Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Early Christian Scholarship

In about 403 CE two men, Sunnias and Fretela wrote to Jerome asking for an explanation as to why there were so many differences between the Septuagint LXX these men were using and the Latin Psalter Jerome had produced many years before in about 383 CE. Along with this letter, these men sent a long list of passages where there were differences in the text between the LXX and the Latin Psalter.

The Latin text of this Epistle 106 can be found in the Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum volume 55. An English translation of Epistle 106 can be found here. This letter is interesting because this is an instance where Christian scholars in late antiquity that were studying scripture wrote to another scholar asking for explanation on various readings in their manuscripts. Of course, in this instance, the scholars had the privilege of writing to the translator himself. Perhaps, though, scholars in antiquity also wrote to other scholars asking for readings from manuscripts in their possession. For example (see previous post), Irenaeus (ca. 180 CE) discussed a variant reading found in some manuscripts of Revelation indicating that the number of the beast was 616 rather than 666 (Hear. 5.30.1). Irenaeus could have very easily written to any of his other Christian contacts throughout the Mediterranean (for example Polycarp), who possessed copies of Revelation, to check which readings their copies contained. Irenaeus mentions that the number 666 was "found in all the most approved and ancient copies" (Hear. 5.30.1). It is certainly possible.


  1. For almost all of Jerome's comments on variants in the NT text, one can also consult Metzger's essay Saint Jerome's Explicit References to Variant Readings in Manuscripts of the New Testament, in NTTS Volume 10 (1980).

  2. Thank you James Snapp for the reference!