Archive for the ‘Academic’ Category

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?



Regular posting should be resuming shortly…

In the meantime, I’ve been reflecting once again on the perennial issue of generalists and interdisciplinarians: core materials and canons. Each semester when I teach preaching I hammer in the fact that everyone has a theology–whether they know it or not. Everyone from The Archbishop of Canterbury to the Dalai Lama to Richard Dawkins to the average person sitting in the pew has a theology. The issue is whether it is explicit. The biggest problem for preachers and clergy is whether it is coherent, consistent (within reason) and communicable. That is, if a preacher isn’t aware of what she believes, she may find herself unconsciously preaching contradictory concepts–sometimes in the same sermon! (Yes, I’ve witnessed this more than once…)

I’m coming to believe that the same is true of most academics; we all have canons out of which we research, and teach, and generate our central concepts–the question is the degree to which these are explicit. People who reside in a single field may be able to get away with leaving it implicit. After all, most fields have implicit canons. Or–to be precise–most Ph.D. granting institutions form their students around implicit canons which are then replicated, challenged, merged, whatever as the students spread out through academia in various ways. For generalists and interdisciplinarians, however, I think it’s a much more complicated picture.

The simple fact is that it’s virtually impossible these days to stay up-to-date in “New Testament”. Most of the folks I know, do well to stay up-to-date in their specialties. How, then, to keep tabs on several fields, each of which churn out large amounts of scholarly material each year? …And I’m wondering out loud here. Not only am I not claiming to have solved this problem, I’m just now trying to address it in a coherent fashion going forward.

I think one answer is to be restrictive. Yes, that answer flies in the face of my tendencies to diversify but–that tendency is part of the problem, isn’t it? As a result, I’m trying to construct for myself a canon by means of which I can root myself in the midst of my fields, establish a solid scholarly self-identity and have a prayer of a chance to stay up-to-date on work in my fields going forward.

Right now, I’m conceiving of my prospective canon as a set of concentric circles aligned around the idea of primary sources. I’m a literary guy; I went into New Testament as opposed to one of several other fields because I chose to be trained as an exegete. As a result, this whole concept is very textually-based (I recognize that as a possible danger, but honestly it doesn’t worry me very much…). So here are my thoughts:

The Inner Circle. This consists of my most basic and most important primary sources. These are the ones that I ought to know inside and out; these are the ones I should be able to quote from memory without difficulty; these are the ones that I should be engaging equally well in Modern English and their primary languages. (I say “primary” because the “original” is not always the most important or influential. For instance, my primary languages for the Psalter are Greek and Latin, not Hebrew…)

I’m thinking a corollary inner circle might identify some core secondary sources and journals that directly pertain to the inner core.

The Middle Circle. This group reflects works that I should know fairly well–the texts that I can comfortably speak to off the top of my head. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to have contact with these in the primary languages, but that’s not necessarily essential. It be good to have a sense of the secondary literature here, but not feel the need to be obsessive.

The Outer Circle. This group reflects works that I really should have at least a passing acquaintance with. Know that they’re important, know where to go for resources on them, but not to feel like a failure or fraud if I don’t know them inside and out…

Alright–with those categories in place, here are the primary texts that I’m considering for my first two categories:

Inner Circle

  • The New Testament (with a special focus on the Gospels)
  • The Psalter
  • The Rule of Benedict
  • Gregory the Great
    • the XL Gospel Homilies
    • Pastoral Care
  • Augustine
    • On Christian Doctrine
    • On the Instruction of the Uneducated
    • Gospel Homilies
    • On the Sermon on the Mount
  • Bede
    • Homilies on the Gospels
  • The Mass as represented in the mixed Gelasian tradition
  • The Office as represented in the Hyde Abbey tradition (?)
  • Ælfric
    • The Catholic Homilies
    • The other homilies
    • Letter to Sigeweard
    • Letter to the Monks of Eynsham

Middle Circle (by category)

  • Biblical:
    • The Old Testament (aside from the psalter, clearly)
    • New Testament Apocrypha
    • Old Testament Apocrypha
    • Qumran Literature
  • Monastic
    • John Cassian
    • Lives of the Fathers
    • Sayings of the Fathers
    • Rule of the Master
    • Smaragdus
      • Commentary on the Rule
      • Diadem of Monks
    • Regularis Concordia
  • Patristic/Homiletical
    • The Rest of Gregory
    • The Rest of Bede
    • Augustine
      • Tractates on John
      • On the Harmony of the Gospels
      • Tractates on First John
      • Homilies on the Psalms
    • Homilies of Caesarius of Arles
    • Cassiodorus on the Psalms
  • Medieval
    • The Rest of Ælfric
    • The anonymous OE homilies
    • the Vercelli Book(poetry as well as homilies)
  • Theory
    • The Progymnasmata
    • Isidore
    • Cicero

Hmmm… I look at these lists and they seem simultaneously massive and too restricted.

What are your thoughts?