THE MURATORIAN FRAGMENT.
In the early part of his work (Haer. i. 15, 16) Irenaeus quotes, from one whom he describes as 'the divine elder and herald of the truth,' some verses (εμμετρως) written against the Valentinian heretic Marcus. They run as follows;
Ειδωλοποιε Μαρκε και τερατοσκοπε,
αστρολογικης εμπειρε και μαγικης τεχνης,
δι `ων κρατυνεις της πλανης τα διδαγματα,
σημεια δεικνυς τοις `υπο σου πλανωμενοις,
αποστατικης δυναμεως εγχειρηματα
`α σοι χορηγει σος πατηρ Σαταν αει
δι' αγγελικης δυναμεως Αζαζηλ ποιειν:
εχων σε προδρομον αντιθεου πανουργιας,
some slight corrections being made in the sixth line on which all critics are agreed, and which are suggested by the ancient Latin version. It will be observed that our poet is very fond of trisyllabic feet, and that more especially he affects anapaests in the fourth and fifth places. I should add that, as the editors give his text, he does not shrink from a spondee in quarto; but we might easily relieve him of this monstrosity by reading δυναμιος in both cases, thus giving him two more of his favourite anapaests instead.
In this instance the editors could not well go wrong; for they were warned by εμμετρως that some verse was coming, and have printed accordingly. But elsewhere, where there was no such warning, they are altogether astray. Thus in Haer. iii. 17. 4 (a passage preserved only in the ancient Latin version) Irenaeus is made to write;
'Aquae mixtum gypsum dans pro lacte seducat per similitudinem coloris, sicut quidam dixit superior nobis de omnibus qui quolibet
modo depravant quae sunt Dei et adulterant veritatem In Dei lacte gypsum male miscetur,'
where the Claromontane MS has 'veritatem Dei, Lacte,' etc. This is the correct reading (in being a repetition of the previous m), but not the correct punctuation. The sentence should run,
'Dei lacte gypsum male miscetur,'
which in Greek is
Θεου γαλακτι μιγνυται γυφος κακως
so that the mixing of chalk and water with milk is not a discovery of modern civilization. I may mention by the way that not a few of our homely proverbs are anticipated by the fathers. A lively writer like Jerome would furnish several examples. One occurs to me at the moment, 'equi dentes inspicere donati,' 'to look a gift horse in the mouth,' which Jerome calls 'a vulgar proverb' even in his own day (VII. p. 538, Vallarsi).
Nor is this the only instance in which the editors of Irenaeus have been at fault. In Haer. I. praef. 2 likewise this father quotes one whom he styles in the same way (`ο κρειττων `ημων, here however rendered melior nobis in the Latin), and who is doubtless the same person. Here the original Greek is happily preserved, which I will write out as it ought to be written, separating the prose from the verse (without however altering a single word);
καθως `υπο του κρειττονος `ημων ειρηται επι των τοιουτων [των `αιρετικων] `οτι
λιθον τον τιμιον
σμαραγδον οντα και πολυτιμητον τισιν
`υαλος ενυβριζει δια τεχνης
παρομοιουμενη, `οποταν μη παρη `ο σθενων δοκιμασαι και
τεχνη διελεγξαι την πανουργως γενομενην
`ο χαλκος εις τον αργυρον, τις ευκολως
δυνησεται τουτον ακεραιως δοκιμασαι;
where however for ακεραιως we should probably read ακεραιος, as the Latin has 'rudis quum sit.' Very slight alterations would bring more of the context into the verses. Thus `ομοιουμενη might be substituted for παρομοιουμενη, and `οταν γαρ for `οταν δε, the Latin having 'quum enim.' But this is sufficient to show that several verses are embedded in a passage which the editors print continuously as prose. Probably
'our superior' in the two last passages is the same with the 'divine elder' who writes against Marcus in the first.
The employment of verse or of rhythm for theological teaching was not uncommon in these early ages. The heretics had their own psalms, in which they propounded their favourite doctrines. From the orthodox point of view Clement of Alexandria, at the close of his Paedagogus (I. p. 312 sq), has written a metrical hymn in honour of Christ for educational purposes. An anonymous contemporary of Clement, who has been identified for excellent reasons with Hippolytus, is quoted by Eusebius (H. E. v. 28) as referring to the 'numerous psalms and songs' (ψαλμοι `οσοι και ωδαι) written by believers in which Christ is spoken of as God. Again; in the fourth century the notorious Thalia of Arius, which was sung in the streets and taverns of Alexandria, will occur to us on the one side, and the poems of the elder and younger Apollinaris on the other. More especially, where a memoria technica was needed, as in the list of the Canon, verse was naturally employed as a medium. In the last quarter of the fourth century we have two such metrical lists of the Scripturesthe one by Amphilochius, the other by Gregory Nazianzen.
The Muratorian Canon was discovered and published by Muratori in 1740 from a MS in the Ambrosian Library at Milan, originally taken from the ancient monastery of Bobbio. It contains a canon of the New Testament. It is mutilated at the beginning so that it commences in the middle of the second Gospel; and it ends in the midst of an account of certain apocryphal books. Muratori himself attributed it to Gaius, the contemporary of Hippolytus, who flourished under Zephyrinus. All the necessary information respecting the text will be found in Tregelles's Canon Muratorianus (Oxford, 1867), and in Westcott's History of the Canon Appx C.
It is generally allowed that this catalogue emanated from Rome, as indeed the mention of 'the city' implies. Of its date we may say that it is ascribed by different critics to various epochs between about A.D. 160 and A.D. 220. The general opinion also is that the document was written in Greek and that we possess only a not very skillful, though literal, translation, greatly corrupted however in the course of transmission. On the other hand Hesse in his important monograph (Das Muratorische Fragment, Giessen 1873) maintains that Latin was the original language; and he has succeeded in convincing Caspari (Taufsymbol III. p. 410) and one or two others. His reasons however seem to me to be wholly inadequate. Thus he lays stress on such forms as Spania, catholica, etc., maintaining that these are admissable in Latin.
This may be perfectly true, but proves nothing. I cannot doubt that the usual view is correct. The literature of the Roman Church was still Greek, as we see from the example of Hippolytus; even though Victor, being an African, may have written in Latin. Moreover I am quite unable to explain the phenomena of the document, if it is preserved to us in its original language. The whole cast and connexion of the sentences are Greek. In answer to this view, it is urged that on this hypothesis the document ought to lend itself easily for retranslation into Greek, and that the Greek reproduction ought to throw back light on the meaning of the Latin. To this objection the following pages will, I trust, be a sufficient answer.
But it does not seem to have occurred to anyone that the original document was written in verse, like the corresponding lists of Amphilochius and Gregory Nazianzen. Yet the more I study the work, the stronger does this conviction grow. Neither in phraseology nor in substance does it resemble a prose document. There is an absence of freedom and equability in the treatment. This is the more remarkable where the writer is dealing with a mere list pure and simple. It is obvious that he has to grapple with a medium which constrains him and determines what form any particular statement shall take.
The Muratorian Fragment has been translated into Greek prose by Lagarde for Bunsen (Analecta Antenicena I. p. 242 sq), and by Hilgenfeld (Einleitung in das N. T. p. 97 sq). Either of these translations would, as it seems to me, justify the contention that Greek was the original language of the fragment, for it reads so much more naturally than in the Latin. I had not read either of these when I made my own verse renderings; but I note with satisfaction that the last words of the fragment,
Asianum Cataphrygum constitutorem,
are translated unconsciously by Hilgenfeld into an iambic line,
τον των Ασιανων Καταφρυγων καταστατην,
as I had translated it, except that I should substitute κατα Φρυγας for Καταφρυγων, since the Montanists are always (so far as I have noticed) called in Greek `οι Φρυγες or `οι κατα Φρυγας, never `οι Καταφρυγες, at all events for some centuries1. But would not 'constitutor' be a strange
1 They are `οι Φρυγες in Clem. Alex. Strom. iv. 13, p. 605; ib. vii. 17, p. 605; Hippol. Haer. viii. praef., 19, x. 25; Euseb. H. E. iv. 27, v. 16; but [`οι] κατα Φρυγας Ps-Tertull. [Hippol.] adv. Omn. Haer. 7 'qui dicuntur secundum Phrygas,' Euseb. H. E. ii. 25, v. 16, vi. 20; Epiphan. Haer. xlviii. 12, 14, pp. 413, 416. In the title of Epiphanius we have καταφρυγαστων, but this is probably a corruption for των κατα φρυγας, though this error is older than Antiochus the Monk, Serm. 130 (p. 1845, Migne).
word for a 'founder' in an original Latin prose document? Why also should these Cataphrygians be called Asiatic, except that an epithet was wanting to fill up a line?
Again: the author of Supernatural Religion, II. p. 385, accuses the writer of this Canon of going so far as to 'falsify' the words of S. John's First Epistle in his zeal to get evidence for the apostolic authorship of the Fourth Gospel. He was a clumsy blunderer, if this were his design; for his abridgment has considerably weakened the force of the original. But his motive, I believe, was much more innocent. He had to squeeze the language of the epistle into his own verse; and accordingly he wrote (as represented by his translator),
dicens in semetipsum quae vidimus oculis
nostris et auribus audivimus et manus
nostrae palpaverunt haec scripsimus vobis
which may have run in the Greek;
εσ `εαυτον: οφθαλμοισιν `α θ' `εωρακαμεν,
κακηκοαμεν τοις ωσιν, αι θ' `ημων χερες
εψηλαφησαν, `υμιν αυτ' εγραψαμεν.
Now let us see what can be made of some longer passages;
acta autem omnium apostolorum
sub uno libro scripta sunt Lucas obtimo Theoph-
lo comprendit quia sub praesentia ejus singula
gerebantur secuti et semote passionem Petri
evidenter declarat sed et profectionem Pauli ab ur-
be ad Spaniam proficiscentis. Epistulae autem
Pauli quae a quo loco vei qua ex causa directae
sint volentibus intelligere ipsae declarant.
Primum omnium Corinthiis scysma heresis in-
terdicens deinceps Galatis circumcisionem
Romanis autem ordinem scripturarum sed et
principium earum esse Christum intimans.
πραξεις `απαντων βιβλιον `υφ' `εν γεγραμμενας
Λουκας κρατιστω Θεοφιλω συλλαμβανει,
αυτου παροντος `ως `εκαστ' επραττετο:
`ως και μακραν [γ' αποντος `η σιγη] παθος
Πετρου προφαινει κακ πολεως δ' εις Σπανιαν
Παυλου πορειαν εκπορευομενου σαφως.
Παυλου δ' επιστολαι τινες, εκ τινος τοπου,
επεσταλησαν, η ποιας εξ αιτιας,
δηλουσιν αυται τοισι βουλομενοις νοειν:
πρωτον γε παντων `αιρεσεως Κορινθιοις
σχισμ' απαγορευων, ειτα Γαλαταις περιτομην,
γραφων δε `Ρωμαιοισι ταξιν, αλλα και
αρχην εκεινων Χριστον οντα δεικνυων.
For the form and quantity of this last word there is good Attic authority (Menander in Fragm. Comm. Graec. IV. pp. 93, 245). As regards the martyrdom of S. Peter and the journey of S. Paul to Spain, there can be little doubt, I think, as to the meaning. As S. Luke only records what took place within his own cognisance, his silence about these two important facts is regarded as evidence that they happened in his absence. But whether or not some words have fallen out in the Latin, such as I have given in the Greek, 'semote [quum esset, silentium ejus] evidenter declarat,' I will not venture to say.
fertur etiam ad
Laudicenses alia ad Alexandrinos Pauli no-
mine finctae ad haeresim Marcionis et alia plu-
ra quae ad catholicam ecclesiam recipi non
potest fel enim cum melle misceri non con-
φερεται δε και
`η Λαοδικευσιν, `η δ' Αλεξανδρευσιν αυ,
προς Μαρκιωνος `αιρεσιν πεπλασμεναι
ονοματι Παυλου: πολλα τ' αλλ' `α καθολικην
ουκ αναδεχεσθαι δυνατον εις εκκλησιαν:
ου συμφερει γαρ μελιτι μιγνυσθαι χολην,
which last line reminds us of the language of the earlier poet who wrote against the heretic Marcus.
nuperrime temporibus nostris in urbe
Roma Herma conscripsit sedente cathe-
dram urbis Romae ecclesiae Pio eps fratre
ejus et ideo legi eum quidem oportet se pu-
blicare vero in ecclesia populo neque inter
prophetas completum numero neque inter
apostolos in finem temporum potest.
τον δε Ποιμενα
νεωστι καιροις `ημετεροις εν τη πολει
`Ρωμη συνεγραψεν επικαθημενου Πιου
`Ερμας καθεδραν τησδε `Ρωμαιων πολεως
εκκλησιας αδελφος ων επισκοπου:
`ωστ' ουν αναγινωσκειν μεν, εν δ' εκκλησια
ου δημοσιευεσθαι σφε τω λαω χρεων:
ουδ' εν προφηταις δυνατον ουδε συντελειν
αποστολων ες αριθμον εις τελος χρονων,
where I am disposed to think that 'completum numero' is a clumsy translation, perhaps corrupted by transcription, of the idiomatic Greek συντελειν ες αριθμον, 'to be classed among the number'; but it would not be difficult to substitute a more literal rendering of the Latin. In this pasage the repetitions 'in urbe roma,' 'urbis romae,' 'sedente cathedram,' 'ecclesiae episcopus,' lead me to suspect that we have here some surplusage introduced for the sake of foreigners, when the original document was translated into Latin for the use of (say) the African churches; but I have given them the benefit of the doubt, and retranslated them.
But if this catalogue was originally written in Greek verse, who was the poet? In a paper written some time ago (Hermathena I. p. 82 sq) on the 'Chronology of Hippolytus' Salmon (p. 122 sq) discussed at length the notice of the authorship of Hermas, which the Muratorian Canon has in common with the Liberian Catalogue, of which the earlier portion is attributed on fairly satisfactory grounds to Hippolytus. He there maintains that the writer's 'nuperrime temporibus nostris' cannot be too strictly presed; that a change came over the Church after the age of Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria, who both quote the Shepherd with deference; that this change took place in the interval between the two treatises of Tertullian, De Oratione and De Pudicitia, the work being treated with respect in the former and rejected in the latter, as having been classed 'by every council of your churches among false and apocryphal books'; and that the statement in the Muratorian Canon was the great instrument in effecting this change. The Muratorian Canon on this showing therefore may be placed at the close of the first century or the beginning of the second, so that there
is no difficulty in ascribing it to Hippolytus, or at least in assuming it to have been known to him, and thus to have suggested the note which we find in the Liberian Catalogue. As however I do not see that Salmon elsehwere (Smith and Wace, Dict. of Christ. Biogr., ss. vv. 'Hippolytus,' 'Muratorian Canon') has so ascribed it, though he still maintains the later date, I presume that he has changed his mind.
Now I should not be prepared to attribute an influence so great to this document, especially if it came from Hippolytus, who was at daggers drawn with the heads of the Roman Church. But nevertheless I am ready to accept the Hippolytean authorship. To this view I am predisposed by the fact that there was no one else in Rome at this time, so far as we know, competent to produce it. It agrees in all respects with the Canon of Hippolytus; both in its rejection of the Pauline authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and its acceptance of the genuineness of the Apocalypse. Moreover the language used of the Shepherd of Hermas is strongly in favour of the attribution to Hippolytus. But I seem also to see elsewhere direct evidence of the Hippolytean authorship. Among the works of Hippolytus, whose titles are inscribed on his Chair, we read WDAIICPACACTACGRAFAC [[transliterated]]. If correctly copied, this represents ωδαι εις πασας τας γραφας, 'odes' or 'verses on all the Scriptures.' This might represent two titles; (a) ωδαι, and (2) εις πασας τας γραφας. In this case the ωδαι would only be available as showing that Hippolytus wrote metrical compositions, of which these verses on the Canon might be one; and εις πασας τας γραφας would represent his exegetical works which, as we learn from Jerome, were numerous, though it would be an exaggeration. But against this separation two objections lie: (1) In no other case in this inscription are titles of two works run together in one line (see above, pp. 325, 395). Thus XRONIKWN has a line to itself, though only one word. (2) The inscriber has already named the commentary 'On the Psalms,' not to mention the treatise on the 'Witch of Endor' (την εγγαστριμυθον) and the 'Defence of the Gospel and Apocalypse of John,' which might all have been dispensed with, if εις πασας τας γραφας were a comprehensive description of his commentaries and other exegetical works. What then were these 'odes referring to all the Scriptures'? Might they not describe two metrical compositions relating to the Canon of the Old and New Testament respectively, of which the latter only is preserved, being itself mutilated at the beginning? If this were not sufficient to account for the expression, the collection might, like Gregory Nazianzen's, have included poems 'On the Patriarchs,' 'On the Plagues of Egypt,' 'On the Decalogue,'
'On Elijah and Elisha,' 'On the Miracles of Christ,' 'On the Parables of Christ,' etc. But this seems to me unnecessary. Before the extant leaves in the MS, which begin abruptly in the middle of the description of S. Mark, a sheet or sheets are wanting, and these may have contained the Canon of the Old Testament. This was at least as important as the Canon of the New in the eyes of the early fathers, and precedes it in almost every ancient list, e.g. in Athanasius and Epiphanius, in Amphilochius and Gregory Nazianzen. The fragment on the Canon is followed in the MS by a passage from S. Ambrose (De Abrah. i. 3, §§ 15, 16, Op. I. p. 289); and Jerome tells us (Epist. lxxxiv. 7) of S. Ambrose that he 'sic Hexaemeron illius [Origenis] compilavit, ut magis Hippolyti sententias Basiliique sequeretur.' If Jerome does not treat the two works of Hippolytus εις την `εξαημερον and εις τα μετα την `εξαημερον as one, at all events Ambrose would use the second as freely as he used the first. May we not then have here possibly (I will not say more) a passage from a Latin translation of Hippolytus, which Ambrose borrowed verbatim?
If Hippolytus be the author of this Canon, it was probably one of his earliest works. He seems to have died about A.D. 236, being then in advanced age. Thus his birth may be placed about A.D. 155-160. his literary activity began early; for his Compendium on Heresies for various reasons which I will explain presently cannot well be placed after about A.D. 185 or 190. In this case he might say with only a natural exaggeration that Hermas wrote the Shepherd 'temporibus nostris,' according to his own view of the authorship, which may or may not have been correct.
I may add that in the above translation I have avoided many metrical licenses which Hippolytus might have used. My task would have been much easier if I had indulged in such monstrosities as we find even in cultured writers like Amphilochius and Gregory Nazianzen, writing on the same theme.
Return to the Table of Contents of J. B. Lightfoot's The Aposstolic Fathers, Part I, Vol. 2
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