X: THE ASTROLOGICAL RECORD OF THE EARLY SAGES IN GREEK. All the material found in the CCAG from astrologers who preceded Dorotheus, Valens, and Ptolemy or who seem to be independent of them. Hermes, Nechepso/Petosiris, Critodemus, “Zoroaster”, “Pythagoras”, Timaeus, Thrasyllus, Balbillus, & numerous others are represented. Most of it is katarchic or inceptional astrology.

VOL. XI: VETTIUS VALENS. ANTHOLOGY, Bk IV. More on aphesis. Distribution of times. The Lot of Fortune and times of life. Transferral and Reception of chronocratorship. “Assignments” of planets to planets. Much more miscellaneous lore and the usual complement of examples.

VOL. XII: PTOLEMY. TETRABIBLOS, Bk III. Genethliacal astrology and predictions for the characteristic events in human life, mainly using Ptolemy’s preferred method of planetary significators. Contains the notoriously obscure treatment of primary directions and length of life. The translator’s preface contains an analysis of house division, planetary strenght, and cusps in Hellenistic astrology.

VOL. XIII: VETTIUS VALENS. ANTHOLOGY, Bks V & VI. Eclipses, Inceptions, and the “Climacteric Year”. Place of accusation. More on releasings of the years. Keys to using profections. Some electional material. Philosophical digression on the nature of prognostication and training of the soul.

VOL. XIV: PTOLEMY. TETRABIBLOS, Bk IV. Completes the treatment of natal astrology begun in Bk III. Covers the topics of possessions, rank and eminence, work, marriage and sexual union, children, friends and enemies, travel abroad, and quality of death, and ends with a treatment of Ptolemy’s preferred system and hierarchy of time-lords.The translator’s preface contains a discussion of sect and related rejoicing conditions in Hellenistic astrology.

VOL. XV: HEPHAISTIO OF THEBES. COMPENDIUM, Bk II. 380 A.D. Deals with “topics”, or special subject areas in the native’s life. Contains an extensive summary of procedures for rectification and the study of the conception chart, a commentary on Ptolemy’s treatment of length of life, a discussion of the time-lord method later called decennials accompanied by fairly elaborate delineations of planet pairs, a treatment of rank and honor with three chart examples including one that is the most elaborate and detailed surviving Hellenistic chart reading, plus a great deal of miscellaneous astrological lore. Much of this material is found in no other Hellenistic source.

VETTIUS VALENS. ANTHOLOGY, Bk VII. Contains the only surviving intact presentation of an important timing procedure that derives directly from the earliest stratum of Hellenistic astrology, employing the periods of the planets and the ascentional times of the zoidia for the direct timing of planetary figures and configurations in a given nativity. Includes a method for investigating life expectancy based on a study of the domicile lord of the Ascendant in tandem with the domicile lord of the Lot of Fortune, supplemented with a study of the conjoinings of the Moon to other planets and a procedure for determining a succession of planets that have primary authority over the native’s successes and failures in all areas of life.

PROJECT HINDSIGHT COMPANION TO THE GREEK TRACK. Some statements of method from Hellenistic astrology on how to read a chart, a glossary of Greek astrological terms, a list of the primary astrologers from Hellenistic times through the early Byzantine period, plus a collection of useful tables.


Heliogabalus or Elagabalus?

The third century Antonine emperor M. Aurelius Antoninus, also known as Varius Bassianus, is universally called “Elagabalus” in modern scholarly literature in English.  Yet 19th century literature calls him “Heliogabalus”, and I see that French literature is less inclined to Elagabalus than English.  So… why the change?

The cause of the change appears to be the 1911 book The Amazing Emperor Heliogabalus, by J.S.Hay (online here).  In the preface (xi-xii) we read this extraordinary effusion:

After the Proclamation, I have preferred to call the Emperor by his official name, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, or Antonine for short, as this is the only manner in which the coins, inscriptions, and documents describe him. After his death, it seems allowable to give him the nickname which his relations and later biographers have applied to him, namely, the latinised form of the name of his God. I have nowhere adopted the later Greek spelling or adaptation, Heliogabalus, either when referring to the God of the Emesans or to the Emperor himself. The only form in which the name occurs in inscriptions is in describing the Emperor as “Priest of Elagabal” or the Sun. Lampridius certainly Hellenised its form a century later, on what grounds is by no means clear, when one realises that neither the boy nor his God had any trace of Greek blood, tradition, or philosophy about them, … It is further unnecessary to drag in the Hellenised form of the Emperor’s name in order to pander to a popular and erroneous conception of the reign, which conception this book is designed to combat and generally offend. Heliogabalus is nevertheless the sole title by which this Emperor is known to the world at large, in consequence of which I have allowed the name to stand on the title-page, chiefly in order that Mrs. Grundy’s prurient mind may know, before she buys or borrows this volume, that it is the record of a life at which she may expect to be shocked, though she will in all probability find herself yawning before the middle of the introductory chapter.

The author’s smirking mockery of ordinary people may be a little strong for most of us to stomach.  But it is clear from his own words that he was a revisionist, determined to impose some novelty on the rest of us.  This should put us on our guard.

If we may believe Mr Hay, the emperor was never known as either Elagabalus or Heliogabalus during his lifetime.  No coin or inscription records this.  Furthermore every single Latin source that mentions him gives his name as Heliogabalus.  This is, of course, a graecised name – Helios rather than Sol – but that is what the Latin writers call him.

Our source for his reign is “Lampridius”, that is the life in the Historia Augusta.[1]  The translation portion may be found in two halves in English at Lacus Curtius, here and here; unfortunately the translator kindly renders “heliogabalus” as “elagabalus”, which is naughty.  Here’s the opening, which I have corrected:

Now when Macrinus had been slain and also his son Diadumenianus, who had been given an equal share of the power and also the name Antoninus, the imperial office was bestowed upon Varius Heliogabalus, solely because he was reputed to be the son of Bassianus.  As a matter of fact, he was the priest of Heliogabalus (sometimes called Jupiter, or the Sun), and had merely assumed the name Antoninus in order to prove his descent or else because he had learned that this name was so dear to mankind that for its sake even the parricide Bassianus had been greatly beloved.  Originally, he had the name Varius, but later he was called Heliogabalus because he was priest of this god — whom he afterwards brought with him from Syria to Rome, founding a temple for him on the site of an earlier shrine of Orcus. Finally, when he received the imperial power, he took the name Antoninus and was the last of the Antonines to rule the Roman Empire.

From this we learn that the word – whatever it is, Heliogabalus or Elagabalus – is the name of the god as well as the emperor.

This coin of Elagabalus is interesting in this respect.[2]  It is an aureus from the Antioch mint, struck in 218-219 AD.

The obverse reads IMP[ERATOR] C M AVR[ELIUS] ANTONINVS P F AVG[USTUS]. The reverse reads SANCT[O] DEO SOLI and then ELAGABAL, and shows the black stone of Emesa – the idol of the god – in a solar chariot.  (El Gabal was the Baal of Emesa).

The text reads “To the holy sun-god Elagabal” (although surely an -o should finish the god’s name, unless it was considered indeclinable?)  SOL ELAGABAL is the name; in Greek Helios Gabalos, from which Heliogabalos.

So with this coin alone we have clear evidence as to the Latin form of the god’s name during the reign of Elagabalus.

If we follow the Historia Augusta and “Lampridius”, this was also the name of the emperor.  This, I imagine, is the reason why Hay’s alteration has been accepted generally.  But… it is a hypothesis.  It consists of accepting one part of the testimony of the HA – the statement that the god’s name was the same as that given to the emperor in mockery after his death – and then presuming that the use of “Heliogabalus” throughout is therefore a mistake of some kind.

The Historia Augusta is a strange work anyway.  Supposedly the work of six authors, it has been shown conclusively that it was in fact the work of a single author in the late 4th century.  Some of it is based on excellent sources; other parts are pure fiction, notably the lives of the usurpers.  One might hypothesise that the author was using a Greek account, perhaps, which therefore referred to the god and his minion as Heliogabalus.  (The weird name “Gabal” might not be recognised).

I see the logic that Hay employs.  All the same… if that is the case, then I am not sure that the case is made.  Did the emperor even speak Latin?  Did he speak Greek a lot, perhaps?  What word did he use, talking of his god? We have no way of knowing whether the Romans, jeering at Heliogabalus would use the Latin form that Hay hypothesises.  Possibly the emperor often spoke Greek and the Romans repeated the alien word in their jeering?

We cannot know what the word was that the Romans spoke, jeering at the dead freak emperor.  But we do know that the Historia Augusta says “Heliogabalus”.  Surely we should have stuck with what we know?

But since the modern scholarly literature uses Elagabalus, we had better stick to that.

  1. [1]Online in Latin and English at Bill Thayer’s site, Lacus Curtius, here.
  2. [2]Via MediaWiki

A kind invitation; or a hard-faced attempt to loot?

I get a lot of emails.  Most are very welcome.  But I’ve never had an email like the ones I received this morning.

From: Ambrose Adriano
Subject: Roger Pearse’s blog contact form: Interested in merging with

Hey Roger,

First of all, thank you for all the content you’ve done. I can only imagine how long it took. I am the creator of, and I was wondering if you wanted to join forces and merge your content onto my site. I have great aesthetics, but I am lacking in time and resources when it comes to uploading content. I would love to work with you, since we seem to have the same heart for the church fathers. Anyway, I just thought I’d ask.


Well that’s a very kind invitation, of course.  Mr Adriano has created an empty website with some graphics; would I care to fill it with content?  My first reaction was to write back “Write your own damn content”.  But of course I get offers of collaboration from well-meaning people, which are sometimes clumsily expressed, and one must be polite.

But then I thought … “content”?  I don’t write “content”.  I write stuff for people to use.  “Content” is what a professional might call it.  This… this does not feel like a well-meaning amateur.

Sadly I was unable to think of any reason why I should donate my website with a mass of intellectual property to a complete stranger, and work at his direction, so I replied:

Hi Ambrose,

That’s an interesting email.  But I’m actually very happy doing my own thing, you know?  🙂

Good luck with your project.

That should have been the end of it.  But Mr Adriano – the name on the email was now “Garry Adriano” – was not finished, and wrote this:

Alright, I’ll make one last pitch then I’ll leave you alone Roger 😉

I understand that it would probably be uncomfortable to make such a big change, and it’s much easier to go with business as usual. However, are you really happy with “your” thing? Don’t you want to broaden your vision and make this about more than just you? I have a vision, and my heart is for educating the common man (through beauty) instead of just being a resource that scholars use occasionally.

If you’re afraid that you’d lose autonomy, I’m not interested in controlling you. You have the freedom to do what you already do, and you wouldn’t have to pay for hosting.

I have thousands of visitors with a rejuvenated love for the content, and it’s always growing. People do not want the past, they want the future, and this is what I am trying to give them. I will pray that you would one day reconsider and see me as being an opportunity for your own increase, rather than bury your talent in the sand merely because it happens to be yours.

“I have a vision….” is very eloquent, isn’t it?  And, despite having no content, he already has “thousands of visitors”.  Note the absence of mention of copyright, tho.

But funnily enough neither email actually shows any interest in the “content”.  That’s of no importance, plainly.  That “email” reads like boiler-plate.  If you wanted to get some gullible amateur to hand over their content to you, on some random subject, so that you could monetise it and make money, you might have such a letter on file, usable for any subject.

Perhaps I’m over-wary, but this really made me nervous.  The internet was once a network of people giving generously of their time and knowledge to the world. In some places it still is.  Today there are plenty of sites which purport to advise the reader on how to get rich quick by creating a blog or a website.  It seems we have a population of takers, rather than givers, attempting to take advantage.

I have no idea who Mr Adriano might be.  But perhaps others will receive his eloquent emails also.  Falling in with his requests might not be in their best interest.

Let the website author beware.  Caveat auctor.

UPDATE: A fresh email this evening.

Your blog post is very sad, inaccurate, and filled with assumptions about my intent, but if you wish to immediately judge and publicly mock people you don’t know, that’s between you and God. I did not even bring money into the conversation. That was your assumption.

The good news for you is, I don’t really care about your opinion of me. The bad news is, God does.

Oh dear.


The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 2 – part 2

Continuing our translation.  More material summarised from the bible.

3. If someone objects that in the Torah it is written that the sons of Abraham – in another text: the sons of Israel – were slaves for four hundred years (11) and then asks why we say instead that they were slaves for two hundred and seventeen years, we answer: “You have not chosen correctly the date from which to begin to compute to get to the four hundred years.  Know that it is written in the first book of the Torah that God – highest be His praise – said to Abraham: “Look up at the sky and count the stars if you can count them.  Your seed will be as numerous as them.”(12)  And God told him again: “I am the God who brought you out of Qarrà of the Chaldeans to bring you to this land that I will give you as an inheritance” (13). Abraham said: “My Lord, how will I know that I shall inherit it?”(14). And God answered him: “Take a young bull, a ram and a three-year-old goat, then take a turtledove and a pigeon. Divide them in half and place each half in front of the respective half, but do not divide the birds “(15).  Abraham did [as God had ordered him to do].  The birds immediately rushed to the sides, but Abraham called them and they went to him. It was sunset.  On Abraham there fell a deep sleep and a great fright because dense darkness had fallen on Abraham.  God told Abraham: “You must know that your descendants will dwell in a land not their own and will work there and will be slaves for four hundred years.  But I will judge the nation that they serve. Later they will come out and come here with great riches.  As for you, you will go in peace to your fathers and you will be buried after a decent old age”(16).  It is from this time when God said to Abraham: “Your descendants will be slaves for four hundred years” that it is necessary to compute the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt. Understand it well!

4. Pharaoh let the children of Israel go and told them: “Go with Moses and worship your Lord on the holy mountain (17).  But in three days, go back to your places”. Moses ordered the women of the children of Israel to borrow clothes and jewels from the Egyptians and wear them. The women did as Moses had ordered them to do. Moses led them out of Egypt. There were six hundred thousand. The sea split in two before them, on the orders of Moses, and allowed them to walk in the middle. The pharaoh regretted allowing the children of Israel to leave. The pharaoh of the times of Moses was called ‘Amyūs (18). He chased them with six hundred thousand men and passed through where they had passed. But the waters rejoined over them and drowned the pharaoh with his men, without even one being saved. From Abraham to when the children of Israel came out of Egypt five hundred and seven years had passed away; from Fāliq to the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt, one thousand and forty-eight; from the deluge to the exodus of the childrens of Israel from Egypt, one thousand five hundred and seventy-nine years; from Adam to the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt, three thousand eight hundred and thirty-five years.

The children of Israel wandered for forty years. God rained manna and quails on them. In their wandering from one place to another they fought against the Amalekites and the Philistines. Whenever they tried to occupy Palestine they were driven out, and every time they tried to enter the territory of the Amalekites they engaged in battle and were driven back. When they thought of returning to Egypt, they were afraid of the people. In the desert there prophesied the sons of Qūrih (19), who were swallowed up by the earth, namely Ashīr, Ilqānā and Anīsāf (20). The earth swallowed Qūrih because he had become arrogant to Moses and insulted him. Moses therefore commanded the earth [to open] and it swallowed Qūrih with his tent and all that belonged to him.  Moses and Harun made a census of the sons of Israel who were in the desert, of those who carried arms, from twenty years upwards, except those of the tribe of Levi, and counted them six hundred and three thousand five hundred and fifty.  Then the sons of Levi, those from a month upwards, turned out to be twenty-two thousand two hundred and seventy-three. The total number of the sons of Israel that Moses and Harūn counted thus turned out to be six hundred and twenty-five thousand eight hundred and twenty-three. While in the desert, Moses killed Sīhūn, king of Hishwan (21): he destroyed their homes, killed their men and took their women captive. He killed the king of Madyan, destroyed Madyan and killed the men and the children, taking the women prisoner.  He killed the king of ‘Ūğ and destroyed the city, killing the men and children and making the women prisoner (22).

5. Moses ascended Mount Tur Sīnā (23) and God gave him the Torah written on plates. When he came down he found that the sons of Israel had taken the jewels of their women, smelted them, and had forged a calf’s head and worshiped it. Seeing them in this condition, he threw down the plates which were broken in pieces. Then Moses picked them up and placed them in an ark. Moses built the Tent of time using the thread of the garments of the women of the Israelites and placed a sanctuary within it. Harūn, his brother, was a priest in the sanctuary. In the desert, many snakes were mortally biting the children of Israel, who asked Moses for help. God then ordered Moses to make a bronze serpent and put it in such a way as to be clearly visible and to raise the standard in the camp of the children of Israel. Anyone who was bitten and looked at the bronze snake would not report any damage from the snake’s venom. Moses, Harūn and Maryam, their sister, died in the desert in the same year, having wandered for forty years in the desert. First Maryam, their sister, on the sixth of Nīsān, or Barmūdah (24), died at the age of one hundred and twenty-seven; then Harūn died, on the first of the month of Āb, or Misra (25), at the age of one hundred and twenty-three years and was buried on Mount Hūr (26); finally Moses died – on him be peace – on the seventh of the month of Adhār, or Baramhāt (27), in the land of Muwāb. He was buried in the wādī of Muwāb (28): he was one hundred and twenty years old.


A new translation of Synesius’ “In praise of baldness” from Anthony Alcock

Anthony Alcock has translated Synesius of Cyrene’s spoof Encomium of baldness  from Greek.  Synesius was a contemporary of Hypatia, and lived in the late 4th century.

Here it is:


Two inscriptions from the library of Pantainos in the agora at Athens

I’d never heard of the library of Pantainos in the marketplace in Athens, until I saw a very nice image on twitter today by Michael Lara:

The stone is marble backed by concrete, and reads:

No book is to be taken out because we have sworn an oath. (The library) is to be open from the first hour until the sixth.[1]

This makes it the only library from antiquity where we know the rules.  And we know the founder of the library because an inscription from the lintel has survived:[2]

Ἀθηνᾷ Πολιάδι καὶ Αὐτοκράτορι Καίσαρι Σεβα{σ}στῷ Νέρβᾳ Τραϊανῷ Γερμανικῷ καὶ τῇ πόλι τῇ ǀ Ἀθηναίων ὁ ἱερεὺς Μουσῶν φιλοσόφων Τ. Φλάβιος Πάνταινος Φλαβίου Μενάνδρου διαδόχου ǀ υἱὸς τὰς ἔξω στοάς, τὸ περίστυλον, τὴν βυβλιοθήκην μετὰ τῶν βυβλίων, τὸν ἐν αὐτοῖς πάντα ǀ κόσμον, ἐκ τῶν ἰδίων μετὰ τῶν τέκνων Φλαβίου Μενάνδρου καὶ Φλαβίας Σεκουνδίλλης ἀνέθηκε.

The priest of the philosophic Muses, T. Flavius Pantainos son of the successor (diadochos) Flavius Menandros, dedicated the outer stoas, the peristyle, the library with the books, and all the decorations in them from his own resources. He did this together with his children Flavius Menandros and Flavia Secundilla, dedicating them to Athena Polias (“of the City”), to the emperor Caesar Augustus Nerva Trajan Germanicus and to the city of the Athenians.[3]

This all dates to 98-102 AD.

A photograph of the lintel as it was found in 1933, built into the late Roman defensive wall, via here:[4]

An amazing collection of images can be found here.

The library was destroyed by the Heruli in their raid on Athens in 267. A defensive wall was built by the Athenians after that, which ran across the site of the library.

It is interesting to see an ancient site which is quite definitely a library.  There are plenty of photographs online, but clearly it would be nice to actually visit the place!

  1. [1]Published in Hesperia 5 (1936), p. 41, fig. 40.
  2. [2]As published by Camp (1986), p. 190, fig. 160.; Agora XIV, pl. 62, c.  Via  The site is very hard to use, but I think “Camp” is “Camp (J. M.) The Athenian agora: excavations in the heart of classical Athens. (New aspects of antiquity.) London: Thames and Hudson, 1986”
  3. [3]Text and translation by Philip Harland, here.  Publication: James H. Oliver, “Flavius Pantaenus, Priest of the Philosophical Muses,” Harvard Theological Review 72 (1979) 157-160 = SEG 21 (1965), no. 703 = PHI 291635  = ID# 16291.
  4. [4]The finds were published in Hesperia 4 (1935), p. 322, fig. 19. (JSTOR: and Cf. Hesperia Suppl. 8 (1949), pl. 26.

What on earth is the “Hypomnesticon” of “Josephus Christianus”?

While we were looking at the Synopsis Scripturae Sacrae of ps.Athanasius, there was a reference in Zahn’s article to “the strange book of Josephus Christianus”.  This is yet another obscure text, so I thought that I would gather what I could find here.

This work is divided into 5 books and 167 chapters.  It has the title Ἰωσήππου βιβλίον ὑπομνηστικόν, which generated the idea that the author was a Josephus, called Josephus Christianus to distinguish him from the famous historian Flavius Josephus.  But in reality it merely means the hypomnesticon of the books of Fl. Josephus, i.e. extracts from the latter.  There is no author name attached, although older writers refer to him as “hypomnesticon auctor”.  Some have thought that he was the 4th century Joseph of Tiberias, but this is impossible.[1]  Chapter 136 is an extract from the Byzantine author Hippolytus of Thebes, who flourished in the late 7th/early 8th century.  If this is considered a Byzantine interpolation, the work would naturally date to the 5th century.[2]

Each chapter contains a question – mostly biblical-historical questions – which receives an answer, generally given as a list. The questions concern a wide range of subjects. These include: How many generations were there from Adam to the coming of the Saviour? Hebrews married gentile wives? Which men were admired for their wisdom? What are the miracles wrought by Isaiah the prophet? How many Jakoboi were there among the apostles?

The Greek text with the rare title “Hypomnestikon” has reached us in a single manuscript, the tenth century Codex Ff.1.24 of Cambridge University library (a copy made in the 18th century is in the university library at Utrecht). This manuscript contains the best extant text of The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, and was probably brought to England from Athens about 1241 AD by Robert Grosseteste.[3]

The editio princeps was printed with a Latin translation in J. A. Fabricius, Codex pseudepigraphus Veteris Testamenti, Volume 2 (1723), and is online at Google Books here.  It is also in the Patrologia Graeca vol. 106, cols. 15-177, as “Joseppus Christianus”, “Libellus memorialis in Vetus et Novum Testamentum”.

Amazingly a modern edition and translation does exist: Robert M. Grant and G. W. Menzies, Joseph’s Bible Notes (Hypomnestikon). SBL Texts and Translations 41, Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1996.  This I have not seen, however.  There is a deeply useful review by William Adler. “Review of R M, Grant, and G W Menzies, Joseph’s Bible Notes. (hypomnestikon.)Journal of Theological Studies 48, no. 1 (1997): 258, which includes corrections.

A German translation was made by J. Haug and published as part of the Berleburg annotated bible, volume 8, in 1742.[4]

The only study devoted to the Hypomnesticon in modern times is J. Moreau, “Observations sur l’ὑπομνηστικόν βιβλίον Ἰωσήππου”, in: Byzantion 25-27, 1955-7, 241-276.[5]  There is also the PhD thesis of G. W. Menzies, Interpretative traditions in the Hypomnestikon Biblion Ioseppou, Diss: University of Minnesota 1994.[6]  Update: also see Stephen Goranson, “Joseph of Tiberias Revisited: Orthodox and Heresies in Fourth-Century Galilee” in: Eric M. Meyers (ed), Galilee Through the Centuries: Confluence of Cultures, 1999, p.343; and Simon C. Mimoumi, “L’Hypomnesticon de Joseph de Tiberiade: Une oeuvre  du IVeme siecle?”, Studia Patristica XXXII, 1997, p.346-57.

There are probably gems to be had within the text.  For instance chapter 122 contains a list of the translators of Hebrew scripture, and a little information about them; the seventy, Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion. Then it goes on:

A fifth version was found however at Jericho, hidden in bronze jars, bearing no translator’s name in the title.  However they say that this translation was by a certain woman, because those jars were found at the house of a woman who was studious of sacred literature.

(A sixth translation is mentioned after this).

Another obscure text, now perhaps a little better known!

Update: I discover an article on it at French wikipedia.
Update: Many thanks to commenter “Diego” for locating the German translation in the Berleburg bible; and to IG for some modern bibliography.

  1. [1]Although I see that the excellent Steven Goranson has attempted to revive it: Stephen Goranson, “Joseph of Tiberias Revisited: Orthodox and Heresies in Fourth-Century Galilee” in Galilee Through the Centuries: Confluence of Cultures edited by Eric M. Meyers, p.343.
  2. [2]Most of this from Smith’s elderly Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, Vol. 2, 1846, p.609.
  3. [3]All this via “The author’s name, Joseph, is derived from the brief poem which is found at the end of the book—if this poem is the work of the author and not a scribal colophon. Apart from a few brief abstracts found in commentaries and catenae, the Greek text, with the rare title Hypomnestikon, is found only in one manuscript, the tenth century Codex Ff.1.24 of Cambridge University library. This somewhat notorious codex, containing the best extant text of The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, was probably brought to England from Athens about 1241 C.E. by Robert Grosseteste. The heart of this rather miscellaneous manuscript consists in moral lessons from the patriarchal and post-patriarchal times. The first modern edition was produced in 1723 by J. A. Fabricius the famous polymath and a later version, found in Migne PG 10ff, was edited by Giovanni Batista Gallicciolli. Although previously translated into Latin and German, this is the first English translation. It is not a theological treatise but rather a medieval Book of Lists or Trivia Pursuit, a pastiche of biblical-historical questions drawn from different writers, especially the Jewish historian Josephus, and occasionally developed with the help of the New Testament. It answers such questions as “Which of the saints became blind and died?” “Who survived and did not die?” “Who died and lived again?” (127) “What are the stations of the people on the way from Egypt?” It described five ‘heresies’ (sects) among the Jews (307): 1) Pharisees (‘separated’), concerned with phylacteries, cleansings of the body and washing of cups and plates. 2) Sadducees (‘just’) deny the resurrection, angels, Holy Spirit, spirits of the dead, judgement. 3) Essenes are ‘precise’ about the laws and abstain from marriage and procreation and from dealings and meetings due to blind chance. 4) Another order of Essenes ‘who similarly observe the laws yet do not reject marriage and procreation but despise the others because they cut off the succession of the race.’ 5) A fifth sect of Judas the Galilean ‘allowing them to call no man Lord or Master and prohibiting them to accept the census that took place under Quirinius.’ Among the Samaritans, who were originally colonists of the Persians, are four sects, Gorothenes, Sebouaeans, Essenes and Dositheans (307).”
  4. [4]Online here.
  5. [5]Henk Jan de Jonge, “Additional notes on the history of Mss. Venice Bibl. Marc. Gr. 494 (k) and Cambridge Univ. Libr. Ff. 1.24 (b)”, in: Marinus De Jonge, Studies on the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs: Text and Interpretation, p.107 f; p.114.
  6. [6]Hathi entry:

Manuscripts of the Suda / Suidas

I recently had reason to consult manuscripts of the 10th century Byzantine encyclopedia known as the Suda, and known in the past under the misleading title of “Suidas”.  This I did, but I realised that I did not actually know what the main mss of the Suda might be.  Some 80 manuscripts are listed at Pinakes, containing all or part of the text. The following notes are from Adler’s edition, vol. 1, p.218 f.

  • A = Paris, BNF, gr. 2625 and 2626.  Both have an older and a younger section.  2625 older portion is not dated by Adler; the younger is 14th century.  The older part of 2626 is 12-13th century, the younger is 15th century.
  • R = Vatican 3-4, copied from A before 1449.
  • Marcianus 449 (today 558), 15th c.  Copied from A.
  • British Library Additional 11892-3. Copied from A in 1402 by George Baeophorus.
  • Vatican 2317 (= 2431).  AD 1463.  Copied from A.
  • F = Florence, Mediceo-Laurenziana 55, 1.  Copied from A in 1422.
  • V = Leiden, Vossianus, 12th century.  Written before 1204 when S was copied from it.  Adler gives no shelfmark, and it does not appear to be listed in Pinakes.  A google search suggests it is Leiden University Library, Vossianus gr. F 2.[1]
  • S = Cod. Vaticanus 1296.  AD 1204.  Copied from V. Currently divided in 3 volumes.
  • C = Oxford, Corpus Christi College 76-7.  End of 15th c.  Copied from V.
  • British Library, Harleianus 3100.  End of 15th c.  Copied from V.  Originally at Durham Cathedral; presented by the dean and chapter to Edward Harley in 1715; and sold to the British Museum with the other Harley mss in 1753.
  • G = Paris 2623.  Written before 1481 by Caesare Strategus.  Part of the mixed GIT family.
  • Holkham Hall 288 (now in Bodleian library), 1454 AD.   Related to G.
  • I = Codex Angelicus 75. 15th c.  Part of the mixed GIT family.
  • Escorial X I 1. 15th c.   Part of the mixed GIT family.
  • Paris suppl. 96.  15th c. Excerpts.  Part of the mixed GIT family.
  • T = Vatican 881.  AD 1434.  Part of the mixed GIT family.  Interpolated at the end.
  • U = Urbinas gr. 161.  AD 1461.  Related to T.
  • N = Marcianus XI, 8 ( today 991). 15th c.  Related to T.
  • B = Paris 2622. 13th c.  Part of the BLM family.
  • Madrid 4882. (O 89) 16th c.    Part of the BLM family.
  • Copenhagen Gl. Kgl. Saml. 413.  1465 AD.    Part of the BLM family.
  • Marcianus X 21-22, (today 1197-8). ca. 1475.    Part of the BLM family.
  • E = Brussels 11281. AD 1476.    Part of the BLM family.
  • L = Codex Sinaiticus, St Petersburg 125. 14th c.    Part of the BLM family.
  • D = Bodleian Misc. Gr. 289. (= Auct. V 52). 15th c.    Part of the BLM family.
  • H = Paris gr. 2624. 15th c.   Part of the BLM family.
  • Milan, Ambrosianus 494 (L 108 Sup.) 15th c.    Part of the BLM family.
  • M = Marcianus 448 (1047). 13th c.   Part of the BLM family.
  • Oxford, Bodleian Misc. 290 (Auct. V 53) 15th c. Copied from M.

There are also excerpts preserved.

Sadly no stemma is given by Adler.

  1. [1]Tiziano Dorandi, “Liber qui vocatur suda: Translation of the Suda by Robert Grosseteste”, 2013. Via here: “Abstract: Robert Grosseteste (Bishop of Lincoln from 1235) translated in Latin some entries of the Byzantine Lexicon known as the Suda, a translation which is still unpublished. This paper investigates the textual transmission of Suda’s translation. In the first part Grosseteste’s learning and knowledge of Ancient Greek are briefly outlined. In the same section his other translations from Greek are also discussed. A description of the extant manuscripts of Suda’s translation is provided, as well as a catalogue of the items (pertaining to a separate textual tradition), which are found in Grosseteste’s notulae of his doctrinal, literary and scholarly works. Special attention is paid to the so-called Lexicon Arundelianum (a Greek-Latin Lexicon – but entirely written in Latin – Transmitted by MS London, College of Arms, Arundel 9). Grosseteste sometimes combines several Suda’s items and/or inserts in the original Lexicon text some entries of the Etymologicum Gudianum. Moreover Grosseteste’s translations are extremely literal (verbum de verbo). Finally, MS Leiden University Library, Vossianus gr. F 2 (12th cent.) is proved to be the Suda Greek manuscript used by Grosseteste for his translation.”

What the heck is the “Synopsis Scripturae Sacrae” of ps.Athanasius??

Enthusiasts for the authenticity of the “Three Heavenly Witnesses” passage in 1 John 5:7 are well aware that no Greek manuscript contains it.  But as I remarked in a previous post, they point to a work by Athanasius, the Synposis Scripturae Sacrae (“Summary of the Holy Scriptures”) as evidence that it was part of the text in his day.  But what on earth is this work?  And how has it reached us, and what scholarship has been done upon it?

Let’s look at how we got this text, and then we can talk about what it contains.

The work is listed in the Clavis Patrum Graecorum under CPG 2249.  It has reached us in a single manuscript, which remained unknown until 1895, hidden in the prestigious surroundings of Eton College, where it has the shelfmark Codex Etonensis 144 (formerly B. l. 5. 13).  J. Armitage Robinson published it in that year in Texts and Studies 3, “Euthaliana”, p.106-120, with a collation of the manuscript against the PG text.[1]  The manuscript was written by Ducas the Notary, among others, at the end of the 14th or start of the 15th century.

Other manuscripts seem to exist. The Pinakes database gives a list, which contains four manuscripts that look like full-length texts: Tübingen Mb 10 (16th c.), Vienna theol. gr. 249 (16th c.) and two 18th century Greek manuscripts – but I am not aware of any publication that deals with them.

The work was first published by P. Felckmann in Operum sancti patris nostri Athanasii archiepiscopi Alexandrini, t. II, Heidelberg 1600, p. 61-136, with a Latin translation by Wolfgang Musculus.[2]  Regular readers will remember Musculus from my post Apocryphal and then some: The so-called “Synopsis” of so-called Dorotheus of Tyre.  The Eton manuscript bears the marks of use as an exemplar for this edition.  But the manuscript then disappeared, and all subsequent editions based themselves on Felckmann.  Here’s the start of Felckmann’s text:

Synopsis Scripturae Sacrae in Felkmann’s edition of Athanasius (1600).

The text was edited again by Montfaucon, and reprinted by J.-P. Migne in the Patrologia Graeca vol. 28, cols. 281-438.  There is no critical edition of the text, and the only translation is that of Musculus into Latin.  The opening section of the work has been translated into English by Michael D. Marlowe and placed online here.

Studies of the work have been few.  The only serious study, until a decade ago, was undertaken by Theodor Zahn in Geschichte des neutestamentlichen Kanons, 1890, Band 2, Hälfte 1, p.302-318.[3]

Zahn established that the work is not an original literary composition.  Rather it is a collection of materials about the books of the bible and their contents, assembled from pre-existing sources in a pretty raw manner.  The work contradicts itself; at one time it describes the Old Testament apocrypha as useful for reading; at another it states that they are not to be read.

The work has always been recognised as spurious.  Montfaucon in his preface listed some reasons why:

  •  No work of this title is attributed to Athanasius in any ancient or medieval source.  We have detailed lists of his work in Jerome (de viris illustribus 87) and Photius (codd. 32, 139, 140).
  •  It is not found with any other work of Athanasius in the manuscript.
  •  It contradicts what Athanasius says about the canon in his 39th Festal Letter, and ignores the Shepherd of Hermas, so dear to Athanasius’ heart.

The Synopsis takes material from the genuine Festal Letter 39.  A section on the translation of the Old Testament is taken word-for-word from Epiphanius.  Another section belongs to the strange book of Josephus Christianus.  The content for Leviticus, Paralip., Esra, Prov., Job, Esther, Judith, Tobit, Sapientia Sal. is almost literally identical with corresponding sections of the Synopsis Scripturae Sacrae of ps.Chrysostom, another confused text of the same genre, which appears to be older than the ps.Athanasius.

Zahn concludes:

We cannot give be more precise on the period when the Athanasian Synopsis was written. For the time being there is nothing to be found in the relation to Josephus Christianus; for 1) the original affiliation with the parallel section on synopsis is highly doubtful, 2) that Josephus, whose work is nothing more than a compilation of very different books, may as well have drawn this passage from our synopsis, but conversely, 3) the time of Josephus is a very unknown or at least uncertain thing.

The dependence of our synopsis on that of Chrysostom, on the 39th festal letter of Athanasius, on a fifth-century Palestinian canon, and probably also on Epiphanius, places us in a monastery or church library in which these diverse spirits were united as equally venerable authorities.

The compilation certainly did not come into existence before the sixth century, perhaps even later.[4]

Zahn wrote more than a century ago, and nobody has ventured to touch the work since.  The only subsequent work is by Gilles Dorival in 2005, but this I have not seen and know only from a review.[5]

Work has been done on the related ps.Chrysostom Synopsis.  But that’s another story.

The text is related in some way to the Euthalian materials which appear in the margins and between books in medieval Greek bible manuscripts.  So we are dealing with a mass of non-literary material about the bible, changed by every hand that touched it, incarnate in a variety of versions, and attributed to a variety of authors, none of them genuine.  It’s really very like the Vitae Prophetarum Fabulosa that we encountered in ps.Dorotheus.

  1. [1]Online here.
  2. [2]Online here.
  3. [3]Online here.
  4. [4]Genauere Bestimmungen über die Abfassungszeit der athanasianischen Synopsis wage ich nicht zu geben. Auf das Verhältnis derselben zu Josephus Christianus ist vorläufig nichts zu gründen; denn 1) ist die ursprüngliche Zugehörigkeit des mit diesem parallelen Abschnitts zur Synopsis höchst zweifelhaft, 2) kann jener Josephus, dessen Arbeit nichts als eine Compilation aus sehr verschiedenen Büchern ist, diesen Abschnitt ebensogut aus unserer Synopsis geschöpft haben, als umgekehrt, 3) ist die Zeit jenes Josephus eine sehr unbekannte oder doch unsichere Sache. Die Abhängigkeit unserer Synopsis von derjenigen des Chrysostomus, vom 39. Festbrief des Athanasius, ferner von einem palästinensischen Kanon vielleicht des 5. Jahrhunderts und wahrscheinlich auch von Epiphanius versetzt uns in eine Kloster- oder Kirchenbibliothek, in welcher diese verschiedenartigen Geister als gleich ehrwürdige Auktoritäten vereinigt waren. Vor dem 6. Jahrhundert ist die Compilation gewiß nicht entstanden, vielleicht noch später.
  5. [5]Gilles Dorival, “L’apport des Synopses transmises sous le nom d’Athanase et de Jean Chrysostome à la question du Corpus Littéraire de la Bible?”, In : Gilles Dorival (ed.), Qu’est-ce qu’un Corpus Littéraire ? Recherches sur le corpus biblique et les corpus patristiques, Paris-Louvain-Dudley, 2005, p. 53-93; and a further article 94-108. Reviews on Persee here, which reads “G. Dorival (pp. 53-93), dans un texte très dense, fouillé même, dont notre résumé ne rend qu’imparfaitement compte, traite de l’apport des «synopses» de la Bible transmises sous les noms d’Athanase et de Jean Chrysostome à la connaissance de la constitution des corpus néo- et vétéro-testamentaires. La première est connue par quatre manuscrits divergents entre eux ; G.D. en nie l’authenticité, contre Montfaucon, pour en situer la rédaction entre le début du Ve siècle et la fin du vie ; le classement y est fait selon trois « genres » : historique, exhortatif et prophétique. La seconde, rédigée entre 500 et 600 et faussement attribuée à Athanase, n’est plus conservée que dans un seul manuscrit (cod. Eton. B 1 5 13) ; elle distingue entre les livres canoniques et les livres lus (άναγιγνωσκόμενα), et propose une liste des livres contestés (αντιλεγόμενα) et des apocryphes (απόκρυφα) qui ne correspond pas à la distinction précédemment établie. Dans une seconde étude (p. 95-108), G. Dorival s’intéresse à la synopse contenue dans le codex Barberinianus gr. 317, qui dépend en grande partie des deux synopses étudiées plus haut, mais qui offrent aussi quelques traits originaux, qui font regretter qu’elle n’ait pas été étudiée pour elle-même par les canonistes.”