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.”

The Manuscripts of Photius’ Epitome of the Church History of Philostorgius

The Arian Philostorgius wrote his Church History in twelve books.  A copy came into the hands of the patriarch Photius in the 9th century, bound into two volumes, and he reviewed it in his Myriobiblion or Bibliotheca, as codex 40 (online in English here).

But as the Myriobiblion went on, Photius returned to some of the volumes that he had read earlier, and wrote further remarks at greater length, often amounting to an epitome of the work.  He did the same for Philostorgius, although in this case the epitome did not form part of the Myriobiblion but was transmitted separately.  The complete work has since been lost, probably in the disaster of 1204 when Constantinople was sacked by the renegade army originally hired for the Fourth Crusade.

Here are the manuscripts in which the epitome has reached us.  A more complete list can be found at Pinakes here.  These details may be found at much greater length in the GCS edition by Bidez, p.xviii ff (1st edition of 1913 online here).

  • B.  Oxford, Bodleian: Codex Baroccianus 142.  Paper. 13-14th century.  292 pages.  Online here (use Chrome to view).  This is the archetype of most of the others, and consists of a collection of texts and excerpts on the history of the church, compiled by Nicephorus Callistus as source materials for his own Church History.  A list of contents may be found at Pinakes here.  Philostorgius is folios 243-261.  This is image 495 in the online facsimile, which starts with this.  The name of Philostorgius is in the centre; that of Photius to the right.

  • M. =   Venice.  Codex Marcianus gr. 337.  Parchment, 15th century, from the library of Bessarion.  Folios 353-370 contain Philostorgius.  The title is given as ἐκ τῶν ἐκκλησιαστικῶν ἱστοριῶν φιλοστοργίου ἐπιτομὴ ἀπὸ φωνῆς φωτίου πατρίαρχου.
  • Bern. = Bern.  Codex Bernensis 54.  Paper, 16th century.  Once owned by Jacques Bongars.  Philostorgius is fol. 1-53.
  • Harl. = London, British Library Harleian gr. 6316. Paper. 15-16th c.  Philostorgius is fol. 1-42.
  • Vall. = Rome, Codex Vallicelliana 181 (XCI), 16th century.  Item 14 within it is Philostorgius.
  • Langbaine = Oxford, Bodleian Library, Cod. Langbaine 20, paper, quarto size, unknown date.  Langbaine died in 1658.  Philostorgius is on pages 255-493.
  • Bochart = This manuscript is lost.  It seems to have been a copy of B. However a copy of Gothofred’s edition with marginal collation by Bochart exists in the public library at Caen.  (A 17-19th century copy of this collation is Paris BNF suppl. gr. 1005, fol. 6-9v.)
  • L. = Florence, Mediceo-Laurenziana Plutei 70, 5.  Paper, 15th century.  Fol. 63 contains two excerpts from Philostorgius.
  • Cairo = Cairo, Library of the Patriarch 86 (formerly 1002), paper, 13th century.

This gives a stemma:

The Bidez edition has been twice revised, but I don’t know whether these editions contain more details.  However Pinakes lists more manuscripts:

  • Oxford, Codex Barocci 67, 15th century.  Fol. 1-147.  Online catalogue.  But the digitised volume seems to be the second half, which is not Philostorgius.
  • Vatican, Codex Palatinus Graecus 4, 10th-11th century (!).  Folios 151v-189v.  This is not as yet online.

Useful to know all this.  A text gains reality when we see on what it is based.

The last oracle of Delphi

The oracle of Apollo at Delphi was perhaps the most famous of the Greek oracles.  It was known throughout the Greek and Hellenistic world.  It continued to exist in Roman times, doubtless in a somewhat artificially preserved way.  But Apollo ceased to speak to men as Christianity took hold, just as the other oracles also fell silent.

The last oracle delivered by the god has in fact come down to us. A messenger sent by Julian the Apostate returned with the following oracle.  Delivered in hexameters it reads:

ἔπατε τῷ βασιλε̃ι· χαμαὶ πέσε δαίδαλος αὐλά.
οὐκέτι Φοῖβος ἔχει καλύβαν, οὐ μάντιδα δάφνην,
οὐ παγὰν λαλέουσαν, ἀπέσβετο καὶ λάλον ὕδωρ.

Tell the emperor that the Daidalic hall has fallen.
No longer does Phoebus have his chamber, nor mantic laurel,
nor prophetic spring and the speaking water has been silenced.[1]

It is, perhaps, a plea for imperial patronage.  But the brevity of the reign of Julian doubtless precluded any such revival.  All the same, a law of 424 suggests that the games at Delphi were still being celebrated even then (Cod. Theodosianus 15.5.4), showing that at least some of the original institutions around the temple were still in being, a generation after the edict of Theodosius I which abolished paganism, in law at least.

The last oracle of Delphi was preserved in the Church History of Philostorgius the Arian, who died ca. 426 AD.  Philostorgius’ work itself has not survived, but it still existed, in twelve books and two volumes, when Photius reviewed it in his Myriobiblion in the 9th century.  Photius did more; he wrote an epitome of its contents which has reached us.  The modern GCS editor, Bidez, added to this fragments from various sources.

Philip Amidon has made a translation of this, assembled from various sources, and the full context is worth giving.  From book 7:

1b [AP 22].  When Julian had become master of the Roman Empire, as was said, his keenest desire was to restore paganism. He therefore sent letters to every place ordering that all haste and zeal should be applied to rebuilding the pagan temples and altars.

[AP 35: Artemius speaks to Julian]. Know therefore that the strength and power of Christ is invincible and unconquerable. You yourself are certainly convinced of this from the oracles that the physician and quaestor Oribasius recently brought you from the Apollo in Delphi. But I will repeat the oracle to you, whether you wish to hear it or not. It runs as follows:

Go tell the king the wondrous hall is fallen to the ground.
Now Phoebus has a cell no more, no laurel that foretells,
No talking spring; the water that once spoke is heard no more.

The edition of Bidez added fragments under each section of the epitome; these are taken from the 9th century Artemii Passio, the Martyrdom of St Artemius by John the Monk, which preserves sections of the text.[2]

The oracle is also preserved in the Byzantine historian, George Cedrenus.  It may be found on p.532 of volume 1 of the Bonn edition.  Sadly we still await the Australian translation of this useful work.

He sent Oribasius his doctor and quaestor to Delphi, to renew the oracle of Apollo.  When he arrived and began the work, he received this oracle from the demon: …

(Curiously the Latin translation of the oracle in the Bonn edition contains material at the start and end which is not in the Greek; perhaps Bekker, the editor, included a pre-existing paraphrase?)

Did the oracle speak again?  It would be rash to suppose that it did not.  But this is the last oracle known to us, and it speaks of the sanctuary fallen and the oracle silent.  However much the passing of superstition benefits mankind, to the antiquarian this is a melancholy picture.

  1. [1]Timothy E. Gregory, “Julian and the Last Oracle at Delphi”, GRBS 24 (1983), 355-66, online here.
  2. [2]The work is BHG 170-71c, CPG 8082.  Text: PG 96, 1252-1320.  An English translation of the Artemii Passio by Mark Vermes, with notes by Samuel N. C. Lieu, is available in From Constantine to Julian: Pagan and Byzantine Views: A Source History (ed. Samuel N. C. Lieu and Dominic Montserrat; London: Routledge, 1996), p.224 f.

1 John 5:7 in the fourth century? Theodore, Diodorus, the Suda, and Byzantine punctuation

From 1 John chapter 5 (KJV):

This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

1 John 5:7, the Comma Johanneum, has disappeared from our modern bibles, and probably rightly.  It is not found in any Greek manuscript prior to 1500, and it seems to be a marginal comment that found its way into the Latin bible.  This text critical evidence tells us that it formed no part of the original Greek text[1].  Theologically it is usually assumed or presumed that any additions or changes to the original Greek text are the work of men, rather than God, and are therefore not legitimately part of the divinely inspired text.  So on neither count should it appear in our bibles.

Incidentally let us never forget that text critical arguments and theological arguments are not the same thing.

However 1 John 5:7 still has its defenders today, and one of them wrote to me recently with an interesting query.  Michael Hollner had come across a defence of the authenticity of the passage written by a certain Ben David in 1825.  In this appears the claim that Theodore of Mopsuestia referenced 1 John 5:7.  Being an honest man, he wanted to know if this was actually true.

The pamphlet of 70 pages was entitled Three Letters Addressed to the Editor of The Quarterly Review, in which is Demonstrated the Genuineness of the Three Heavenly Witnesses – I John v. 7, and published in London.  “Ben David” was actually a unitarian minister named John Jones.[2] No doubt he felt that the high churchmen of the Quarterly Review might suspect a prank from a unitarian minister.

My correspondent’s quotation was itself corrupt and confusing.  It is always good policy to go to the original source, and so doing clarified much.

There is a digitised version of David’s pamphlet at Archive.org, and I have placed it here.  I think it is on Google Books; but I have not been able to locate it.  Here’s the passage:

Theodorus, the master of Chrysostom and a contemporary of the emperor Julian, as we learn from Suidas, wrote “A Treatise on one God in the Trinity, from the Epistle of John the Evangelist” Eis ten Epistolen Ioannou tou Euaggelistou peri tou eis Theos en Triadi. This is a remarkable testimony, as it implies the existence and notoriety of the verse about the middle of the fourth century. At that period, a writer of celebrity erects upon it the doctrine of a trinity in unity; which surely he would hardly have done, if any suspicion of its authenticity had been entertained by him, or by any other person of that age. Besides, the turn of the expression, as it supposes what was grounded on the verse to be grounded also on the whole Epistle, supposes the Epistle and the verse, in respect to their purport and authenticity, to stand exactly on the same foundation. (See Suidas on the word Diodoros.)

A quick look at the Suda online (we do not refer to “Suidas” these days) shows that Ben David made an error; it is not “Theodorus”, i.e. Theodore of Mopsuestia, but Diodorus of Tarsus who is in question here.

Diodorus is a shadowy figure to us today, because all of his immense output has perished.  Fragments exist, and attempts have been made to collect them, with limited success.  But a list of works exists in the Suda, as Ben David rightly says, in section delta 1149.

Ben David’s claim, therefore, is that Diodorus of Tarsus wrote a work entitled On the epistle of the evangelist John concerning one God in three, which is listed under that title in the Suda  (The subsidiary claim, that this must then refer to 1 John 5:7 is not our concern here).  But did he?

Here is the entry from the Suda online, based on the Adler edition of the 1930s which is sadly inaccessible to me:

Διόδωρος, μονάζων, ἐν τοῖς χρόνοις Ἰουλιανοῦ καὶ Οὐάλεντος ἐπισκοπήσας Ταρσῶν τῆς Κιλικίας. οὗτος ἔγραψεν, ὥς φησι Θεόδωρος Ἀναγνώστης ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησιαστικῇ ἱστορίᾳ, διάφορα. εἰσὶ δὲ τάδε: Ἑρμηνεῖαι εἰς τὴν παλαιὰν πᾶσαν: Γένεσιν, Ἔξοδον καὶ ἐφεξῆς: καὶ Εἰς Ψαλμούς: Εἰς τὰς δ# Βασιλείας: Εἰς τὰ ζητούμενα τῶν Παραλειπομένων, Εἰς τὰς Παροιμίας, Τίς διαφορὰ θεωρίας καὶ ἀλληγορίας, Εἰς τὸν Ἐκκλησιαστήν, Εἰς τὸ ᾆσμα τῶν ᾀσμάτων, Εἰς τοὺς προφήτας, Χρονικόν, διορθούμενον τὸ σφάλμα Εὐσεβίου τοῦ Παμφίλου περὶ τῶν χρόνων, Εἰς τὰ δ# Εὐαγγέλια, Εἰς τὰς πράξεις τῶν Ἀποστόλων, Εἰς τὴν ἐπιστολὴν Ἰωάννου τοῦ Εὐαγγελιστοῦ, Περὶ τοῦ, εἷς θεὸς ἐν τριάδι, Κατὰ Μελχισεδεκιτῶν, Κατὰ Ἰουδαίων, Περὶ νεκρῶν ἀναστάσεως, Περὶ ψυχῆς κατὰ διαφόρων περὶ αὐτῆς αἱρέσεων, Πρὸς Γρατιανὸν κεφάλαια, Κατὰ ἀστρονόμων καὶ ἀστρολόγων καὶ εἱμαρμένης, Περὶ σφαίρας καὶ τῶν ζ# ζωνῶν καὶ τῆς ἐναντίας τῶν ἀστέρων πορείας, Περὶ τῆς Ἱππάρχου σφαίρας, Περὶ προνοίας, Κατὰ Πλάτωνος περὶ θεοῦ καὶ θεῶν, Περὶ φύσεως καὶ ὕλης, ἐν ᾧ, τί τὸ δίκαιόν ἐστι, Περὶ θεοῦ καὶ ὕλης Ἑλληνικῆς πεπλασμένης, Ὅτι αἱ ἀόρατοι φύσεις οὐκ ἐκ τῶν στοιχείων, ἀλλ’ ἐκ μηδενὸς μετὰ τῶν στοιχείων ἐδημιουργήθησαν, Πρὸς Εὐφρόνιον φιλόσοφον κατὰ πεῦσιν καὶ ἀπόκρισιν, Κατὰ Ἀριστοτέλους περὶ σώματος οὐρανίου, Πῶς θερμὸς ὁ ἥλιος, Κατὰ τῶν λεγόντων ζῷον τὸν οὐρανόν, Περὶ τοῦ πῶς ἀεὶ μὲν ὁ δημιουργός, οὐκ ἀεὶ δὲ τὰ δημιουργήματα, Πῶς τὸ θέλειν καὶ τὸ μὴ θέλειν ἐπὶ θεοῦ ἀϊδίου ὄντος, Κατὰ Πορφυρίου περὶ ζῴων καὶ θυσιῶν.

[sc. At first] a monk, [sc. but later] in the times of Julian and Valens[1] bishop of Tarsus of Cilicia. He wrote a variety of things, as Theodore Lector[2] says in his Ecclesiastical History. They are as follows: Interpretations on the entire Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, and so forth; and On the Psalms; On the Four Books of the Kingdoms;[3] On Inquiries into the Books of Chronicles, On the Proverbs, What is the Difference between Exposition[4] and Allegory, On Ecclesiastes, On the Song of Songs, On the Prophets, Chronology, straightening out the error of Eusebius [the spiritual son] of Pamphilos[5] about the times, On the Four Gospels, On the Acts of the Apostles, On the Epistle of John the Evangelist, About the One God in Three, Against the Melchisedekites,[6] Against the Jews, About the Resurrection of the Dead, About the Soul against the Various Heresies Concerning It, Chapters to Gratian,[7] Against Astronomers and Astrologers and Fate, About the Sphere and the Seven Zones and of the Contrary Motion of the Stars, About Hipparchus'[8] Sphere, About Providence, Against Plato on God and the Gods, On Nature and Matter, in which is “What is the Just,” Concerning God and the Falsely Imagined Matter of the Greeks, That the Unseen Natures are not from the Elements but Were Made from Nothing along with the Elements, To the Philosopher Euphronius[9] by way of Question and Answer, Against Aristotle concerning Celestial Body, How Hot is the Sun, Against Those Who Say the Heaven is a Living Being, Concerning the Question of How the Creator is Forever but the Created is Not, How is there the Capacity to Will and to be Unwilling in the God who is Eternal, Against Porphyry[10] about Animals and Sacrifices.

But as we can instantly see, the Suda online edition introduces a comma, making two works where Ben David reads one.

Ben David is not making this up.  On the contrary, he is using a contemporary edition.  The Latin side of that does the same, as this image sent in by my correspondent makes plain: “In Epistolam Joannis evangelistae, de hoc quod unus est Deus in Trinitate”; but the Greek, note, has punctuation between the two.  It’s hard to say what edition Ben David used, of course – this is the Patrologia Graeca, reprinting an earlier edition.The Greek text is punctuated.  So the question then becomes… are the manuscripts punctuated?

Fortunately a 15th century manuscript is online, British Library Additional 11892.  The headwords are indicated by an initial red letter, although curiously the “diodoros” is not clear in the image – look at the left margin, line 2.  The relevant section is on folio 202r:

So we see… again it is punctuated.  These are two titles, not one.

The use of a single point as a divison mark is older than the 10th century, when the Suda was composed.  So there is little doubt that the author so punctuated his text.

Sadly for my friend, therefore, this particular argument fails.  The Suda does NOT say that Diodorus wrote a work on the epistle of John on one God in Trinity.

UPDATE: A kind gentleman has sent in the page of Adler’s edition.  Our bit is lines 10-11.

  1. [1]General article <a href=https://bible.org/article/textual-problem-1-john-57-8>here</a>.
  2. [2]Wikipedia article on this interesting man here.

My experience of real-time censorship on Twitter

I had a very odd experience this week, while I was away in York, and since it seems to be little known, I thought I’d share it with you.  In brief, I encountered real-time interference with the tweeting process while I was on twitter.

Over the last year or so Twitter has taken to interfering with the user by displaying all sorts of unwanted material when you hit the search button.  These are topics that are “trending” – attracting lots of tweets – although if you look at the number of tweets you can quickly see that Twitter is gaming the process to promote certain subjects.  They’ve also added “moments” which are much the same, but where they don’t even pretend that it is other than a choice.

These are objectionable as they tend to be sensationalist, chose to drive clicks and traffic, and so tend to disturb you from what you were doing.  They are intending to steal your attention.  And it works.

I found myself looking at a “moment” which was about free speech, a long term interest of mine.  The tweets consisted of establishment types and others gloating about some new form of censorship, where the victim would also be jailed.

I forgot myself enough to reply to two of them, pointing out that the revolution always devours its children, and did they want to be imprisoned too, for something they said.

Two of these replies I posted.  When I composed a third tweet, and pressed the send button, it did not send.  It hung there.  I thought that I had missed the button, so I clicked again and it sent.

The next time the same thing happened.  But when I clicked send again – I knew that I had already pressed send once – still nothing happened.  In fact it sat there.  The screen would not refresh, even.  But … I quickly found that I could press Cancel.  I did, and my control of the system returned.

Of course one might assume this was network trouble.  But it wasn’t.

A couple more attempts, and I realised that something or someone was watching me tweet, and blocking my attempts to respond negatively to tweets on this “moment”.

I confirmed this very simply.  I stopped tweeting to that moment, and went off and tweeted replies elsewhere.  I had not the slightest difficulty all evening.

Twitter is a rich company.  It’s possible for them to employ herds of minions to censor comments on certain threads, or whatever.  It could also be a bot, I suppose; but the sudden cessation is suspicious.

It’s all very awful.  It’s made worse because you can’t be sure that it is happening.  Thinking back, I believe that this has happened to me before, but as I wasn’t expecting it, I dismissed it as glitches in twitter.  I can do so no longer.  It was really, really, conspicuous this time.  Twitter is silently manipulating which opinions are displayed on its server.

Twitter is a nasty company.  It pioneered the trick of “shadow-banning” people; allowing them to post but ensuring their tweets were not seen by anyone else.  It’s very hard to protest censorship that you don’t know is happening, which is of course the point.  Now that shadow-banning is known, it probably happens less.  This new nastiness is right in line with their previous approach.

What a world we live in.

Fortunately US Republicans have caught on, and are starting to call for social media firms to be broken up.  Let’s hope this happens soon.

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 2 – part 1

Chapter 2 is another short chapter of material summarised from the bible.

1. After the death of Joseph, his brothers and all those of their generation, the Israelites became numerous and spread to such an extent that Egypt was full of them. Then there reigned over Egypt a king who did not know Joseph, who told his advisers: “The sons of Israel have become numerous, and we can not be sure that if a rebel rises against us, they will not give him a hand and drive us out of Egypt.”  He then stirred up the Egyptians against them, reduced them to slavery and forced them to work clay, bricks and stones, to dig mountains and caves and to plough the land.  The pharaoh ordered the midwives to kill every male who was born among the sons of Israel by drowning him in the river.  Countless little children were killed and drowned in the river.  When Moses was born, his mother feared that they would kill him and she kept him hidden for three months.  Fearing then for her own life – Moses’ mother was called Yūkhābad (1) – she made a small ark of papyrus, – in the Torah it is said to be made of pine wood (2) -, covered it within and without with bitumen, placed the child inside and abandoned it on the bank of the Nile, where the water was low, near a city named Dan (3), of the province of Egypt, so that the waves, hitting it, would carry it to the water and the child would be drowned without her being able to see it.  Maryam, sister of Moses, was hiding, far away, to see what happened to the baby.  Then the daughter of the pharaoh came, whose name was Sī‘ūn (4), to bathe in the Nile.  She heard the baby crying in the ark, she felt great tenderness and compassion and took him up.  She then commanded a nurse to be brought to feed him and raise him.  Then Maryam, the sister of Moses, met her and said to her: “I will bring you a nurse from among the children of Israel to breastfeed and raise him” (5).  She went and returned with her mother, Moses’ mother, but Pharaoh’s daughter never knew that she was his mother.  She then gave her the baby to breastfeed and bring up.

2. When Moses grew and became a man, he saw an Israelite arguing with an Egyptian.  Moses punched the Egyptian and killed him; then he buried him in the sand.  A few days later two Israelites were arguing and Moses intervened.  But they told him: “So what? Do you want to kill one of us, as you recently did with the Egyptian?”(6).  Moses feared for his life and escaped to the Hiğāz, settling in the city of Madiyan.  There he married a woman named Sīfūra, daughter of Yatrū (7), whom the Arabs call Shu‘ayb (8), one of the descendants of Ishmael, son of Abraham, and who was a priest in the temple of the city of Madiyan.  Sīfūra gave Moses two sons, Girsām and Ilyāzar.  While Moses was grazing the sheep of his father-in-law Yatrū, he saw, on the mountain, a bush that burned, at noon, without however being consumed by the fire.  He approached to look, and God spoke to him from the bush: “Do not be afraid, Moses, it’s me, God.  Go to Pharaoh and tell him to let the children of Israel leave, in order to worship me” (9).  Moses went to the pharaoh.  Moses was eighty years old when God spoke to him, Hārūn was eighty-three and Maryam, their sister, was eighty-seven.  Moses was fifty-six years old when his father ‘Imrān (10) died at the age of one hundred and thirty-six.  There prophesied in Egypt, among the sons of Israel, Zārākh, of the tribe of Judah, Zamrī, Abiyātar, Haymān, Halkūk, Dardà‘ and finally Moses.  When the sons of Israel entered Egypt for the first time, there were only seventy.  They had lived in Egypt two hundred and seventeen years, as slaves of the pharaohs, serving one pharaoh after another.



The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 3 – part 2 and final

Eutychius continues summarising the Book of Judges.  Today… Gideon, Samson etc.  This material is of no special interest, except as showing what seemed interesting to include to the author. 

3. Gid‘ūn, son of Yuwās, of the tribe of Manasseh came out against them, and took ten of his servants with him in the night, and destroyed the temple of the idol Bā‘il.  But the Midianites surprised them and they fled away.  Then he gathered three hundred Israelites and moved against them at night.  When they reached the place where the Midianite soldiers were, he divided his men around the soldiers’ camp and made the drums and trumpets sound.  Among the Midianites there was great turmoil and they began to run, madly killing each other and trying to escape from the Israelites.  Gid‘ūn wrote to the Israelites of the tribe of Ifrām, who lived in the area of the Jordan, to move and confront the Midianites who were fleeing.  They went out against them and made a great slaughter, taking prisoners ‘Ūzīb and Zīb, kings of the Midianites.  They killed ‘Uzīb at the rock of ‘Uzīb and Zīb at the kiosk of Zīb (22), and sent their heads to Gid‘ūn.  Gid‘ūn then went to Shukūt (23) and asked the population to give his soldiers food and hospitality.  But they answered him: “We will feed your soldiers and offer them hospitality if you bring us the heads of Zābā‘ and of Salmānā‘, king of the Midianites” (24).  Gid‘ūn left them, moved against Zābā‘ and Salmânā‘, kings of the Midianites, who had with them fifteen thousand fighters, routed them and brought back a great victory by killing the two kings and their men.  He then returned to Shukūt, killed its inhabitants and destroyed it.  Gid‘ūn had seventy children.  He also had a concubine from Nābulus (25) who gave birth to a son, to whom he gave the name Abimālikh.  Gid‘ūn governed the people for forty years, died and was buried near the tomb of his father Yuwāsh at ‘Ufrā ‘Azāriya (26).

4. After the death of Gid‘un the children of Israel began to worship the idols of Ba‘ālim, ‘Ashtarūt and Bā‘il.  Abīmālikh then went to Nābulus to his uncles and told them: “My brothers are seventy in number, and they want to govern the people.  Help me, so that I can govern alone, because one alone governs the people better than seventy”(27).  So they gave him seventy qintār of silver, taking it from the temple of the idol Bā‘il.  Then he took some men with him, went to his father’s house in ‘Ufrā and killed his seventy brothers.  Only one was saved, the smallest, or Yūthām, who went to Bīrā (28), where he established his abode.  Abīmālikh ruled the people for three years.  The inhabitants of Nābulus rose up to remove him, but he gathered his men and made a great slaughter.  Then he went out of the city, placed wood all around it, and set fire to it, burning the city and all that were there.  Then Abīmālikh went to Gabal Nābulus (29) and besieged it. The fortified tower of the city was very large.  From the top of the fortified tower a woman threw a stone that fell on Abīmālikh’s head (30).  Feeling close to death, he said to the servant who was near him: “Strike my neck with my sword so that I die, and so it will not be said that it was a woman who killed me” (31). Then he hit him with the sword and killed him.  After his death there governed the people Yuwākh, son of Fūdī, son of Hālāt, of the tribe of Issākhar (32), for twenty-three years. He died and was buried in Sāmīr (33).

After him there governed the people Tāyir, son of ‘Alghād (34), of the tribe of Manasseh, for twenty-two years.  He had thirty-two sons who rode purebred horses behind him.  He died and was buried in Qāmurā (35).

5. After his death, the children of Israel began to worship the idols of Ba‘alim, ‘Ashtārūt, Bā‘il, the gods of Syria, of Saydā, of Moab, of ‘Amman and of Palestine.  The people were overwhelmed by the Ammonites and were governed by them for eighteen years, with pain, afflictions and distresses.  The Ammonites crossed the Jordan to fight against the children of Israel, the children of Judah, and the children of Benjamin, who were terrified of them.  When the Ammonites came to the city of Ğala‘ād the leaders of the people gathered and said: “Who will fight against the Ammonites and be our leader?”  Niftākh, son of Ğala‘ād, was a violent and strong man, and was the son of a prostitute (36).  His brothers had driven him out and disavowed him, depriving him of the right to inherit.  He had then fled away into the land of Tūb, and there had been joined by a crowd of beggars who fought with him against the Ammonites.  The leaders of the city of Ğala’ād then went to Niftākh and asked him to continue fighting against the Ammonites and to be their leader.  He consented, gathered some men and went out to fight against the Ammonites, vowing to the Lord that if He granted him the victory over them, he would offer to God the first of his family to meet him when he came back.  God granted him the victory, and he made a great slaughter of the Ammonites and stormed twenty cities.  Having heard of it, his daughter came out and stood at the door of the house with all the drum and cymbal players, to welcome her father.  The first one he met at the door was his daughter.  He had no other children besides her. As soon as he saw her, he tore off his clothes and felt intense pain.  His daughter told him: “Do not be sad, my father, and fulfil your vow as well.  But let me gather my eldest maids and make them come up with me on the mountain, so that they can cry over me and I cry over my youth” (37).  She remained crying over herself on the mountain for two months.  The advisers of Niftak suggested that he go to the prophet Finhās, son of Il‘āzār, son of Harūn, to ask him if he could give him a response to save his daughter.  But his majesty of kings did not allow him to go to the prophet, as also the dignity of the prophet Finhās kept him from going to the king.  Two months later, Niftak made a great feast for the Jews, and on the same day he sacrificed his daughter.  That party was called “the weeping party”.  Later the sons of Ifrām went to Niftākh in the city of Shaqil (38) and said to him:  “Since you have come out to fight against the Ammonites without consulting us and taking none of us with you, we will burn you and your home” (39).  Niftākh fought against them and overcame them, killing forty-two thousand.  Niftākh ruled the people for six years, died and was buried in Gala‘ād.

6. At that time there was a severe famine in the land of the Greeks.  People were starving to such an extent that the streets and markets were full of the dead and the dogs were grazing on corpses.  Because this was often happening, they dug great graves and buried their dead.  This was the first reason for which burial pits were dug.

After Niftākh’s death there governed the people Ifsān (40), of the tribe of Judah, of Bethlehem, for seven years.  He had thirty sons, thirty daughters and thirty wives.  When he died, he was buried in Bethlehem.  After him there governed the people, Iblūn the Zabulonite, for ten years.  He died and was buried in Zābulūn (41).  After him there governed the people ‘Abdūn, son of Hillāl, of the tribe of Ifrām, for eight years.  He had forty sons and thirty grandchildren who rode behind him.  When he died he was buried in Fārātūn (42), in the territory of Ifrām, in the mountains of Amāliq.

After his death the sons of Israel re-embraced the worship of idols and were subjugated by the foreign tribes, who ruled the people for forty years.

7. There was a man from the tribe of Dān, named Mānūh, descendant of Mānūh, of the city of Surgha (43).  His wife was sterile.  An angel appeared in her dream and announced that she would give birth.  In fact, she conceived and gave birth to a son whom they called Shimshūn (44).  Having grown up he went to the city of Timnāthā (45) where he saw a woman from the foreign tribes and married her.  He stayed with her for a while, then left her and went to the parts of ‘Asqalān (46) where he gave himself to brigandage.  Thirty men attacked him, robbed them, and took his clothes, and he went to his wife’s house in Timnāthā.  But the woman’s father prevented him from seeing her by telling him: “I gave her in marriage to another.  I have a younger sister of hers, if you want I will give her in marriage” (47).  Samson became angry, went away and captured three hundred foxes, set fire to their tails and unleashed them across the fields.  So it was that all the camps of the foreign tribes including the trees went up in flames.  When the foreign tribes knew what Samson had done, they went to his wife’s house and burned her and her home.  Then they formed an army and went out to fight against the sons of Judah, who were terrified of them.  Samson was then on the cliff of Aghīzām (48).  The foreign tribes said to the sons of Judah: “Deliver Samson to us, and we will leave without fighting you”.  Three thousand men of the sons of Judah went to Aghīzām for Samson.  Samson said to them: “Guarantee me that you will not kill me and that you will not hand me over to foreign tribes” (4). They guaranteed it, knowing they were deceiving him.  In fact, they took him and handed him over to the foreign tribes who took him away, tying his hands to his back.  But Samson untied the ropes, seized the jawbone of a dead donkey, and killed more than a thousand men of the foreign tribes.  Then he was thirsty and invoked the Lord who made water spring from the ass’s jawbone: he drank and overwhelmed the foreign tribes.

8. [Samson] ruled the people for twenty years.  Then he fell in love with a woman from Ghazza (50).  Going to Ghazza, the inhabitants of the city were very afraid of him.  In the middle of the night, Samson grasped the door of Ghazza’s stronghold with his hand, and took it from its hinges, placed it on his shoulders, carried it to the top of the mountain in the area of ​​Hibrun, and took the woman.  Later he fell in love with another woman of the people of Sakhīrā (51), named Dalīlā, and took her with him.  The leaders of the foreign tribes told her: “Try to deceive him and make him say from which part of his body his strength comes to him”.  Samson replied: “If they bound me with seven fresh tendons, not passed through the fire, I would become weak”.They surprised him and bound him with seven still wet tendons.  But Samson leaned over them and broke them.  Dalīlā told him: “You do not love me, because if you loved me you would tell me in which part of your body your strength resides”.  He told her: “If they tied me with seven new hemp ropes, I would become weak”.  Dalīlā did it, but Samson broke them like cotton threads. Dalīlā told him: “You do not love me, because if you loved me you would tell me in which part of your body your strength resides”.  He replied: “If you intertwined the seven braids of my head with an inch-wide frame I would become weak”. Dalīlā did so, but Samson took them off. She told him: “You do not love me, because if you loved me you would tell me in which part of your body your strength resides”.  Samson then replied impatiently: “It was announced to me by God, in the womb of my mother, that never should my head have known the touch iron, because on the day when my head was shaved I would lose my strength” (52). Then he fell asleep in Dalīlā’s lap and while he was sleeping Dalīlā cut off his seven hair braids.  When he awoke, his strength was weakened.  Dalīlā then sent for the leaders of the foreign tribes.  They captured Samson, took out his eyes and bound him with chains of copper.  They took him to Ghazza and threw him into jail.  Samson’s hair began to grow again. The leaders of the foreign tribes gathered to offer a sacrifice to their god Dā‘ūn (53).  So they gave orders to bring Samson out to have some fun with him and kill him.  The temple of the god Dā‘ūn was full of people, men and women.  Even the temple terraces were so crowded that there was no longer a place to stop and see Samson and what was being done to him.  Samson then said to the young man that was leading him: “Put my hand on the column that holds up the temple” (54).  He stretched out his right hand and grasped a column.  Then he grasped the other one with his left hand and pushed them, so that the columns and the temple fell.  So it was that Samson died and all the men and women who were in the temple.  The dead that Samson killed, dying himself, were more numerous than those he had killed when he was alive.  His men took him and buried him between Su‘rā and Ishtāwul with his father Mānūh (55).  After the death of Samson the sons of Israel governed themselves with tranquility and peace for forty years.

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 3 – part 1

As we’re translating backwards, we now find ourselves at the start of chapter 3.  This is material from the biblical book of Judges.

1. Later the sons of Israel began to visit the surrounding nations, marrying and giving in marriage their daughters and worshiping the idols, i.e. Ba‘alīm (1), ‘Ashtārūt and Bā‘il.  The sons of Israel were then subjugated by Kūshān Rish‘atāym, king of Aram (2), i.e. the king of Tyre and Sidon, called for this reason “the king of the two seas” (3).  He ruled the people for eight years with firmness and cruelty.  There were so many afflictions upon the sons of Israel that they began to worship God, abandoning their impiety.  Then the young ‘Ithā‘īl, son of Qinān and brother of Kālib (4), of the tribe of Judah rebelled, fought against Kūshān Rish‘atāym and killed him.  He ruled the people for forty years.  At the death of ‘Ithā‘īl, the sons of Israel began to worship the idols.  ‘Aqlūn, king of Moab, gathered the Ammonites and the Amalekites (5), marched against the sons of Israel and conquered them, occupying the city of Fīq (6).  The children of Israel served him and were under his domination for eighteen years, between anguish and cruelty of all kinds.  The sons of Israel chose one of their men named Ihūd, son of Gara, of the tribe of Ephraim (7) – he was left-handed, strong and daring – and sent him with gifts to ‘Aqlūn, king of Moab.  When he was in the presence of the king with gifts, he said to him: “I need to tell the king a secret, and I would therefore like to speak to him separately”.  He stood face to face with the king, and stabbed him with a dagger which he had with him, and killed him.  He went out, closed the door of the king’s meeting room and told his advisors: “The king has ordered that no one come to him” (8). Ihūd then ran away and joined his men.  He gathered a group of soldiers and went out against the city of Moab, occupied it, killed all those who were there and destroyed it.  He ruled the people for fifty-five years.  After him there ruled over the people Sim`ān (9), son of ‘Anāt, for twenty-five years. The Philistines waged war and killed six hundred. Sim‘ān died.

2. After his death the children of Israel returned to the worship of idols. Nāyīn (10), king of Canaan, originally from a city named Hāsūr (11), subdued them to his dominion. A man named Sīsarā was the head of his soldiers.  He ruled the people for twenty-five years, afflicting them with anguish and pain.  In his day there prophesied Dibūrā, wife of al-Qandūn (12), of the tribe of Ephraim.  Dibūrā lived between ar-Rāma and Bethel and served as a judge among the sons of Israel.  A large group of Israelites came to her and said to her: “You know in what anguish and afflictions we live. Nāyīn (13), king of Canaan, has enslaved us. [Why don’t] you govern the sons of Israel and liberate them from the hands of Nāyīn (14), king of Canaan”.  Dibūrā chose Bāraq, son of Abū Nu‘am, of the tribe of Nifthālīm, and entrusted him with the government of the people.  In another text it says: “And she gave him the command of the army”.  Bāraq took ten thousand Israelites from among the sons of Nifthālīm and Zābūlūn, and together with Dibūrā (15) they ascended Mount Thābūr (16).  When Sīsarā, Lieutenant of Nāyīn (17), learned of it, he came out against them.  The sons of Israel came down from the mountain and defeated him, killing all who were with Sīsarā, lieutenant of Nāyīn (18). Sīsarā managed to escape and sheltered under the tent of Yā‘īl, wife of Hābir al-Qaynī, i.e. of the descendants of Qā’in, the father-in-law of Moses called [also] Yaru (19).  [The woman] hid him from them.  [Sisara] asked her for some water to drink and she poured him some milk to put him to the test and see if he was able to discern. That was how he drank milk, thinking he had drunk water.  Then the woman made him lie down and hammered a peg into his temple, so that he was pinned to the earth and died.  Dibūrā found him when he was already dead.  Dibūrā and Bāraq went out against Nāyīn (20), king of Canaan, defeated him and killed him along with his men. Dibūrā ruled the people for forty years.  At her death the sons of Israel resumed adoring idols.  The Midianites ‘Ūzīb and Zīb (21) subdued them to their power and oppressed the people for seven years amid continued distress and afflictions, taking their flocks, cows and possessions.

Important items that are not online – Souter’s “Glossary of Later Latin”

Long ago, probably in the 1990s, I purchased in Heffers in Cambridge a copy of Alexander Souter’s Glossary of Later Latin.  Today I had occasion to dig it out and use it.

The original edition was printed in 1949, with a corrected edition in 1957.  Tiny print was used.  A scan would be very useful to those of us whose eyesight is not what it was.

Happily 1949 is also the date of the author’s death.  Even under our corrupt copyright laws, this means that the Glossary comes out of copyright next year, in 2019.

I think a scan of it and an upload to Archive.org will be highly desirable.

There ought to be more modern equivalents, I would hope.

The same task led me to look up words relating to parts of the body.  This too should be a specialised glossary, but I didn’t know of one!

There is another alternative.  I could consult the Oxford Latin Dictionary, a paper copy of which bows the floor under my bookcase with its sheer weight and size.  But … I never look at it, so I didn’t think of that!  Oops!

Life of Aesop, translated by Anthony Alcock

Anthony Alcock has deviated from his usual work in Syriac and Coptic to translate one of the ancient Lives of Aesop.  His full introduction explains which, and based on what manuscripts.  This work belongs to the genre of “sayings” or “wisdom” literature (gnomologia); but I presume might also relate to the genre of Saints’ lives.

This is therefore very valuable to have.  Thank you!