Bar Hebraeus, Abd al-Latif, and the destruction of the library of Alexandria

I’m trying to find some specific sources for the claim that the Caliph Omar ordered the burning of the library at Alexandria.   Yesterday we looked at Abd al-Latif.  The source most commonly quoted is Gregory Bar Hebraeus, also known as Abu’l Faraj, writing in the 13th century.  He was the last great writer of Syriac.

Bar Hebraeus wrote two histories in Syriac; the Chronicum Syriacum, and the Chronicum Ecclesiasticum.  The former is more or less a world history, and was translated by E. Wallis Budge.  The latter is a list of ecclesiastics, of both the west and east Syriac churches, and has only been translated into Latin. 

Late in life, however, he produced a history in Arabic, which was extracted and translated from the Chronicum Syriacum, with additions specific to the Arabic version.  Excerpts from this were printed in Latin translation by the 17th century orientalist, Edward Pococke, in 1650, (an 1806 reprint is here) [1] and then the Arabic text with a Latin translation of the whole by the same editor in 1663 under the title Historia Compendiosa Dynastiarum [2].

In the 1650 text, on p.170-171 he quotes Bar Hebraeus.  But I find that I have a PDF of the 1663 edition, and so I have transcribed the Latin from it.  The following text is on p.114 (p.66 of the PDF).  I would guess that the PDF comes from the Early English Books Online (or EEBO) database, accessible only behind a paywall, but I don’t know.  I would guess that the volume also included the Arabic, which explains a page number of 181; but I don’t seem to have this.


Porro hoc tempore claruit inter Muslemios Johannes, quem vocamus nos Grammaticum, qui Alexandrinus fuit, fidemque Christianorum Jacobiticorum professus Severi doctrinam adstruebat, deinde recessit ab eo quod profitentur Christiani de Trinitate; quare convenientes eum Episcopi in urbe Metsra rogarunt, ut ab eo quod [profitebatur] rediret; cumque redire nollet, eum de gradu suo dejecerunt.  Vixitque donec caperet Amrus Ebno’lAs Alexandriam, et ad Amrum, accessit; qui, cognito quem  inscientiis locum teneret, honore ipsum affecit, audiitque de sermonibus eius Philosophicis, quibus assueti non fuerant Arabes, quod eum a stuporem redigeret, quoque percelleretur.  Fuit autem Amrus intellectu praeditus, ad res percipiendas promptus, conceptibus claris, adhaesit ergo illi, neque ab eo discessit.  Deine die quodam dixit illi Johannes, “Circumvisti tu omnia Alexandriae repositoria, omniaque rerum genera quae in iis reperiuntur obsignasti; quod ad illa igitur, quae  tibi profutura sint, nolo tibi contradicere, at quae nulli tibi usui futura sunt, nobis potius convenient.”  Dixit illi Amrus, “Quid est quo opus tibi sic,” dixit illi;  [p.181] “Libri Philosophici, qui in Gazophylaciis [Bibliothecis] Regiis reperiuntur.”  “Hoc,” inquit Amrus, “est de quo statuere, non possum. Illud [petis] de quo ego quid in mandatis dare non possum, nisi post veniam ab Imperatore fidelium Omaro Ebno’lchatsab impetratam.”  Scriptis ergo ad Omarum literis, notum ei fecit, quid dixisset Johannes, perlataeque sunt ad ipsum ab Omaro literae, in quibus scripsit,  “Quod ad libros quorum mentionem fecisti: si in illis contineatur, quod cum libro Dei conveniat, in libro Dei [est] quod sufficiat absque illo; quod si in illis fuerit quod libro Dei repugnet, neutiquam est eo [nobis] opus, jube igitur e medio tolli.”    Jussit ergo Amrus Ebno’lAs dispergi eos per balnea Alexandriae, atque illis calefaciendis comburi;  ita spatio semestri consumpti sunt.  Audi quid factum fuerit et mirare.  E medicis autem qui hoc tempore floruerunt fuit Paulus Aeginata Medicus, suo tempore celebris: …

I do not guarantee the accuracy of the above, from the wretched PDF.  But it more or less corresponds to the following translation I found online at an Islamic site here.  I have resisted the urge to tidy it up, as this probably originates from the Arabic text rather than the Latin above.

In those days Yahya al-Nahwi, who was known as Grammaticus in our language, enjoyed fame among Arabs. He was a resident of Alexandria and a Jacobite Christian who ascribed to the Savari (?) creed. In his last days he renounced the Christian faith, and all Christian scholars of Egypt gathered around him and advised him to recant, but he did not. When the scholars were disappointed they stripped him of all the offices that he held. He lived in that condition until Amr ibn al As (the Muslim commander of the army conquering Egypt) entered Egypt.

One day Yahya went to see him. Amr came to know about his learning and scholarship and he paid him great respect. He began a discourse on philosophical issues which were unknown to Arabs: His speech made a deep impression on Amr and he became fond of him. As Amr was an intelligent, wise and thoughtful man, he made Yahyaa his companion, never parting his company.

One day Yahya said to Amr, “Whatever there is in Alexandria is in your control. As to things that are useful for you we have nothing to do with them, but as to those which you may not need, my request is that you favour us by putting them at our disposal, for we deserve them more than anyone else.” Amr asked him what they were. He said: “They are the books on wisdom and philosophy that are stored in the state library”

Amr replied that he could not decide the matter himself but had to seek the Caliph’s instructions in this regard. Accordingly, he informed the Caliph of the matter and asked for instructions. The Caliph wrote: “If those books are in agreement with the Quran, we have no need of them; and if these are opposed to the Quran, destroy them.”

After receiving the reply Amr began dismantling the library. At his orders, the books were distributed among the public baths of Alexandria. Thus in a period of complete six months all the books were burnt and destroyed. Believe it, and do not be amazed. [3]

 “Savari” is of course the Severan form of monophysitism.  The translation is rather free, tho, I can see, so let’s return to Pococke’s Latin and look at the key point:

Scriptis ergo ad Omarum literis, notum ei fecit, quid dixisset Johannes, perlataeque sunt ad ipsum ab Omaro literae, in quibus scripsit,  “Quod ad libros quorum mentionem fecisti: si in illis contineatur, quod cum libro Dei conveniat, in libro Dei [est] quod sufficiat absque illo; quod si in illis fuerit quod libro Dei repugnet, neutiquam est eo [nobis] opus, jube igitur e medio tolli.”    Jussit ergo Amrus Ebno’lAs dispergi eos per balnea Alexandriae, atque illis calefaciendis comburi;  ita spatio semestri consumpti sunt.  Audi quid factum fuerit et mirare. 

Therefore having written a letter to Omar, he told him what John said, and a letter was brought to him from Omar, in which he (Omar) wrote, “About the books of which you have made mention: if there is contained in them what agrees (conveniat) with the book of God, in the book of God is what is sufficient, without them; but if (quodsi) in them there is what the book of God rejects, by no means is the material in them for us, order  them to be taken away.”  Therefore Amr ibn al-As ordered to disperse  them among the baths of Alexandria, and to burn  them for heating; so in the space of six months they were consumed.  Listen to what was done, and marvel.

This does not seem to quite say what Omar is generally supposed to say, unless I have misunderstood the Latin.  Unfortunately the words as quoted vary very considerably online: “they will either contradict the Koran, in which case they are heresy, or they will agree with it, so they are superfluous” is merely one of these.

I wonder just what the English language source is, never mind the ancient source.  I tried to find something in Gibbon, but in vain.

But using these words, I find this page which makes the following claim, helpfully escaping from the morass of hearsay by giving a reference to a real journal article:

We think that Isya Joseph did a thorough investigation of Bar Hebraeus and his role in the narrations about the Alexandria Library destruction by Amr Ibn Al-As on the command of Omar. His research was published in 1911 in The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literature (Volume 27). Here is a link to his research. 

The reader is advised to read pages 335-8. According to Isya Joseph, Bar Hebraeus says that Yahya, a Coptic philosopher, petitioned Amr Ibn Al-As to restore the royal library (Alexandria Library). Amr referred the matter to Omar. Omar ordered him to destroy the library on grounds that if what is in the library agrees with the contents of the Qur’an, then it is redundant. And, if the contents of the library do not agree with the Qur’an, then such contents are heretic. …

The assumption here is that no Muslim mentioned this library incident before Hebraeus. This latter assumption is actually mistaken. There are at least two independent sources that validate Hebraeus’s story. First, Abd-Al-Latif of Baghdad visited Egypt in the latter part of the sixth century. He mentions that the library which was in Alexandria was burned by Umru bn al-As in compliance to Omar’s orders. Second, Jamal Ad-din Al-Kufti, who was born in Kuft in upper Egypt in 565 A. H., and died in 646 A. H. , declares that the library was burned by Umru Ibn Al-As (page 335 of the above linked article).

When I look at this article by Isya Joseph, it begins with the following words:

In his At-târih (ed. 1663, p. 180), Bar Hebraeus says that when Yahya, the Coptic philosopher, petitioned Umru bn-Al-`As, the Moslem conqueror of Egypt, to restore the Royal Library to the public, the latter referred the matter to Omar bn-Al Hattab, the second Halif.  The Halif ordered him to destroy the Library on the ground that if the books were in accord with the Kuran, the Kuran alone was sufficient, and if at variance with it, there was no need of them; therefore they were to be done away with.

The page number agrees with the data above.  This phrase “in accord with the Kuran”, modified to “in accordance with” appears in various places.  Dr Joseph tells us more; that his source is George Zaidan, who he tells us published in 1904 in Cairo a History of Mohammedan Civilization.  He refers to vol. III of this, and continues:

The other authority is Jamal ad-Din Al-Kufti, wazir of Aleppo, who was born in Kuft in upper Egypt (south of Asiut) in 565 A.H., and died in 646 A.H. (op. cit., p. 42). In his Dictionary of Learned Men, a manuscript in the Hidewi Library, dating from 1197 A.H., Ibn Al-Kufti declares that the Library was burned by Umru bn Al-`As.

I don’t know whether we can access the work of Jamal ad-Din al-Kufti, which was clearly unpublished at that time.  My own knowledge of Islamic literature is too scanty to say, and a web search drew a blank.  Does anyone know?

The remainder of Dr Joseph’s article merely summarises material from Zaidan.  Doubtless the book was one difficult to access in America at that period.  I wonder whether Zaidan’s book is online.  I find his name given as Jirgi Zaydan, Zeidan, etc.  A search under the former gives a list of Arab publications.  It seems that Zaidan published in Arabic; volume IV was translated into English by David Margoliouth, and is online here, but of course that does not help us.  So Zaidan is also a dead end.

Returning to the Islamic site al-Tawid, the page also gives a further interesting quote (which it then disagrees with):

4) Ibn Khaldun, in the chapter “On the Rational Sciences and their Kinds” (al-`ulum al-‘aqliyyah wa asnafuha) of his Muqaddimah, says: “At the time of the conquest of Iran many books of that country fell into the hands of the Arabs. Sa’d ibn Abi al-Waqqas wrote to `Umar ibn al-Khattab asking his permission to have them translated for Muslims. ‘Umar wrote to him in reply that he should cast them into water, “for if what is written in those books is guidance, God has given us a better guide; and if that which is in those books is misleading, God has saved us from their evil.” Accordingly those books were cast into water or fire, and the sciences of the Iranians that were contained in them were destroyed and did not reach us.

This he references as “Pur Dawud, Yashtha, vol. ii, p. 20″; but he then rebuts the statement by examining Ibn Khaldun directly who in fact introduces the quote as follows: “It is said that these sciences reached Greece from the Persians, when Alexander killed Darius and conquered Persia, getting access to innumerable books and sciences developed by them. And when Iran was conquered (by Muslims) and books were found there in abundance, Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas wrote to `Umar . . . .”

Is Ibn Khaldun accessible, I wonder?

Just to follow up on yesterday’s post, the Islamic web page also quotes Abd al-Latif, whom he describes as a Christian writer, in a somewhat curious form:

Abd al-Latif al- Baghdad, a Christian, refers to it in his book entitled al Ifadah wa al-Nibar fi al-umur al-mushahadah wa al-hawadih al-mu`ayanah fi `ard Misr (the subject of the book is the events and conditions observed personally by the author, and is in fact, a travel account). In it while describing a `tower’ ( `amud) known as `Amad al-Sawari, the previous site of the library of Alexandria, he writes: “It is said that this tower is one of the several on which was erected a theatre, where Aristotle used to lecture and which was an academy, and here stood the library of Alexandria which was burnt by Amr ibn al-`As at the Caliph’s order.”

Whether this version or de Sacy’s is right I cannot say unless we obtain the Arabic text.  Isya Joseph also has a version of Abd al-Latif, referenced to vol. III, pp.41 ff of Zaidan.  He does not quote him explicitly, but says:

In speaking of the past events and remains in Egypt, he says that the Library which was in Alexandria was burned by Umru bn Al-`As in compliance with the order of Omar.

As we saw yesterday, this is almost the words of Abd al-Latif, word for word.  

There are several loose ends in all this.  The lack of modern editions and modern translations is a clear barrier.  I was able to find a short bibliography here.

[1] Bar Hebraeus, (tr. Edward Pococke). Specimen Historiae Arabvm; sive, Gregorii Abul Farajii Malatiensis De origine & moribus Arabum succincta narratio, in linguam latinam conversa, notisque è probatissimis apud ipsos authoribus, fusiùs illus., operâ & studio Edvardi Pocockii. Oxoniae: 1650: excudebat H. Hall. 

[2] Bar Hebraeus (=Abu’l Faraj) (tr. Edward Pococke) . Historia Compendiosa Dynastiarum Authore Gregorio abul-Pharajio Malatiensi Medico, Historiam Complectens Universalem, a Mundo Condito, Usque Ad Tempora Authoris, Res Orientalium Accuratissime Describens Arabice Edita & Latine Versa Ab Edvardo Pocockio. Imprint: Oxford: H. Hall / Ric. Davis, 1663.

[3] According to the website this is Wahid Akhtar (tr), Murtada Mutahhari-quddisa sirruh, Alleged Book Burnings in Iran and Egypt: A Study of Related Facts and Fiction, in al Tawhid vol 14, No. 1 Spring 1997, and an English translation from the Persian. The site refers to Bar Hebraeus as Abu Al-Faraj ibn al-`Ibri.  He introduces the author, mentions the Chronicum Syriacum, and adds “He also prepared a condensed version of it in Arabic under the title Mukhtasar al-duwal. It is said that all its manuscripts are incomplete and defective.”  It references the information as “35. These details are cited from Shibli Nu’mani’s Kitabkhaneh yi Iskandariyyah, Persian trans. by Fakhr-e Da`i, pp. 14-15, 38.” and “36. Ibid., pp. 16-18.” 



Abd al-Latif’s “Account of Egypt” and the destruction of the library of Alexandria

I was reminded this evening of the stor about the destruction of the library of Alexandria under Omar.  The conqueror Amr wrote to the Caliph Omar to ask what to do about all the books.  He got back the reply:

As for the books you mention, here is my reply. If their content is in accordance with the book of Allah, we may do without them, for in that case the book of Allah more than suffices. If, on the other hand, they contain matter not in accordance with the book of Allah, there can be no need to preserve them. Proceed, then, and destroy them.

I take this quotation from L. Canfora, The vanished library, corrected Eng. tr., 1990, p.98.

The question for us is whether this statement is to be found in the ancient sources.  Who is the source for this, to start with?

Canfora says (p.109) that Gibbon discusses this passage, and relies on Bar Hebraeus, Specimen Historiae Arabum, given in Latin translation by Edwarde Pococke in 1649.  I did not see a page number, tho.  Is Pococke’s work online?

Hunting around on the web I find a page by James Hannam which says that there are in fact two sources, although unfortunately he does not reference this page.  As well as Bar Hebraeus, he refers to Abd al-Latif, “Account of Egypt”, whom he says describes Alexandria and mentions the ruins of the Serapeum.  The author died in 1231 and thankfully there is a Wikipedia page.

The Arabic manuscript was discovered in 1665 by Edward Pococke the orientalist, and preserved in the Bodleian Library. He then published the Arabic manuscript in the 1680s. His son, Edward Pococke the Younger, translated the work into Latin, though he was only able to publish less than half of his work. Thomas Hunt attempted to publish Pococke’s complete translation in 1746, though his attempt was unsuccessful. Pococke’s complete Latin translation was eventually published by Joseph White of Oxford in 1800. The work was then translated into French, with valuable notes, by Silvestre de Sacy in 1810.

The Wikipedia references are unfortunately to a secondary source.  But my eye fell immediately on the existence of a French translation of the work, by de Sacy, in 1810.  Surely this should be online?  If so, the work might be an interesting one to examine.  A Google search revealed that the title of the work is Relation de l’Egypte par Abd al-Latif, Paris, 1810.  This proved to be on Google books here and here.  So … what does he say?

 P.171 starts book 1, chapter 4, where he looks at the antiquities of Egypt.  After some pages on the pyramids, surely deserving of translation, on p.182 is material about Alexandria.  On p.183 is a statement about the burning of the library.  Here it is, with a little context about what sounds like “Pompey’s pillar.”

I saw at Alexandria the column named Amoud-alsawari [the column of the pillars]. It is of granite, of red stone, which is extremely hard. This column is a surpassing size and height: I had no difficulty in believing it was seventy cubits high; its diameter is five cubits; it is raised on a very large base proportional to its size. On top of this column is a big capital, which could not be so well positioned with such accuracy without a deep knowledge of mechanics and the art of raising great weights, and extreme skill in practical geometry.  A man worthy of trust assured me that he measured the periphery of this column and found it was seventy-five spans of your large measure.

I also saw on the seashore, on the side where it borders the walls of the city, over four hundred columns broken into two or three parts, of which the stone was similar to that used by the column of  the pillars and which seemed to be to it in the proportion of a third or a fourth. All the residents of Alexandria, without exception, assume that the columns were erected around the column of the pillars; but a governor of Alexandria named Karadja, who commanded in this city for Yusuf son of Ayyub (Saladin), saw fit to overthrow these columns, to break them and throw them on the edge of the sea, under the pretext of breaking the force of the waves and thereby protecting the city walls from their violence, or to prevent enemy ships from anchoring against the walls. This was acting like a child, or man who can not distinguish right from wrong.

I also saw, around the column of the pillars, some sizeable remains of these columns, some whole, others broken; it could still be judged by these remains that these columns were covered with a roof which they supported. Above the column of the pillars is a dome supported by this column. I think this building was the portico where Aristotle taught, and after him his disciples; and that this was the academy that Alexander built when he built this city, and where was placed the library which Amr ibn-Alas burned, with the permission of Omar.

The pharos of Alexandria is too well known to need description. Some accurate writers say that it is two hundred and fifty cubits high.

It is interesting to see that de Sacy uses an older form of French, where était is étoit, and -ai- is often -oi-.

UPDATE (2015): The four hundred columns are the colonnade around the enclosure of the Serapeum of Alexandria.


The Stapleton manuscripts in Oxford

An email brings news of an interesting collection of papers in the Museum of Science in Oxford.  These are the papers of H.E.Stapleton, who was a contributor to Ambix, the scholarly journal of Alchemy, along with F. Sherwood Taylor who translated Stephen of Alexandria.  I’ve also been sent a catalogue of the manuscripts, which are mainly Arabic or Syriac.  There are copious unpublished translations into English from unpublished Arabic alchemical manuscripts.  There are 40+ Arabic manuscripts, mostly late copies.  My eye falls on correspondance with Louis Cheikho in Beirut about the library there.  There are also translations from the German of published articles.

An sample entry is this (some extra formatting by me for readability):

136   Notebook, containing R. F. Azo’s edited Arabic text of Ibn Sina=s treatise for As-Sahli, and translations of the treatises of Jamas, Asfidus, and Agathodaimon

  • Uniform volume with L 134 and L 135; no signature or date, but instructions to R. F. Azo from HES preceding first item;
  • edited Arabic text, with footnotes (comparing 2 Arabic manuscripts, A and B, and a Latin version, as if for publication), of Ibn Sina’s treatise for As-Sahli, by R. F. Azo, with various notes and slips added by HES (including passages of Arabic in his hand, especially from Ar-Razi) [this part of the notebook is thus c.1903-05; the text in MS STAPLETON 47 seems to be a virtually exact copy; HES intended to publish the Arabic text in his projected work on Ibn Sina’s two alchemical treatises, but it was not included in the version of the article published posthumously in Ambix, 1962];
  • HES’s translations of the three related treatises by
    • Jamas (beginning ‘The Risalah of Jamas the Sage to Ardashir, the King, on the Hidden Secret …‘),
    • Asfidus (‘The Book of Asfidus on the Wisdom to Aflarus’),
    • and [other way, reading from back of notebook] Agathodaimon from the Cairo manuscript (beginning ‘The Treatise of Aghatadimun the Great which he delivered when about to die to his pupils. It is known by the name of Risalatu-l-Hadar …‘), latter dated at beginning July 4, 1926 [cf. Turab ‘Ali’s analysis of the Cairo majmu`a, dated July 5, 1926; all 3 translations here are of about this date; TSS in L 109];
  • [loose inserts] some related loose inserts.

I cannot say that alchemy interests me.  But I really feel that material such as this should be online and accessible.  Much of it is in typescript.  Here we have an edited critical edition of an Arabic text, sitting forgotten in a basement.  Mss. 50-138 are full of interest.

My correspondant probably would like me to go to Oxford and photocopy some of it, and I suppose I could, although there is far too much to do in a day.  But really he should go himself, and work with the papers.  After all, most of the authors are just names to me, and I would probably miss stuff of the highest importance.

But considering the quantity of unpublished English material, these papers really should go online.


A couple of interesting Coptic texts

An email asks me whether I have come across a couple of texts, previously unknown to me; the Coptic apocalypse of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of Samuel of Kalamoun. It continues:

The Apocalypse of Daniel was used during the Crusades to predict the downfall of Muslim rule. The Apocalypse of Samuel contains the strongest denunciation of language shift in the Middle Ages of Egypt by which Coptic was replaced by Arabic.

I think we can agree that both sound very interesting!  I’ve been unable to find out anything about either.  Does either exist in English, even?


Arabic manuscripts in the British Library on micro-fiche

I learned today that all the Arabic manuscripts in the British Library were filmed and placed on micro-fiche.  Apparently an Arab princeling paid for it, but great news.  Less good news is that the set is available from IDC, offline, at the usual inflated prices (ca. $180,000).  Remarkable really, considering that their investment is nil.  They seem to have fiches of other collections too, such as SOAS. 

I’ve never had much luck getting access to IDC microfiches.  Does anyone know of a copy, somewhere that one could get copies of particular manuscripts in some usable form?


Hunain ibn Ishaq, on the works of Galen

I was musing a little while ago about a small work by Hunain ibn Ishaq, the most important of the translators of the classics into Arabic in the 10th century.  The work was published by G. Bergstrasser with a German translation.  It lists the works of the ancient Medical writer Galen known to him, together with details of where he found manuscripts and how he went about translation. 

I was thinking that we do could with this text online.  Indeed this weekend I ordered a copy of Bergstrasser by ILL, with the thought of commissioning a translation.

Later that day I heard from Dr. John C. Lamoreaux, of the Department of Religious Studies at Southern Methodist University.  It turns out that he is in the process of producing an edition with English translation, for academic publication!  This is excellent news, and should blow the field wide open.  After all, people with knowledge of Greek rarely know Arabic.

Of course this book won’t be online because of the usual problem; that academics who want to retain their jobs must publish research, and must do so via prestigious academic publishers.  These in turn would understandably like to actually sell at least a few of the miserably short print runs — they hardly make money anyway.  But the upshot is that this research remains offline, whatever the wishes of author and publisher.

However Dr. L. has very kindly slipped me a draft copy of the book, and with his permission I hope to review it here. 


Agapius and the Syriac Old Testament

I’m still translating Agapius.  In part 1.1, while discussing the length of the lives of the Patriarchs, he performs a calculation based on the Septuagint.  He then gives the values from the Jewish Torah, commenting on how the Jews changed the text after Christianity came long.  He then says:

The Syriac Torah depends on the Torah (of the Jews), because it was translated from Hebrew after Christianity and the deterioration (of the text).

I’m not sure whether modern scholars are certain of when the Old Testament was translated into Syriac, which makes this testimony interesting.


Antioch, Mithras, and Libanius

Christopher Ecclestone writes a very informative post on al-Masudi referencing a possible shrine of Mithras in Antioch next to the Grand Mosque; and follows it up by discussing ancient “universities.”  There is a charming quotation from Libanius, who was unable to get many (paying) pupils until he took over a shop near the marketplace and sat there all day.  “Today’s special offer at the philosophy shop… Libanius!”


Greek gospel catenas 1: catenas on Matthew

There are four types of catena on Matthew.

Type A:  there are four versions of this.

  1. This contains mainly extracts from Chrysostom’s sermons.  Other authors are Isidore of Pelusium, Cyril of Alexandria; the monk Theodore.

  2. This is an expanded version of A.1.  In addition to the material in #1, it contains fragments of Photius, Basil the Great, Athanasius, Origen, Maximus the Confessor, and Gregory Nazianzen.

  3. This is an abridged version of A.1.  It contains mainly chunks of Chrysostom, but not identified as such.  This version was compiled in the time Leo VI ‘the wise’ (886-911).  Some late manuscripts identify Leo Patricius as the compiler.

  4. The most extensive version is also based on A.1.  Additional authors quoted include Severus, Theodore of Heraclea, and Theodore of Mopsuestia.

Type B: there are six versions of this, extant in multiple manuscripts.  This catena is attributed to Peter of Laodicea, but probably falsely.

Type C: this catena was compiled by Nicetas, Metropolitan of Heraclea in Thrace.  He was the last great catenist.  It was composed before 1080 AD.  The catena contains numerous extracts, mainly from Chrysostom.  The author attribution against each extract is unusually reliable.

Type D: this catena was composed in the 11th century, and contains mainly extracts from Chrysostom.  The catena can be found in Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, graecus 194.

Unclassified: the following manuscripts also contain a catena on Matthew, which does not fit neatly into the above catefories:

  • Athos, Lavra B. 113.  This is an 11th century manuscript, and classified as type E by Geerard.

  • Vatican graecus 349.  11th century.

  • Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Suppl. gr. 1225.  11th century.
  • Rome, Biblioteca dei Lincei, A. 300.  12-13th century.

Macarius Chrysocephalus, Metropolitan of Philadelphia, also composed a catena on Matthew.  This made use of additional material, and not merely of earlier catenas.

A Coptic Catena is also known as the Robert Curzon catena, from its discoverer, was published by Paul de Lagarde.  It contains a catena on all four gospels.  This was translated from a now unknown Greek catena, which was more of a dogmatic anthology than an exegetical catena.  An Arabic Catena was made from it in a monophysite monastery in Egypt early in the 13th century.  The portion on Matthew was published with a Italian Spanish translation by F. J. Caubet Iturbe, La Cadena arabe del Evangelio suo Mateo, Vatican 1969-70.  Neither version has any relationship with any of the known Greek catenas.

Editions: J. Reuss, Berlin 1957 published material on Matthew, although this only scratches the surface.

Studies: R. Devreese, Dictionnaire de la Bible, Supplement 1 (Paris, 1928), pp. 1164-1175, on the Matthew catenas.  M. Geerard, Clavis Patrum Graecorum 4, pp. 228-235.  Karo and Lietzman, (as in intro), pp.119-131.