“Duo mercatores” – Another miracle story about St Nicholas (BHL 6159)

Here’s the Latin text and a Google translation of another of the random miracle stories that fill up the medieval manuscripts of the Life of St Nicholas.  This one is uncommon. The Bollandists assign it the number BHL 6159, and it only appears in three manuscripts, all in Belgium.  None of these are online.  Luckily the Bollandists transcribed the text in Anecdota Bollandiana 4, p.203-4, which I reproduce below.  (AB4 is actually online at Google Books, but good luck in finding it!  I wish I’d kept the URL).

Again the translation is that of Google, but I’ve tweaked it a bit.

Duo mercatores consocii fuerunt, qui lustrando diversas regiones vendendo et emendo infinitam congregaverant pecuniam.  Deinde repatriantes, in cujusdam noctis crepusculo in hospitio unius eorum magno sunt recepti gaudio.  Nec mora, post susceptam cibi potusque receptionem fessa corpora dormitioni dederunt.

Interea antiquus ille humani generis persecutor fallaciae venenum in pectus mulieris infudit, ut domino suo consiliaretur illum socium suum clam intempesta nocte interimere, quatenus divitias utrorumque labore partas solus obtineret.  Quod dum mulier perfida auribus viri primo renuentis hortando, admonendo, obsecrando saepius instillavit, instinctu antiqui serpentis voluntati suae pestiferae acquievit citissime.  Igitur mitem immites, fidelem infideles sopori deditum more lupi membratim distrahunt, membra quidem in penetralibus suis occultantes, et immensam illius pecuniam in receptaculis abscondentes.

Matutinali vero tempore fama undique replevit confinia unum illorum cum gaudio reversum, alterum vero nusquam comparuisse.  Uxor igitur illius, hac dira legatione suscepta, quasi amens socium mariti sui aggreditur, quaerens quo vir suus devenisset. At ille, plenus fallacia, affirmabat multimodis juramentis hesterna nocte eum cum copiosa pecunia ab hospitio suo discessisse, nec postea vidisse.

Mulier vero his verbis utpote sagittis vulnerata letiferis, ad statuam sancti Nicolai, quam adorare consueverat, recucurrit, dolore dictante, in haec verba prorumpens:  “Tu gemma sacerdotii, electe Dei confessor, Nicolae, cujus misericordia et pietati virum meum, me ipsam et res nostras commiseram, quare nos oblivioni dedisti? Quamobrem virum meum mihi non reddidisti?  Vere nunc, si maritum meum tibi commissum mihi non reddideris, nomini tuo amodo nec gloriam conferam, nec honorem.”

Haec et his similia postquam flendo dixerat, discessit, obvians sancto Nicolao. Cui sanctus his usus est verbis: “Quid fles?  cur lacrimis manas?” Cui dum mulier omnia sicut gesta erant seriatim exposuerat, a sancto Nicolao ducta est ad viri sui occisorem.

Quem electus Dei servus his aggreditur interrogationibus: “Dic mihi, miser, dic ubi sit maritus istius mulieris.”   Qui postquam juramentis multimodis affirmavit socium suum in praeteritae noctis crepusculo sanum et incolumem discessisse, egregius Dei amicus, invocato Creatoris coeli et terrae nomine, occisum admonuit ut, si in receptaculis illius hospitii occultatus fuisset, responsum non denegaret.   Mira res: vix sanctus sermonem finierat, cum lingua dilaniati corporis aperta voce se adesse respondit.  Cujus vocem vir Domini hilari corde percipiens, membra illius dilacerata sibi praesentari jussit; et invocata summi regis majestate, anima ad corpus rediit.

Quo viso, postquam electus Dei servus omnipotenti Deo dignas persolvit gratias, erectum virum uxori reddidit, dicens: “Ecce, per Dei misericordiam virum quem mihi commendasti tibi sanum reddo.” Unde mulier laetificata gratias egit sancto Nicolao et omnipotenti Deo, cui est honor et gloria in seculorum secula.

There were two merchant partners who, by visiting different countries and selling and buying, had amassed an infinite amount of money.  Then returning home, in the twilight of a certain night they were received with great joy in the lodgings of one of them.  And without delay, after receiving the welcome of food and drink, their tired bodies gave way to sleep.

Meanwhile, that ancient persecutor of the human race poured the poison of deception into a woman’s breast, to advise her lord to kill his partner secretly in the dead of night, in order that he alone may obtain the riches obtained by the labour of both.  While the perfidious woman repeatedly poured into the ears of the man, who at first refused, encouraging, admonishing, and imploring, he very quickly yielded to the suggestion of the ancient serpent of his malicious will. So like wolves the faithless savage ones cut the sleeping mild faithful one to pieces, indeed hiding the limbs in their inmost places, and concealing his immense wealth in the hidden places.

But in the morning the report filled the neighbourhood from all sides that one of them had returned with joy, but that the other was nowhere to be found. His wife, therefore, receiving this terrible news, attacked her husband’s companion as if mad, demanding where her husband had gone. But he, full of deceit, affirmed with many oaths that he had left his lodgings last night with a large sum of money, and that he had not seen him since.

But with these words the woman, as if she had been pierced by arrows, ran back to the statue of St. Nicholas, which she was accustomed to venerate, and, speaking with pain, burst into these words: “You jewel of the priesthood, chosen confessor of God, Nicholas, to whose mercy and piety I committed my husband, myself, and our affairs, why have you consigned us to forgetfulness?  Why did you not give me back my husband? Truly now, if you do not return to me my husband who was committed to you, I will give neither glory nor honor to your name.”

After she had said these and similar things, weeping, she departed, and met St. Nicholas. To whom the saint used these words: “Why do you weep? why do you shed tears?” While the woman seriously explained everything as it had happened to him, she was led by St. Nicholas to her husband’s murderer.

The chosen servant of God attacked him with these questions: “Tell me, wretch, tell me where that woman’s husband is.”  After he had affirmed by many oaths that his companion had departed safe and sound at the twilight of the previous night, the distinguished friend of God, invoking the name of the Creator of heaven and earth, commanded the murdered man, that if he was hidden in the hiding places of that lodging, he would not refuse to answer. A strange thing: scarcely had the saint finished speaking, when, with the tongue of his torn body, he answered in a clear voice that he was present.  The man of God, perceiving his voice with a joyful heart, commanded that his torn limbs should be presented to him; and being invoked by the majesty of the supreme king, the soul returned to the body.

When he saw this, after the chosen servant of God had paid the due thanks to Almighty God, he restored the husband to his wife, saying: “Behold, by the mercy of God I restore to you the man whom you entrusted to me.” Whereupon the woman, delighted, gave thanks to Saint Nicholas and to Almighty God, to whom be honour and glory forever and ever.

    *    *    *    *

This story reminded me of an anecdote.  There were once a pair of men who ran a shop.  While cashing up, one discovered that a customer had inadvertently given him two $50 notes stuck together instead of one.  This, he said to his son, meditatively, raised an important moral question: should he tell his business partner?  The answer of this honest merchant to his dilemma is not recorded.


Fact Check: Did Clement of Alexandria say that “Every woman should be overwhelmed with shame at the thought that she is a woman”?

An interesting query on yesterday’s post here:

I wanted to know if you know where that quote attributed to Clement of Alexandria “Every woman should be overwhelmed with shame at the thought that she is a woman” comes from? In fact, some indicate that this phrase comes from Clement’s book “pedagogue 2”, but when I went to look there I did not find this quote.

As far as I can tell, the latest translation of the Paedagogus or Instructor is the 19th century Ante-Nicene Fathers, online here.  This does not contain these words.

Lists of quotes designed to demonise always omit context, and often vary in wording and attribution.  Our quote is not different in this respect.  Some suggest that it comes from the Stromateis or Miscellanies book 3, but it does not.  It appears in somewhat varying forms around the web, such as “every woman should be filled with shame by the thought that she is a woman”.  A hate-article, “20 disgustingly misogynist quotes from religious leaders” – none of them Muslim, for some reason – at Salon, by a certain Valerie Tarico, Oct 15, 2014, (online here) gives it in this version, which is sometimes combined with the other:

[For women] the very consciousness of their own nature must evoke feelings of shame. —Saint Clement of Alexandria, Christian theologian (c150-215) Pedagogues II, 33, 2.

There are a number of books from India which reference Bertrand Russell as a source, such as this one.  But that book only references his smug tract in favour of adultery, Marriage and Morality (1929) – one feels for his poor abused wife – which does not contain any reference to Clement of Alexandria.

Rather more helpful is an article “Religion as the root of sexism” by a certain Barbara G. Walker, published at Freethought Today 28 (2011) and online here.

Clement of Alexandria said every woman should be filled with shame by the thought that she is a woman, and quoted Jesus’ words from the Gospel According to the Egyptians: “I have come to destroy the works of the female.”

The article notes:

Barbara G. Walker is author of the monumental feminist/freethought sourcebook The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets (1983). Her 20 other books, published by Harper & Row, include The Skeptical Feminist.

If you follow the reference (the same claim appears on p.921) and look up the sources, you are led back to R. Briffault, “The Mothers“, NY: MacMillan (1927) vol. 3, p.373, online here.  This does give a specific reference:

“Every woman,” says Clement of Alexandria, “ought to be filled with shame at the thought that she is a woman.” [4]

4.  Clement of Alexandria, Paedagogus, ii. 2,in Migne, op. cit., Series Graeca, vol. viii, col. 429.

I.e. Patrologia Graeca 8, col. 429.  This too does not contain the words given; but there is indeed something here, in Paedagogus, book 2, chapter 2, towards the end:

Image of PG8, col. 429, with relevant part highlighted

The Ante-Nicene Fathers translation (online here) gives this as follows:

For nothing disgraceful is proper for man, who is endowed with reason; much less for woman to whom it brings modesty even to reflect of what nature she is.

The subject is drunkenness, and how inappropriate it is for men or women.


οὐδεὶς γὰρ ψόφος οἰκεῖοσ ἀνδρὶ λογικῷ, ἔτι δὲ μᾶλλον γυναικί, ᾗ καὶ τὸ συνειδέναι αὐτὴν ἑαυτῇ, ἥτις εἴη μόνον, αἰσχύνην φέρει.

The Latin, and Google translate:

Nihil enim, quod probram affert et vituperationem, viro, qui ratione est praeditus, convenit, multo autem minus mulieri, cui vel ipsum cogitare quaenam sit, ei affert pudorem.

For nothing that brings shame and reproach is suitable for a man who is endowed with reason, but much less for a woman, to whom even to think what she is, brings her shame.

The Sources Chrétiennes 108 French translation (p.71), with Google translate:

2. Il ne convient pas de faire du bruit (en buvant), ni à un homme raisonnable , ni encore moins à une femme, à qui le fait d’avoir conscience elle-même de ce qu’elle est, suffit à inspirer de la pudeur.

2. It is not appropriate to make noise (while drinking), neither for a reasonable man, nor even less for a woman, to whom the fact of being aware of herself of what she is, is enough to inspire modesty.

Interestingly the Greek and French have section numbers.  The French edition is mainly a reprint of Stählin’s edition in the GCS series (GCS vol. 12, 1905), and this text is indeed found in section 33.2, just as in the Salon article.  Amusingly Stählin on p.lxxxiii of his edition mentions the numbering thus:

Die Seitenzahlen der Ausgaben Sylburgs und Potters stehen mit S und P am Rand, eine Tabelle mit den Seiten der Pariser Ausgabe (1629) wird am Schluß der Ausgabe beigegeben werden, da nach ihr noch immer häufig citiert wird. Die Paragrapheneinteilung von Klotz habe ich trotz ihrer Mängel beibehalten, um nicht die Verwirrung (oft wird Clemens in einem Buche auf dreierlei Art citiert) noch größer zu machen. Doch habe ich die großen Paragraphen in Unterabschnitte zerlegt. In der Ausgabe selbst ist stets darnach (mit Weglassung der Capitelzahlen) citiert.

The page numbers of Sylburg’s and Potter’s editions are given in the margin [of my edition], and a table with the page numbers of the Paris edition (1629) will be added at the end of the edition, since it is still frequently cited with them. I have retained Klotz’s division of paragraphs,  despite its shortcomings, so as not to create even more confusion (often Clemens is quoted in three ways in one book). But I have divided the major paragraphs into subsections. In the edition itself it is always cited thus (with omission of the chapter numbers).

The smaller subsections are convenient – the original “chapter 2” is very long – and Stählin’s “subsection” 33 is indeed where our text is found.

This passage of Clement, I think, is indeed the origin of our “quote”.

Exactly what Clement means here is not clear, for it is merely an aside.  It looks to me as if the context is noisy drunkenness; wrong for any rational man, and still more so for a woman precisely because she is a woman.  For nobody, in antiquity or now, wants to see a loud drunken slapper.

But it is quite possible that Clement did have the inferiority of women – a commonplace in antiquity – in mind.  He is writing to people in his own age, after all.  This was an age with much the same vices as our own.  But because everybody owned female slaves, these women were abused even worse than now.  Clement writes, as all the fathers do, to increase female self-respect and social standing, and they are not afraid to appeal to contemporary contempt for certain sorts of female behaviour.

Such nuances are not of interest to the polemicist, nor particularly to us.  Briffault seems to be one of those awful people in the early 20th century who, under pretence of science, sought to debauch the morals of society.   What we have here, I think, is Briffault “improving” the text in order to create a one-liner.  This he could then include in a hit-list of patristic sayings, designed to shock, in order to sway the reader to support his arguments for vice.  The other variants then arise as others “improve” it further to increase the impact.


Five miracle stories about St Nicholas

The medieval manuscripts that contain the Life of St Nicholas almost always continue with a mass of miracle stories about the saint.  The 1751 pre-critical edition by Falconius does the same.  The genuine Life by John the Deacon ends with his “chapter 13” – the numbering is his – but there are more chapters.  Anybody who looks at the manuscripts will find this mass of stuff on the end, which frankly adds very little.  C. W. Jones, in his book on the legends of the saint, dismisses it in a  sentence.

Since I scanned Falconius, I thought I would scan up to the end.  This would give me a file with the additional material in it.  When working with the manuscripts, you can get lost, and it can be  very helpful to do “Ctrl-F” on some wording and find out where you are.

Just for fun, I then pushed each chapter in turn through Google Translate, to get an idea of the content.  I was amazed – once again – at the quality of the translation.  I did the same with Falconius’ increasingly sarcastic footnotes.

I won’t do much more with this.  It is just a means to an end.  But nobody ever does anything with this stuff, as far as I can see.  So I thought that I would share the contents here.  I’ve not troubled to correct the translation much, so it’s more or less as it came out.  Of course if you see an obvious error, do signal it in the comments and I will fix it.

The effort was valuable in another way.  We can get an idea of just how carefully Falconius worked on his edition.  How?  Well, from the fact that he misnumbered his own chapters.  There really are *two* chapters  marked “XVII”, “17”!  Not good.

I’ve added the BHL numbers for each text (=Bibliographia Hagiographica Latina, the index of all saints’ lives).  I also went and looked at the earliest manuscript, Paris BNF lat. 989 (10th century) for the places where Falconius indicated uncertainty.

    *    *    *    *

The start of the first story in Paris BNF 989, fol. 91v.

[BHL 6150]  XIV. (a) Quodam itaque tempore, advenit quadam mulier, de vico qui dicitur Cyparissus, ad sanctissimam domum Archangeli, qui vocatur Croba, ubi erat sanctus Nicolaus. Haec adtulit filium suum, quem iniquissimus daemon ita vexabat crudeliter ut etiam vestimentum, quo induebatur, dentibus laceraret. Quem projecit ad pedes sancti Nicolai, flens et dicens, “Miserere serve Dei huic misello filio meo, quia fortiter vexatur a daemonio.” Pietate autem ductus, sanctus Dei famulus super eum apprehendit manum ejus, et insuper flavit in ore illius. Statimque, divina virtute et beati Nicolai meritis emundatus, immundus ab eo evanuit spiritus, sanusque ad propria, cum matre sua exsultans, reversus est.

(a) Has lectiones, & 18, non Johannes Diaconus, sed alius ex Actis antiquis consarcinavit cap. 30. ipso seculo decimo, vel undecimo (quod est verisimilius) qui, ad usum Ecclesiae Neapolitanae, Diaconum in lectiones redegit.

At a certain time, there came a certain woman, from a town called Cyparissus, to the most holy house of the Archangel, called Croba, where St. Nicholas was. She brought her son, whom the most wicked demon was tormenting so cruelly that he even tore the clothes which he was wearing with his teeth. She laid him at the feet of St. Nicholas, weeping and saying, “Have mercy on this poor son of mine, servant of God, because he is strongly tormented by a demon.” But led by piety, the holy servant of God took hold of his hand over him, and, moreover, blew into his mouth. And at once, cleansed by the divine power and by the merits of the blessed Nicholas, the unclean spirit disappeared from him, and in good health he returned, rejoicing with his mother, to his home.

(a). These readings, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18, are not by John the Deacon, but were stitched on the end from some earlier Acts, ch. 30, by someone else, of the 10th or (more likely) 11th century, who arranged John’s text into readings according to the usage of the Neapolitan church.

The BHLMS lists 49 manuscripts of this story.

[BHL 6151] XV. Rursus autem alio tempore, altera mulier, de vico Neapoleos (b), ab immundo Spiritu graviter torquebatur. Quam assumens vir ejus, adduxit ad monasterium Viri Dei, ubi ipse tunc temporis morabatur (c), et projecit eam ad pedes beati Nicolai, dicens, “Sancte Dei, succurre huic mulieri miserae, quae graviter torquetur a daemonio.” Sanctus autem Dei Nicolaus, mox, ut orationem fudit pro ea ad Dominum, immundum ab ea pepulit Spiritum, et sana effecta, abiit in domum suam, glorificans Deum,et sanctam Sion. Hoc erat vocabulum monasterii Sancti Nicolai: id est Sancta Hierusalem.

(b) Haec sumpta est ex fine cap. 29.  Sed ibi pro Neapoli est Nicapo.

(c) Sic saltat foveam homo cautus.  Ubi modo est, ille Myrensis Archiepiscopus Nicolaus?

Then again, at another time, another woman, from the village of Naples,(b) was severely tormented by an unclean spirit. Her husband picked her up and brought her to the monastery of the Man of God, where at that time he was staying, and laid her at the feet of blessed Nicholas, saying, “Saint of God, help this poor woman, who is severely tormented by a demon.” Then Nicholas, the saint of God, immediately, as he poured out a prayer for her to the Lord, drove away the impure spirit from her, and being healed, she went to her house, glorifying God and Holy Sion. This was the name of the monastery of St. Nicholas: that is, “Holy Jerusalem”.

(b) This is taken from the end of ch. 29. But there for “Neapoli” it reads “Nicapo”.

(c) Thus a cautious man leaps over a pitfall. In what way is this about Archbishop Nicolaus of Myra?

The BHLMS lists 48 manuscripts of this story.  The oldest is BNF 989 (10th c.) which reads “Necapoleos”.

[BHL 6152] XVI. Venit quidam homo ad Sanctam Sion, nomine Nicolaus, de vico Sibino, (d) tempore Sancti Jejunii. Hic adduxit quendam infirmum, super animali sedentem, ad Sanctum Nicolaum, ut saluti eum pristinae redderet. Erat autem homo ille toto exsiccatus corpore, ab ea aegritudine, quae Graeco vocabulo, “paralysis”, Latine vero “resolutio membrorum” dicitur. Quem in conspectu viri Dei, in terram projiciens, obsecrat dicens, “Nicolae vir Dei, pro isto misello homine interveni, quatenus per tuas sanctas orationes propitietur ei Deus.” Cujus infirmitati, plurimum vir Dei condolens Nicolaus, assumpto oleo de dominica lampade, perunxit eum. Inde autem facta super eum oratione, illico eum pristinae reddidit sanitati. Benedictioneque percepta, reversus est ad domum suam, gratias agens glorificans Deum.

(d) Ex eodem cap. 30. sumpta.

A certain man, named Nicolaus, from the town of Sibinum,(d) came to Holy Sion at the time of Holy Lent. Here he brought a certain sick man, sitting on an animal, to St. Nicholas, that he might restore him to his former health. Now that man was withered throughout his body, from that sickness which in the Greek word is “paralysis”, but in Latin is called “the dissolution of the limbs”.  In the presence of the man of God, laying him on the ground, he beseeched him, saying, “Nicholas, man of God, intercede for this poor man, inasmuch as through your holy prayers God may be propitiated for him.” Nicholas, the man of God, sympathizing greatly with his infirmity, took oil from the Lord’s lamp and anointed him. Then, after a prayer was made over him, he immediately restored him to his former health. Having received the blessing, he returned to his house, giving thanks and glorifying God.

(d) Taken from the same ch. 30.

The BHLMS lists 47 manuscripts of this story.  BNF lat. 989 = “Sivino”.

[BHL 6153] XVII. Nec multo post, quidam energumenus, de vico Cendino (e); cui nomen erat Timotheus, adductus est in Monasterium Sanctae Sion, ad famulum Dei Nicolaum. Habebat enim homo ille spiritum pessimum, qui ita eum exagitabat, ut, per ligna et lapides, hinc et inde, caput suum percutiendo contunderet. Unde factum est, ut de creberrimis percussionibus, plagis horridis, caput vulneratum haberet, ita ut etiam sanies cum vermibus proflueret. Sustentatus itaque a tribus viris, perductus est, ut diximus, in Sanctam Sion, ad sanctissimum Dei famulum Nicolaum: Quem etiam orabant, ut suis eum curare precibus dignaretur. Inquiunt: “Nicolae serve Dei excelsi, conspice miseriam hominis hujus; ora pro eo ad Deum, ut possit evadere, et Christi consequi misericordiam.” Quem Sanctus Nicolaus, propriis consignans manibus; daemonium ab eo expulit, et ab omni aegritudine liberavit, et sanum et incolumem remisit ad propria: gaudens et glorificans Deum, qui hanc confessori suo, gratiam contulerat Nicolao.

(e) Et haec ex eodem cap. 30. sumpta est.  Sed pro “Cendino”, ibi est “Cedemorum”.  Num proprium sit “Cendenum”?

17.1. Not long after, a certain strong man, from the town of Cendinum,(e) whose name was Timotheus, was brought to the monastery of Holy Sion, to the servant of God Nicholas. For that man had a very bad spirit, which so agitated him, that he was bruising his head from side to side with sticks and stones. As a result he had a wounded head from the frequent knocks and terrible blows and it was oozing pus and worms. Supported therefore by three men, he was led, as we have said, to Holy Sion, to the most holy servant of God, Nicholas: whom they also begged, that he might condescend to cure him with his prayers. They said, “Nicholas, servant of God on high, behold the misery of this man; pray for him to God, that he may escape, and obtain the mercy of Christ.” St. Nicholas, sealing him with his own hands, cast out the demon from him, and freed him from all sickness, and sent him back to his own home, safe and sound, rejoicing and glorifying God, who had bestowed this favour upon his confessor, Nicholas.

(e) And these things were taken from the same ch. 30. But instead of “Cendino” this reads “Cedemorum”.  Possibly the correct reading is “Cendenum”?

The BHLMS lists 50 manuscripts of this story.  BNF 989 = “Cendino”.

[BHL 6154]  XVII. Cum igitur his, et aliis pluribus miraculis, ac virtutibus beatissimus floreret Nicolaus, decidit in aegritudinem, de qua, ex hac instabili luce subtractus est. Qui cum jaceret in grabatu; accessit ad eum quaedam mulier lunatica, de vico Olcon (f); cujus nomen erat Eugenia. Quae eum exorabat, ut sibi conferre dignaretur sanitatis gaudia.  Cujus precibus beatus Nicolaus annuens; pro ea fudit orationem ad Dominum. Deinde signavit eam: sicque sanitatem, quam optabat consequi; adipisci promeruit. Remeans ergo mulier ad propria; sana et incolumis, magnifice collaudavit Dominum Jesum Christum; qui in Sanctis suis, semper est mirabilis.

(f) Haec etiam ex Actis sumpta est cap. 31.

17.2.  Therefore, while the most blessed Nicholas was flourishing with these and many other miracles and virtues, he fell into an illness, because of which he was withdrawn from this unstable light. When he was lying on a pallet, a certain lunatic woman came to him, from the town of Olcon (f), whose name was Eugenia. She entreated him to condescend to confer upon her the joys of health. Blessed Nicholas, assenting to her prayers, poured out a prayer for her to the Lord. Then he signed her [with the cross], and so succeeded in securing the health which she wished to obtain. The woman, therefore, returning to her own home, safe and sound, praised the Lord Jesus Christ magnificently, who is always wonderful in His Saints.

(f) This is also taken from those Acts ch. 31.

The BHLMS lists 59 manuscripts of this story.

    *    *    *    *

There are many more tales of this sort.  I shall look at some more.


Happy New Year

A very happy new year to you all!

This year I intend to continue looking at the Latin text of the legends of St Nicholas, and comparing the manuscripts.  I don’t know what will be the end goal of this, but I’m enjoying doing it.  At the moment I am still collecting and making PDFs of manuscripts.

I usually write a post whenever I feel like it.  Last year, for the first time ever, I committed to a monthly post from the Chronography of 354.  Unfortunately , during the year, quite a lot of things happened in my life that were not very good.  Writing those posts swiftly became a burden.  I shall not make that mistake this year.  It’s back to writing about whatever!


Learning by doing again – Recensio part 6

I’ve now collated my Latin text – all 6 sentences of it – with 2 early editions and 24 manuscripts.  I have at least another 6-10 manuscripts accessible to me to collate.

As I thought, this is a case where you have to learn by doing.  You have to attempt to collate the text and manuscripts, somehow, anyhow, just guessing how, in order to learn how to do it, and how not to do it.  Then you go back and do it properly.

I’d like to record a couple of things which are emerging from my first pass.

Point 1.  Don’t alter your “base text” in mid-collate.  If you do, the early parts of your collation become uncertain.

The “base text” does not matter at all.  It is NOT your final text.  Rather it is some “textus receptus” that you found in a crummy early edition.  It’s a random text.  But…. it’s the text against which you collate.  Unless you want to record every word of every witness, you have to have something where your silence says “the text at this point in the manuscript is the same as the ‘base text'”.

I have indeed made this mistake already.  What I should have done is have another line, which is my proposed text.  That I could alter as I choose.

Point 2.  Expect to collate more than once.

When you start, you don’t know how the text varies.  You don’t know if it varies only in individual words, or if whole chunks are involved. So take this part of the text:

favet**, credite mihi, favet nostrae devotioni.

Now you have to compile your collation using a) the word or phrase, followed by b) the manuscript shelfmark.  Doing it the other way doesn’t work for more than about three manuscripts.  So you gaily put something like this:

favet – Angers 802, Arras 462, Milan P113supp

and you mark which “favet” in the base text.

But as you proceed, you find that you’ve goofed.  You should have recorded both “favet”s separately.  Your notes start to change, until you reach something like this:

REDO THE WHOLE THING “favet, credite mihi, favet” (he favours) – Mom.; erased BNF 2627, Fal., Angers 802, Arras 462, Milan P113supp, BNF 1864; BNF 5287, BNF 5296C, BNF 5344  RECHECK, BNF 5573, BNF 11750, BNF 12600, Saint-Omer 715
“adjuvat credite michi et favet” – BNF 5284, BNF 5345
“adjuvat…adjuvat” – BNF 5360, BNF 5607, BNF 18303, BNF NAL 2335, Rouen 1383
“adjuvat” (=he helps) – Wien ONB 12831 (15th), Orleans 342, BNF 989 RECHECK

The unit of variation isn’t the individual “favet” but the pair favet…favet.  There are four possible combinations of “favet” and “adjuvat“.  You’ve got to record this part of the text differently.  You would have done it differently from the start, had you known.  You’re going to have to go back to the first few manuscripts and see how they look against what you now know about the variability of the text.

So… your first pass through the collation process is really just a means to learn what the “units of variation” are.

Point 3.  Note down any cases that explain a divergence of reading.

I’ve been wondering why I have variations between “expectet” and “expectat“.  But I have now come across the practice of writing “expectet” as “expect&“.  That abbreviation at the end, in some versions of book hand, looks almost identical to a lower-case “a” with a “t” right against it.  So that by itself explains the “at” variant.

Likewise, as we saw in a previous post, in Beneventan minuscule I was really uncertain what the word was.  It looked to me like “notata“.  But someone who knew the hand told me it was “nacta“.  The collation shows that these are the two main variants of the text at that point.  Conclusion?  An early ancestor of every manuscript of the “notata” family was written in a Beneventan book hand, and the scribe misread it – just as I did – when he made a copy in Carolingian book hand.  The text was composed in Naples, so the existence of such a copy in Beneventan is almost inevitable.

I’ve also noted that some manuscripts use the Tironian symbol for “et” (=”and”).  Usefully there is a unicode character for it: ““.  When the “” is faint and narrow – and it often looks just like the lower portion of an “i” -, then the scribe may simply not see it.  It can quite easily be mistaken for text on the other side of the leaf.  I found myself looking twice, in one manuscript.  So the presence or absence of an “et” is not necessarily significant.

Point 4.  The early editions are bad stuff.  The editors have introduced changes which are not found in any manuscript, and seem entirely unnecessary.

I have not, of course, examined every manuscript.  But I’ve looked at rather a lot now.  There is a consistent pattern of differences, between the manuscripts on the one hand, and both of the early editions (in different places) on the other.  I know that people tend to assume that the editors just printed what they had before them.  I am less sure of this now.

I’m going to carry on with the collate, and process the remaining half-dozen manuscripts into the working document.  But once I reach the end, I will do it all again; except that this time, I know what to look for.


The fragile world of online research tools

It’s after lunch on a rainy Saturday, the central heating is on, and it’s New Year’s Eve.  I have my can of diet coke and some crisps.  Time to download and collate some more manuscripts of John the Deacon!

First, off to the Bollandists site, the BHLms, here, to find out which manuscripts are next in the list.  Then to the Bibliothèque Nationale Français site to find them!

But what is this!?!  Aaargh!  Woe!  Eheu!

The front page is up, but clicking on “Recherche” gives an error message!  It’s not there.

What now?  Panic panic!

There’s an email address on the bottom of the front page.  Together with a “last updated 1998” (!)  I don’t have a good feeling about this.  I email anyway.  It bounces.

I go to the Bollandists main site and send an email.  No reply.  They’re probably busy monking out or something.  No doubt the site is actually maintained by some underpaid Belgian who’s off for the weekend.

I try again at the BHLms site.  This time I get the sign-in page!  But it just spins after that, then gives a 500.  The database is probably down.

I have a directory of manuscripts.  Luckily for me, I did a copy and paste of the results for BHL 6108 and stuck it in a Word document.  Phew!  I am saved!  I can proceed.

But what if I had not?  My work would have been completely stopped.

The world-wide web is a fragile,ephemeral thing.  When we rely on tools which are online only, we rely on the continued perfect functioning of the most complex and fragile machine in human history.  All it takes is a power outage and it is gone.

“The Cloud” is just a marketing lie.  There is no “Cloud”.  There is just a bunch of computers in a room somewhere, owned by someone else, with a  power supply and a network connection.  That’s it.  It is madness to rely upon this.  Especially in days when the most powerful people seem determined to ensure that there is not enough power to sustain society.

Update: it is now back. Clearly there is an automatic script to restart these things.  But… it’s a warning.


A translation query in Augustine’s “Treatise against the Jews”

I received today an interesting query about an old post from 2015 in which I give an English translation of Augustine’s Adversus Judaeos.  This involves some looking up, so I thought I would blog about it.

Daniel Boyarin’s “Carnal Israel”  begins with a brief quote from Augustine’s Tractatus adversus Judaeos, (vii, 9)  which reads as follows:

‘Behold Israel according to the flesh’ (1 Cor. 10:18). This we know to be the carnal Israel; but the Jews do not grasp this meaning and as a result the prove themselves indisputably carnal.

You translate these verses differently:

‘Behold Israel according to the flesh,’ we know to be the natural Israel; but the Jews do not grasp this meaning and as a result they prove themselves indisputably natural.

I understand carnal and natural to be similar words, but with very different connotations.

The full title of the book is Carnal Israel: Reading Sex in Talmudic Culture, and there is a preview here.  I could not discover where Mr. Boyarin got his translation, but it appears at the very start of his book and he needs the meaning of “carnal” here.

The words that I reproduced in  my post are those of the Fathers of the Church series translator, p.402-3.  I modified this only to remove “thee” and “thou” in a couple of places.  Here it is, with a bit of context.

We know, of course, the spiritual Israel about which the Apostle says: ‘And whoever follows this rule, peace and mercy upon them, even upon the Israel of God.’ The Israel, however, about which the Apostle says: ‘Behold Israel according to the flesh,’ we know to be the natural Israel; but the Jews do not grasp this meaning and as a result they prove themselves indisputably natural.

The first place to start is with the Latin, which is online here.  The translation has altered the chapter divisions (drat them), but indicated the Patrologia Latina division, which is chapter 9.

Novimus quidem Israel spiritualem, de quo dicit Apostolus, Et quicumque hanc regulam sequuntur, pax super illos et misericordia, et super Israel Dei (Galal. vi, 16): istum autem Israel scimus esse carnalem, de quo idem dicit, Videte Israel secundum carnem (I Cor. x, 18). Sed ista isti non capiunt, et eo se ipsos carnales esse convincunt.

The next place to look is at the bible text referenced, in the Latin.  This is online here.  Augustine would most likely have used an Old Latin text rather than the Vulgate, but they probably did not differ here.

18 Videte Israel secundum carnem: nonne qui edunt hostias, participes sunt altaris?

18 Behold Israel according to the flesh: are not they, that eat of the sacrifices, partakers of the altar?

We may as well have the Greek also:

18 βλέπετε τὸν Ἰσραὴλ κατὰ σάρκα· [a]οὐχ οἱ ἐσθίοντες τὰς θυσίας κοινωνοὶ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου εἰσίν;

It’s a little hard to translate that first phrase, especially without paraphrasing.   I was a little surprised to see that modern versions like the NIV, NRSV and even the ESV simply fail to translate κατὰ σάρκα.  The KJV (and of course the Douai) do translate it.  I confess that this omission seems worrying to me.

The passage in 1 Corinthians is talking about idolatry.  If you take part in a heathen sacrifice, you become part of the worship.  As part of this, Paul uses the analogy of an ordinary observant non-Christian Jew, sacrificing at the temple, who becomes part of that worship.  So the sense is about Jew versus Christian here.

Based on this, I can respond to the original query.  Both “natural” and “carnal” have the same meaning here – ordinary, worldly, not someone who has become a Christian and lives by the Holy Spirit and obeys His commandments.  But in our age of pornography, I think “carnal” today has gained a meaning which is not intended here, of worldly vices and indulgence.

So I can see why the 1950s translator decided to avoid it, to avoid that conclusion.  It may also be that in 1950s America it was difficult to use in print a word that might seem anti-semitic.


A discontinued edition of Chrysostom’s “Adversus Judaeos”

There’s a fascinating blog post this morning from Guillaume Bady at the Chrysostom blog:  L’édition interrompue des Sermons contre les juifs et les judaïsants de Jean Chrysostome.  Using Google Translate:

The discontinued edition of John Chrysostom’s Sermons Against the Jews and Judaizers

Published on December 26, 2022 by Guillaume Bady

The edition of Sermons against the Jews and Judaizers for Christian Sources has been interrupted for many years, in particular because the collations of the manuscripts have been lost due to the irretrievably obsolete format of the files which contained them. Taking note of this lasting interruption, Rudolf Brändle, who is at the origin of the company, wanted the work already done, if not publishable, to be formatted and put at least in a certain way to available to researchers.

At the request of R. Brändle, I therefore composed the Sermons in a volume of 670 pages and had 10 copies printed for the authors (R. Brändle, Wendy Pradels and Martin Heimgartner). R. Brändle has deposited a copy in the Basel University Library (in the fund that bears his name) and I have deposited another in that of Christian Sources.

The 670 pages include a foreword and the general introduction by R. Brändle, several chapters by M. Heimgartner and W. Pradels, the introduction to the history of the text by W. Pradels, a bibliography (all these elements going up to p. 200), and, also by W. Pradels, a new Greek text made on the basis of collations that have unfortunately disappeared, and a working translation with minimal annotation.

There’s more at the link.

I wonder what happened here.  It sounds as if electronic materials have become corrupted, or something of the kind.  If so, this is a major disaster, and a warning to us all.

Dr Brändle has done rightly in taking steps to preserve the work done.  But what a disaster!  To get so far, but no further!

I wonder if the team could be persuaded to release a PDF of the file to the world?


Merry Christmas, everyone!

It is Christmas Eve.  A silence falls across the land.  All the shops are shut, and the sound of the motorcar falls silent at  last.  Those rushing to and fro are at home around the Christmas tree.

Some have gone to sing carols at the village church.  Others are with them in spirit, if not in body.

Tomorrow is Christmas Day.  Let us remember it, and honour it.

Merry Christmas to all my readers!  May you find blessing.


Learning by Making a Collation – Recensio part 5

I’ve commented before on “learning by doing”, how you have to actually attempt something in order, not to do it, but to find out how to do it.  You never get it right first time, because when you make your first attempt, what you’re actually learning is how not to do it.  When you try again, you know what to avoid.  Here are some notes from my experiences.

A few days ago, I changed tack, more or less by accident.  Chapters 14 and 15 of John the Deacon’s Life of St Nicholas – in the early editions – are clearly spurious, and I’ve neglected them.  But I started work on John’s text with chapter 15, because it was only half-a-dozen sentences.  A year on, rather guiltily, I thought that I should return to it, and apply the lessons learned over the year to the translation.

Inevitably I used my machine-generated collation of the two early editions, and noted the variants; and then, equally inevitably, I started using the PDFs of the manuscripts that I have on disk.

Because this “chapter” is not actually authentic, the lessons learned about the manuscripts may not apply to the genuine portions of the text.  But never mind.

Because the text is so short, I felt able to collate the whole chapter.  This was rather a good thing, because you could do so much more, and you felt much more positive about the experience.  You could feel the wind in your hair.  You really could collate all the manuscripts; although your apparatus swiftly got very big!

Angers BM 802 - the start of the text

Here’s the first sentence.  I’m only 16 manuscripts and 2 editions into the task:

Laetemur ergo**, carissimi, laetemur in domino, et diem** festum sancti Nicolai** salubriter ** celebremus**, quoniam si nos ille concorditer festivos** inspexerit, favet, credite mihi, favet** nostrae devotioni.**

Let us, then, rejoice in the Lord, dearest friends, let us rejoice, and celebrate wholesomely the feast-day of Saint Nicholas, for, whether he examines** our festive selves amicably, he favours, believe me, he favours our devotion.**

** FUTP – hidden future.
** favet takes dative

Now here’s a look at my working notes for the apparatus so far.  Note that I quickly found that you absolutely must have each variant on a separate line, variant first, witnesses later.  This bulked up the stuff quite a bit.

** “in domino et” — Mom., Angers, Milan P113supp, Arras 462, BNF 989, BNF 2627, BNF 5287, BNF 5344, BNF 5360
“in domino” (omits “et”) — Orleans 342 (a space, tho)
“in domino ut” – BNF 1864, BNF 5296C
“Laetamur ergo in domine carissimi” – Fal.
“Laetamur ergo fratres karissimi laetamur in domino” – BNF 5573
“Laetamur itaque fratres karissimi laetamur omnes in domino et diem festum sanctissimum nicholai devotis mentibus celebremus: quia si nos concordes conspexerit sue intesse festivitati? adjuvat credite michi et favet nostrae devotioni” – BNF 5284,  BNF 5345 are an abbreviated version of the text.
** “diem”: Mom., default
“dum” – Fal.;
“venerabile” – Orleans 342; BNF 989;
“hunc venerabile” – BNF 5360
“diem venerabilem” – BNF 5607
** “festum sancti Nicolai” – Mom., default.
“festum sanctissimi patroni et pastoris nostri Nicolai… more text … celebremus” – BNF 5287.  Seems to be text added to create a pattern on page.
“festum venerabilem sanctissimi viri nicholai” – BNF 5344
** “salubriter” – Mom., default.
“solenniter” (solemnly) – Fal.
** “celebramus” – Mom, Fal;  OTHERS?
“celebremus” – check all mss viewed before BNF 2627
“celebremus” — BNF 2627, BNF 5284, BNF 5287, BNF 5296C, BNF 5344, BNF 5345, BNF 5360, BNF 5573, BNF 5607
** “festinos” – Mom. (checked against PDF);
“festivos” – Fal.,  default.
**  (REDO) “favet, credite mihi, favet” – Mom.; erased BNF 2627, Fal., Angers 802, Arras 462, Milan P113supp, BNF 1864; BNF 5287, BNF 5296C, BNF 5344  RECHECK, BNF 5573
“adjuvat credite michi et favet” – BNF 5284, BNF 5345
“adjuvat…adjuvat” – BNF 5360, BNF 5607
“adjuvat” (helps) – Wien ONB 12831 (15th), Orleans 342, BNF 989
** “devotioni” – Mom. Fal., etc; – treat as default, signal only others.
“devotionem” – Orleans 342, BNF 5607
“devotion3” – BNF 1864

You’ll note that I write “default” in places.  Originally I started out indicating every variation, other than minor word order stuff, for every manuscript.  I ended up with huge long lines of witnesses.

After a while I decided to erase the biggest list, where the others were just one or two witnesses, and replace it with “default”.  It doesn’t mean that I am going to accept that reading, just that I will only signal deviations from it.  This is just to reduce the sheer bulk.  I’m still not sure that I did right here.  It conceals just how many witnesses there are for each reading.

In some cases I misunderstood what the “unit of variation” is.  So initially I noted “favet” as the variant; only to find that the whole phrase varies, from “favet, credite mihi, favet” (“he favours, believe me, he favours…”) in all sorts of ways.  Either or both “favet” can be replaced with “adjuvat” (helps), and other words can appear.  When I found this, I realised that I would need to recollate for this phrase, rather than the note that I put originally just on “favet”.

Here we get the same old lesson.  The first time through is just a trial run.  You don’t know what you need to look out for until you’ve finished, at which point you will need to redo portions of it.  You can’t just collate the text once.

In this case the “variation unit” was larger than one word.  I’ve had three or four places, so far, in which I have discovered this only after a dozen manuscripts have been collated.  Of course I can’t be sure if I looked that closely at the other words in the newly enlarged phrase, so I’ll have to go back and redo.

In some cases, I only noticed later.  I didn’t notice that “celebramus” varied until I was well in.  So of course I wasn’t really looking for it in the early manuscripts.

In some cases I just could not read the manuscript.  So I made a note, and carried on.  Maybe it would become intelligible later.

This did indeed happen in one place yesterday.  The day before there was a mysterious word inserted in one place, that I couldn’t even read – 5 letters, following “NIcholaus”.  But later that day I came across a manuscript with a different variant – “Nicholaus mirreorum litie”.  Even that was baffling, until I realised it said “Nicholas of Myra in Lycia”!  The baffling word “litie” was “Lyciae” with a medieval twist.  Ho hum.

As you actually write the collation, you become uncomfortably aware of how subjective it is.  You always ignore clutter.  So… again, once you have your draft collation, you will need to go back and try again.

I’m doing all this to prepare a translation, so it is helpful to add the English meaning of the alternatives sometimes.

I have 53 manuscripts on disk, and the number is growing all the time, thanks to the wonderful, wonderful accessibility of the manuscripts held at the Bibliothèque Nationale Français in Paris.  You can find almost anything by shelfmark starting from here, although some are still microfilms.  The monochrome versions are harder to work with, when you are navigating around the text, looking for a “Laetamur”.  The medieval scribes used colour to indicate the start of paragraphs, which is a big help for the eyes.  Without it, you can miss your bit in the mass of apocryphal miracle stories.

What I do is go to the Bollandists site, the Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Online.  My text is BHL 6108, so I search for that, and display the list of manuscripts by “fond”, i.e. the library holding it.   And once you hit “Paris, BNF lat. 12345”, you’re in easy street.  The BHLO will tell you the folio numbers.  Well, I keep another tab open with the BNF entry point, go and find it, display the manuscript, download it, and mark up the folios I want in the PDF.  (I sort of wish that I could contribute my markers back to the BNF site, but of course you can’t.)  Once I’ve found the “Laetamur, karissimi, laetamur” bit, I can then collate it against my working file.

That’s what I’ve been doing, and, actually, it’s rather fun!

I’ve still got quite a few BNF manuscripts to go.  Not all of them actually contain my text – the BHLO is not 100% accurate.

French manuscripts are generally rather accessible.  The IRHT website helps you find non-Paris manuscripts.  Outside of France it is hit and miss.  The accessibility of English manuscripts is a disgrace.  American manuscripts are few, but not much better.  Italian manuscripts, other than those in the Vatican, are generally not online.  The Vatican ones would be much, much more helpful, if you could download them, but at least most of them are there.  Still, in five years I imagine this will improve out of all recognition.

As ever, I hope these notes will be useful to people coming to collate a text for the first time.  The first time, you’re just working out where everything is.  Your second pass is the real thing.