From my diary

The big news is that Dr Isabella Image has today very kindly sent me a rather wonderful draft translation of an anonymous 4th century text, De solstitiis et aequinoctiis, about which I have written before.  It’s never been translated before into any modern language, and it is full of interesting things.  The author suggests that Christ and John the Baptist were conceived and born on the solstices and equinoxes, and argues this from the bible.  The argument made is not entirely convincing to modern eyes, but it is very revealing of 4th century thinking.  I hope to make this available online very soon.

The other news is that the postman brought me a copy of a French PhD thesis which I ordered from the ANRT last weekend.  It comes handsomely bound, in standard softback academic book format.  It’s certainly a huge step up from the pile of letter-sized photocopies that ProQuest send out.  Indeed it is almost worth the huge sum that I paid for it.  It contains an unpublished translation, about which I will post further another time.  I wish I could have had a PDF, tho.

I’ve also placed my first inter-library loan for some time, for a volume of Charles W. Jones on Bede.  This apparently contains a discussion of the manuscripts of the Irish computus forgeries.  This was a loose end from my post a little while back about “Theophilus of Caesarea”, and I’ll post if I find something interesting.  It will be interesting to see if ILL’s are working again.  It will also be interesting to see what they charge me!


The rediscovery of Philo, Eusebius’ Chronicon in Armenian

A number of otherwise lost works of antiquity are preserved in Armenian.  The monks of the Mechitarist order, Armenians based in Venice, were responsible for the first publications of these, usually with a Latin translation.  Such was their scholarly reputation that, when the French Revolutionaries conquered Venice, under a certain Napoleon, and seized almost all the monasteries, the Mechitarists uniquely were left along.

One of their publications was the Chronicon of Eusebius.  The Greek original, in two books, is lost.  St. Jerome came across a copy in Constantinople in 379 AD, and translated book 2 into Latin, thereby beginning the process of western historical study of dates and events.  But the Armenian translation from the Greek does not include Jerome’s additions, and also includes book 1.  As ever with Eusebius, book 1 is full of direct quotations from now-lost ancient authors such as Alexander Polyhistor.

Today I came across a fascinating paper by Anna Sirinian, “‘Armenian Philo’: A survey of the literature”, in S.M. Lombardi &c, Studies on the Ancient Armenian Version of Philo’s Works, Brill (2010), 7-44 (Preview), which describes the discovery of the lost works by Philo, and also, around the same time, of the manuscript of Eusebius’ Chronicon.

I thought that a couple of lively pages from this article might be of interest to many outside of Philo enthusiasts.  Note that I have not included the many and very useful footnotes.  My OCR software has mangled the various above-letter items in the transcription of Armenian, but I doubt that matters here.  Consult the Google Books preview for the full text.

Anna Sirinian (p.10):

At the end of the eighteenth century, the Mechitarist Fathers reaped the fruits of their intense activity of research in the field of ancient and medieval Armenian literature with an amazing double discovery. Eusebius’s Chronicon emerged from an Armenian manuscript at Constantinople, while Philo’s treatises were found in the Armenian Cathedral at Lvov (then Poland). Thus some works of these two fundamental writers, whose Greek originals are not extant, were brought back to light. Here, in short, is the story of these two discoveries.

In 1791, during a journey across Poland in search of manuscripts, the Mechitarist Father Yovhannes Zohrapean, also known as Giovanni Zohrab (1756-1829), came across an old dusty book stored away in the Armenian Cathedral at Lvov: it was a complete codex of the corpus of ‘Armenian Philo’. This superb parchment codex had been copied in 1296 by the scribe Vasil in an elegant bolorgir (minuscule), by order of the philosopher-king Het’um II.  Having identified the contents, Zohrab finally obtained permission to take the manuscript back to Venice, where it was copied before being given back.

A few years earlier, in 1787,13 an erudite friend of the Mechitarists at Constantinople, Georg Dpir Ter Yovhannisean (1737-1811), better known by his nickname ‘Palatec’i’, had let them know of the existence of Eusebius’s manuscript at the Armenian Patriarchal Library in that city.[14]

The famous scholar Mkrtic’ Awgerean (1762-1854)—alias Giovanni Battista Aucher, also a Mechitarist Father—bears witness to his early interest in this codex.  He requested and obtained from Palatec‘i a copy of this manuscript at San Lazzaro island, Venice, where it arrived in October 1790.  Aucher suspected the quality of Palatec’i’s copy, and in due course, in 1793, ordered a new copy from him. In effect, Palatec’i had indeed interpolated the original at a few points the first time, but the new copy was faithful to the original down to the most minute details. It was Giovanni Zohrab, then stationed at Constantinople, who carried this second copy back to Venice in 1794.

Twenty years went by without the news of this amazing double discovery ever getting beyond the restricted circle of the Mechitarists and their erudite friends. The silence was broken by another discoverer and editor of ancient texts of the time, Angelo Mai (1782-1854), who published the news in the pamphlet De Philonis Iudaei et Eusebii Pamphili scriptis ineditis aliorumque libris ex Armeniaca lingua convertendis dissertatio cum ipsorum operum Philonis ac praesertim Eusebiis speciminibus, scribente Angelo Maio A[mbrosiani] C[ollegii] D[octore] ex notitia sibi ab Armeniacorum codicum dominis impertita, Mediolani, Regiis typis 1816. Having been told of the existence of ‘Armenian Philo’ by Francesco Reina, Mai had spoken to Father Zohrab, ‘clarissimus doctor Armenius’, who had told him of both these discoveries during a trip to Milan. Through the information gathered from Father Zohrab, Mai could also offer a description of the two manuscripts, a list of Philo’s works in Armenian and even a provisional Latin translation of the Chronicon, in anticipation of the definitive publication of this work in the near future.

Two years later, in 1818, the Armenian version of the Chronicon was published twice over: first Angelo Mai and Giovanni Zohrab published it, exclusively in Latin translation, in Milan; Aucher’s Armenian edition with facing Latin translation was then published at Venice a few weeks later. According to Giancarlo Bolognesi, there is evidence to think that Giovanni Zohrab was vying with Aucher and effectively deprived him of his rights to publish the text exclusively. While Aucher was in Constantinople looking for other possible witnesses with which to compare Palatec’i’s second, more accurate copy, Zohrab took advantage of his absence and took possession of the first—interpolated—copy of Eusebius. In his introduction, Aucher bitterly points out how the recent Milanese publication had been obtained “ex priori illo exemplo, quod a Georgio exscriptore interpolatum diximus, clam nobis, me vero Venetiis absente, Mediolanum delato”.

A similar path was followed in the edition of ‘Armenian Philo’. Here too one may find the pair Mai-Zohrab on one side, and Aucher on the other. But it was Aucher this time who eventually edited the Armenian translation of all Philo’s lost Greek texts between 1822 and 1826. For this purpose he used the Venetian copy of the manuscript discovered at Lvov by Zohrab.26 This copy had been executed by several Mechitarist Fathers under Aucher’s direction. It bears two colophons, the first written by Zohrab to commemorate his fortunate discovery of the ancient exemplar at the Lvov library, the second—written immediately after the first—by Aucher himself. The latter confirms that the exemplar had been brought to San Lazzaro by Zohrab; however, he adds that he has himself worked on the text by completing some missing portions (lrac’uc’ak’ in the plural) of it with the help of another ancient copy discovered at Constantinople.

But there is extant also another copy of the Lvov manuscript, dated by the colophon 1816, this time the work of Zohrab exclusively. This second copy only contains ‘Armenian Philo’ of the lost Greek works, and it is now preserved at the National Library of Paris. In the colophon, Zohrab declares that, after collaborating with Mai in the publication of the Latin translation of the Chronicon, printed in 1816 in the pamphlet De Philonis Iudaei et Eusebii Pamphili scriptis ineditis, cited above, he had also prepared the Latin translation of ‘Armenian Philo’ having collated Philo’s text with another exemplar whose identification remains vague. He adds, however, that he could not utilize this text because of “incidental difficulties” (xapanarar attic’ i veray haseal, argelin zsorays gorcadrut’iwn) …

What fun!  And how interesting to hear the details of this frantic rivalry!

The footnote 14 specifies more information about the manuscript of the Chronicon:

14. This manuscript, dated to the thirteenth century, is currently preserved at the Matenadaran in Erevan with the shelfmark n. 1904, cf. O. Eganyan, A. Zeyfunyan, P‘. Ant’apyan, C’uc’ak Jeragrac’ Mastoc‘i anvan Matenadarani [Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Matenadaran Library], I, Haykakan SSH GA Hratarakc’ut’yun, Erevan 1965, 671. Apparently, Palatec’i himself came across this manuscript during his travels in search of ancient codices on behalf of the Mechitarist Fathers: as he was about to drink from a well in the Samaxi region, in the southern ranges of the Caucasian mountains, he found the ancient book of the Chronicon used as a covering across the opening of the drinking hole: cf. A. Ayvazyan, Sar hay kensagriiteanc‘ [Armenian Biographies], I, Constantinople 1893, 49-51 (cit. from B. C’ugaszean, Georg Dpir Palatec’u geank’i ew gorcuneut’ean taregrut’iwn 1737-1811 [Chronology of the Life and Works of Georg Dpir Palatec’i], Gind, Erevan 1994, 91-92). The complex history of this manuscript and its various journeys between Jerusalem, Constantinople, Ejmiacin and Erevan, deserve further study, which I propose to undertake elsewhere.

Let us hope Dr. S. finds the time to publish that study, which can only be interesting.  Few of us can work with Armenian sources, and someone who can must do work of lasting value.

I have read elsewhere the tale of the discovery of the codex; but as I heard it, it was being used as a cover for a water-jug, rather than a well.  It would be good to clarify this point.


Eusebius, Letter to Constantia – an English translation by Cyril Mango

It’s always a shock to realise that some important early Christian text has never been translated; or, at least, is inaccessible online.  Such was myi feeling on seeing a quotation from the letter of Eusebius of Caesarea to Constantia, sister of the emperor Constantine the Great.  The quotation was:

To depict purely the human form of Christ before its transformation is to break the commandment of God and to fall into pagan error.

The letter has not reached us directly.  Rather it was quoted as part of a dossier of texts assembled by the iconoclast synod of Hieria in 754.  In turn so those sections were also quoted in the acts of the Second Council of Nicaea in 787 AD in order to condemn them.   Other fragments exist, apparently.

I find that a translation of the material from Nicaea 2 was made by Cyril Mango from the PG 20, 1545 f. text, and printed in The Art of the Byzantine Empire 312-1453 (1972, rep. 1986),p. 16-18.  Here it is:

You also wrote me concerning some supposed image of Christ, which image you wished me to send you. Now what kind of thing is this that you call the image of Christ? I do not know what impelled you to request that an image of Our Saviour should be delineated. What sort of image of Christ are you seeking? Is it the true and unalterable one which bears His essential characteristics, or the one which He took up for our sake when He assumed the form of a servant?  . . . Granted, He has two forms, even I do not think that your request has to do with His divine form. . . . Surely then, you are seeking His image as a servant, that of the flesh which He put on for our sake. But that, too, we have been taught, was mingled with the glory of His divinity so that the mortal part was swallowed up by Life. Indeed, it is not surprising that after His ascent to heaven He should have appeared as such, when, while He—the God, Logos—was yet living among men, He changed the form of the servant, and indicating in advance to a chosen band of His disciples the aspect of His Kingdom, He showed on the mount that nature which surpasses the human one—when His face shone like the sun and His garments like light. Who, then, would be able to represent by means of dead colors and inanimate delineations (skiagraphiai) the glistening, flashing radiance of such dignity and glory, when even His superhuman disciples could not bear to behold Him in this guise and fell on their faces, thus admitting that they could not withstand the sight? If, therefore, His incarnate form possessed such power at the time, altered as it was by the divinity dwelling within Him, what need I say of the time when He put off mortality and washed off corruption, when He changed the form of the servant into the glory of the Lord God. . . ? … How can one paint an image of so wondrous and unattainable a form—if the term ‘form’ is at all applicable to the divine and spiritual essence—unless, like the unbelieving pagans, one is to represent things that bear no possible resemblance to anything. . . ? For they, too, make such idols when they wish to mould the likeness of what they consider to be a god or, as they might say, one of the heroes or anything else of the kind, yet are unable even to approach a resemblance, and so delineate and represent some strange human shapes. Surely, even you will agree that such practices are not lawful for us.

But if you mean to ask of me the image, not of His form transformed into that of God, but that of the mortal flesh before its transformation, can it be that you have forgotten that passage in which God lays down the law that no likeness should be made either of what is in heaven or what is in the earth beneath? Have you ever heard anything of the kind either yourself in church or from another person? Are not such things banished and excluded from churches all over the world, and is it not common knowledge that such practices are not permitted to us alone?

Once— I do not know how—a woman brought me in her hands a picture of two men in the guise of philosophers and let fall the statement that they were Paul and the Saviour—I have no means of saying where she had had this from or learned such a thing. With the view that neither she nor others might be given offence, I took it away from her and kept it in my house, as I thought it improper that such things ever be exhibited to others, lest we appear, like idol worshippers, to carry our God around in an image. I note that Paul instructs all of us not to cling any more to things of the flesh; for, he says, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more.

It is said that Simon the sorcerer is worshipped by godless heretics painted in lifeless material. I have also seen myself the man who bears the name of madness57 [painted] on an image and escorted by Manichees. To us, however, such things are forbidden. For in confessing the Lord God, Our Saviour, we make ready to see Him as God, and we ourselves cleanse our hearts that we may see Him after we have been cleansed. . .

“the man who bears the name of madness” is Mani, of course.

According to David M. Gwynn, “From Iconoclasm to Arianism: The Construction of Christian Tradition in the Iconoclast Controversy”, in: Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 47 (2007), 225–251; 227 (online here), who discusses the letter, its authenticity and reception, further fragments may be added from the writings of the Iconophile Patriarch Nikephorus, which he references thus:

5. The best-known edition of the text is that of H. Hennephof, Textus byzantinos ad iconomachiam pertinentes (Leiden 1969) 42–44, of which there is an English translation in C. Mango, The Art of the Byzantine Empire 312–1453 (Englewood Cliffs 1972) 16–18.  A new Greek edition of the surviving fragments has now been prepared by A. von Stockhausen, in T. Krannich, C. Schubert, and C. Sode, Die ikonoklastische Synode von Hiereia 754 (Tübingen 2002), although in her most recent article Claudia Sode is sceptical that any coherent text can be reconstructed from those fragments: C. Sode and P. Speck, “Ikonoklasmus vor der Zeit? Der Brief des Eusebios von Kaisareia an Kaiserin Konstantia,” JÖByz 54 (2004) 113–134.

It should be noted that Mango in fact does not reference Hennephof, but the PG edition.

It has to be said that Eusebius is not really addressing the idea of icons at all.  The Byzantine veneration of icons is not his concern, for this did not exist.  Rather he is a man who grew up when paganism was triumphant, concerned to prevent the continuation of pagan practices in the newly Christianised populace.

Interesting to learn little snippets about antiquity – such as that an image of Mani was being paraded around in procession by his devotees.  We gain something from every morcel of ancient literature.

Update: A. von Stockhausen writes:

My edition (not critical, but re-instating the fragmentary state of transmission and annotation parallels in his other works) with German translation and short thoughts on Eusebius’ position on images (interpreting prep. ev. III 10,13–19) is online here:

Thank you!


Order my books before they go out of print!

Long term readers will remember that I commissioned two texts and translations in printed form: Eusebius, Gospel Problems and Solutions (2011), and Origen’s Homilies on Ezekiel (2014).  The first is the only version of this text; the second is the best version of the work.  Both contain catena fragments, the original text, and a facing translation.  The hardbacks are very splendid; and the paperback is a solid item too.

But all good things must come to an end, and these will go out of print in the next month or two.  So … if you or your library want copies, order them now from Amazon!

I know these are pricey, but once they are gone, they are gone.

Amazon don’t keep a lot of stock, naturally, but you can order any of these as all are in print.  Lead time is probably about a week when “out of stock”.

Thank you, everybody who supported this project!


Eusebius of Caesarea, Six extracts from the Commentary on the Psalms, in English

Last year I gave a list of passages from Eusebius’ massive Commentary on the Psalms which deserved to be read in English.  Thankfully Fr. Alban Justinus stepped up and translated six of these for us, before other events drew him away.  I’d like to make that material accessible now.  Here they are:

The files can also be found at here.

As usual, these are public domain.  Do with them whatever you like, personal, educational or commercial.

Our thanks to Fr. Alban Justinus for translating all this material!


Eusebius of Caesarea, Commentary on Luke – now online in English

Alex Poulos of the Catholic University of America has kindly translated for us the text of Eusebius of Caesarea’s Commentary on Luke.  Here it is:

I have also added it to here.  As ever, I place these in the public domain.  Use them in any way you like.

The “work” itself is a wee bit bogus.  It was created by Angelo Mai by combining all the bits of Nicetas of Serrae’s Catena on Luke where the author is given as “Eusebius”.  It is most unlikely that all of these are Eusebius of Caesarea.  It is possible that none of them are.  All the same, the work is listed in the CPG, and so it is worth making available!


Porphyry on quotation practices in antiquity

An interesting volume has come my way on the quotations in Eusebius.  It is Sabrina Inowlocki, Eusebius and the Jewish Authors: His citation technique in an apologetic context, Brill, 2006.  This, remarkably, was a PhD thesis in French.

The study is interesting enough that I should like to read the paper volume. I have a PDF but reading more than a bit on screen is impossible. But sadly the price at $150 renders that impossible.  However the PDF is indexed, and as a result I keep finding good things.

Chapter 2 is about the way that ancient authors quoted sources.  In chapter 2E, Faithfulness to the Text Cited, we find the following statements:

The changes brought by an author to the cited passage vary substantially. They generally consist in the omission or addition of words, in grammatical changes, in the combination of citations, and in the modification of the primary meaning of the quotation. These changes may be deliberate, which means that they are made by the citing author specifically in order to appropriate the content of the citation.52 They may also be accidental. If deliberate, the changes result from the author’s wish to adjust the citation to his own purposes, to ‘modernize’ the stylistic expression of a more ancient writer, or to adapt the grammar of the cited text to that of the citing text. It may be noted that deliberate changes do not always stem from the citing author’s eagerness to tamper with the primary meaning of a passage, as modern scholars often suspect and harshly condemn.

A passage from Porphyry, cited in the Praeparatio, is particularly revealing. It shows the methodology applied to the cited text, even by an author who was eager to preserve the primary meaning of that cited text:

(I omit the Greek, since I can’t paste it and don’t have time to retype it tonight)

To such you will impart information without any reserve. For I myself call the gods to witness, that I have neither added, nor taken away from the meaning of the responses, except where I have corrected an erroneous phrase, or made a change for greater clearness, or completed the metre where defective, or struck out anything that did not conduce to the purpose; so that I have preserved the sense of what was spoken untouched, guarding against the impiety of such changes, rather than against the avenging justice that follows from the sacrilege.(53)

53.  De philosophia ex oraculis I, p.109-110 (Wolff) = PE IV. 7. 1.

The sense, in other words, is what Porphyry transmits, not the exact words before him.  This is perhaps easier to understand if we remember that the copies before him were manuscripts, and so could easily contain corruptions.

Inowlocki goes on to say:

This passage emphasizes the prominence of the meaning of the text over its phrasing: The nous is clearly opposed to the lexis.54 Porphyry claims not to have tampered with the noemata of the oracles but he does not claim that he has not changed the terms and expressions of the cited text.55 Yet it should be noted that the respect shown to the meaning of the oracles is due to their sacredness. Similar attitudes are also found among Jewish and Christian authors regarding the modification of the Scriptures. Such changes are even more harshly condemned in the Jewish and Christian traditions.56[1] This was not the case with secular texts, as can be seen from Porphyry’s use of citations in his De abstinentia.57 Porphyry was especially gifted in manipulating texts, although the concept of manipulation hardly applies to antiquity. At any rate, the neo-platonic philosopher was not the only one to do so. Plutarch, who is well known for his extensive use of quotations, does not hesitate to transform the passages he cites by omitting, adding or modifying terms or expressions occurring in the quotation. Not even Plato was spared by him.

However, it should be emphasized that our scholarly criteria of citation are not relevant to the practice of ancient authors. Purpose and methodology differ dramatically. Actually, that which we might consider falsification was viewed by ancient writers as a methodology in explicating the true, authentic meaning of a text. In a sense, in the ancient authors’ view, modifying the text cited was meant to express its essence more clearly.59

In addition to the distinction between sacred and secular texts, the treatment of prose citations differs from that of poetic citations. Indeed, it was more difficult to modify poetic texts because of the metric rules. Moreover, in many cases, the readership knew them by heart. This was especially the case with Homer. As Stanley has pointed out in a study on Paul,60 the status of Homeric poems in Hellenism was to some extent comparable to that of the Scriptures in Judaism and Christianity. Both texts constituted the most authoritative text. Homer had been critically edited in the Hellenistic period and this ‘vulgate’ was in general faithfully copied by second-century C.E. authors. This observation may probably also apply to Euripides’ and Sophocles’ tragedies.

However, the poetic text cited by the ancient authors is not always identical to that which has reached us through direct transmission, i.e., in manuscripts. Several explanations other than the responsibility of the citing authors may be suggested. Firstly, the authors often cited passages from memory and therefore made mistakes;61 secondly, in the case of Homeric quotations, the authors could use a text other than the Alexandrian ‘vulgate;’ thirdly, most authors excerpted passages from florilegia rather than from the original text;62 finally, some differences may be due to the corruptions to which medieval manuscripts were subject.

As for prose texts, they could be more easily modified thanks to the flexibility of their form. They could easily be summarized, paraphrased and transformed. It is worth noting that the faithfulness to the text also depends on the feelings of the quoting author towards the quoted author. An author such as Strabo, whose faithfulness to the Homeric text has been shown by Stanley, proves to be rather loose in his citations from Herodotus.63 Likewise, Plutarch quotes Herodotus faithfully only in half of the cases64 whereas it is well known that he cites Homer faithfully.

The different methodologies in modifying a text may be presented as follows:65 …

But here we must halt our quotation.  Most of the footnotes refer to studies.

Isn’t this fascinating stuff?  It is really useful to hear Porphyry’s statement.  It is really useful to hear some solid examples of how ancient writers handle these things.

The author, Sabrina Inowlocki, is a Eusebius scholar, and her study of the quotations in the Apodeixis (i.e. the Praeparatio Evangelica and Demonstratio Evangelica) is really interesting.  But it’s the kind of book to read through.

What a murder it is, that so useful a volume, funded by a tax grant, should be obscured by such a high price!

  1. [1]56. See, e.g. Josephus, Antiquities I. 17, X. 218 and Against Apion I. 42; Letter of ps.Aristeas 310…

Words, Words, Words: A response to Richard Carrier on Feldman and Eusebius

It’s always nice when my blog posts attract attention. I learned last week that an old post of mine, from 2013, has attracted a response from a professional atheist polemicist named Richard Carrier. In a rather excitable post here on his own blog he roundly denounces my casual remarks, and indeed myself (!), and offers a new theory of his own. A correspondent drew my attention to this, and asked me to comment.

My original post was written after I happened to see an article by the excellent Josephus scholar Louis Feldman. This tentatively endorsed the fringe idea that Eusebius of Caesarea (fl. early 4th century) may have composed the so-called Testimonium Flavianum (TF), the rather odd passage in Josephus Antiquities 18 which mentions Christ.[1] This claim is not one that anybody has previously had much time for, and I didn’t see any purpose in rebutting it. Feldman was only summarising work by others, I felt.

But then I saw something interesting. The article made the claim that, if you search the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae database for a phrase towards the end of the TF, “And the tribe of Christians has not died out even to this day” (eis eti te nuneven/still to this day),[2] then it gives a bunch of hits in Eusebius’ works, and pretty much nowhere else.

I do computer searches. I’m interested in Eusebius. So I did the search for the phrase, but I got only a handful of results. Disappointed, I blogged about it, added some cautions on rushing to conclusions from these kinds of matches, and thought no more about it.

Last week I learned that, after four years, Richard Carrier has written a blog post in which he asserts rather over-enthusiastically that I simply did the search wrong – that instead I should have searched for eis eti nun; the te is just a particle, with the vague sense of “and”, and the two phrases are pretty much the same in meaning. Of course the two are indeed more or less identical in meaning.

Carrier’s search produces splendid results. It gets 94 matches.[3] Of these, 6 are later than Eusebius; one each in six authors. The other 88 are entirely in Eusebius. In other words, practically nobody in all Greek literature ever uses the phrase other than Eusebius, if we can trust this search.  It looks like the claim that Eusebius wrote the TF is proved!

But 88 out of 94 is not just a good result for the theory. It’s a fabulous result! In fact, it’s too good to be true. It’s like a Soviet election result with 99% voting for the official candidate. The number is supposed to produce confidence in the result, and does the opposite. It’s a sign that we need to sanity-check what we are doing.

Doing so produces instant discomfort. Surely “even to this day” is a trivial phrase? Are we really saying that Eusebius invented something as obvious as that? It seems unlikely. Imagine a Greek, complaining about his neighbour, as man has done since time immemorial. Would he not say, “How long has this been a problem?” “Oh it started when we landed, and it has continued even to this day.” How else would you express that idea?[4]

In fact, if we look at little further we find that the idea in rather similar words is indeed kicking around well before Eusebius, six centuries earlier, in the third century BC.   Apollonius Rhodius uses the idea in his Argonautica. He uses it to tie together past and present, in precisely the way that Eusebius does. [5]   The historian Polybius uses it, the poet Callimachus uses it. Nobody in our corpus uses it like Eusebius does; but then nobody is writing quite the kinds of works that Eusebius is.

So why didn’t these authors appear in the results, when we do the search? Because these rely on searching for versions of eiseti nun, which differs only by a word-division and means much the same thing.[6] We can omit te; we can replace it with the stronger equivalent kai; we can run eis and eti together, especially when we know that Greek manuscripts did not feature word division.  Any claim that depends on the presence of a space in the text is a pretty fragile one.

In fact there are quite a number of things we can do to twiddle the search, once we start thinking about it. Let’s just give the numbers from the TLG for a few versions of this search string, all of which mean much the same:

  • eis eti te nun – 4 hits. Josephus (1 hit), Eusebius (3 hits).
  • eiseti te nun – 7 hits. Eusebius (4), Sozomen (2), Oecumenius (1).
  • eis eti nun – 94 hits. 88 are from works of Eusebius, and the other 6 are later: Didymus the Blind (d.398) On Genesis, Procopius of Gaza (5th c.) Commentary on Isaiah, Stobaeus (6th c.), Chronicon Paschale (6th c.) and two 12th century Byzantine writers.
  • eiseti nun – 142 hits. Mostly pre-Eusebius; 7 hits in Apollonius Rhodius (3rd c. BC), Timaeus Historicus (3rd c. BC), Polybius (2nd c. BC), Philo (1st c. AD), Aelius Aristides (2nd c. AD), Lucian (2nd c.), Oppian (2nd c.), Clement of Alexandria (ca. 200), and others.  But Eusebius (63 hits) and Sozomen (41 hits) do appear.
  • eis eti kai nun – 23 hits. 2 hits from Porphyry (3rd c.) from different works. Some from Eusebius, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory Nazianzen, and then Byzantine writers.
  • eiseti kai nun – 110 hits. Callimachus (3rd c. BC), Herennius Philo (ca. 100 AD), Lucian, the Book of Jubilees (ca. 150 BC), Eusebius (56 hits) – especially in the commentaries on Isaiah and Psalms – Eutropius, Chrysostom, Palladius, and Byzantine writers.  Also an LXX variant reading for Isaiah 9:6 (given by Eusebius).

All of these do show significant use by Eusebius. Some of these show pre-Eusebian use; others don’t.

In fact Carrier is quite well aware of the pre-Eusebian results, which he proceeds to mention briefly in a paragraph that reads as if it was tacked on afterwards.   But it’s terrible stuff. Clement of Alexandria is just a Christian, so he doesn’t count (?!).  Polybius doesn’t count because no other historical writer after him uses this phrase.  In fact Carrier has changed his argument; from “only Eusebius uses this, so it proves that Eusebius forged the TF” – a defensible argument, if wrong – to “Eusebius uses this more than anyone, so that proves that he forged the TF”.  Which, of course, it does not.  Carrier has defeated himself.[7]

Here’s the rub; the success or failure of our search comes to depend on us, on our judgement, on our ingenuity, on our knowledge of Greek.   This subjectivity was precisely why, in my first blog post, I never proceeded beyond the exact match.

There are further possible issues with this method. Only 1% of Greek literature has survived. Much of that is biased towards technical, classical or ecclesiastical writings, those that were useful to copyists in the Dark Ages. The TLG contains only a portion of that 1%. Someone who knew more about computational linguistics than I do could easily point out more problems.

The database itself is not “clean”;[8] it is comprised of texts edited by many different editors, whose choices from the manuscript tradition will reflect their preferences. One example of this may be found in searching outside the TLG for eis eti nun. The TLG gives no hits before Eusebius. But I find that the 1831 R. Klotz edition of Clement of Alexandria, Protrepicus, has three hits for it.[9] In the TLG, based on the GCS edition, eis eti is replaced by eiseti. There is no indication in the apparatus as to why. The results of each database search are therefore a reflection of editorial choices.

Stylistic analysis, whether manual or automated, can be something of a trap. It’s terribly easy to forget how little we really know about the texts before us, the language which none of us speak as a native and which changes considerably over the thousand years before us, the vagaries of editors, the influence of ammanuenses and copyists, and of the non-literary spoken language, which surrounds the literary text like a warm bath at every instant but is almost invisible to us.

To sum up, we saw that a search for the exact phrase does not confirm Carrier’s claim. A search for revised phrases which mean the same does not confirm the claim either.  Attempts to dodge this simply destroy the argument.

*   *   *   *

Now let’s go back to where we started. The argument in Feldman’s article was that the use of this phrase proved that Eusebius wrote the TF.   We don’t want any implicit assumptions here, so let’s lay the argument out explicitly.

The claim is: (1) we have no evidence that eis eti te nun (etc) was used in Greek literature before Eusebius; (2) the search proves that Eusebius uses it extensively; therefore (3) any use of the term proves that Eusebius composed that bit of text; and (4) the TF as found in the Church History of Eusebius does contain it; so (5) Eusebius composed the TF.

The second point is correct. Eusebius does use the eis eti nun phrase extensively, once or twice in every book of the Church History, and elsewhere.

But the first point is dodgy, and so is the third. We have seen that in fact we do have evidence of its use for 6 centuries before Eusebius.

But let us suppose for a moment that the TLG searches did in fact show, as Carrier contended (before he discovered otherwise), that nobody used eis eti nun before Eusebius. The argument still is flawed. For this argument is an argument from silence – that we have no evidence that anyone else … so it must have been him. Arguments from silence are not valid.

The archaeologists never tire of telling us that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. It is the first thing that we must remember. And we’re searching only a subset of 1% of Greek literature, as we saw.  According to Carrier this means that we don’t have any evidence of use before Eusebius … very well. But even then we don’t have all the evidence. We have only a fraction of it.

In conclusion, the claim that examining the use of eis eti nun proves that Eusebius composed the TF is not correct. The claim itself seems to involve an argument from silence. And the silence itself can only be sustained by ignoring the exact matches, using a related search, and then finding reasons to ignore other related searches.

  1. [1]There is another brief mention in Ant. 20 which also does so.
  2. [2]I have transliterated the Greek so that general readers can follow along.
  3. [3]This from a search of the TLG-E disk; I am currently unable to access the online system.
  4. [4]In fact it would be rather interesting to know how this was expressed in the classical period, as eis eti nun does not seem to be classical.
  5. [5]M.P. Cuypers, “Apollonius of Rhodes”, In: Irene J. F. De Jong, René Nünlist, Angus M. Bowie, “Narrators, Narratees, and Narratives in Ancient Greek Literature: Studies in Ancient Greek Narrative”, vol. 1. Brill, 2004, p.56 and n.24.
  6. [6]My thanks to Ken Olson for pointing this out in a comment on my original post. Dr O. is clearly no bigot, for he did so despite this information working against the interest of his theory: clearly a gentleman and a scholar.
  7. [7]Full disclosure: I wrote the majority of this post without Carrier’s post before me, so I did not remember his change of mind at this point.
  8. [8]See further M. Eder, “Mind your corpus: systematic errors in authorship attribution”, Literary and Linguistic Computing 28, 2013, 603-14.
  9. [9]Page 9 line 29, p.12  l.17, p.18 l.16. The first of these reads “καταδουλοῦται καὶ αΐκίζεται εἰς ἔτι νῦν τοιὶς άνθρώπους,”

A note on the authenticity of Eusebius of Caesarea’s “Commentary on the Psalms”

In Rondeau’s account of ancient Christian commentaries on the psalms,[1] there is naturally a section on the commentary by Eusebius of Caesarea.  It contains an interesting footnote on the authenticity of the text.  But first, a few words about this little known item.

Eusebius is a writer whom we do not usually associate with exegesis.  But his extensive Commentary on Isaiah was rediscovered 60 years ago, and an English translation published in the last decade.  His Commentary on the Psalms has been less fortunate.  The portion devoted to Psalms 51-95, 3 has reached us, in a single manuscript, BNF Paris Coislin 44, which was edited by Montfaucon in the 17th century.[2]  The section on Psalm 37 was transmitted among the works of Basil of Caesarea.[3]

The remainder, however, is known only from extracts preserved in the medieval Greek bible commentaries.  These were composed of chains (catenae) of extracts linked together, with the author’s initial against each extract (but this initial was often corrupted).  Eusebius figures largely in the catenas and so there is a lot of material extant, if somewhat dubious.

Nobody has undertaken a critical edition of any of this material, and the portions derived from catenas are unreliable.  There is no translation of any of it, to the best of my knowledge, other than a translation of the section on psalm 51 made for this site by Andrew Eastbourne.

Now I’ve always had a soft spot for this huge but neglected work, and so I’ve started looking at Rondeau’s description, from which the above is mainly taken.  One of his footnotes caught my eye at once.

Dans la notice Eusèbe de Césarée de certaines encyclopédies, il est insinué que le texte du Coislin. 44 est non de l’Eusèbe authentique et pur, mais de l’Eusèbe caténal, interpolé ou remanié (E. Preuschen, dans Realencyclopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche 5, 1898, p. 615; E. Schwartz, dans PW 6, 1907, col 1435; J. Moreau, dans DHGE 15, 1963, col. 1446, et dans RAC 6, 1965, col. 1064). Notre expérience de l’ensemble de l’exégèse antique du Psautier ne confirme pas cette méfiance.

In the article Eusebius of Caesarea in some encyclopedias, it is insinuated that the text of Coislin. 44 is not direct from Eusebius himself, but rather the “Eusebius” of the catenas, i.e. interpolated or reworked. (E. Preuschen, in Realencyclopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche 5, 1898, p. 615; E. Schwartz, in PW 6, 1907, col 1435; J. Moreau, in DHGE 15, 1963, col. 1446, and in RAC 6, 1965, col. 1064). Our experience of the entire collection of ancient exegesis of the psalter does not confirm this suspicion.[4]

It is good to hear this.  To cast suspicion on the authenticity of a text is easy; to remove it hard.  The need for an edition and translation of this text is not helped by such suspicions.

UPDATE (17/8/16): There is a critical edition in progress of this work, at the BBAW, headed by Christoph Markschies.  This has been in progress for a while, but I enquired and he kindly wrote back and told me: “The project is still active and the three colleagues mentioned at the website (Bandt, Risch and Villani) are still working hard to produce the first volume (that will be a multi-volume edition …) the next year.”

Which is excellent news, of course.  Now all we need is a team of translators.

  1. [1]Marie-Josephe Rondeau, Les commentaires patristiques du psautier, vol. 1, 1982.
  2. [2]Reprinted as the whole of Patrologia Graeca 23; material on psalms 119-150, edited by Mai, appears in PG 24, cols. 9-76.
  3. [3]Edition in PG 29, columns 194-6 and 202.
  4. [4]Rondeau, l.c., p.64, n.137.

Manuscript of Eusebius’ Quaestiones ad Stephanum/Marinum now online!

Readers may remember that a few years ago I published a translation of Eusebius of Caesarea’s Gospel Problems and Solutions (Quaestiones ad Stephanum et Marinum).  Today I learn from a correspondent that the main manuscript, Vaticanus Palatinus Graecus 220, has been digitised and is now online at the Vatican website!  Folios 61-91 contain the work, which is itself an abbreviation of the original in 3 books, which discussed differences between the start and end of each gospel, and attempted to resolve them.

It is interesting to see that there are scholia on some leaves.  I include an image of one below.  Does anyone know what it says?

Here’s the opening of the work (f.61) (click on the images for a clearer image):


Here is an example of the start of a “question” (f.92):


Here is where it breaks of, without any colophon (f.96):


And here on folio 90v is a scholion:


I’ve zoomed in somewhat, and it would be interesting to know what it says.

Seeing this crystal-clear manuscript makes me wish we had had it available, back when David Miller was working on the translation.   As it is, we may be so grateful that this is now freely available online!

UPDATE: A correspondent in the comments has kindly translated the gloss for us – thank you!  It reads:

No! But the true mother of the Lord herself is said mother of Jacob and Jose, who are considered brothers of the Lord, being natural sons of Joseph, from his first wife, Salome. For Joseph had four sons: Jacob and Jose and Simon and Jude. And as the mother of the Lord was considered wife of Joseph, so she was considered mother of his sons.