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.