Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Bickerman on Reviews of His Book

On this occasion many slips of previous editions have been tacitly corrected. It is a pity that the reviewers of my book preferred to praise it instead of pointing to its faults. 
--E. J. Bickerman, "Preface," in Chronology of the Ancient World, 2d ed. (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1980), 7. 

Thursday, April 9, 2020

The Origins of the Use of the Term 'Canon' to Refer to Classical Works

These days, we use the word "canon" in many different contexts in reference to collections of authentic or superior works. If a work is in the Shakespeare canon, that basically means that Shakespeare wrote it (it's authentic or correctly attributed). If something is in the American literary canon, that means it was written by an American and is of superior quality. (Of course, there's not any official list of the American literary canon.) About the Harry Potter canon or the Star Wars canon—in which cases the creators are very conscious of creating canonical works—we might debate what counts as canon, and who gets to decide (and who cares). Anyway, we use the term canon for a lot of different things.

Such usage reflects the earlier use of the term "canon" in reference to classical Greek authors: the canon of Greek poets, or the canon of Greek orators. How early is this use of the word "canon"?

In his book on the New Testament canon, Bruce Metzger has a very helpful appendix on the development of the word canon (and you can read the whole thing here). At the bottom of p. 289, Metzger mentions the use of the Greek word κανών by Aristotle and others with the significance of "criterion" or some such, not in reference to literary works. Then Metzger says:
With reference to literature and style, the grammarians of Alexandria gave the name κανών to the collection of classical works deemed worthy of being followed as models because of the purity of their language. (pp. 289–90)
Metzger goes on to give further examples of "canon" meaning "standard," but not in reference to literature, but in reference to spears or music or epochs or whatever.

But Metzger was wrong about the earliest use of the word "canon" in reference to literature. The grammarians of Alexandria did not, in fact, use the word κανών for any collection of classical works. Such usage of "canon" came only very much later, in 1768, in a work of David Ruhnken. Here's the citation: David Ruhnken, “Historia critica oratorum Graecorum,” in P. Rutilii Lupi: De Figuris Sententiarum et Elocutionis Duo Libri (Lyons: Samuel and Joannes Luchtmans, 1768), xxxiii–c, at xcv. And this one you can also see online.

Here's the description of this development by Rudolph Pfeiffer in the first volume of his History of Classical Scholarship (Oxford, 1968). He begins talking about the way classical Greek works were labeled by the Alexandrian grammarians.
The complete repertories were called πίνακες (indexes); but there was no corresponding Greek or Latin word for the selective lists. In the year A.D. 1768 the term 'canon' was coined for them by David Ruhnken, when he wrote: 'Ex magna oratorum copia tamquam in canonem decem dumtaxat rettulerunt' (sc. Aristarchus et Aristophanes Byzantius). Then Ruhnken dropped the cautious 'tamquam' and went on calling all the selective lists 'canones'. His coinage met with worldwide and lasting success, as the term was found to be so convenient; one has the impression that most people who use it believe that this usage is of Greek origin. But κανών was never used in this sense, nor would this have been possible. From its frequent use in ethics κανών always retained the meaning of rule or model. Aristophanes' grammatical observations about analogy in declension could be called κανόνες, rules, or a certain author and his style could be described as κανών, a model or exemplar. So it was not by the ancient, but it could have been by the Biblical, tradition that the catachrestic use of canon was suggested to Ruhnken. Though the Biblical canon does not mean a list of writers, it does mean a list of books of the Bible accepted by the Christian church as genuine and inspired; and this usage was and is current in all the modern languages. (p. 207)
Pfeiffer correctly refers to the usage of "canon" in reference to the Bible. This usage does go back to antiquity, to the work by Athanasius called De Decretis 18.3, written about the year 350, in which Athanasius says that the Shepherd of Hermas is not in the canon. More famously, in his 39th Festal Letter from about a decade and a half later (367), Athanasius uses the participle κανονιζόμενος ("canonized") in reference to the list of authoritative books. Since then, the word "canon" has been commonly used in reference to the Bible, but apparently not in reference to other literary works until 1768.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Enoch in Alexandrinus?

The answer is no.

The question is: does Codex Alexandrinus contain the book of Enoch?

I just received the new Introduction to the Septuagint from Baylor UP, edited by Siegfried Kreuzer, a translation of the German published in 2016. Kreuzer starts with a long introduction (pp. 3–56) on "The Origins and Transmission of the Septuagint."

I was surprised by this statement:
...the Codex Alexandrinus also contains the book of Enoch. (p. 20)
For anyone who knows anything about the transmission of the Enoch materials, this statement is obviously wrong. There is no such thing as "the book of Enoch" in Greek, if we mean by that term what we usually mean by "the book of Enoch" = 1 Enoch. That composite work exists (or, let us say, is attested) only in Ethiopic. (Ancient Christians did sometimes refer to a "book of Enoch," but they weren't talking about the composite work 1 Enoch.) So, at least it's careless wording. But also I didn't remember that any of the individual Enoch booklets appeared in the fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus. So I turned to ch. 6 of this very handy book, which contains a list of the contents of Codex Alexandrinus, and confirmed that Enoch appears nowhere in the manuscript. 

Kreuzer's footnote attached to the above-quoted sentence reads, in part:
... in the edition by Swete, which adheres strictly to the Codex Vaticanus ... [he has placed at the end some material from Codex Alexandrinus]; as a result, the Wisdom of Solomon, Enoch, and the Odes can also be found there. (pp. 20–21n56)
 What to make of that?

Of course, Wisdom of Solomon does appear in Codex Vaticanus, so there would be no reason for Swete to take it from Alexandrinus. Kreuzer means the Psalms of Solomon, which does appear at the end of Swete's edition, in an appendix.

Now, in the first edition of Swete's edition (vol. 3, 1894), Enoch is nowhwere. After 1–4 Maccabees (taken from Alexandrinus because of their absence from Vaticanus), there is bonus material: Psalms of Solomon (p. 765, taken from a minuscule) and the Odes (taken from Alexandrinus).

In the second edition of Swete (vol. 3, 1899), the bonus material now includes Enoch in between the Psalms of Solomon and the Odes (which held true for subsequent editions). But Enoch is not taken from Alexandrinus, which contains no Enoch material. Swete explains on p. xvii where he got the text from: Codex Panopolitanus (= Akhmim Manuscript) and a few other sources.

I wonder if the confusion arose from an earlier statement by Swete (p. vi), introducing the bonus material at the end of the volume.
The Books of Maccabees are followed by three collections which, if they cannot in strictness be said to belong to the Greek Old Testament, have some peculiar claims to a place at the close of the Alexandrian Bible. 
By "Alexandrian Bible," Swete meant the Septuagint, not Codex Alexandrinus, but perhaps someone misunderstood?

I also wonder whether the same problems—the attribution of Enoch to Codex Alexandrinus and the confusion of Wisdom of Solomon with Psalms of Solomon—appear in the German edition. I do not have access to it to check.

I do appreciate this introduction by Kreuzer. I might have some more to say about it later.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

"Let Doubt (or, rather, certainty?) Prevail!"

I love this quotation from Bertrand Russell that you can find in various spots on the internet. 
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.

This is from a radio address presented by Russell in 1953, “Present Perplexities,” part of his radio series, “Living in an Atomic Age.” You can hear Russell read that line here, in the sample on the right, or at YouTube, at about the 4:20 mark. The essay is printed in various collections, usually under the title “Current Perplexities.”

I came across this quotation of Russell while listening to a speech (in a debate) by Stephen Fry, who introduced the quotation by saying: “I would like this quotation from my hero Bertrand Russell to hover over the evening” (see here, 36:10 mark). After he reads the quotation, Fry exclaims, “Let doubt prevail!”

But it seems that Fry has undermined the point that his hero was trying to make. Russell's comment was not a criticism of certainty; it was a lament that in his day it seemed that only stupid people enjoyed certainty. It is worth noting that Russell considered this aspect of his time “painful,” and he immediately follows the section quoted with the words, “I do not think this is necessary.” He goes on to exude certainty with the intention of overcoming the “present perplexities.” Russell more-or-less exclaims, "Let certainty (for smart people) prevail!"

Of course, both Fry and Russell are complex thinkers whose views cannot be boiled down to a single battle cry. But it is interesting how a lament from Russell became a precept for Fry.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Old Testament and Christianity

Some of my thoughts here in an interview on the Overthinking Christian blog. My thanks to Paul Moldovan for asking me to participate.

Here's a taste:
Many Christians have the view that the OT focuses on God’s wrath while the NT on God’s love. What, if anything, is wrong with such a picture?

Ed: Well, let’s see, what would the evidence for such a view be, i.e., that the OT is more concerned with wrath and the NT more concerned with love? It’s not too hard to imagine how people who hold this view would support it. There are a lot of pretty specific laws in the OT, 613 of them according to the traditional Jewish reckoning, and some of these laws have pretty severe punishments attached to them—such as, “Whoever curses his father or his mother must be put to death” (Exod 21:17; Lev 20:9). God seems concerned in the OT about stuff like what people eat (Lev 11; Deut 14), and whether or not they wear clothes made of multiple materials (Lev 19:19; Deut 21:11). And, of course, he commands the genocide of the Canaanites (Deut 7:2; 20:16–18) and Amalekites (1 Sam 15:3). On the other hand, the New Testament presents a Jesus who is all about love (Mark 12:28:–34) and acceptance (Mark 2:13–17; Luke 7:36–50; 14:21; 19:9–10), against the hypocritical Pharisees who like to exclude people from God’s love (Matt 23:13). In the Old Testament, God is jealous (Exod 34:14); in the New Testament, God is love (1 John 4:7).
This is a caricature. 
Read the rest here.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Was Jerome Gay? When in Rome...

The Wikipedia entry on Jerome, as of 10 December 2018, has the following information at the beginning of its section on the saint's life.


The start of the second paragraph says that in Jerome's school days at Rome, "he engaged in the superficial escapades and homosexual behaviour of students there, which he indulged in quite casually but for which he suffered terrible bouts of guilt afterwards."

That was intriguing to me. I had never heard this before, though I have read some of Jerome and some scholarship on him. J. N. D. Kelly's authoritative biography mentions nothing about it. Kelly does summarize for us the evidence from Jerome's writings leading to the conclusion: "Jerome's student days were marked by sexual adventures to which he was afterwards to look back with loathing" (p. 21).

The Wikipedia entry fortunately provides a reference for the source of the information on Jerome's homosexual activities in Rome. Footnote 14 cites Robert Payne, The Fathers of the Western Church, originally published in 1951, pp. 90–92. Only one section of those three pages has anything whatsoever to do with Jerome's sexual adventures in Rome. I quote it below without comment.
A spare, pale youth with large eyes, country bred, he came to Rome only to meet the horrors he thought he had left behind. Sex tormented him. His friend Rufinus was baptized "pure as the driven snow," but of himself he said he had sinned "with unclean lips and with the eyes and with the foot and with the hand and with all his members," and he added that he deserved a second baptism of fire because he had defiled his baptismal robe, meaning simply that he had defiled his body, for in those days the candidate for baptism stood naked before the priest. Caught up in the gay activities of the students, he seems to have sinned quite casually and then to have suffered terrible bouts of repentance: at such times, like many others who were conscious of their sins, he would visit on Sundays the sepulchers of the martyrs and the apostles in the catacombs, and he remembered the horror of it when he was an old man. (p. 91)

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Prayer of Manasseh in Latin, and Stephen Langton

I recently came across this comment from Stephen Langton (d. 1228) in regard to the Prayer of Manasseh and its position at the end of the books of Chronicles: 
Hic oracio non est in Hebraica ueritate, nec in Regum nec in Paralipomenon, sed hic interserit eam Ieronimus (“this prayer is not in the Hebrew truth, neither in Kings nor Chronicles, but Jerome inserted it here”). 
Let me provide some context. 

The Prayer of Manasseh is one of those documents in the Vulgate Appendix. It was excluded from the biblical canon by the Council of Trent in 1546, even though it had occupied a place in biblical manuscripts and editions of the Vulgate prior to the Council. 

(Actually, I'm not exactly sure how we know that the Council excluded the Prayer. I mean, the Council doesn't mention it in the canon list, but then I don't guess you'd really expect the Prayer to get an independent mention if it's thought of as only an appendix to Chronicles. After all, Lamentations wasn't mentioned by the Council either, but I don't think anyone suspects that the Council intended to exclude Lamentations. It was just considered an appendix to Jeremiah. At any rate, the Prayer has not been considered a part of the Roman Catholic biblical canon established by the Council, while Lamentations has been so considered.) 


You can see that Gutenberg located the Prayer immediately after Chronicles (fol. 226r), though here it doesn't appear so much as an appendix as a separate work, similar to the way Esdras appears just afterwards. Same in this edition of the Vulgate edited by Jan Henten with a date of 1583 (first published 1547, described by Gordon and Cameron in NCHB 3, pp. 192–93). And in the Vatable Bible published by Stephanus 1545 (the link is to vol. 2; see vol. 1 here; described by Gordon and Cameron on p. 191).


On the other hand, here's an example of a Paris Bible (Beinecke Yale MS 793) from the thirteenth century, and the Prayer does appear without any break as the conclusion to Chronicles. The Prayer starts on fol. 210r, at the bottom right. You can see that someone later has marked the start of the Prayer, but originally its text was continuous with Chronicles. An explicit appears on the other side of the page after the Prayer, and an inicipit introduces Esdras (or, actually, Jerome's Prologue to Esdras, with the biblical text beginning on the next page). 

In this next example, Paris BNF latin 15467 from the year 1270, it is even harder to distinguish between the end of Chronicles and the Prayer. The Prayer begins in the middle of line 13 in the left column of image 220. Again, immediately after the Prayer, Jerome's Prologue to Esdras starts at the top of the next column.

Anyway, from what I hear, the Prayer of Manasseh started to appear in Latin Bibles only in about the 13th century, so these Paris Bibles are early examples, at least as preserved. 
What about before the 13th century? 

Well, the Prayer was translated into Latin from Greek, of course. Now, if you pick up your Rahlfs(-Hanhart) edition of the LXX, you will not find the Prayer listed in the Table of Contents, but you will find a work called the Odes immediately after the Psalms. The Odes consists mostly of excerpts from other parts of the Bible: Ode 1 is the Song of the Sea (Exod 15), Ode 2 is the Song of Moses (Deut 32), Ode 6 is the Prayer of Jonah (Jonah 2), Odes 7–8 are the (deuterocanonical) Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men (Daniel 3). And Ode 12 is the Prayer of Manasseh. 

(The essential book now on the Odes is by Marguerite Harl (2014). The sequence of the odes is arbitrary, and differs according to manuscripts. The earliest surviving manuscript to include the Odes is Alexandrinus. You can take a look here = CSNTM's digital images of the nineteenth-century facsimile by Thompson. The Prayer is Ode 8 in Alexandrinus, and starts at the bottom right of what is labeled in the manuscript as fol. 567 = image GA_02_0557a.jpg.)

It was as part of a similar collection of odes (cantica) that the Prayer of Manasseh first came to be known in Latin. While we know that such collections of canticles were around in Latin from at least the fourth century, the Prayer of Manasseh is clearly attested only from the sixth century, in the commentary on the Canticles by Bishop Verecundus of Junca, such an important author that he merits two separate Wikipedia pages. 

But Stephen Langton thought that Jerome was responsible for locating the Prayer after Chronicles, as you can see from the quotation at the top of this post. Langton (main subject of only a single Wikipedia page) is most famous generally for his role in the situation leading to the Magna Carta, but he is also well-known to biblical scholars for popularizing our present chapter divisions. He wrote many biblical commentaries, of which few have been printed. But the beginning of his commentary on the Prayer of Manasseh has been printed by Beryl Smalley in G. Lacombe and B. Smalley, “Studies on the Commentaries of Cardinal Stephen Langton,” Archives d’histoire doctrinale et littéraire du moyen âge 5 (1930): 1–220, on p. 158 (available here). The comment I quoted at the beginning of this post can be found there.

I'm left with some questions? Did Langton not know about Bibles that excluded the Prayer? Did he not realize that it was only during his own lifetime that the Prayer came to be located after Chronicles? Or did he think that this recent habit restored a long-abandoned practice introduced by Jerome?

Just for the record, we have no evidence suggesting that Jerome was familiar with the Prayer of Manasseh.