Can we use Fuchs’ Bibliothek der Kirchenversammlungen, and do we want to?

Few will be aware that in the 1780’s G.D. Fuchs published an 4-volume German translation of the acts and canons of the church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries.  His Bibliothek der Kirchenversammlungen des vierten und fünften Jahrhunderts can be found online, at Google Books in low resolution, and at the BSB – Bayerische Staatsbibliothek – Bavarian State Library – in higher resolution.  Here are a few links:

  • Vol. 1 (1780) – Google Books. – BSB.  Introduction, canons up to Nicaea.
  • Vol. 2 (1781) – Google Books. – BSB.  Thyrus (335) to the first synod of Toledo (400).
  • Vol. 3 (1783) – Google Books. – BSB.  African Synods, from 348 to 426; Jerusalem, Diospolis, up to preliminaries to Ephesus in 431.
  • Vol. 4 (1784) – Google Books. – BSB.  Ephesus, Chalcedon, Constantinople etc to the end of the fifth century.

Just to add to the fun, he used a “gothic” typeface – “Fraktur” is the technical term – which is pretty much unreadable to non-Germans, even if they know the language.  But modern technology has made quite a difference.  Google can make books in Fraktur searchable.  Abbyy Finereader 15 can turn it into modern typeface using the “Old German” language setting.  The BSB has a search facility on its volumes, probably using the Abbyy engine.  It was in fact a Google search for “Mizonius”, a bishop at the Council of Carthage in 397, that produced a link to Fuchs.

Fuchs tells us that he used the text from J. D. Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum, vol. 3 (1759) In fact he wisely indicates the column numbers.  At the start of the material on the Council of Carthage in 397 (volume 3, page 63), we get as a heading “Mansi Tom. III. col. 915 = 939.” and a footnote which specifies what is where.

In the original, and in Google Translate English:

43) In der oben angezeigten Stelle hat Mansi die Aus­gabe unserer Synodalakten nach der Anleitung und den Handschriften der Ballerini, mit Anmerkungen von diesen. Vorher geht col. 909-915. admonitio BaIIeriniorum de breuiar Hippon. Wiederum col. 875-908. 1) Die alte Isidorsche Ausgabe cum titulis, annexisque quinque capitulis ex Gratiano aIiis­que desumptis, incertae originis. 2) Einige Ausga­ben, worinnen die Hipponischen abgekürzten Schlüsse von den übrigen Verfügungen durch die Aufschrift unterschieden sind, 3) Anmerkungen von Dinius. 4) Eine Nachricht von einer Synode zu Karthago, aus dem libellus synodicus, von der aber ungewis ist, ob sie hieher gehört. 5) Anmerkungen von Aubespi­ne.  6) Zwo Anmerkungen von Pagi. Die Synode wird gewöhnlich unter dem Titel, Concil. Carthag. III. angeführt, und unter den Aurelianischen wird sie als die dritte gezählt.

43) In the place indicated above, Mansi has the edition of our synodal acts according to the instructions and the manuscripts of the Ballerini, with annotations from them. Before that, col. 909-915. admonitio BaIIeriniorum de breuiar Hippon. Again col. 875-908. 1) The old Isidorian edition cum titulis, annexisque quinque capitulis ex Gratiano aIiisque desumptis, incertae originis. 2) Some editions, in which the Hipponian abbreviated conclusions are distinguished from the other provisions by the inscription, 3) Notes by Dinius. 4) A message from a synod at Carthage, from the libellus synodicus, of which, however, it is uncertain whether it belongs here. 5) Comments from Aubespine. 6) Two notes from Pagi. The synod is usually entitled, Concil. Carthag. III. cited, and counted as the third among the Aurelian.

Here’s the corresponding page from Mansi:

This is all well and good.  So I thought that I would try to identify this proemium, the introduction to the council, in other modern editions.  It can be found in the standard edition, Munier’s CCSL 149, Concilia Africae, on p.182, at the start of the “Register of excerpts of the Carthage Church”; and in Joannou’s Fonti discipline generale antique (IVe-IXe s.) vol. 1.2 les canons des synodes particuliers (1962) i.e. volume 1.2, p.250, with French translation.  In other words this preface reaches us only as part of the “Council of Carthage” in the “Collectio Dionysiana” – I talked about the collections here -, in the material that follows canon 33.  It took a little longer than I would have liked to find all those.

Just for fun, I used Abbyy Finereader 15, and I scanned Fuchs’ material for the Council of Carthage in 397, and I ran the text, and part of the copious footnotes, through Google Translate.  But scanning does make you read the text.  I found that Fuchs text was obviously incomplete.  A footnote indicated that the signatures of the bishops had been omitted; not a good sign.  Likewise in canon 1, I knew that a text of the Nicene Creed should be given; but it was omitted, as a footnote confirmed.

Let’s take a look at the Proemium, and compare what Fuchs gives us, in his archaic German, to the actual Latin text that Mansi prints.  First Fuchs (with the raw Google output after):

44) Unter dem Konsulat des Caesarius und Attikus d. 28ten August. Als sich Aurelius zu Karthago in dem Kirchenzimmer mit den Bischöfen gesezt hatte, und die Diakonen da stunden 45), so sagte er:  Wir versammleten uns, wie ihr wisset, sogleich nach dem zur Synode bestimmten Tag 46), in der Meynung, die Gesandten der übrigen Provinzen vyn Afrika seyen auch angekommen. Man las den Brief der Byzacenischen Bischöfe, welche vor der anberaumen Zeit sich hier eingefunden halten, und was diese sonst mit mir verhandelt halten, vor; man las die Vollmacht der Sitiphensischen Legaten, des Honoratus und Urbanus; nicht weniger das Schreiben des Krescentianus, des Primas von Numidien, und des Aurelius, unserer Mitbischöfe, worinnen sie versprochen haben, sie würden entweder selbst kommen, oder doch der Gewohnheit nach Abgeordnete schicken. Da nun dieses bisher nicht geschehen, und doch die Legaten von dem Sitiphensischen Mauritanien sich langer nicht aufhalten können: so wollen wir nicht nur das Schreiben unserer Byzacenischen Brüder, sondern auch den dem selbigen angehangten und für diese Versammlung bestimmten kurzen Auszug der Kirchenverordnungen noch einmal verlesen lassen, ob nicht etwas daran zu verbessern seyn möchte. Um dieses bittet der verehrungswürdige Primas Mizonius in einem Schreiben an mich.

44) In the consulate of Caesarius and Atticus, on August 28th. When at Carthage Aurelius sat in the church room with the bishops, and the deacons were there,45) he said: “As you know, we met immediately after the day that was set for the Synod 46), in the Meynnung, the ambassadors from the other provinces of Africa had also arrived. The letter from the Byzacene bishops, who were present here before the appointed time and what other things they were negotiating with me, were read out; one read the authority of the Sitiphensian legates, the Honorus and Urbanus; no less the letter from Crescentianus, the primate of Numidia, and from Aurelius, our fellow bishops, in which they promised that they would either come themselves or, as is customary, send delegates. Since this has not happened so far, and yet the legates of Mauritania Sitiphensis cannot stay longer: we want not only the letter from our Byzacene brothers, but also the Breviarium from the same, which is attached to the same and intended for this assembly Have church ordinances read out again to see if something could be improved on them. The venerable Primate Mizonius asks me for this in a letter.”

That’s pretty clear, even without tidying up.  But is it Mansi?

Sadly it is not.  Even a glance shows that Fuchs has omitted the last sentence, “Si ergo placent quae tractata sunt, legantur, & singula a vestra caritate considerentur.” – “If what [the canons] have been handed over is acceptable, let them be read, and considered one by one by your charity.”  There is plenty of verbiage about “your charity” in other places, which Fuchs has omitted.  Cutting out the piffle is sort of OK, although not very.

The Byzacene bishops arrived early, by mistake, and could not stay.  So they compiled a summary of the canons of Hippo, attached to a letter to the council.  In this first session of the council, on 28 August 397, Bishop Aurelius – really the archbishop – now wants the council to review what was said.  That lost sentence by itself is an important omission as to what the council is about to do.

Mansi and Joannou confirm Mansi’s text at this point. Let’s look at Joannou’s text and translation:

De concilio Carthaginensi, ubi multa sunt constituta.

Caesario et Attico viris clarissimis consulibus, V. Kal. Septembris, Carthagine in secretario basilicae restitutae, cum Aurelius episcopus una cum episcopis consedisset, adstantibus diam diaconis, advenientibus quoque Victore sene Puppianense, Tito Migirpense, Evangelo Assuritano, Aurelius episcopus dixit:

Post diem praestitutum concilii consedimus, ut recordamini fratres beatissimi, d arbitrabamur omnium provinciarum per Africam legationes convenisse ad diem, ut dixi, praestitutam nostri tractatus; sed cum sacerdotum nostrorum epistola Byzacenorum fuisset recitata, vel quid mecum iidem, qui tempus d diem concilii praevenerant, tractassent vestrae caritati legeretur, lecta est etiam a fratribus Honoraio et Urbano, qui nobiscum hodie concilio participantur, legatio Sitiphensis provinciae destinata; frater etiam Reginus ecclesiae Vegetselitanae literas ad parvitatem meam datas Crescentiani primae sedis, ut ipse insinuat, Numidiarum et Aurelii coepiscoporum nostrorum; in quibus scriptis vestra mecum caritas recognoscit promisisse eosdem, quod aut ipsi dignarentur venire, aut ad hoc concilium fuissent ex more destinaturi legatos. Sed hoc quia minime factum videtur, diu se detineri de longinquo venientes legati Mauritaniae Sitiphensis non posse testantur.

Et ideo fratres, si vestrae caritati videtur, literae fratrum nostrorum Byzacenorum, sed et breviarium quod eidem epistolae adiunxerunt ad hunc coetum conrogatum legantur, ut si qua forte illic movere caritatis vestrae animum possunt, in eodem breviario quae diligentius fuerint animadversa in melius reformentur. Hoc enim frater et coepiscopus noster primae sedis, vir perspectus merito suae gravitatis atque prudentiae, Mizonius, scribens ad meam parvitatem postulavit. Si ergo placet, quae tractata sunt legantur et singula a vestra caritate considerentur.

Du synode de Carthage, où de nombreuses décisions furent prises.

Sous Césaire et Atticus les clarissimes consuls, le cinquième jour des calendes de septembre, à Carthage, au secrétariat de la basilique Restaurée, sous la présidence d’Aurélius évêque, les évêques étant présents assistés de diacres, y assistant aussi Victor le vénérable évêque de Pupput, Tite évêque de Migirpa, Evangele évêque d’Assuras, Aurélius évêque de Carthage parla aux évêques.

Aurélius évêque dit: Apres le jour fixé pour la réunion du synode, alors que nous siégions, comme vous vous en souvenez, mes tris bienheureux freres, et attendions que les délégués de toutes les provinces d’Afrique arrivent au jour de notre réunion, jour fixé, dis-je, à l’avance, on lut une lettre de nos comministres de la Byzacine; on lut aussi à votre charité les discussions qui ont eu lieu entre moi et ceux qui sont arrivés avant le jour fixé pour le synode; nos frères Honoré et Urbain, qui prennent part à la session de ce jour, nous ont lu la délégation qui fut envoyée du territoire Sitifien; or notre frère Rhéginus de l’église Végétsélitaine présenta à notre modestie des lettres de nos comministres Crescentien et Aurélius, titulaires des premiers sièges des deux Numidies, dans lesquelles, votre charité s’en souvient avec moi, ils promettent ou bien de daigner venir eux-mémes à ce synode ou bien d’y envoyer selon l’usage des délégués. Mais comme cela n’a eu aucunement lieu, les délégués de la Mauritaine Sitifienne, arrivés de si loin, protestent qu’ils ne peuvent s’attarder plus longtemps.

C’est pourquoi, mes frères, si tel est l’avis de votre charité, qu’on lise dans cette réunion bénie les lettres de nos frères de la Byzacène et le mémoire qu’ils y ont ajouté, afin que soit corrigé pour le mieux ce que votre charité estimerait pouvoir être corrigé avec plus de soin; c’est cela en effet que notre frère dans l’épiscopat Mizonius, le titulaire très illustre du premier siège, demande en écrivant à mon humilité d’une manière digne de sa grandeur et de sa prudence. Si donc tel est votre avis, qu’on lise ce qui fut débattu et que votre chanté prête attention à chaque question.

As it is late, I will merely run the French through Google Translate and touch it up a bit.  My experience is that the French is sometimes a paraphrase, but it will serve for our purpose.

From the Synod of Carthage, where many decisions were made.

Under Caesarius and Atticus the most honourable consuls, on the fifth day of the kalends of September, in Carthage, at the secretariat of the Restored Basilica, under the presidency of bishop Aurelius, the bishops being present assisted by deacons, also assisting there Victor the venerable bishop of Puppianum, Titus bishop of Migirpa, Evangelus bishop of Assuras; Aurelius bishop of Carthage spoke to the bishops.

Bishop Aurelius said, “After the day fixed for the meeting of the synod, while we were sitting, as you will remember, my very blessed brothers, and waiting for the delegates from all the provinces of Africa to arrive on the day of our meeting, a day fixed, I said, in advance, we read a letter from our co-ministers of Byzacene; the discussions which took place between me and those who arrived before the day fixed for the synod were also read to your charity; our brothers Honorius and Urbanus, who are taking part in today’s session, read us the delegation that was sent from Sitifian province; also our brother Rheginus of the Vegetselitan church presented to our modesty letters from our commissioners Crescentianus and Aurelius, holders of the first sees of the two Numidias, in which, your charity remembers it with me, they promise to come to this synod or else to send delegates according to custom. But as this did not happen at all, the delegates from Mauritania Sitifiense, who had arrived from so far away, protested that they could not linger any longer.

And so, my brothers, if this is the opinion of your charity, let us read in this blessed meeting the letters of our brothers of Byzacene and the summary that they added to it, so that what your charity would think could be corrected with more care may be corrected for the better.  This is indeed what our brother in the episcopate Mizonius, the very illustrious holder of the first see, asks by writing to my humility in a manner worthy of his greatness and his prudence. So if that is your opinion, let us read what was debated and let your charity consider each question.”

There is a lot of verbiage in that, compared to Fuchs.  Fuchs gives us the essence of what Aurelius said; but not the actual wording.  So his version must not be relied on.

Looking at it differently, however, Fuchs does at least express an opinion, in fairly simple German, as to what these texts actually say, behind all the “your charity” and “our modesty” honorifics.  I have already found that the Latin can be rather involved.  So anybody working with these texts may still find the briefer version of Fuchs of use.

Update (24/03/2021): I have discovered that the NPNF has a translation of this proemium, which is in fact embedded in the “code of the African church” material here, after canon 33, just as it is in the “collection Dionysiana”.  Here it is:

Aurelius, the bishop, said:[438] After the day fixed for the council, as ye remember, most blessed brethren, we sat and waited for the legations of all the African provinces to assemble upon the day, as I have said, set by our missive; but when the letter of our Byzacene bishops had been read, that was read to your charity, which they had discussed with me who had anticipated the time and day of the council; also it was read by our brethren Honoratus and Urban, who are to-day present with us in this council, sent as the legation of the Sitifensine Province. For our brother Reginus of the Vege[t]selitane[439] Church,[440] the letters sent to my littleness by Crescentian and Aurelius, our fellow-bishops, of the first sees of the [two] Numidias, in which writings your charity will see with me how they promised that either they themselves would be good enough to come or else that they would send legates according to custom to this council; but this it seems they did not do at all, the legates of Mauritania Sitifensis, who had come so great a distance gave notice that they could stay no longer; and, therefore, brethren, if it seem good to your charity, let the letters of our Byzacene brethren, as also the breviary, which they joined to the same letter, be read to this assembly, so that if by any chance they are not entirely satisfactory to your charity, such things in the breviary may be changed for the better after diligent examination. For this very thing our brother and fellow-bishop of the primatial see, a man justly conspicuous for his gravity and prudence, Mizonius, demanded in a letter he addressed to my littleness. If therefore it meets with your approval, let there be read the things which have been adopted and let each by itself be considered by your charity.

A couple of the footnotes are interesting:

I will write more about existing English translations.