Thursday, August 16, 2012

Greek Canon Lists: Melito of Sardis, part 1

The earliest preserved list of books of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament (not counting the baraita in Baba Bathra, the date of which is debatable) is the one that Melito, Bishop of Sardis (in Asia Minor), provides for his 'brother' (fellow bishop? cf. Audet, p. 143) Onesimus. It was written in a work called the Eklogai, or Extracts, which has not been preserved complete, but only in fragments in Eusebius.The commonly cited date is 180 CE.

In this post I introduce the list briefly and discuss one issue, that of its order for the Pentateuch. In later posts I will tackle further issues arising from a consideration of Melito's canon list.
Melito of Sardis, Eklogai
(preserved in Eusebius, Historia ecclesiastica 4.26.12–14)
Edition: Eduard Schwartz, ed., Eusebius Werke 2.1: Die Kirchengeschichte, Bücher I–V, GCS 9.1 (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1903), 386–88. Thanks to the Internet Archive, this edition of Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History (with Rufinus' facing Latin translation) is fully available online: first part, second part, third part. Various translations are available; here's one that is online: book 4.
(12) ἀλλὰ ταῦτα μὲν ἐν τῷ δηλωθέντι τέθειται λόγῳ· ἐν δὲ ταῖς γραφείσαις αὐτῷ Ἐκλογαῖς ὁ αὐτὸς κατὰ τὸ προοίμιον ἀρχόμενος τῶν ὁμολογουμένων τῆς παλαιᾶς διαθήκης γραφῶν ποιεῖται κατάλογον· ὃν καὶ ἀναγκαῖον ἐνταῦθα καταλέξαι, γράφει δὲ οὕτως. (13) «Μελίτων Ὀνησίμῳ τῷ ἀδελφῷ χαίρειν. ἐπειδὴ πολλάκις ἠξίωσας, σπουδῇ τῇ πρὸς τὸν λόγον χρώμενος, γενέσθαι σοι ἐκλογὰς ἔκ τε τοῦ νόμου καὶ τῶν προφητῶν περὶ τοῦ σωτῆρος καὶ πάσης τῆς πίστεως ἡμῶν, ἔτι δὲ καὶ μαθεῖν τὴν τῶν παλαιῶν βιβλίων ἐβουλήθης ἀκρίβειαν πόσα τὸν ἀριθμὸν καὶ ὁποῖα τὴν τάξιν εἶεν, ἐσπούδασα τὸ τοιοῦτο πρᾶξαι, ἐπιστάμενός σου τὸ σπουδαῖον περὶ τὴν πίστιν καὶ φιλομαθὲς περὶ τὸν λόγον ὅτι τε μάλιστα πάντων πόθῳ τῷ πρὸς τὸν θεὸν ταῦτα προκρίνεις, περὶ τῆς αἰωνίου σωτηρίας ἀγωνιζόμενος. (14) ἀνελθὼν οὖν εἰς τὴν ἀνατολὴν καὶ ἕως τοῦ τόπου γενόμενος ἔνθα ἐκηρύχθη καὶ ἐπράχθη, καὶ ἀκριβῶς μαθὼν τὰ τῆς παλαιᾶς διαθήκης βιβλία, ὑποτάξας ἔπεμψά σοι· ὧν ἐστι τὰ ὀνόματα· Μωυσέως πέντε, Γένεσις Ἔξοδος Ἀριθμοὶ Λευιτικὸν Δευτερονόμιον, Ἰησοῦς Ναυῆ, Κριταί, Ῥούθ, Βασιλειῶν τέσσαρα, Παραλειπομένων δύο, Ψαλμῶν Δαυίδ, Σολομῶνος Παροιμίαι ἡ καὶ Σοφία, Ἐκκλησιαστής, Ἆισμα Ἀισμάτων, Ἰώβ, Προφητῶν Ἡσαΐου Ἱερεμίου τῶν δώδεκα ἐν μονοβίβλῳ Δανιὴλ Ἰεζεκιήλ, Ἔσδρας· ἐξ ὧν καὶ τὰς ἐκλογὰς ἐποιησάμην, εἰς ἓξ βιβλία διελών».  καὶ τὰ μὲν τοῦ Μελίτωνος τοσαῦτα

Melito says that he has traveled "to the east" (i.e., Palestine) to obtain his list of books, and he mentions that he is concerned with the order (τάξις) of books.Here's the list of books that he provides.

1-4 Kingdoms (i.e., Samuel and Kings)
1-2 Chronicles
Proverbs and Wisdom [to be discussed in a later post]
Song of Songs
The Twelve

The order for the Pentateuch is odd, with Numbers coming before Leviticus. Rufinus fixes this in his translation of Eusebius. Here's how Rufinus renders Melito's list.

ibi igitur quae cum omni investigatione conperi, haec sunt: Moysei libri quinque: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numeri, Deuteronomium; tum deinde Iesus Naue, Iudicum, Ruth, Regnorum libri quattuor, Paralipomenon libri duo, Psalmi David, Salomonis Proverbia quae et Sapientia, Ecclesiastes, Cantica Canticorum, Iob; prophetae autem Esaias, Hieremias, duodecim prophetarum liber unus. Danihel, Ezechihel, Hesdras.
But did Melito intentionally put Numbers before Leviticus, or was it an accident? Is he just that ignorant of the order of the biblical books, or was his source? Did he mis-copy (or mis-remember) his source, or is it possibly a textual error? Sid Leiman thinks that the sequence Numbers-Leviticus may have been intentional: "The sequence probably reflects an attempt to connect the narrative portions of the Pentateuch. Leviticus was perhaps considered a continuation and elaboration of the sacrificial legislation in Numbers 28 and 29" (The Canonization of Hebrew Scripture [1976], p. 165 n. 264). Part of the reason for saying that the order was intentional is because it also appears in the Mommsen Catalogue (ca. 359 CE) and in a work called De Sectis (act. II), dating to the sixth century and formerly (but no longer) attributed to Leontius of Byzantium (cf. PG 86/1.1200d-1201a).

If Leiman is correct, what are the origins of this order for the Pentateuch? If Melito did not just accidentally reverse Leviticus and Numbers, then he presumably adopted his order from his source. If his source was Jewish (an issue I will treat in a later post), this would suggest competing Jewish orders for the Pentateuch. But this cannot have been too widespread, both because we lack sufficient attestation of it, and because Leviticus itself provides internal evidence that it takes place between the events of Exodus (in which Israel arrives at Sinai, ch. 19) and Numbers (in which Israel leaves Sinai, 10:10). That is, in a few places, Leviticus mentions that its events happened at Sinai (7:38; 25:1; 26:46; 27:34), all of which are attested in the LXX as also containing the mention of Sinai.

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