Textual Parallels

I’m working on a couple of projects right now that involve textual parallels.

To put it simply, I’ve become dissatisfied with the parallel colums thing. Isn’t there a better way to do this?

I mean think about it… The use of parallel columns was old technology when Codex Bezae(NT Uncial D)  had a facing page Latin/Greek text of the New Testament. Even then folks in Late Antiquity got that it didn’t work well, especially not for really big texts. Like, say, comparing the four gospels.

The point of Bezae, of course, was not to offer a parallel for the study of both texts. Rather, it was so either a Greek or Latin reader could read the Scriptures and someone who was competent in both could read both and make of the differences whatever they would.

The first serious system for studying the parallels between the Four was Ammonius and we honestly know nothing about his system. What we do have is the improvement on his work by Eusebius. Eusebius’s system is the single best piece of analytical scholarship of the Gospels to come out of the Patristic period and that’s no exaggeration. All scholars of Late Antiquity and the Early Medieval period whose work touches even tangentially on the Gospels needs to know this system. Period.

Here’s what his system does:

  1. The entire text of all four gospels are divided into numbered sections, each gospel being numbered sequentially from one up to however many divisions it takes. Where divisions begin and end depend on where parallels exist or do not exist. In other words, there are some sections in didatic material in the Synoptics that contain half of a modern verse; in some parts of John, a section can span several printed pages. (Remember, too, that no uniform chapter or verse system existed until the thireenth century. As a result all Latin lectionary lists that I know identify where the reading starts by reference to the Eusebian canon in which the incipit appears.)
  2. Thirteen numbered tables stand at the head of the gospels numbered from I to X with four instances of X. Each of the tables reflects a set of relationships going from the most complex to the most simple. Thus, Table I displays the sections where all four gospels share material that Eusebius decided was common to them all. Thus this table has four columns, one for each gospel, and numbers indicating to which section you should refer in each to find the parallel. Duplicates appear in the table indicating that some portions have more than one parallel—especially in cases where a bit in the Synoptics has several Johannine parallels.  Then tables II-IV have commonalities across three gospels (II: the Synoptics [Mt, Mk, Lk]; III: Mt, Lk, Jo; IV: Mt, Mk, Jo) and tables V-IX have commonalities across two (a key one being table V: Q [Mt, Lk]). Lastly, each gospel has a table X where passages unique to that gospel may be found.
  3. Within the text of the gospels themselves, most gospel books contain a marginal reference indicating the table and the parallels. Thus you may see a number indicating the division and then (perhaps in red) a numeral from I to X. If the number is a “I” it will have at least three other numbers, sometimes with a sigil identifying the gospel.
  4. The mechanics of the table are explained in Eusebius’s letter to Carpanius which is frequently found in Greek manuscripts;  Jerome explains it in the famous Letter to Damasus beginning “Novum Opus” which stands at the had of most Latin gospel manuscripts.

I look at this and recognize it instantly; it’s an ancient database.

So—given databases, mark-up, hyper-text, et al., which is the more excellent way: Bezae’s path or Eusebius’s?

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1 comment so far

  1. Jonathan Jarrett on

    I don’t think I have an answer, but I do know that a while ago there was a conversation on my blog about how to put critical texts online in which Clemens Radl of the MGH popped up and described the difficulties in representing four layers of apparatus in HTML. There may be interactive formats that will do it, but for ease of access and use there’s still a lot of work required to beat the printed or written page… And glossed Bible commentaries are still at the top level of possibility. Odd, isn’t it? I do love the idea of the Eusebian system as a database, though. I mean, you’re quite right, and I speak as one who will argued that a set of paper lists or a card index is as much a database as a file in Access until people give up and go away. But that wouldn’t stop people looking askance at a paper title like “Pre-digital databases: Eusebian Biblical analysis and its lessons”…


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