Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Eusebius and New Testament Textual Corruption: Part 3

I posted a link to one of my recent posts over on the New Testament Textual Criticism Facebook page and received a lengthy and engaging response that required more detail than a comment on Facebook would allow. I dealt with the first discussion in the previous post and more discussion followed in response to this post. I engaged with the first point concerning textual corruptions. In this post I hope to adequately address the issue of Eusebius and the canonicity of certain books of the New Testament and the "openness" of the Cesarean library.

“I would say that the reading of texts in the 2nd and 3rd centuries has little to do with the canon lists of the 4th century.”
I do not wish to delve too deeply into the thorny issue of the canonical process of New Testament writings. I do not disagree that there were other factors other than its historical use in the Church, for example a book's apostolic connections were considered as well. But Harry Gamble’s point (which I was quoting) was that even though there certainly were books that later formed the New Testament that did not have as wide a readership as other books (i.e. Revelations vs. Gospel of John), all of the New Testament writings that Eusebius listed in Hist. eccl. 3.25.1-7 were read in the church and had some kind of popularity, i.e. were copied, circulated and read in Christian communities.
There is simply no possible way that Eusebius could force a canon list onto a Christian community. Just as a book would only circulate if those within the social networks willingly desired to obtain a copy for themselves (see previous post). Eusebius could claim certain books were canonical all he wanted, but no one would read that work unless they wanted to obtain a copy of it. Of course, they could find his arguments persuasive, and then read these books simply taking him at his word. But what of those communities who read, as you say, the epistle of Barnabas and not 2 or 3 John? They would not agree to read these books if they did not want to, and there was nothing that Eusebius or anyone else could do about it.
One last thing to consider in regards to Eusebius foisting some type of canon on the larger Christian community. Many of those who were reading Eusebius’ Church History had just come out of the largest Empire wide persecution in history. One aspect of this persecution was the collecting and burning of Christian writings. There are many accounts of Christians who resisted these book-hunts and hid or guarded their sacred texts, at the cost of their lives. I seriously doubt these same Christians would simply allow Eusebius to push them around and accept certain books that they did not wish to read. No one had that power, not even Rome in all of its military might.
“Eusebius' predecessor Pamphilius was certainly exceptional, but Jerome doesn't say that he lent the books to "outsiders", but those who were interested in reading. These people aren't spoken of as being from all over, and so we just may have an account of the generosity of Pamphilius to the local Christian population. An encomium is unlikely to be historically accurate, I would say. At any rate, I don't think we have grounds to apply the example of Pamphilius as any sort of norm. He seems to be an exception to the rule.”
In regards to whether the library at Caesarea was open or not, I am not sure why we should regard this as exceptional. Jerome definitely had access to this library and likely acquired copies of Origen’s writings from this library (see Jerome, Ep. 33.4.1-20). We know from a colophon in Codex Sinaiticus that the library at Ceaserea had Origen’s Hexepla and a copy of this (or the original?) was used in the seventh century (the date of the marginal hand) to correct Esther (a similar one is also found at the end of Esdras). Colophons similar to the one found in Sinaiticus (indicating the manuscript had contact with Pamphilus) are found in several manuscripts (see the sources cited in Gamble’s, Books and Readers, 158 n.38 and n.40). This reveals that manuscripts which originated from the Pamphilian, and later, Eusebian library circulated widely long after Eusebius.
Not only did the manuscripts in the Caesarean library travel widely, but Pamphilus himself, and later Eusebius, had to acquire copies of ancient works and Biblical manuscripts through social networks. Both near, and far. Apparently there was a wide array of literature available in this library, both secular and Christian writings. This type of collecting work would require social networks, not one way, but two way networks.
Frontispiece to Codex Amiatinus
The wide influence of the Cesarean library is not necessarily exceptional. The library that Cassiodorus founded in the second quarter of the sixth century in southern Italy had wide influence as well. The Amiatinus Codex in England was copied from a manuscript that was linked to the library of Cassiodorus in southern Italy. Bede at the monastery at Yarrow in England mentions that the Amiatinus codex was copied from a manuscript that came from Rome. And this manuscript was connected to the library of Cassiodorus, either it originated from his library or was itself copied from one of his manuscripts (see the discussion of this manuscript in Gamble, Books and Readers, 200-202).
 I re-iterate again the point that Eusebius’s own Church History would only circulate, be published, once social contacts requested copies of this work. I find it very unconvincing to say that these same Christians (or non-Christians) had access to Eusebius’ Church History but no access to the Caesarean library especially considering the wide influence and circulation of manuscripts that had connections to Pamphilian library.

Eusebius and New Testament Textual Corruption (Part 1)

Eusebius and New Testament Textual Corription: Part 2

The above are in response to these previous posts

Asclepiodotus and Theodotus, the Banker: 'Corruptors' of Scripture 

A Riot in the North African Church! Augustine on Jerome's Translation of the Bible

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