A passage in Jerome on Revelation

A correspondent asked me for a translation of this:

Legimus in Apocalypsi Johannis (quod in istis provinciis non recipitur liber, tamen scire debemus quoniam in occidente omni, et in aliis Faenicis provinciis, et in AEgypto recipitur liber, et ecclesiasticus est: nam et veteres ecclesiastici viri, e quibus est Irenaeus, et Polycarpus, et Dionysius, et alii Romani interpretes, de quibus est et Cyprianus sanctus, recipiunt librum et interpretantur) legimus ergo ibi: eqs.

Which I rendered hastily as:

We read in the Apocalypse of John (which in those provinces is a book not received [as canonical], however we ought to understand that in all the west, and in the other Phoenician provinces, and in Egypt the book is received, and is a book of the church; for also ancient men of the church, among whom Irenaeus and Polycarp and Dionysius [of Alexandria] and other Roman expounders, also including St. Cyprian, receive the book and expound it) we read therefore there: …

Errors?  And … what is “Faenici”?

UPDATE:  Andrew Eastbourne writes:

That text of Jerome is in his (possibly inauthentic) “Tractatus” on Ps. 1, edited by Morin in the Anecdota Maredsolana vol. 3.2 (online at http://books.google.com/books?id=Qh0NAAAAIAAJ — easiest to find if you search in that volume for “legimus in Apocalypsi”) — oh, and Faenicis *is* simply “normal” medieval confusion of spelling for Phoenicis.  (ae / oe / e variation is very frequent in mss.)

I’ve also changed the translation as suggested in the comments!  The quote seems to be on p.5 of the text: just searching for “legimus in Apocalypsi” gives p.314 which is another quote.  The book is inaccessible outside the US, tho.  The reference is: 

Jerome, Commentarioli in Psalmos / Hieronymi, qui deperditi hactenus putabantur ; edidit, commentario critico instruxit, prolegomena et indices adjecit Germanus Morin. 1895, p. 5.

The faenicis has a note in Morin’s apparatus, “Faenicis] paenicis C 1 m: phaenicis A: phoenicis uC 2 m.”  The meaning of these glyphs is not apparent at first glance.

An Armenian catena on the Catholic epistles

My learned Armenian correspondant Seda Stamboltsyan has been looking in the electronic catalogue of the Matenadaran at Yerevan for us.  She reports at least one Armenian catena in the catalogue, which includes material by Eusebius.

Doing so was not entirely straightforward, as the search tool is somewhat cranky.  You have to get the exact word correct — searching for “euseb” will not bring up “eusebius”.  Since the endings will vary, depending on case, this is a little bit of a pain.  But typing “eusebi” (genitive case) gave 53 results; “eusebios” produced 14.  Among them was this entry:

     Խմբագիր մեկնութիւն է. վկայութիւններ են բերուած հետեւեալ հեղինակներից՝ Կիւեղ Աղեկսանդրացի, Պիմեն, Սեւեռիտոս, Ներսէս, Յովհան Ոսկէբերան, Բարսեղ Կեսարացի, Իսիքիոս Երուսաղէմացի, Դիոնեսիոս Աղէկսանդրացի, Որոգինես, Թէոդորիտոն, Ապողինար Լաոդիկեցի, Եւսեբիոս Կեսարացի, Դիդիմոս, Ամոն, Տիմոթէոս, Աթանաս, Եփրեմ Ասորի։


“[Manuscript number] 667662
This is a collective commentary [i.e. catena]. Testimonies are brought from the following authors: Cyril of Alexandria, Pimen, Severitos, Nerses, John Chrysostom, Basil of Caesarea, Hesychios of Jerusalem, Dionysius of Alexandria, Origen, Theodoriton, Apolinarius of Laodicea, Eusebius of Caesarea, Didimus, Amon, Timothy, Athanasius, Ephrem the Syrian.”

Clicking through gave more info.  Folios 1-235 are commentaries on the Catholic epistles, and the authors above are for this.  Plainly this is a catena.  There was also a bit of bibliography: “cf. Vienna N 48 (Tashian, Bibliography, 234-243). Also: PO, t43, N193.”  The shelfmark is Mashtots Matenadaran ms. N 1407. Date: 1596. The place where it was written is not mentioned. Scribe: Priest Pawłos (Paul).

Seda reminds us that not all the manuscripts in the Matenadaran have been catalogued to this level of detail yet.  Four volumes were published, and the electronic catalogue is based on these.  The fifth volume has just been published, but not yet incorporated into the online catalogue.  However there are about 17,000 mss. in the Matenadaran.  Each volume is around 500 mss, so there is a considerable distance still to go.

There is a brief catalogue of all the mss, but it doesn’t go to this level of detail.

PO 43 does indeed contain a publication of an Armenian catena on the Catholic epistles:

Volume 43. La chaîne arménienne sur les Épîtres catholiques. I, La chaîne sur l’Épître de Jacques / Charles Renoux…

So there is a publication with French translation in PO 43/1 (N193), Turnhout 1985; 44/2 (N198), 1987; 44/1-2 (205-206), 1994; 47/2 (N210), 1996.   I queried the manuscript numeral, as that didn’t look like a shelfmark to me.  (It’s probably the electronic catalogue’s database primary key!)

Seda Stamboltsyan tells me that she has been doing  translations from Classical Armenian into modern Armenian, also editing and proofreading texts in Armenian, preparing critical editions of Classical Armenian texts.  I think those of us that are illiterate, at least in Armenian, can be very grateful to her for her efforts!

More Armenian info

I’m still trying to find out about Armenian catenas and biblical commentaries.

It seems that there are not many references to books in Armenian on the net. Apparently the Mesrop Mashtots Matenadaran, the Institute of Old Manuscripts, Yerevan (not the same as the Armenian National Library) has a new website. Unfortunately it is only in Armenian now. But you may see there many beautiful miniatures. One can search on that site in the bibliographies too, to find what is there in the Matenadaran collection (although presumably only if you know Armenian and can type Armenian text).

There is also a website of publications by the Gandzasar Theological Centre where my contact works and the Publishing House of Holy Etchmiadzin. She adds:

I’m still adding annotations in that section of the website and there are still many books that need to be added there. I think I’ll put there also that bibliography of biblical commentaries when I get it. So you’ll have more references for published Armenian texts. You may check our website from time to time to see the additions.  http://www.vem.am/en/topics/books-1/

The bibliography of biblical commentaries and catenas in Armenian is something we should all be interested in, and I will add more details as I find out more.

UPDATE: some commentaries in classical Armenian are available here and here.  There is also a critical edition of the classical Armenian translation of Gregory of Nyssa, On the making of man!

The text tradition of Hippolytus “Commentary on Daniel”

A question has reached me about the Commentary on Daniel of Hippolytus, especially with regard to the passage in 4.23.3:

For the first advent of our Lord in the flesh, when he was born in Bethlehem, eight days before the kalends of January [December 25th], the 4th day of the week [Wednesday], while Augustus was in his forty-second year, [2 or 3BC] but from Adam five thousand and five hundred years.  He suffered in the thirty third year, 8 days before the kalends of April [March 25th], the Day of Preparation, the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar [29 or 30 AD], while Rufus and Roubellion and Gaius Caesar, for the 4th time, and Gaius Cestius Saturninus were Consuls. (tr. Tom Schmidt).

But what is the textual basis for this?  It doesn’t appear in the Ante-Nicene Fathers version of the text.

A look at the Sources Chretiennes (14; p. 64) edition tells me that the Greek text of the work is entirely recovered from quotations in catenas.  In a catena, each quotation appears underneath the relevant biblical verse, and is labelled with the name of the author from whom it has been taken.  So the sequence is fairly clear, even if all you have is extracts, provided that the original author wrote his commentary in the same sequence as the biblical text.

The process of recovering the commentary began with one of the great 17th century editors, B. Corderius, who printed the first fragment of the text in his Expositio patrum graecorum in psalmos, vol. 3, Anvers, 1646 on p.951.  In 1672 Fr. Combefis, Bibliothecae graecorum patrum auctarium novissimum, vol. 1, p. 50-55 printed two more important fragments, this time commenting on Susanna.  Since then various editors have accrued more and more fragments from the catenas, and are listed in Bonwetsch’s edition of 1897.  A list of mss. and editions appears on p.xxviii of Bonwetsch (p.43 of the Google books PDF).

The remains seem to be divided into four books.  The last addition to the stock was in 1911, when Dioboutonis printed new fragments from a 10th century manuscript from the monastery of Meteores.  The end result is a text which contains few obvious lacunas.  However there must still be material which is lost, especially in book 1.

The text cannot be said to be in good condition.  The manuscripts in which the material is preserved are often in a poor state, or illegible.  The most recent edition, that of Bonwetsch in the Griechische Christlicher Schriftsteller 1 in 1897 (online, thankfully) often indicates words added by conjecture or asterisks where there are gaps impossible to fill.

But one compensation is that an Old Slavonic translation exists of the entire work as it once existed in Greek.  This tells us, of course, that the Greek text must still have existed in the 10th century when these translations were made.  Four manuscripts of this translation exist, none complete, but which fortunately have their omissions in different places.  This means that we can read the whole work pretty much as it came from the hand of the author.  The most ancient manuscript is 12-13th century.  Fortunately Bonwetsch translated the Old Slavonic into German, and the translation was used by the SC editor to help with the Greek.

Our passage is extant in Greek, and appears on pp.306-7 of the SC edition.  But the SC editor queries whether part of the text –“Gaius Caesar, for the 4th time, and Gaius Cestius Saturninus” — was interpolated by a later writer.

The apparatus of Bonwetsch (p.242; p.295 of the PDF) tells us that this passage was quoted by the Syriac writer  George, Bishop of the Arab tribes.  The apparatus also refers to George Syncellus, and Cyril of Scythopolis as using bits of it.  The text is given in mss. ABP and S; A= Athos, Vatopedi 260 / Paris suppl. gr. 682 (10-11th century); B=Chalcis 11 (15-16th c.); P=Paris gr. 159 p.469f.; S=the old Slavonic.

So… the text is reasonably well established, and reasonably reliable.  The Greek for our passage seems sound, with only a couple of bits in brackets.  We have a good early witness for the text, and also a translation in a 7th century Syriac writer and a 10th century translation.

Ibn al-Tayyib, Commentary on the whole bible

I’ve had an email this morning asking me if I know of an English translation of a commentary on the four gospels by “ibn al-Tayyib”.  My first reaction is the same as yours — “who?”!

A look in Georg Graf’s Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur vol. 2, p. 160f reveals a Nestorian writer of that name.  Graf gives his name as `Abdullah ibn a-t-Taiyib, but I suspect it is the same man.  He lived and worked in Baghdad in the 11th century, as a physician, monk and priest.  In his day, he was an important man, known to the ruler of the city.  He wrote an introduction to Porphyry’s Isagogue, and did stuff with the works of Hippocrates and Galen.  He died in October 1043, and was buried in the church of Darta.  Sic transit gloria mundi – a great man, whose life is now just a few lines in an obscure handbook.

But he also wrote a commentary on the entire bible.  Graf describes this as the most extensive commentary on scripture in Arabic Christian literature.  It is extant in two manuscripts, Vatican arab. 37 (1291 AD) and Vatican arab. 36 (13/14th century).  A few more manuscripts contain parts of the work.  Graf lists no editions and no translations into any language of this monster text.

Graf wrote 50 years ago, so it is possible that work has been done since.  I’ve posted a note in the NASCAS forum asking if anyone knows of any.  It’s nice to peer into some neglected corners of scholarship like this. 

And I must remember to ask my correspondant how he knows of such a person and his work, and why he wants to know!

UPDATE: Sergey Minov writes to tell us that we’re probably out of luck.  It’s unpublished and untranslated.  But apparently it’s really interesting!

As far as I know no original texts or translations of al-Tayyib’s exegetical works has been published so far. It is a real pity, because, for example, it would contribute to our knowledge of Antiochene exegetical tradition. Thus, there are numerous (?) extracts from Theodore of Mopsuestia and its other representatives in his commentaries.

Here is what I’ve got on modern research on him:

  • Baarda, T., To the Roots of the Syriac Diatessaron Tradition (TA 25:1-3), Novum Testamentum 26 (1986), 1-25.
  • Cacouros, M., La division des biens dans le compendium d’étique par Abû Qurra et Ibn al-Tayyib et ses rapports avec la Grande Morale et le Florilège de Stobée, in: A. Hasnawi, A. Elamrani-Jamal and M. Aouad (eds.), Perspectives arabes et médiévales sur la tradition scientifique et philosophique grecque. Actes du colloque de la SIHSPAI (Société international d’histoire des sciences et de la philosophie arabes et islamiques), Paris, 31 mars – 3 avril 1993 (Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 79; Leuven: Peeters / Institut du Monde Arabe: Paris, 1997), 289-314.
  • Caspar, R., Charfi, A., De Epalza, M., Khoury, A.T., Khoury, P., and Samir, S.K., Bibliographie du dialogue islamo-chrétien, Islamochristiana 1 (1975), 125-181; 2 (1976), 187-249; 3 (1977), 257-286.
  • Chahwan, A., Le commentaire de Psaumes 33-60 d’Ibn at-Tayib reflet de l’exegese syriaque orientale (Th.D. dissertation; Pontificia Università Gregoriana, 1997).
  • Faultless, J., The Two Recensions of the Prologue to John in Ibn al-Tayyib’s Commentary on the Gospels, in: D.R. Thomas (ed.), Christians at the Heart of Islamic Rule: Church Life and Scholarship in ‘Abbasid Iraq (The History of Christian-Muslim Relations 1; Leiden / Boston: Brill, 2003), 177-198.
  • Féghali, P., Ibn At-Tayib et son commentaire sur la Genèse, Parole de l’Orient 16 (1990-91), 149-162.
  • Hill, J.H. (tr.), The Earliest Life of Christ Ever Compiled from the Four Gospels, Being the Diatessaron of Tatian (circ. A.D. 160) Literally Translated from the Arabic Version and containing the Four Gospels woven into One Story (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1903).
  • Hoenerbach, W., and Spies, O. (eds.), Ibn at-Taiyib. Fiqh an-Nasrânîya, Das Recht der Christenheit. 4 vols (CSCO 161-162, 167-168, Arab. 16-19; Louvain: L. Durbecq, 1956-1957).
  • Kaufhold, H., Die Rechtssammlung des Gabriel von Basra und ihr Verhältnis zu den anderen juristischen Sammelwerken der Nestorianer (Münchener Universitätsschriften – Juristische Fakultät, Abhandlungen zur rechtswissenschaftlichen Grundlagenforschung 21; Berlin: J. Schweitzer, 1976).
  • Köbert, R., Ibn at-Taiyib’s Erklärung von Psalm 44, Biblica 43 (1962), 338-348.
  • Langermann, Y.T., Abu al-Faraj ibn al-Tayyib on Spirit and Soul, Le Muséon 122:1-2 (2009), 149-158.
  • Macomber, W.F., Newly Discovered Fragments of the Gospel Commentaries of Theodore of Mopsuestia, Le Muséon 81 (1968), 441-447.
  • Rosenthal, F., The Symbolism of the Tabula Cebetis according to Abû l-Faraj Ibn at-Tayyib, in: Recherches d’islamologie. Recueil d’articles offert à Georges C. Anawati et Louis Gardet par leurs collègues et amis (Bibliothèque philosophique de Louvain 26; Louvain: Peeters, 1977), 273-283.
  • Samir, S.K., Nécessité de la science: texte de ‘Abdallâh Ibn at-Tayyib (m. 1043), Parole de l’Orient 3 (1972), 241-259.
  • ———. Nécessité de l’exégèse scientifique. Texte de ‘Abdallâh Ibn at-Tayyib, Parole de l’Orient 5 (1974), 243-279.
  • ———. Le repentir et la pénitence chez ‘Abdallâh Ibn at-Tayyib (début du XIe siècle), in: Péché et Réconciliation hier et aujoud’hui (Patrimoine Syriaque, Actes du Colloque IV; Antélias, Liban: Centre d’Études et de Recherches Orientales, 1997), 176-204.
  • ———. Rôle des chrétiens dans la nahda abbasside en Irak et en Syrie (750-1050), Mélanges de l’Université Saint-Joseph 58 (2005), 541-572.
  • ———. La place d’Ibn-at-Tayyib dans la pensée arabe, Journal of Eastern Christian Studies 58:3-4 (2006), 177-193.
  • Sepmeijer, F., Ibn al-Tayyib’s Commentary on Matthew 1-9:32-34, Parole de l’Orient 25 (2000), 557-564.
  • Stern, S.M., Ibn al-Tayyib’s Commentary on the Isagoge, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 19:3 (1957), 419-425.
  • Troupeau, G., Le Traité sur l’Unité et la Trinité de ‘Abd Allah Ibn al-Tayyib, Parole de l’Orient 2 (1971), 71-89.
  • ———. Le rôle des syriaques dans la transmission et l’exploitation du patrimoine philosophique et scientifique grec, Arabica 38:1 (1991), 1-10.
  • Zonta, M., Ibn al-Tayyib Zoologist and Hunayn ibn Ishaq’s Revision of Aristotle’s De Animalibus – New Evidence from the Hebrew Tradition, ARAM 3 (1991 [1993]), 235-247.

There was one final bibliographic item which wasn’t in Roman letters and wouldn’t paste!

UPDATE 2: I’ve written back to my correspondant, telling him this and suggesting he commission a translation and transcription.  At 10c per word of Arabic, it would probably only cost $2-3,000.  That’s nothing for an institution.  I’ve also suggested that, if he does, he put it online as public domain!

If only I had more money!  There is so much I could do.  In the mean time I rely on sales of my CD to help fund it all.

UPDATE 3: I was looking at that bibliography above, and noticed the reference to Hamlyn Hill’s 1903 translation of the Diatessaron from Arabic.   This has to be online, so I went and looked at it.  It turns out that ibn al-Tayyib translated the Diatessaron into Arabic!  His name appears in the colophon:

THE Gospel is concluded, which Tatian compiled out of the four Gospels of the four holy apostles the blessed evangelists, on whom be peace, and which he named Diatessaron, that is, That which is composed of four. The excellent and learned presbyter, Abu-l-Faraj Abdullah Ibn-at-Tayyib, with whom may God be pleased, translated it from Syriac into Arabic, from a copy written by the hand of Gubasi ibn Alt Al-mutayyib, a disciple of Hunain ibn Ishak, on both of whom may God have mercy. Amen.

Hill adds:

Akerblad pointed out that MS. XIV. was evidently a translation from Syriac, as the Arabic of it was full of Syriac idioms. The Borgian MS., on the other hand, is expressly stated, in a notice prefixed to the text, and also in another notice at the conclusion of it, to have been translated from Syriac into Arabic by Abu-1-Faraj Abdullah Ibn-at-Tib. Ciasca, in his Preface, has collected several allusions to this Abdulla Ben-attib, as he is called, from which it appears that he was a celebrated Nestorian monk, born in Assyria, and was the author of several books. He died A.D. 1043, so that  we may conclude that he translated the Diatessaron from Syriac into Arabic early in the eleventh century. The use of the Arabic language was made compulsory in Syria : it is not surprising, therefore, that the two MSS., which now survive, of a Syriac work once used by the Syrian Churches, should both be in Arabic.

[CIASCA, . . Tatiani Evangeliorum Harmoniae,  Arabice, etc., Rome, 1888. ]

UPDATE 3.  Of course I suppose one reason why someone would come to me about this man is that I commissioned and placed online here a translation of one of his works…  I had completely forgotten, I admit; only a google search revealed it.  Ahem.

A book Arabic logic: Ibn al-Tayyib on Porphyry’s “Eisagoge” by Kwame Gyeke (1979) seems to be readily available from online booksellers.  244 pages, and in English.  I wish it was online freely!

It looks as if ibn al-Tayyib commented on Aristotle’s Organon as well.  He was also interested in zoology and botany, according to the snippets I have found.  It is a pity that the articles above are inaccessible to me!

From this link I get this:

Ibn al-Tayyib (Arabic Christian scholar, Baghdad, d. 1043): “The curse of Noah affected the posterity of Canaan who were killed by Joshua son of Nun. At the moment of the curse, Canaan’s body became black and the blackness spread out among them.”

This is referenced:

Joannes C. J. Sanders, Commentaire sur la Genèse, Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium 274-275, Scriptores Arabici 24-25 (Louvain, 1967), 1:56 (text), 2:52-55 (translation).

I wonder if this is a translation of part of the commentary on Genesis?  It certainly looks like it!  The proper title is “Commentaire sur la Genèse / Ibn aṭ-Ṭaiyib”.  A German version of his commentary on the Categories of Aristotle also seems to exist.  A version of Proclus’ commentary on the Pythagorean Golden Verses does exist in English, translated by J. Linley (1984).

UPDATE: Some more bibliography from Aaron M. Butts in NASCAS, which I had overlooked:

“The following bibliography can be added to that provided by Sergey:

  • T. Baarda, ‘The Author of the Arabic Diatessaron’, in
    Miscellanea Neotestamentica, ed. T. Baarda, A. F. J. Klijn, W.C. van Unnik, vol. 1 (1978), 61-103. (reprinted in T. Baarda, Early Transmission of Words of Jesus [1983], 207-249)
  • C. Ferrari, Die Kategorienkommentar von Abu l-Farag ‘Abdallah ibn at-Tayyib. Text und Untersuchungen (2006).
  • K. Gyekye, Ibn al-Tayyib’sCommentary on Porphyry’s Eisagoge. Arabic text edited with introduction and a glossary of Greek-Arabic logical terms (1975).
  • idem, Arabic Logic. Ibn al-Tayyib’s Commentary on Porphyry’s Eisagoge (1979).
  • M. Kellermann, Ein pseudoaristotelischer Traktat über die Tugend (Ph.D. diss., Friedrich-Alexander-Universität; 1965).
  • ‘Ali Husayn al-Jabiri et al., al-Sharh al-kabir li-maqulat Aristu (2002).
  • Y. Manquriyus, Tafsir al-mashriqi (1908-10).
  • Y. Manquriyus and H. Jirjis, al-Rawd al-nadir fi tafsir al-mazamir (1902).
  • J. C. J. Sanders, Commentaire sur la Genèse (CSCO 274-275; 1967).
  • J. C. J. Sanders, Inleiding op het Genesiskommentaar van de Nestoriaan Ibn at-Taiyib (1963).
  • P. P. Sbath, Vingt traités philosophiques et apologétiques d’auteurs arabes chrétiens du IXe au XIXe siècles (1929), 179-180.
  • G. Troupeau, ‘Le traité sur l’union de ‘Abd Allāh Ibn at-Tayyib’, ParOr 8 (1977-8), 141-150.
  • idem, ‘Le traité sur les hypostases et la substance de ‘Abd Allah Ibn al-Tayyib’, Orientalia Hispanica, ed. J. M. Barral (1974), 640-644.
  • H. Z. Ülken, Ibn Sina Risâleleri (1953), vol. 1, 57-65.
  • J. Vernet, ‘Ibn al-Tayyib’, EI2, vol. 3, 955.

It should be noted that Sanders has provided an edition (with FT) of Ibn al-Tayyib’s commentary on Genesis.”

John Lamoreaux was “currently transcribing the Arabic of the CSCO edition” (of Sanders version of Genesis).

Please also refer to the comments for extensive additional bibliography.

New NIV to be released in 2011

The New International Version of the bible is pretty much the standard translation used by more Christians than any other, although probably still less than 50%.  The standing of the translation was badly damaged by an attempt to produce a version revised in accordance with political correctness.  Known as the TNIV, this version caused immense offence. 

I learn today that the copyright owners intend to produce a new revision of the NIV itself, in 2011.  Suggestions for the new  version can be sent to nivbible2011.com, apparently.  The press release is here.  It makes no reference to the TNIV debacle.  

A USA Today report here gives more details, and Crosswalk.com gives more again.  Various comments were made during the press conference, in response to a question and answer session:

“Whatever its strengths were, the TNIV divided the evangelical Christian community,” Moe Girkins, Zondervan’s president, said. “As we launch this new NIV in 2011, we will discontinue putting out new products with the TNIV.”

The silence in the press release, and in the speeches given, this all suggests to me that the TNIV is being abandoned because it failed, not because the owners think they did wrong.  This means, of course, that they may try again.  I doubt the NIV will survive further attempts to corrupt it.

When I think about the NIV, and the idea of revising it, I frankly feel nervous.  I find that emotionally I don’t trust the revisers not to try to sneak an extra-biblical ideology into the text.  I suspect a lot of people feel the same.

So what is to be done?  If the owners of the text are serious about abandoning this enterprise, they need to take some serious steps.  First they need to acknowledge publicly that what was done was wrong; and I see no signs of this.  Next they need to change the composition of the board that oversees what happens, because those who did wrong once (wittingly or otherwise) will do it again.   Until we see change, how can we have confidence in the board?  Thirdly, they might consider simply leaving the NIV alone.  There is no pressing need to tinker, tinker, tinker.  In fact such tinkering damages the translation.  It would be better – far better – to leave the translation alone for 15 or 20 years, and get the text established. 

The whole business is very, very sad.  I grieve for what has happened, for how it has allowed the unbelievers to triumph over Zion.

To me, the whole business and the way it has worked out smells strongly of the Pit.  Who benefits from destroying the credibility of what was fast becoming the standard English translation?  The Body of Christ does not benefit.  No man seeking salvation benefits.  But perhaps Hell does.  Those who seek the ruin of us all do seem to benefit.  Their cause is advanced.  The dissention among previously close friends, the creation of mistrust and anger, the perception that the gospel is whatever people say it is… surely these are things that must be dear to the heart of the Enemy of us all?

It is easy to write as if those who chose to do this evil thing did so intentionally and open-eyed.  But I see no signs of this.  I think that it is most unlikely that they had any such intention, or intended to produce a “politically correct” bible at all!  On the contrary, I suspect they were led, step by step, believing that they were really doing the right thing, that God would be pleased and the gospel served, as if by an angel of light.  They probably never realised that a line had been crossed.  They probably never intentionally crossed it, but were led on from one thing to another, softly, gently, without ill-will.

Satan loves to do this to us. He loves to draw us on, to seduce us, without allowing us to ever quite realise that all these harmless little steps really amount to a massive change of direction which takes us out of our accustomed orbit around the Son and into the darkness.  Those approaching a cliff may do so by sleepy little steps.  But one of those harmless little steps will not be so harmless. Suddenly the cliff-edge gives way. Waking, we find, to our horror, that we are falling, falling towards the rocks, into sin and death.  Above us, as we fall in fear and misery, with certainty of pain ahead, there is demonic laughter at us.

This, I think, is what may have happened to the NIV team.  If so they weren’t the first, and won’t be the last.  But the first need is to recognise that they have been led into a serious sin, to repent, and take measures to deal with it.  Just going on, as if nothing had happened, will not serve, and will make things worse.

A couple more letters by Isidore of Pelusium

Explanations of biblical passages form quite a portion of the letters.

1243 (IV.48) TO AMMONIUS

For fear of presumption,  a terrible ill from which one can escape with difficulty, lest we remain on earth and be deprived of the heavenly rewards, the Lord said:  “Now let us leave this place!” [John 14:31]  Indeed, having engaged His own power in the word which He spoke, He delivered his true disciples from tyrannical passions and made them pass into the celestial assembly.

The French editor, Pierre Evieux, tells is that the following letter is also preserved in the catenas on Romans found in two manuscripts, Vatican. gr. 762 (10th c.) and Vienna. Theol. gr. 166 (14th c.). 

In Romans 1:32, Paul condemns people who, not merely commit a sin, but even approve of those who do the same.  Theologios queries why it is wrong to consider those who encourage sin in others as worse than those who actually commit the sin themselves.  Isidore’s reply is interesting as showing that some were willing to suppose a corruption in the text here.


Since you’ve provided us the occasion to return to the apostolic treasures — in fact you said:  ‘It says “Not only do they do this, but also they approve of those who do this” [Rom. 1:32] and you added:  If the approval is worse than the action itself, why did Paul adopt this order [of words] here?’ — call a little upon your good sense to work out the sense of the apostolic saying which is escaping you, and listen. 

There are some people who did not understand the quotation but which, being embarassed like yourself and supposing that the apostolic expressions are corrupt, have interpreted them this manner: “Not only are there  those who do this, but also those who approve those who do this.”  According to them, the primitive text was presented thus to make it understood that the action was the more serious and approval of it less serious.  For me, without saying that the apostolic books display an error in this passage, without siding either with those who did not understand — because perhaps, even if they are wrong on this passage, on others they are right, and they have caught the direction of passages that, for my part, I did not manage to understand — I will set out what I understood and will allow the judgement of the readers to decide if I am right. 

So, in my opinion, it is because to praise the culprits is much more wong and more serious from the point of view of the punishment that this sentence is relevant:   “Not only do they do this, but also they approve of those who do this.” Because he who condemns his sin after the misdeed will be able in time to repent one day, finding the judgment of the sin a very great help in changing his attitude;  while he who speaks in praise of the evil will deprive himself of the help which repentance procures.  So because this judgement concerns a corrupt conscience and a heart tainted with an incurable disease, he who speaks in praise of the fault of the culprit is rightly judged more culpable.  Because the one will very quickly be diverted from sin, the other not at all, according to whether the judgement relates to he who commits the misdeed or he  who approves it. 

The destruction of the apocryphal Acts of John

Burning books with which one disagrees is such fun!  At least, we might infer this, from the universality of the practice in all ages, including our own.   A discussion on this subject elsewhere raised the question of the apocryphal Acts of John, and caused me to read the relevant sections in volume 2 of Schneemelcher’s “New Testament Apocrypha”  (2003).  Page 156 indicates:

At its fifth session the Nicene council of 787 pronounced on the Acts of John: “No-one is to copy (this book): not only so, but we consider that it deserves to be consigned to the fire.” 49

49. Conc. Nic. II, actio V (Mansi vol. 13, col. 176 A)

In the West Leo the Great had given a similar verdict to the entire compass of the apocryphal literature used by the Priscillianists: “The apocryphal writings, however, which under the names of the apostles contain a hotbed of manifold perversity, should not only be forbidden but altogether removed and burnt with fire.” 50

50. Leo the Great, Letter to Turribius of Astorga on 21 July 447, c. 15; PL 54, col. 688A.

These judgments sufficiently explain why the Acts of John have survived only in fragmentary form.

Leaving aside the somewhat doubtful logic of the latter, I thought it might be useful to examine these references.  Leo the Great, Letter 15 (to Turribius, against the Priscillianists) is online in English here:

And on this subject your remarks under the fifteenth head make a complaint, and express a well-deserved abhorrence of their devilish presumption, for we too have ascertained this from the accounts of trustworthy witnesses, and have found many of their copies most corrupt, though they are entitled canonical. For how could they deceive the simple-minded unless they sweetened their poisoned cups with a little honey, lest what was meant to be deadly should be detected by its over-nastiness?

Therefore care must be taken, and the priestly diligence exercised to the uttermost, to prevent falsified copies that are out of harmony with the pure Truth being used in reading. And the apocryphal scriptures, which, under the names of Apostles, form a nursery-ground for many falsehoods, are not only to be proscribed, but also taken away altogether and burnt to ashes in the fire. For although there are certain things in them which seem to have a show of piety, yet they are never free from poison, and through the allurements of their stories they have the secret effect of first beguiling men with miraculous narratives, and then catching them in the noose of some error.

Wherefore if any bishop has either not forbidden the possession of apocryphal writings in men’s houses, or under the name of being canonical has suffered those copies to be read in church which are vitiated with the spurious alterations of Priscillian, let him know that he is to be accounted heretic, since he who does not reclaim others from error shows that he himself has gone astray.

I can never read materials of this date, expressing themselves in these terms, without hearing an echo of modern political correctness and the exaggerations that this creates.  Every right-wing politician in the UK is labelled “fascist” more or less by reflex; yet in truth there are no politicians known to me who advocate the Fuhrerprincip or the policies of Il Duce!  The label is intended to demonise, not inform; and somehow I tend to wonder about some of the 5th century denunciations, as being examples of the same phenomenon.

Nothing in Leo’s letter leads us to suppose that any actual burnings took place, nor does it refer specifically to the Acts of John

The other reference is to the 5th session of the acts of the Council of Nicaea II in 787, the council that condemned iconoclasm.  Mansi, vol. 13 is here.

As far as I can make out, the Fifth Session of the synod was spent listening to extracts from the Fathers on the question of icons. On p.90 (col. 167D) there seems to be the start of the discussion of this text. The Acts of John are quoted twice, although not named — the text refers to bogus itineraries of the apostles.  The first passage condemns icons; the second asserts various gnostic ideas about Christ.  Various members of the synod then point out the obviously heretical nature of the text.

Our bit is right at the bottom of p.93/top of p.94 of the PDF. I find the Greek almost unreadable in this PDF; the Latin translation reads:

Joannes reverendissimus monachus et vicarius orientalium pontificum dixit: Si placet sancta ac universali huic synodo, fiat sententia, ne ulterius scribant aliqui sordidum istum librum.  Sancta Synodus dixit: Nemo scribat: non solum hoc, sed igni eum dignum judicamus fore tradendum.

The most reverend John, monk and Pontifical Vicar of the East said, “If it pleases the Holy and Universal Synod, let this be the sentence, that nothing of this sleazy book be copied (lit. written) any more.”  The Holy Synod said: “Let no-one copy it; not only that, but we judge it deserving to be thrown into the fire.”

Yet again this does not seem to me to be a general decree; so much as a rejection of the book as evidence for the purposes of the council (which indeed it could not be).

Schneemelcher is an odd book, isn’t it?  In some ways it’s very good, but in others quite dreadful.  Something must be allowed for the awkwardness of translation from the German.  Indeed there are some horribly tangled sentences, which almost suggest that the English editor did not read it carefully enough!  But the introduction by Schneemelcher himself to the five surviving apocryphal acts is not very good at all.  It consists of a rambling survey of the opinions of various scholars, on subjects that the reader has yet to encounter.  It is, indeed, otherwise fact-free.  In the English version the prose is nearly unreadable, to make matters worse.  A survey of the scholarship is not a bad idea; but this is not well achieved.

I learn from the book that Photius is our source for gathering the five together, as all composed by one Leucius Charinus, and all used by the Manichaeans; the acts of John, Thomas, Paul, Peter and Andrew.  Yet it must be questioned whether the text today known as the Acts of Paul is the same text that Photius used.  It is, after all, a very different document from the others, all of which have gnostic leanings and would be amenable to Manichaean purposes.  It may be telling that the Acts of Paul is condemned separately in the Decretum Gelasianum from the “writings of Leucius”.  Was there, perhaps, another “Acts of Paul”, which has perished?

Euthymius Zigabenus and the Pericope Adulterae

A comment on this blog led me to wonder who Euthymius Zigabenus was, and then to write a Wikipedia article on him.   He was a 12th century Byzantine monk and commentator on scripture.

In the process I came across this article by Daniel B. Wallace, My favorite passage that’s not in the bible.  Wallace’s argument for removing the passage in John 7 on the woman caught in adultery from the bible is somewhat confused, but this statement caught my eye:

Bruce Metzger, arguably the greatest textual critic of the twentieth century, argued that “No Greek Church Father prior to Euthymius Zigabenus (twelfth century) comments on the passage, and Euthymius declares that the accurate copies of the Gospel do not contain it” (Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (Stuttgart, 1971), pages 219-221).

(Metzger reference at more length here).

As ever in such situations, I find myself wondering what this largely unpublished author actually said.  Does anyone know what the reference is?

UPDATE: James Snapp notes here that Metzger’s statement is mistaken, since Didymus the Blind comments on this pericope, Jerome refers to it existing in numerous Greek mss, and so on. 

UPDATE: I think I have found the reference.  It’s in PG 129, in the commentary on the four gospels, col.1280 C-D.  Here’s the Latin version.

Scire autem oportet, quod ea quae ab hoc loco habentur usque ad eum, quo dicitur: Iterum ergo locutus est illis Jesus dicens: Ego sum lux mundi: in exactoribus exemplaribus, aut non inveniuntur, aut obelo confossa sunt, eo quod illegitima videantur et addita.  Et huius argumentum est quod eorum Chrysostomus nullam omnino fecit mentionem (f) : nobis tamen (g) animus est etiam haec declarare, quod utilitate non careant, sicut et caput de muliere in adulterio deprehensa, quod inter haec ponitur.

Rough translation, not very accurate at the end I expect:

But it is necessary to know that the things which are found from this place to that where it is said: Therefore Jesus again spoke of these things saying, I am the light of the world: in the more exact copies, these are either not found, or marked with a star, because they seem illegitimate and added.  And the argument for this is because Chrysostom makes no mention anywhere of this; but for us we must also declare that this, because it is not without usefulness, is the chapter on the woman taken in adultery, which is placed between these.

I hesitate to try to transcribe the Greek from Migne, since I can hardly read it in the copy I have.  Here it is (starts at second paragraph): anyone with more Greek than me care to transcribe it?

Euthymius Zigabenus on the Pericope
Euthymius Zigabenus on the Pericope