Ezekiel the Tragedian’s play on Moses; quoted by Eusebius, found at Oxyrhynchus

A number of news reports have circulated this week about the finds of Greek literature at Oxyrhynchus.  One of the better ones is in the Daily Mail, which has been running a lot of articles on subjects of interest lately.  The report by James Dunn (2 March 2016) is here.  It’s based on an article in the soon-to-be-extinct Independent, which nobody reads.

A long-lost speech from a play about Moses has been discovered on newly translated papers found more than a hundred years ago on an ancient Egyptian rubbish pile.

The speech explains how he was given the name Moses because he was found on the riverbank, written in a Greek-style tragedy about the Biblical character written in the Second Century BC.

It means that the classic Biblical story would have been performed more than 2,000 years before Charlton Heston played Moses in the 1956 blockbuster The Ten Commandments.

It is one of 500,000 documents found when the Victorian archaeologists Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt discovered the ancient city Oxyrhynchus, about 120 miles south of modern Cairo, in 1897.

Between then and 2012, only 5,000 had been translated, but thousands more have been translated thanks to an army of volunteers who have inspected the documents which were put online.

But the most interesting to many will be the fragment of a long-lost rendition of the Book of Exodus, written in the style of a Greek tragedy by little-known author called Ezekiel.

It had been quoted in another documents by Church Father Eusebius, written 400 years later, but until now, no-one had ever seen it.

Dr Dirk Oddbink, of Oxford University, co-ordinating the project, said: ‘We didn’t know for certain that a text existed: Eusebius might have made it up or misremembered it,’ reports The Independent.

‘Now we have a real copy, a long speech by Moses, in iambic trimeters, telling the history of his life and how he was discovered as a baby in the bulrushes.

‘We can put some flesh and bones on a lost work of literature, one that was presumably performed long before Charlton Heston.’

Dirk Oddbink is better known as Dirk Obbink.  The Independent has a less people-friendly introduction, but then adds a translation:

Newly discovered fragment of Ezekiel’s Exagoge, spoken by Moses:

Then the princess with her maidservants came down to bathe.
When she saw me, she took me up and recognised that I was a Hebrew.
My sister Mariam then ran up to her and spoke,
‘Shall I get a nursemaid for this child from the Hebrews?’ The princess urged her on.
Mariam went to fetch our mother who presently appeared and took me in her arms.
The princess said to her, ‘Woman, nurse this child and I shall pay your wages.’
She then named me Moses, because she had taken me from the watery river-bank.

The Mail also prints a couple of pictures of papyri, but I learn from a correspondent that these are in fact nothing to do with the Exodus, but are POxy 1.2 (Matthew) and POxy 6.846 (Amos).

We learn more about this author from Louis H. Feldman, here.[1]

2.26 Ezekiel the Tragedian, The Exodus, quoted by Alexander Polyhistor (first century BC), cited by Eusebius (end of third and beginning of fourth century AD), Preparation for the Gospel 9.29.4-6

We know of a Jew, Ezekiel, who composed tragedies, considerable fragments of one of which, The Exodus, have been preserved. His thorough familiarity with various classical authors, particularly Aeschylus and Euripides, indicates that he was well schooled in Greek literature. The play itself follows the biblical narrative closely, though the dream here mentioned, together with the interpretation by Moses’ father-in-law Raguel (Jethro), is non-biblical. There would appear to be significance in the fact that this crucial dream is interpreted by a non-Jew, Raguel.

Ezekiel thus mentions these things in his work The Exodus and includes the dream seen by Moses and interpreted by his father-in-law.

In the following extract, Moses himself speaks in dialogue with his father-in- law.

‘I dreamt there was on the summit of Mount Sinai
A certain great throne extending up to heaven’s cleft,
On which there sat a certain noble man
Wearing a crown and holding a great sceptre
In his left hand. With his right hand
He beckoned to me, and I stood before the throne.
He gave me the sceptre and told me to sit
On the great throne. He gave me the royal crown.
And he himself left the throne.
I beheld the entire circled earth
Both beneath the earth and above the heaven,
And a host of stars fell on its knees before me;
I numbered them all.
They passed before me like a squadron of soldiers.
Then, seized with fear, I rose from my sleep.’
His father-in-law interprets the dream thusly:
‘O friend, that which God has signified to you is good;
Might I live until the time when these things happen to you.
Then you will raise up a great throne
And it is you who will judge and lead humankind;
As you beheld the whole inhabited earth,
The things beneath and the things above God’s heaven,
So will you see things present, past, and future.’

Feldman does not make clear that Eusebius actually quotes far, far more than this: too much, indeed, for me to include in this post.

The Gifford translation of the Praeparatio Evangelica of Eusebius is online, and book 9 is here.  

Eusebius is not quoting directly, however.  He introduces, in chapter 17, his source: the lost work by Alexander Polyhistor:

AND with this agrees also Alexander Polyhistor, a man of great intellect and much learning, and very well known to those Greeks who have gathered the fruits of education in no perfunctory manner: for in his compilation, Concerning the Jews, he records the history of this man Abraham in the following manner word for word…

The Ezekiel material is stated to be copied “word for word” from Polyhistor.

It is nice to see Eusebius confirmed, once again, as an accurate source for lost works.  It has always seemed rather mean-minded, to me, to cast aspersions on a man to whom we owe so much knowledge of antiquity.

  1. [1]Louis H. Feldman, Jewish Life and Thought among Greeks and Romans: Primary Readings (1996) p.41. Online here.

Eusebius on the Psalms – a project for a new edition in Germany

I heard this week about a new edition of the Eusebius Commentary on the Psalms.  It’s very good news!

This monster work has survived in a rather curious fashion – the section on Psalms 51-100 has been transmitted directly, which is pretty unusual for an ancient biblical commentary.  But the sections on the other psalms are recovered from medieval Greek biblical commentaries – catenas – and the status of these is often very suspect.  The Patrologia Graeca edition by Montfaucon is not reliable.

The new edition is a project under the august auspices of the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften.  It is being undertaken by a large team of scholars directed by Prof. Christoph Markschies. In theory it is a ten year project and the edition is not to be completed before 2021. My guess is that it will run late!

A short description can be found here, at the top of a page dedicated to a series of projects (including an edition of the homilies of Severian of Gabala, scheduled for 2022-2032!).


Eusebius of Caesarea: Gospel Problems and Solutions – now online in English

Back in 2010 I published the text and translation of the remains of Eusebius of Caesarea’s Gospel Problems and Solutions.  This was the work in which he reconciled the differences at the start and end of the gospels.  The Latin title is Quaestiones ad Stephanum and Quaestiones ad Marinum. Many people contributed to the project.

My intention was always to make the result freely available online, once the costs were recovered or – alternatively – once sales dropped to very little.  This has now happened, and I am happy to make good on my promise.

The PDF of the book is here:

I have also uploaded it to Archive.org here.

Copyright continues to belong to whoever each bit belongs to.  One correction: the Greek text belongs to Claudio Zamagni (if ancient Greek texts do belong to people, as continental jurists apparently believe), not to the Sources Chretiennes as stated in the text.  Ask him for permission, if you want to reproduce his text.  The other original language materials are public domain.

The English translation belongs to me, but I am happy for people to use it in any way for personal and non-commercial purposes as they like. You don’t need to ask me for permission. If you have a commercial project in mind, I’d love that to happen; I probably won’t charge you either, and I’ve love to hear about it; but I’d better just OK what you want to do.

Please circulate copies of the PDF freely.  The purpose of this project was always to make the work much better available.

The Greek was translated by David J. D. Miller, and the remains extant in other languages – in Latin, Syriac, Coptic and Arabic – by Adam C. McCollum, Carol Downer and too many others to list.  Thanks to the kindness of Claudio Zamagni, the Greek text was printed on facing pages; and many others contributed mightily to this, not least Bob Buller who had the very thankless task of typesetting it.  There is a long list at the back of all those who contributed, and – I have not forgotten.  Thank you all.

The hardback and paperback are still in print for the moment, but will go out of print next year when the renewal notices arrive.  If you want one, get it while you can.  The hardbacks are particularly splendid.

My very sincere thanks to everyone who supported the project by purchasing a paper copy.  You made it all possible.

And here we are … at the end of an nine-year process.  It was 2006 when I started on this.

The other volume in the Ancient Texts in Translation series, Origen’s homilies on Ezekiel, will remain in print for now.  It will probably be released online this time next year.


Latin scribes getting Greek numerals wrong – authorial corrections in the text of Jerome’s Chronicle

Sometime before 325 AD, Eusebius of Caesarea compiled his Chronicle, in two books.  The second volume exploited the new, large-size, parchment codex, and consisted of page after page of tables of dates and events, synchronising events in different kingdoms, and laying the basis for all subsequent history.[1]  Around 380, Jerome came across a copy in Constantinople, and translated it into Latin.  A copy of his translation dated to 450 AD is held in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, where I have seen it; and 10 copies exist dated before 1000 AD.  Eusebius’ original Greek, unfortunately, did not survive.

The manuscripts split into two families, each based on a 5th century exemplar.  These are the group of 4 mss, SANP; and the group of 2, OM.  (A list, explaining each letter, can be found here).

In a fascinating paper which deserves to be better known,[2] Alden Mosshammer noticed that OM preserve errors of translation, which were corrected in SANP.   One of these requires access to the Greek.

Here’s the first example, (References are to Schoene’s 1956 edition, but you can find these in the online translation fairly easily).

P.217, line 24.

  • [Original] ἆθλα μ’ …  (nnn ran in the contest for the birthday of Rome …)
  • OM = athalamos natali romanae urbis cucurrit (currit M)  = “Athalamos ran in the contest…”
  • A = XL missus natali romanae urbis cucurrerunt = “40 ran in the contest…”
  • PN = quadraginta missus natali romanae urbis cucurrerunt = “40 ran in the contest…”

(I don’t know Greek numerals – what is the original number in Arabic numerals?)

It seems that Jerome dictated the numeral as a proper name, and the scribe wrote it down as one.  Somebody corrected it later, but OM preserve the dictation error.  Access to the Greek is required to spot this one.

The following example does not require consulting the Greek, and is in fact just a scribal correction:

P.83b, lines 21-23, is a heading.  It gives the name of Alcamenes, who was the 9th king of Sparta, and then the years of his reign follow below the heading.

  • [Original] = θἈλκαμένης  (i.e. “9. Alcamenes”).
  • O = thalcamenes
  • M = thalcamenis
  • A = VIIII menes
  • P = VIIII tarcamenes
  • N = VIIII tharcamenes

OM think the text reads “Thalcamenes”.  But the copyist SANP realised that the first letter was actually the number 9, although they still didn’t get the name right.  Possibly they realised this, because all the kings have numbers, so they inserted “VIIII” (i.e. “IX”) in front.

Here I have a little personal experience to contribute.

Scribes copied the names the first, and worked down the columns, rather than across.  When I transcribed the chronicle, I found that this was much the quickest and safest way.  The only problem was that you might write too many numerals, and suddenly realise that after year 9 there is a new king!  In the Bodleian ms (O), indeed, you see erasures of just this kind.  In HTML, luckily, I could just go back.

So the scribe will have quickly realised that a numeral was missing, and added it; although he could not determine the correct spelling of the name.  This correction could have occurred at any time, tho.

Mosshammer gives only these examples, and a couple of others which do not bear on this question.

Numerals in Greek are vulnerable things.  The first example proves that even St. Jerome could be foxed.  In this case, the lists of unfamiliar names, preceded by numerals, were a perfect occasion for error.

  1. [1]The online translation may be found here (part 1).
  2. [2]Alden Mosshammer, “Luca Bibl. Capit. 490 and the manuscript tradition of Hieronymus’ (Eusebius’) Chronicle”, California Studies in Classical Antiquity 8 (1975), pp. 203-240.  Online at JSTOR here.

From my diary

The only useful thing I did today was to add the Inveresk Mithraeum to the Mithras website.

I did a little work on the Origen book.  I tried to find out what size the thumbnail of the cover should be — for Amazon.com purposes.  In the process I discovered that I could no longer log in to the “author central” account that I use.  An email to Amazon asking for help has yet to get a reply.

I also spent some time looking at the sales figures of the Eusebius book.  This sold 33 copies in 2013; quite a lot less than 2012, but something.  The actual revenue from the book is not enormous, but the sales are enough, anyway, that I intend to keep the book in print for another year.  Most interesting, however, is the clear evidence that paperback sales make up the majority of sales.

Another chunk of a translation of Eusebius’ Commentary on Luke arrived a day or so ago.  There are only a handful left to do.

Otherwise I’ve spent today on chores.  Chores is the name we give to those mundane tasks which God gives us to balance out our lives, and so prevent our brains exploding from over-excitement.  Let us, by all means, give thanks for chores.


A catena fragment of Eusebius on Psalm 29:7

John Literal has sent me a translation made for him by Peter Papoutsis of a catena fragment discussing Daniel, and attributed to our old friend Eusebius.  He has kindly allowed me to post it here.  The biblical passage being commented on is Psalm 29:7.

Εὐσεβίου Καισαρείας ῥητοῦ προκειμένου, Φωνὴ Κυρίου διακόπτοντος φλόγα πυρός.

[00003] Διεκόπη μὲν ἐν τῇ Βαβυλῶνι ἡ φλὸξ τοῦ πυρὸς διακοπεῖσα τῷ προστάγματι τοῦ Θεοῦ· [00004] ἐδέξατο ἐν αὐτῇ ἡδίστην ἀναπνοὴν καὶ ἀναψυχὴν, ὥσπερ ἐν σκιᾷ τινι φυτῶν ἐν εἰρηνικῇ καταστάσει παρεχομένη τοῖς παισίν· [00005] ἐγένετο γὰρ, φησὶ, ὡσεὶ πνεῦμα δρόσου διασυρίζον. [00006] γʹ. [00007] Ὡσεὶ Υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου. [00008] Εὐσεβίου Καισαρείας. [00009] Σαφῶς ἡγοῦμαι δηλοῦσθαι τὴν καθόλου κρίσιν, ὅτε πάντες οἱ ἐξ αἰῶνος ἄνθρωποι παραστήσονται τῷ βήματι τοῦ Χριστοῦ· [00010] μετὰ δὲ τὴν τῶν τετελευτηκότων ἀναβίωσιν, καὶ μετὰ τὴν κατὰ πάντων κρίσιν, ὁ ἑωραμένος τῷ Δανιὴλ Υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου ἐπιστήσεται ἐπὶ νεφελῶν, τὴν κατὰ πάντων τῶν λαῶν καὶ φυλῶν ὑπὸ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐξουσίαν, τὴν καὶ βασιλείαν ἀγήρω καὶ ἀτελεύτητον παραληψόμενος· [00011] ὡς καὶ αὐτὸς ὁ Σωτὴρ ἡμῶν περὶ ἑαυτοῦ διδάσκει λέγων· [00012] Ὅτε δὲ ἔλθῃ ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐν τῇ δόξῃ αὐτοῦ, καὶ πάντες οἱ ἄγγελοι μετ’ αὐτοῦ, τότε καθίσει ἐπὶ θρόνου δόξης αὐτοῦ, καὶ συναχθήσεται ἔμπροσθεν αὐτοῦ πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, καὶ τὰ ἑξῆς· [00013] συνᾴδει γοῦν ταῦτα ταῖς ἐν χερσὶν μαρτυρίαις τῆς τοῦ Δανιὴλ προφητείας, καθ’ ἣν λέλεκται· [00014] Καὶ ἰδοὺ μετὰ τῶν νεφελῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ὡς Υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου ἐρχόμενος ἦν· [00015] καὶ, Ἕως τοῦ Παλαιοῦ τῶν ἡμερῶν ἔφθασεν· [00016] καὶ προσηνέχθη αὐτῷ, καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ ἡ ἀρχὴ καὶ ἡ τιμὴ καὶ ἡ βασιλεία, καὶ τὰ ἑξῆς. [00017] δʹ. [00018] Αὐτῷ ἐδόθη ἡ ἀρχή. [00019] Εὐσεβίου. [00020] Οὐ μόνον τὴν τοῦ Υἱοῦ ἀνθρώπου βασιλείαν ὁ προφήτης θεσπίζει, ἀλλὰ καὶ πλείονα, περὶ ὧν φησι. [00021] εʹ. [00022] Καὶ παραλήψονται τὴν βασιλείαν. [00023] Εὐσεβίου Καισαρείας. [00024] Συμβασιλεύοντες δηλαδὴ καὶ αὐτοὶ τῷ Θεῷ. [00025] Τίνες δ’ ἂν εἶεν οὗτοι, ἢ οἱ κληρονόμοι τοῦ Θεοῦ, συγκληρονόμοι δὲ Χριστοῦ; [00026] οἷς καὶ ἐπήγγελται, τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν, βασιλείαν ἐπιστησομένην τὴν μετὰ τέσσαρας βασιλείας, τὰς τῷ προφήτῃ ἑωραμένας, περὶ ὧν ὡς ἐν βραχέσιν ἀρτίως διειλήφαμεν. [00027] Ἐντεῦθεν οἶμαι τὸν ἀπόστολον Παῦλον [24.528] ὁρμᾶσθαι περὶ τῆς δευτέρας ἀφίξεως τοῦ Χριστοῦ γράφοντα τοιάδε· [00028] Ὅτι αὐτὸς ὁ Κύριος ἐν κελεύσματι, ἐν φωνῇ ἀρχαγγέλου καὶ ἐν σάλπιγγι Θεοῦ καταβήσεται ἀπ’ οὐρανοῦ, καὶ τὰ ἑξῆς. [00029] Ὁδ’ αὐτὸς ἀπόστολος καὶ τὴν ὑστάτην τοῦ Ἀντιχρίστου ἄφιξιν τὴν καὶ ἀπώλειαν, καὶ ἐπὶ ταύτῃ τὴν τοῦ Σωτῆρος ἡμῶν ἔνδοξον παρουσίαν ἀκολούθως τῇ προφητείᾳ παρίστησι λέγων· [00030] Μήτις ὑμᾶς ἐξαπατήσῃ κατὰ μηδένα τρόπον· [00031] ὅτι ἐὰν μὴ ἔλθῃ ἡ ἀποστασία πρῶτον, καὶ ἀποκαλυφθῇ ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἁμαρτίας, ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀπωλείας, ὁ ἀντικείμενος καὶ ὑπεραιρόμενος ἐπὶ πάντα λεγόμενα Θεὸν ἢ σέβασμα, ὥστε αὐτὸν εἰς τὸν ναὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ καθίσαι, ἀποδεικνύντα ἑαυτὸν ὅτι ἔστι Θεός· [00032] οὐ μνημονεύετε ὅτι ἔτι ὢν πρὸς ὑμᾶς ταῦτα ἔλεγον ὑμῖν; [00033] καὶ τὰ ἑξῆς. [00034] Τοσαῦτα ὁ θαυμάσιος Ἀπόστολος ἐν τοῖς περὶ συντελείας τοῦ βίου διεξῆλθε λόγοις, τὰ διὰ τοῦ προφήτου Δανιὴλ περὶ τοῦ Ἀντιχρίστου, καὶ τῆς τοῦ Σωτῆρος ἡμῶν ἐνδόξου βασιλείας τεθεσπισμένα πιστούμενος. [00035] ςὰʹ. [00036] Ἐξολοθρευθήσεται χρίσμα. [00037] Εὐσεβίου. [00038] Τὸ ἄκριτον καὶ παράνομον αὐτῶν διαβάλλουσα· [00039] οὕτως δὲ καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς θυσίας καὶ τῆς σπουδῆς συμβεβηκέναι φήσεις· [00040] ὀρθῶς μὲν καὶ κατὰ νόμον πρὸ τοῦ πάθους τοῦ Σωτῆρος ἡμῶν ἐπιτελουμένης διὰ τὴν εἰς ἔτι τότε τὰ τῶν ἁγίων τόπων ἐφορῶσαν δύναμιν· [00041] περιαιρεθείσης δὲ αὐτίκα μετὰ τὴν αὐτοῦ τέλειαν καὶ θεοπρεπῆ θυσίαν, ἣν προσήνεγκεν αὐτὸς ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν· [00042] αὐτός τε ὢν ὁ Ἀμνὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ ὁ αἴρων τὴν ἁμαρτίαν τοῦ κόσμου εἰς θυσίαν πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις· [00043] κατὰ τὰ καινὰ μυστήρια τῆς καινῆς διαθήκης [00044] Επιτρέπετα [00045] παραδοθείσης, τὰ τῆς παλαιᾶς περιῄρετο· [00046] ὁμοῦ γὰρ τὸ πληροῦσθαι τὸ φάσκον λόγιον, Καὶ δυναμώσει διαθήκην πολλοῖς ἑβδομὰς μία, τὰ τῆς παλαιᾶς διαθήκης περιῄρετο. [00047] Επιτρέπετα

Eusebius of Caesarea comments in regards to the following, The voice of the Lord dividing the flames of fire.

The fiery flame was rent in Babylon dividing at the very command of God. He received in her, most gladly, a new breath and rejuvenation, as in the shade of some kind of tree, in a state of tranquility as is given unto children; for as it came to pass, the wind blew, as a wind that blows and causes the dew to descend. Such is the Son of Man.

I suppose that this evidently pertains to the General Judgment where all men from the ages will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. And after the last resurrection, and after the judgment of all, the Son of Man as understood by Daniel, shall stand upon the clouds, having acquired power over all people and tribes from the Father, and His kingdom shall never grow old and shall have no end. And as our Savior taught concerning Himself, saying, When the Son of man comes in His glory, and all His angels with Him, then shall He sit upon His throne of glory, and all the nations shall be gathered before Him, and so on. In agreement with these events are the held testimonies of Daniel’s prophecy, over which he says, I saw One like the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, and when the Ancient of Days arrived, and He was presented before Him, and He was given dominion, honor and kingship, and these were given to Him and so on. To Him was given dominion.

The Prophet did not only foresee the kingship of the Son of man, but more as well, concerning which it is declared, And they will receive the kingship.

They will reign together with God. Who are these heirs of God, these co-heirs with Christ? And to whom was also promised the kingdom of heaven, a kingship conferred upon the four kingdoms, as perceived by the prophet, which we concern ourselves with briefly. Hence, alas the Apostle Paul, who relates it to the Second Coming of Christ, writes thus, For the Lord himself, with a command, and with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and so on. This reading and its concern with the ultimate coming of the Antichrist and his destruction, and the glorious appearance of the Savior, follows the parallel prophecy, that says, Let no one deceive you in any way! For unless the falling way from the faith comes first and the Man of Sin be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god, and object of worship, so as to seat himself in the temple of God, claiming that he is God. Do you not recall that while I was with you, I said to you these things, and so on. On these matters the admirable Apostle was alarmed and went on with such words, in full belief about the end of life, in regards to the Prophet Daniel in reference to the Antichrist, and the kingdom of our glorious Savior. During this time there will be a loss of grace. The injustice and lawlessness of others will be decried. They moreover, and upon their destitute sacrifices and knowledge, will befall into desolation, it is declared. However, those who live rightly and according to the law, pursuant to the Passion of our Savior, as it was accomplished in the Holy Land, shall be clothed in power; Now, when He, our Lord, was removed forthwith after his perfect and God-worthy sacrifice, He offered up himself for the removal of our sins. For He, our Lord, is the Lamb of God taking away the sins of the world, as a sacrifice for all men according to the new sacred teachings of the New Testament. Therefore, if I am allowed to say, that He was delivered up as our sacrifice under the precepts of the Old Testament. Therefore, together both testaments bring out the fullness of the sacred word, and He greatly strengthened the covenant in only one week, pursuant to the precepts of the Old Testament. If I am allowed to thus explain.

The Greek seems to contain Eusebius’ name at intervals: I wonder why.


A new Claudio Zamagni article on Eusebius’ Gospel problems and solutions

Claudio Zamagni has written to tell me that a new article of his is online at Academia.edu here.  It discusses the difficult question of the manuscripts of the fragments of Eusebius of Caesarea’s Gospel problems and solutions (Quaestiones ad Stephanum et Marinum).  It’s excellent stuff, as ever with Dr Z., and highly recommended.

This holiday I’m going to look at the sales of the Eusebius book and see if we have reached the point at which we can start to place material on the web on open access.  I believe that sales have been dropping for some time, but I won’t know until I review the sales statistics.


Feldman, the Testimonium Flavianum, Eusebius and the TLG

Last year Josephus scholar Louis Feldman wrote a tentative article in support of the hitherto fringe idea that Eusebius of Caesarea composed the so-called Testimonium Flavianum found in Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews, book 18.[1]  On p.26 we find the following statement:

There is one phrase in the Testimonium that, while it has been noted by several scholars, has not been sufficiently emphasized, namely, eis eti te nun (still to this day), referring to the fact that “still to this day,” “the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has not disappeared.”

This brief phrase, I would like to suggest, may–I repeat, may–give us the key to the whole puzzle as to the legitimacy of the Testimonium Flavianum. That key is now available to us because of the compilation during the past few decades of the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, the complete dictionary of all the Greek words in all the extant Greek literature. In such a thesaurus, one would expect such a phrase to appear not hundreds but thousands of times, and it does appear frequently; but the only writer in this entire collection of many thousands of Greek texts to use this phrase with the words in this order, aside from Josephus, is Eusebius, in whose writings it appears three times. This phrase thus appears to be a favorite of Eusebius and of no one else, at least of extant writers from that period.

Now this seems really rather impressive (to me, anyway). But we must always verify our facts.

Let us do a textual search on the TLG for eis eti te nun.  What do we get?


We get precisely four results.  I’m not sure what search term produced “frequent” results.

1. The first result is Josephus himself.  So far so good.

2. The second result is … erm … Eusebius quoting Josephus in the Church History book 1, chapter 11, verse 8; English translation here.  This, of course, is neither here nor there as far as Feldman’s theory is concerned.

3. The third result is from book 2 of the Church History, chapter 1, verse 7; English here.[2]

4. The fourth result is from the Eclogae Propheticae, p.168, l.15.  This is part of Eusebius’ later work, the General Elementary Introduction (to Christianity): “Διὸ καὶ τότε θαυμάζεσθαι αὐτοὺς εἰκὸς ἦν παρὰ τοῖς ἔμφροσιν, καὶ τοὺς λόγους αὐτῶν ἀναγράπτους παρὰ τοῖς ἱερογραμματεῦσι φυλάττεσθαι, εἰς ἔτι τε νῦν παρ’ ὅλῳ τῷ ἔθνει προφήτας γεγονέναι τοῦ Θεοῦ πιστεύεσθαι·”

It is not obvious from this list of data just why this means that Eusebius composed the TF.  So at this point we may ask ourselves what Feldman’s argument was again.  It would be advisable to place the argument in our own words — to avoid the danger of being influenced by rhetoric —  and to make explicit any inferred arguments.

Feldman’s argument would seem to be as follows:

  1. If two writers both use the phrase eis eti te nun, and only two, then this must mean that one has read the other, and that one is copying the other or has composed both.
  2. Josephus uses this phrase once.
  3. Eusebius, who is later, uses it twice (ignoring the verbatim quotation of the TF).
  4. Therefore Josephus did not write it, but Eusebius did.

I think most of us will be perplexed a little at this logic.

The first part of the argument seems very risky in a number of ways.  The phrase is a simple one, and ought to appear, as Feldman acknowledges, all over the place.  But the TLG as it stands reports only 4 results.  It would seem possible, therefore, that the TLG database is not representative of Greek literature or speech.  Since only 1% of ancient literature is preserved, and the TLG contains only a portion of that 1%, it is not impossible that this supposition is correct.  But if the TLG is not comprehensive, then the presence of only 2 authors in the search means nothing; only that the TF is not comprehensive.  In regard of completeness, it is suspicious that no other quotations of the TF appear in the results.  Is it really the case that no later Greek author quotes the TF?

Likewise a phrase of 4 words is not much of a fingerprint.

Finally, arguments from parallels are always dangerous, because trivial parallels can be mistaken for significant fingerprints.  They can arise in a great number of ways, and do not necessarily involve connection, never mind derivation.  For instance literature derives from oral speech.  Phrases appear in multiple places in modern literature, not because the authors know each other but because of some other source.  The popularisation of the term “chillaxing” by British Prime Minister David Cameron in 2010 will undoubtedly have left its mark in the literary record; but woe betide any subsequent scholar who draws conclusions from comparing literature, rather than seeking its real origin.

The fourth part of the argument is a non-sequitur.  If we allow a connection, it may arise in a number of ways.

The first possibility is the simplest.  Let us suppose that Josephus wrote those words.  Let us suppose that Eusebius copied them for the HE I, liked the phrase, and, having it in mind, repeated it when he composed book II, and, later, in the GEI.  What could be more natural?  What need is there to suppose anything other than copying?

There is another, many-headed alternative.  For this we need to consider the second quotation of the TF by Eusebius, in the Demonstratio Evangelica, book 3, chapter 5.  This does not appear in the search because, simply, it has a different text: “ὅθεν εἰσέτι νῦν ἀπὸ τοῦδε τῶν Χριστιανῶν οὐκ ἐπέλειπεν τὸ φῦλον.”

Why are there two versions?  Is Eusebius quoting from memory and tripping up, or using different copies of the text? — for how else can the same quotation have two different wordings?

But if he is quoting from memory a favourite saying then why does he get it wrong?  This, surely, is evidence against the “favourite” argument.

If he has access to copies with two different versions, then of course there is a textual problem at this point with Josephus in transmission, which means that arguing from a parallel in the text is pointless because in this case we don’t know what the text is.

We might also consider the well-known phenomenon of harmonisation.  This is most familiar to us from the New Testament and the Lord’s Prayer where — I am told — the version in Luke tends to become assimilated to that in Matthew in the manuscripts, as the former was more familiar.

Now Eusebius HE is a common text.  Josephus’ Antiquities 11-20 is comparatively a rare one.  The TF was so well known by itself that it intrudes into Josephus Jewish War.  The conditions are right for assimilation in transmission.  Do we know for sure that, far from Eusebius composing the TF, the copyist of the 9th century ancestor of all our modern mss. of Antiquities 11-20 did not harmonise the text with the HE, conciously or otherwise?

We do have evidence that assimilation did occur in versions of the TF.  Jerome quotes in Latin in De viris illustribus a somewhat different version of the text.  But I am told that in the Greek translation of DVI, someone has “corrected” the TF to the version found in Eusebius HE and Josephus.

On the other hand, the DE is also a rare text.  Evidently harmonisation was not that commonplace.

But if we do assume a connection, and we allow for harmonisation, then it is equally likely that the Josephan TF is merely a scribal copy of the Eusebian version in the HE, itself probably corrupt, and that the real text is lost.  If Eusebius (or his literary assistants – we must remember that there are problems with the quotations in the HE) did write down the TF from memory, and did so differently in the HE and DE, then of course errors of memory are possible and Eusebian phrasing may be introduced by a normal text-critical path.

Some will also feel rather concerned at the tiny data volumes – 4 words, 2 quotations – involved.  Are these numbers large enough to be statistically significant?  Databases can tell us much, but they can also mislead if used without awareness of the pitfalls, and without devising a way to exclude false positives.

In short, the argument put forward by Prof. Feldman is interesting but unconvincing.  The data does not require the hypothesis of Eusebian composition in order to explain it.

UPDATE (17/2/17): In a new article, atheist Richard Carrier complains here that, for the purposes of the theory, I should have searched for eis eti nun instead of the exact phrase in the text of Josephus, eis eti te nun.  In fact I just searched for the “brief phrase” that Feldman gave, and I didn’t look further for ways to make it work.  But let us by all means discuss this in a separate post when I have had a chance to look at the TLG.

  1. [1]Louis H. Feldman, On the authenticity of the “Testimonium Flavianum” attributed to Josephus, in: E. Carlebach and J. Schacter (ed), New Perspectives on Jewish Christian Relations, Brill, 2012, 13-30.  Accessible on Google Books Preview here.
  2. [2]7 When he came to that place he healed Abgarus by the word of Christ; and after bringing all the people there into the right attitude of mind by means of his works, and leading them to adore the power of Christ, he made them disciples of the Saviour’s teaching. And from that time down to the present the whole city of the Edessenes has been devoted to the name of Christ, offering no common proof of the beneficence of our Saviour toward them also.

An extract from Eusebius, “Ecclesiastical Theology” III, 4-6

A portion of Eusebius of Caesarea’s Ecclesiastical Theology, written against Marcellus of Ancyra, was edited and translated in John Mackett, Eusebius of Caesarea’s Theology of the Holy Spirit. Milwaukee, WI : Marquette University,  1990.  As it is not too long, I think it might be interesting to give the passage translated here.

Mackett goes on to discuss the meaning of the discussion – a very necessary thing! – but I have no access to that portion of his dissertation.

Marcellus of Ancyra had written a text against Asterius, a former sophist and one of the early Arians.  Eusebius responds to this work.

What strikes us, forcibly, is that this text is only meaningful to people with an interest in Trinitarian theology.  This explains why a translation has been so long in coming.  I am told that the usage of the terms in Eusebius differs from that of later writers, just to complicate things.

The term “hypostasis” means “being” or “substantive reality”, I think.  Later it comes to mean “person”, and the formula that God is three hypostases / persons in one ousia / being appears.  But that’s about as far as I can go.

Let us now hear from Eusebius.

*    *    *    *   *    *

How Marcellus, not under­standing the Scriptures, determined for himself that the hypostasis of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one.

And thus once again the statement that the three (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) are one is also Sabellian. Marcellus also expressed this same opinion and somewhere wrote: “For it is impossible for three existing hypostases to be united in a monad unless earlier the Triad should have its beginning from a monad. For St. Paul said that those things which in no way belong to the unity in God will be brought together in a monad; for only the Word and the Spirit belong to the unity in God.”

Next, as he tries to construct a log­ical argument for this, he goes on and says: “If, therefore, the Word clearly came forth out of the Father himself and has come to us, and the Holy Spirit (as even Asterius confessed) ‘proceeds from the Father,’ and if the Savior says concerning the Spirit: He will not speak on his own, but he will speak whatever he hears, and will an­nounce to you the things to come. He will glorify me, for he will receive from me and will announce it to you,’ is it not clearly evident that here the Monad appears in an ineffable word, expanding into a Triad but also not enduring in any way a dividing of itself?

‘For if the Word proceeds out of the Father, and the Spirit himself also is confessed to proceed out of the Father, and again, if the Savior says concerning the Spirit, He will receive from me and will announce it to you,’ is it not clear that some mystery which had been hidden is being revealed? For how, unless the undivided Monad should expand into a Triad, can he say at one time that the Spirit proceeds out of the Father and at another time: “He will receive from me and will announce it to you,’ and also, when he had breathed upon the disciples to have said, deceive the Holy Spirit?

‘For how, if he proceeds out of the Father, can it be proclaimed that he receives this ministry from the Son?

For if, as Asterius said, there are two distinct prosopa, it is necessary either that the Spirit, because he proceeds out of the Father, does not require the ministry of the Son (for everything which proceeds out of the Father is necessarily perfect and requires no assistance from another) or, if he should receive from the Son and by his power minister grace, he no longer proceeds out of the Father.”

After some other things he adds: “But if the Gospel says that, after he breathed upon his disciples he said: deceive the Holy Spirit,’ it is quite clear that the Spirit went forth out of the Word. How then, if the Spirit came out of the Word, is it again said that the same Spirit proceeds out of the Father?” And after some other things he adds: “Therefore he said (not once, but twice!) neither correctly nor fit­tingly, There are three hy­postases.'” Now through these ar­guments (and ones like them) the smart aleck tries to build his case that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one and the same, because three names are given to one hypostasis.

For in these words it is not clear how both the Son is said to proceed out of the Father, and likewise the Holy Spirit.

Nor has it been possible to conceive how the Savior said about the Holy Spirit: “He will receive from me and will announce it to you.” Nor how, after he breathed upon the disciples, he said “Receive the Holy Spirit.” And this will have an easy solution for those who think orthodoxly if one should consider that the Son, since he always exists and is present with the Father, is in some place, as though he were in the innermost sanctuary and inaccessible part of the paternal kingdom, and then, because he was sent from the Fa­ther for the sake of the salvation of the race of men, said that he him­self came forth from the Father.

And surely he made this clear else­where when, speaking about himself through a parable, he said: “The sower came forth to sow.”For from where did he come forth other than out of the innermost kingdoms of the paternal Godhead?

And according to the same reason­ing the Holy Spirit is also always present at the throne of God since, according to Daniel, even “myriads upon myriads”stand before him. And this one himself was sent, at one time in the form of a dove upon the Son of Man, at another time upon each of the prophets and apostles. For this reason he also has been said to proceed from the Father.

And why are you amazed? For even of the Devil it has also been said: “And the Devil came forth from the Lord” and again, a sec­ond time it was said: “But the Devil came forth from the Lord.”You would even find the same concerning Ahab where the Scrip­ture adds: “And an evil spirit came forth and stood in front of the Lord and said: 1 will outwit him.'”But these are opposing spirits; now is not the time to be busy with try­ing to figure out how or in what sense this is said about them.

And the only-begotten Son of God teaches that he himself has come forth from the Father because he always co-exists with him; and likewise, the Holy Spirit exists as distinct from the Son.

Certainly the Savior himself clearly proves this by saying: “He will re­ceive from me and will announce it to you.” For this would clearly be indicative of the Son’s and the Holy Spirit7s not being one and the same. For what receives some­thing from another is recognized as distinct from that which gives.

And that the Holy Spirit is indeed distinct from the Son, our Lord and Savior himself explicitly and excel­lently taught in the clearest terms in which he said to his disciples: “If you love me you will keep my commands. And I will ask the Fa­ther and he will give to you an­other Paraclete so that he might be with you forever: the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot re­ceive.” You see how he says that the Spirit, who is the Paraclete, is distinct from and other than him­self. And if, after breathing he said to the disciples: “Receive the Holy Spirit,” one need not be ignorant that this breathing was somehow purgative of the souls of the apos­tles in order to make them fit for the reception of the Holy Spirit.

For he is not said to have breathed upon their face or that he breathed either the breath of life or the Holy Spirit as it was recorded about Adam: “God breathed upon his face the breath of life.” Rather, he is said first to breathe and then to say, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”But the giving of the Spirit himself showed again that he is distinct from what is given.

For he himself would not have been the giver and the gift, but the Savior was the one who gave, the one who was given was the Holy Spirit, and the apostles were the recipients; the breathing out was, as I said, purgative of the apostles or even productive of the imparting of the Holy Spirit (for it is possible to understand it both ways).

From these passages the Holy Spirit is shown to subsist distinctly from him, as even from the following, in which again it has been recorded that he said: “If someone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”194

To these words he adds: “These things I have told you while I was with you. But the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom my Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of everything that I told you.” You hear how he has used a plural form (“We will come to him and make our dwelling with him”) while speaking about the Father and himself. And when speaking about the Holy Spirit, he spoke as though he were speaking about another (“He will teach you everything”).

And the passage: “I will ask the Father and he will give to you an­other Paraclete so that he might be with you forever: the Spirit of truth” was also of this sort. Therefore, the Paraclete, con­cerning whom he was teaching such things, was distinct from himself. Naturally then he again added: “These things I have told you while I was with you.

But the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom my Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of everything that I told you.”

He is saying: “For I have spoken these things to you up until this time. But the Spirit of truth, the very one whom my Father will send, will teach you everything, inasmuch as of now you have not learned because you have not made room.

“But, I say, when he, the Paraclete, comes, he will complete the teach­ing by also producing in you the remembrance of the words I am now speaking.” And again he says: “But when the Paraclete comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will testify concerning myself.”Through all of this he clearly shows that the one who is sent by him and is going to bear witness on his behalf is distinct from himself.

And he strengthens the argument even more by what he adds: “But I tell you the truth: it is better for you that I depart. For if I do not depart, the Paraclete will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” By saying that he him­self was going he was indicating in these words his own passion and the ascension to the Father after this.

Who then, after so many words, is so stupid as to say that the one who says these things and the one about whom he was speaking are one and the same—after he hears him clearly determining to speak the truth? And what is the truth about the one who shows that, unless he departs, the Holy Spirit would never come?

But if at one time he determines that the Father sends the Holy Spirit and at another he himself, of course he is not teaching contradic­tions; for everything, whatever “he sees the Father doing … the Son does likewise” and “he judges just as he hears.”

Wherefore, by the judgment of the Father, when the Father also wills it, at that time the Son andthrough him, the Savior sends the Spirit of truth, that is, the Paraclete, to his disciples in order to comfort and encourage them in the things they suffered from those who persecuted them as they preached the Gospel.

But he said this not only to comfort them, but also to teach them the whole truth of the New Testament which they could not be taught by the Savior at the time he was in their company and teaching these things, because they were en­slaved to Jewish training.

He fulfilled these things by what he did after his resurrection from the dead; after when he said to Mary, “Do not touch me for I have not yet ascended to my Father.” After saying these things, since he indeed had gone up to the Father, he appeared to the disciples.

When he also commands them to touch him, the Holy Spirit had been sent and was with him-being ready and present for the ministry to which he had been appointed.

For at that time “he breathed on them” and then he gave them a part of a certain gift of the Holy Spirit, which was to effect the for­giveness of sins. For “there are different gifts” which he partially gave them then, when he was with them and present to them. But after this he filled them with a greater and more perfect power. Concerning this he said to them, as recorded in the Acts of the Apos­tles: “But you will receive power from on high when the Holy Spirit comes down on you.” He also announced that they would be bap­tized with the Holy Spirit, which itself was fulfilled after his ascen­sion, on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was sent to them, in accordance with his words.

But now is not the time to go over in detail, with the exactness of a close examination, what here needs greater discussion and distinctness, since this is not what was set before us. But it was necessary to prove that the Son and the Paraclete Spirit are distinct. This was even pointed out in various ways through what the Savior himself taught and said to the others in these words: “I still have many things to tell you, but you are not yet able to bear them. But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will explain the whole truth to you for he will not speak on his own, but whatever he hears; and he will announce to you the things to come. He will glorify me because he will receive from me and will announce it to you.” Again in these words it is proclaimed that what he did not teach, this his dis­ciples will learn by the Holy Spirit, of whom it is said, as though speaking of someone else: “When he comes” and “he will not speak on his own” and “he will glorify me” and “because he will receive from me.. .”.

To assume that the Savior himself spoke all these things about himself is quite simple-minded and hard to cure.

But through these words the Sav­ior himself clearly taught that the Holy Spirit is distinct from himself in honor, glory, and privileges; being more excellent, stronger, and higher than all intelligent and rational being (wherefore he is also included in the holy and thrice- blessed Triad) but indeed lower than himself.

And this he clearly shows when he says: “He will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears.” And that he will hear from someone else he makes quite clear when he says: “He will re­ceive from me and will announce it to you”—which clearly means “from out of my treasure,” for in him “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Therefore, he himself, since he is only-begotten Son, receives from the Father and hears from the Father; but the Holy Spirit is provided from him. Hence he says: “He will receive it from me and will announce it to you.”

Now it is said that even the God over all is spirit, as the Savior himself taught when he said: “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth”; and truly himself will be the holy one of the saints and “resting in the saints.” But the Son of God also is spirit and him­self is even the holy spirit of the saints, if indeed he is the image of the invisible.

Therefore it was also said concern­ing him: “The Lord is the Spirit”and “the Lord Christ is spirit before our face.”

Certainly the Holy Spirit is distinct from the Father and the Son. The Savior pointed out his uniqueness and called him “the Paraclete,” distinguishing the common element of the equivocal word by the appellation “Paraclete,” since even the angelic powers are spirits. For it is said, “He makes his angels spirits.”  But it is impossible to equate any of these with the Paraclete Spirit.

Wherefore only this spirit has been included in the holy and thrice- blessed Triad. This is not different from the Savior’s explaining to his apostles his sacrament of rebirth for all those from the nations who believe in him. He commanded them to baptize “them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Of the Father because he has full authority and gives the grace. Of the Son because he ministers to this grace (for “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”). Of the Holy Spirit, that is, the Paraclete, who is him­self provided according to the di­versity of graces in himself: ‘Tor to one is given a word of wisdom through the Spirit, but to another a word of knowledge according to the same spirit. To another is given faith by the same Spirit” and likewise the things considered with these.

So then the Holy Spirit, who was provided through the Son to whomever the Father might choose, was fond of dwelling in the saints alone. And such would be his work: to sanctify all, to whom he might give some one or even many of the gifts in himself, so that prophets, apostles, and every God- loving soul, and likewise the stronger and divine powers, would participate in the holiness from him. But only the Son has been honored by the paternal Godhead, that he might be the maker and creator of all the geneta, both visi­ble and invisible, and even of the existence of the Paraclete Spirit.

For, “through him all things came into being, and apart from him not one thing came to be” and “in him everything in heaven and on earth was created, things visible and invisible.” But the God over all and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, since he is something ineffable, is good and more excellent than all reasoning ability and thought, and every expression and consideration, whatever their commonalities or distinctions are, also takes the lead over and above the Holy Spirit himself and even the only-begotten Son.

He alone is rightly called “the God over all and through all and in all” by the apostle who says: “There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God the Father of all, who is over all, through all, and is in all.”

And he alone might be called “one God and Father” “of our Lord Je­sus Christ.” The Son is “only- begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father.” But the Paraclete Spirit is neither God nor Son, since he does not get his origin from the Father like the Son, but is one of the things which came into being through the Son because: “Through him all things came into being, and apart from him not one thing came to be.”

Therefore these mysteries are handed over to the holy and catholic Church through the divine titles. But Marcellus confuses everything: sometimes he takes into himself the whole depth of Sabellius, another time he tries to revive the heresy of Paul of Samosata, and other times he is openly refuted as a Jew for he introduces one three-faced and, as it were, three-named hypostasis by saying God, the Word in him, and the Holy Spirit are the same.


Forthcoming: translation of Eusebius’ “Contra Marcellum” and “Ecclesiastical Theology”

We have English translations of a great deal of Patristic literature.  One of the most conspicuous absences, however, has been the five books that Eusebius of Caesarea wrote against Marcellus of Ancyra after the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.  These are the Contra Marcellum and the Ecclesiastical Theology.

Today I heard from Dr Kelley E. Spoerl of Saint Anselm College, who writes:

I am happy to report that my collaborator, Dr. Markus Vinzent of King’s College, London, and I have signed a contract to have the translation published with the Fathers of the Church series from Catholic University of America Press sometime in 2015 or 2016. The manuscript is now with two expert scholars for review and we expect to make the final revisions and submit before the end of 2014.

Already I have heard from another correspondent, interested in seeing the manuscript.  But of course the publishers will try to prevent any circulation of that, and quite understandably.

It’s good news.  Admittedly the number of people who will be able to access the translation is not nearly what it would be; but at least the thing now exists.  My original correspondence with Dr Spoerl was in 2008 (!) so it has been a long time coming.  Very welcome all the same.

I ought to highlight that a small part of the Ecclesiastical Theology (III 4-6) is available in English in the dissertation of John Mackett, Eusebius of Caesarea’s Theology of the Holy Spirit. Milwaukee, WI : Marquette University,  1990, p.225-244.  This I have seen, and it is mind-boggling – pure theology!

In addition an Italian translation exists: Franzo Migliore, Eusebio di Cesarea: teologia ecclesiastica, Città Nuova, 1998.  Google books preview here.

UPDATE (2020): The complete translation of these two works by Kathy E. Spoerl and Markus Vinzent appeared in 2017: Eusebius of Caesarea: Against Marcellus and On Ecclesiastical Theology, Fathers of the Church 135, Catholic University of America (2017).