Primasius and his Commentary on Revelation

Few will have heard of Primasius, bishop of Hadrumetum in Vandal Africa.  What little we know about him comes from the obscure chronicle by Victor of Tunnuna (who is NOT Victor of Vita),[1] and from Isidore of Seville (De viris illustribus 22).  The Italian continuation of Quasten’s Patrology published by Marietti (Patrologia IV: I padri latini (secoli V-VIII)) tells us:

On Primasius we are informed by Victor of Tunnuna and Isidore (Vir. Ill. 22).  Bishop of Hadrumetum, he was among the African bishops summoned to Constantinople in 551 because of the controversy over the Three Chapters.  Initially he took a position against Justinian and did not participate in the council of 553.  In consequence he was exiled to a monastery.  But then, according to Victor, in order to obtain the position of primate of the late Roman province of Byzacena, roughly equivalent to modern Tunisia, he sided with the emperor and began to persecute the defenders of the Three Chapters.

His Commentarius in Apocalypsin in five books is also mentioned by Cassiodorus (Inst. I, 9).  This is presented in the prologue as a work of compilation, based upon Augustine – although Primasius notes that Augustine had never written a commentary on Revelation as such – and Tyconius.  Tyconius had been a Donatist, so Primasius took care to declare this, and that he had selected the best bits, taken the gem out of the dung, etc.  …

Apparently Primasius also wrote three books on Heresies, to bring up to date the catalogue of Augustine.  Cassiodorus knew the first book of this, but it has not reached us.  The work under his name in PL 68 is the commentary of Pelagius on Paul, reworked by Cassiodorus, and supplemented by a work by Halberstadt.

CPL 873-4; PL 68, 793-936; PLS 4, 1208-1221; A.W.Adams, Commentarius in Apocalypsin CCL 92 (1985). …

Which is useful stuff as far as it goes.

The commentary only survived in seven manuscripts.  Strangely it is easier to find one of these in Google than anything else.  This, the oldest manuscript, is Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 140, which is late 7th century.  A page of it, fol. 4r, following the preface and the capitula for book 1, is shown here at the British Library website; the ms. is online here and here.

I have not been able to find any trace of a translation into any language, which is most curious.  However a reconstruction of Tyconius, by Roger Gryson, largely extracted from Primasius, has been translated into both English and French.  I do not object; but it does seem odd that a hypothetical book should receive translation while a real book does not.

  1. [1]The chronicle has been translated in John R. C. Martyn, Arians and Vandals of the 4th-6th centuries, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008.

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