I’ve returned to my translation of John the Deacon’s Life of St Nicholas. I hope to have this ready and make it available by St Nicholas’ Day, December 6. At the moment I am reading through the files from the start, and comparing it with the excellent Italian translation by P. Corsi based on a different manuscript. I have decided to descope the textual issues, and simply write something in an introduction.
But as I work through the text and translation, sentence by sentence, I am consulting the collation that I made of the Mombritius, Falconius and Corsi editions. So far there are almost no places in the text in which the differences make any difference to the translation. This will not be true for chapters 12 and 13, where the Falconius edition prints a completely different piece of text. That will have to be printed as an appendix. But even then, the same basic story is being told.
Otherwise the differences between the texts are trivial. I do get the impression that the Mombritius text is an earlier form, which was revised to make it easier to understand. John the Deacon is a complete swine for strange word orders, and some of these seem to have been smoothed out. This tends to support the idea of two recensions of the text. It would not be surprising if the Latin of 800 AD did not seem somewhat strange to copyists of five centuries later.
This week something interesting happened. Two different people wrote to inform me of their crank theories of history. One wrote briefly that Tertullian never existed. The other seemed to be connected to the Worldwide Church of God somehow, and had elaborated the mythmaking of Herbert Armstrong even more. The approach taken to history was the same; only the “conclusions” were widely different.
A thought occurred to me that I ought to create a page listing these people, and giving a short paragraph describing their claim. There is Ralph Ellis with his series of books suggesting that the gospel events took place after 60 AD and referencing King Arthur. There was Acharya S, with her weird claims about Horus. There’s the Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, with its bastard child, the Da Vinci Code. There is always Eric von Daniken with “Was God an astronaut?” All these people use the same approach. They all claim to be giving “the real history”, “suppressed” by whoever – usually the Vatican. They all start with a theory and a pair of scissors, and shape the data into whatever shape they need. They all deride “so-called scholars”, usually with an ad hominem. And so on.
Individually these people can confuse ordinary people, who don’t know that this is a genre. But gathered together, where anybody can compare them, they are powerless. I must get onto this some time.