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Papyrology / Manuscripts
Herculaneum | Oxyrhynchus | The Dead Sea Scrolls
11/8/12: Scribe links Qumran and Masada “More than 50 Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts were copied by the same scribe. The 54 manuscripts came from six different caves: Qumran Caves 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 11. Even more surprising, Yardeni identified the same scribal hand in a manuscript of the Joshua Apocryphon found 30 miles south of Qumran at the famous desert fortress of Masada, the last holdout in the Jewish revolt against Rome.”
THE RECOVERY OF A LOST WORK OF EUSEBIUS.
Roger Pearse post: Angelo Mai comments on a catena fragment of Eusebius “Another delightful thing has happened to me. While I was translating from Greek into Latin all the passages of Eusebius in the MS of Nicetas’ Catena on Luke, I fortunately observed that the last passage of Eusebius, written on the two final pages of the MS, corresponded word-for-word with Theophania bk 4 chs.8 and 9, as read, in translation from Syriac, in the English edition of the Rev. Samuel Lee, top of p.224 – top of p.229.”
“British Museum, Add, MS. No. 12,150.” Under these symbols scholars recognize a manuscript which Dr. Cureton is quite justified in calling ” that wonderful volume of the Nitrian Collection.” It is wonderful not only for its contents, and its singular history and recovery, but for its immense antiquity. It is believed by all competent judges to have been transcribed fourteen hundred and fifty years ago, in the year of our Lord 411. Of the four treatises in the Syriac language which this precious manuscript contains, the first three have already been printed. The late Dr. Lee, Hebrew Professor at Cambridge, edited and translated the long-lost book of Eusebius on the Theophania, or Divine Manifestation of our Lord; and Dr. P. A. de Lagarde published, at Lsipsic and Berlin respectively, Syriac versions of the Ilecognitiones of Clement of Rome, and also of the controversial work of Titus, Bishop of Bostra in Arabia, against the Manichaeans. At last, in the volume before us, Dr. Cureton lays before the world an edition and a translation of another lost work by Eusebius, the Bishop of Caesarea—his contemporary History of certain Martyrs in Palestine. Before we proceed to notice this treatise more particularly, it may be allowed us to recall some particulars as to the remarkable Nitrian manuscript containing it, which we find, not in the volume now under review, but in a former work by Dr. Cureton—his edition of the Festal Letters of Athanasius, which was printed thirteen years ago by the Society for the Publication of Oriental Texts. A more curious history is not to be found in any of the annals of literature.
It is now nearly twenty years ago that Dr. Tattam, who has since been made Archdeacon of Bedford, was commissioned by Government to purchase in Egypt certain Syriac manuscripts which were known to exist in the monastery of S. Maria Deipara, in the valley of Nitria, or of the Natron Lakes. This scholar returned to England
* History of the Martyriin Palatine. Ey Easebins, Bishop of Caesurea. Discovered in a very nncient Syriac Manuscript. Kdited and translated ikto English by William Cureton, D.D., Member of the Imperial Institute of France. London: Williams aud Worgate. Paris: Borranl 1861.
in 1842 with a large collection of most valuable manuscripts, more or less imperfect. His bargain with the monks had been that he should purchase the whole collection; but it was afterwards ascertained that they had concealed and withheld a large part of their library. This fact was brought to light by Mr. Pacho, a native of Alexandria, who had been authorized to make a further search for similar literary treasures in other Egyptian convents. It was in 1847 that this gentleman discovered and procured nearly two hundred volumes from the same house of S. Maria Deipara, whence the first instalment had been obtained. It seems that the monks of this convent, who had contrived to deceive and defraud Dr. Tattam, required very delicate handling before Mr. Pacho could be sure that he had received all the remaining Syriac manuscripts in their possession. However, he was as astute as they were, and the second moiety of the collection was added, after some interval of doubt whether the French Government would not make a larger bid for it, to the first moiety in the British Museum. The literary value of the whole collection is incalculable, and the National Library in which it is deposited has become the richest in the world in Syriac manuscripts.
The particular volume from which the present treatise of Eusebius is taken is perhaps the most curious of the whole number. Dr. Lee, when editing from it the Theophania of Eusebius, expressed an opinion that the manuscript must be at least a thousand years old. Afterwards he discovered on the margin of one of the leaves in the body of the volume a transcript of a note of the date of the writing, which added nearly five centuries to the age of the manuscript. He was naturally reluctant to accept so almost fabulous an antiquity, but after weighing the whole question deliberately, he decided that the date was genuine. Dr. Cureton, who, from the peculiar duty which devolved upon him as an assistant keeper of the manuscripts, of examining and arranging the whole collection, had acquired more practical experience than any other scholar as to the quality and condition of the vellum, the color of the ink, and the style of Itand-writing, as indications of age, immediately concluded, when he saw this volume, that it was the most ancient one that had ever come into his hands. Judging from no less than sixty dated manuscripts, which ranged from A.D. 1292 up to A.d. 464, he attributed to this particular volume an antiquity of fifty or sixty years above the earliest of the collection. This would give A.d. 414 or 404 as the date of the manuscript — a most close approximation to the truth, for the actual date noted in the margin is, when reduced to modern chronology, A.d. 411.
This marginal note is in itself so curious that our readers may thank us for quoting it, as translated by Dr. Cureton:—
” Behold, my brethren, if it should happen that the end of this ancient book should be torn off and lost, together with the writer’s subscription and termination, it was written at the end of it thus: viz., that this book was written at Orrhoa, a city of Mesopotamia, by the hands of a man by the name of Jacob, in the year of seven hundred and twenty-three, in the month Tishrin the Latter, it was completed. And agreeably to what was written there, I have written also here, without addition. And what is here I wrote in the year one thousand and three hundred and ninety-eight of the era of the Greeks.”
These dates answer to A.D. 411, and A.D. 1086, of our era ; so that before the close of the eleventh century this manuscript was already regarded as an ancient volume, and tlif library of this Egyptian monastery was even then we may suppose, falling into a state of neglect. That which the acnotator feared actually came to pass. The end of the volume was torn off, and the book was brought to England by Dr. Tattam, and used by Professor Lee, in this imperfect state, with its dated subscription lost. When Mr. Pacho, several years later, brought the remaining Nitrian manuscripts to the British Museum, the missing fragment was found among them; and on the last page Dr. Cureton had the delight of reading the autographic and dated colophon of the original scribe. The history of the hook is summed up by Dr. Cureton as follows, not without a certain clumsiness of expression in one or two places:—
” Among all the curiosities of literature, I know of none more remarkable than the fate of this matchless volume. Written in the country which was the birthplace of Abraham, the Father of the Faithful, and the city [Edessa or Orfa] whose king was the first sovereign that embraced Christianity, in the
year of our Lord 411, it was at a subsequent period transported to the valley of the Ascetics in Egypt, probably in A.d. 931, when 250 volumes were collected by Moses of Nisibis during a visit to Bagdad, and presented by him upon his return to the monastery of St. Mary Deipara, over which he presided, In A.D. 1086,’ some person, with careful foresight, fearing lest the memorial of the transcription of so valuable, beautiful, and even at that remote period so ‘ ancient a book,’ should be lost, in order to secure its preservation, took the precaution to copy it into the body of the volume. At how much earlier a period the fears which he had anticipated became realized, I have no means of ascertaining; but, in A.D. 1837, ‘ the end of the volume had been torn off,’ and in that state, in A.d. 1839, it was transferred from the solitude of the African desert to the most frequented city in the world. Three yean later two of its fragments followed the volume to England; and, in 1847, I had the gratification of recovering almost all that had been lost, and of restoring to its place in this ancient book the transcriber’s own record of the termination of his labors, which, after various fortunes in Asia, Africa, and Europe, has already survived a period of 1436 years.”
It is from this manuscript that Dr. Cureton now prints for the first time a Syriac version of the History of the Martyrs in Palestine, by the famous Eusebius of Ca?sarea. That writer, in the eighth book of his Ecclesiastical History, states his intention of compiling a separate narrative of the martyrdoms which he had himself witnessed; and a brief notice, answering to this description, but considered by most critics to be only an abridgment of a lost treatise, is found contained in many manuscript copies of the Ecclesiastical History. We need not discuss here the arguments which led to this conclusion. Suffice it to say that this inference is now become a certainty, since we have here before us, the original treatise, translated into the vernacular language of Palestine, transcribed within seventy years of the death of the author. Dr. Cureton tells us that Stephen Assemani was of opinion that this lost treatise of Eusebius was not improbably written in Syriac, rather than in Greek. But he gives sound arguments against this supposition.
It is disappointing that Dr. Cureton declines the task of discussing thoroughly the question of the exact date of the present treatise in relation to other works of Ensebius. He contents himself with throwing out suggestions which he hopes that other scholars may take up and fully investigate. However, besides the Syriac text (which is printed in a not very attractive type), and a full English translation, we have a very interesting body of notes, in which the present text is compared not only with Assemani’s fragments, but with the abridged Greek of the Ecclesiastical History, and with other notices preserved by ancient writers. In particular, a long passage recounting the Confession of Pamphilus and his companions has been preserved in the original Greek by Simeon Metaphrastes, in the tenth century, and has been translated into Latin, which version is here reprinted for the sake of comparison. Still it is to be regretted that the present editor has not exhausted his subject. In all other respects we owe him thanks for his labor, which we should call scholarly, were it not that he prints all his Greek without accents, and that several Latin words appear without their full number of letters. Perhaps, also, we ought to complain that Dr. Cureton, who lives in London, within reach of so many libraries, should apologize for not referring to a not very rare book, by saying, ” I have not the Acta Martyrum at hand.” We observe, also, an inaccurate reference, which we cannot verify, to the Sibliotheca Orientalis of Joseph Assemani.
The interest attaching to the treatise oi Eusebius which is now given to the world is chiefly a moral one. It -does not- contribute many, if any, new facts to our knowledge oi the history or the theology of the Church ol the fourth century. But it is impressive to read here the record of actual martyrdoms for the faith of Christ which the author witnessed with his own eyes. His narrative, in its simplicity and the general absence oi exaggeration, bears upon it the stamp oi veracity; and many to whom this volume Would be without interest in its critical aspect may find pleasure and profit in the English translation, considered merely as a piece of devotional reading. It is affecting to read the details of the cruel deaths and tor
merits of the Christian martyrs and confessors who suffered (as Eusebius words it) ” in such a year of the persecution in our days,”—the persecution, that is, of Diocletian, beginning in A.D. 303.
In illustration of the details of the martyrdoms here described, Dr. Cureton refers continually to the work of Gallonius, De Sanctorum Martyrum Cruciatibus. This book is by no means common; and some extracts from it would have been acceptable. Another curious treatise, that of Hieronymus Magius de Equuleo, covers the same ground, and is enriched with copious appendices from Gallonins himself and other writers. In reading the Confession of Pamphilus we are struck with one passage in which Firmilianus, President of Palestine, questions the victim under ” the combs and cauteries of fire “as to ” what city and in what country was that Jerusalem which was said to belong to the Christians only.” It will be remembered that at the time when these martyrdoms took place Jerusalem was known to the Romans by no other name than yKliu Capitolina. Here we have an undesigned historical coincidence of great value. We have no wish to distress our readers with extracts describing the horrid tortures to which these Palestinian martyrs, both men and women, were exposed. We will only notice one fact which we do not remember to have seen noticed before. It appears that the victims who were doomed to the Ludus—that is, the gladiatorial exhibitions were not immediately taken to the amphitheatre, but were handed over to the Procuratores in order to undergo a long course of preparatory training. The Christians, of course, refused to submit to this discipline, and were treated with untold severities for their non-compliance with the rules. It is impossible to close this volume without hoping that the monasteries of the East may afford us yet more of the lost works of antiquity. A distinguished English scholar is understood to have employed the late autumn in a fresh search for such treasures among the convents of Mount Athos.
Roger Pearse (2000): “Little more has been heard of this discovery since the initial reporting. Papyrology seems to have a real problem. On the one hand it is an obscure subject – so much so, that workers in the field seem to be few, and I’ve seen suggestions in the literature that the funding is so limited that there is a career for only a handful of papyrologists. Furthermore, quite specialised training is required – not everyone can read Coptic! On the other hand there are masses of fragments available, even without the desperately needed further excavations.
What is needed is an upsurge in public interest. It’s worth remembering that interest in cuneiform was given a massive boost by the discovery of the Epic of Gilgamesh, because of its biblical parallels – indeed a national newspaper promptly funded new excavations. For biblical papyri, the natural audience is the Christians, who are always interested in the origins of their bible, unless insulted, and always include a significant number of educated and interested people.
But the Christians are not interested in the work of professional papyrologists, it seems. No doubt the reason for this is that papers, whenever they touch on matters of interest to Christians, invariably make a point of asserting that their religion is untrue. Consider the spin that Dr. Mirecki put on his discoveries, in the reporting above. I am quite certain that sales of the ‘Gospel of the Savior’ book suffered markedly in consequence. Despite my interest in the subject, I didn’t buy one either – I obtained a library copy. And any Christian who is interested in biblical papyri and makes a media splash, as C.P.Thiede discovered, will be shunned and abused, rather than welcomed as a possible source of new blood in the profession. What a great recipe to destroy an academic discipline!
The great loser from this is papyrology itself, which remains a cinderella discipline, with little public support or backing, unable even to process existing material and watching helplessly as development in the Middle East destroys irreplaceable documents. Isn’t it time this was addressed? Is the culture of keeping Christians out worth the cost?” lost gospel
DSS Theory Faces New Challenge
Dating the New Testament
John A. T. Robinson – Redating the New Testament
“..the name stands for the study of all ancient texts written on all sorts of material – papyrus, parchment, vellum, leather, linen, slivers of wood, wax tablets, potsherds (so-called ostraca) and so forth. Only inscriptions on stone, marble, and similar material have brought forth their own distinct discipline, epigraphy.” Matthew D’Ancona (Eyewitness to Jesus, 24)
Israeli Prof. Deciphers Earliest Hebrew Text It is the earliest known Hebrew writing, dating to David’s reign in the 10th century B.C. – “This text is a social statement, relating to slaves, widows and orphans” (Text reflects Idealist Judaism)
1: You shall not do [it], but worship the [Lord].