Eusebius of Caesarea: the Manuscripts of the "Church History"

The Historia Ecclesiastica or Church History is probably the most famous work by Eusebius of Caesarea.  Revised several times, although scholars disagree about how many (the '3' and '4' versions listed here follow the theory of Schwartz), the reader is referred to the literature for a discussion of the composite nature of the text.  Composition began around 311, and 4 versions were issued.  The final version of the text appeared soon after the fall of Licinius in 323, and consisted of removing material about him which was no longer politically safe.  However much of it survives in the ATER group of Greek MSS.

The Greek Text

Primary MSS

Siglum

Location

Shelfmark & Notes

Date /
Century

B Paris, Biblioth?ue Nationale Fran?is Codex Parisinus Graecus 1431. Vellum.  Formerly Colbert 621, then Reg. 2280.  Labelled 'E' by Burton. 11-12
D Paris, Biblioth?ue Nationale Fran?is Codex Parisinus Graecus 1433. Vellum. Called 'F' by Heikel. 11-12
M Venice, St. Mark's Library Codex Marcianus 338. Vellum.  Called 'H' by Burton. 12
Σ An ancient Syriac version, probably made early in the fifth century [no details of MSS]
L The translation of Rufinus made in 402 [no details of MSS]
A Paris, Biblioth?ue Nationale Fran?is Codex Parisinus Graecus 1430. Vellum. Formerly owned by Cardinal Mazarin.  Called 'C' by Burton. 11
T Florence, Medicean-Laurentian library Codex Laurentianus 70, 7.  Vellum.  Called 'I' by Burton. 10-11
E Florence, Medicean-Laurentian library Codex Laurentianus 70, 20.  Vellum. Called 'K' by Burton. 10
R Moscow Codex Mosquensis 50.  Vellum.  Called 'J' by Heikel. 12

These fall into two groups, BDMΣL, and ATER; and the remainder are secondary MSS.

In BDMΣL, M most frequently differs from B and D.  Usually this means M is in error, but sometimes BD have an error in common against M because they have been influenced by a "learned recension" (see below) which did not affect M.  The combination MD is usually inferior, so B is on the whole the best MS in this group.  The decision between B and M can often be made with the help of the ATER group of MSS.  The Syriac is much better than Rufinus, who seems to have found Eusebius difficult and so paraphrased a lot.

In ATER, A is generally the best MS although it has many individual errors. TER seems to have much in common and probably represent a later recension.

Schwartz believed that BDMΣL represent the text of Eusebius' 4th edition with mistakes but no mixing with other editions; ATER represent the same text modified with the help of a copy of the 3rd edition.  However the latter is often free of the individual mistakes which marr the first group, and so can be used to correct it.

In addition, it can be shown that there was a later "learned recension" which affected MSS of both groups, and is now found in ERBD and in some corrections in T, referred to as Tc

Secondary MSS derived from one primary MS

Siglum

Location

Shelfmark & Notes

Date /
Century

Descendents of A
a Rome, Vatican Codex Vaticanus Graecus 399 (Copy of A)
Dresden Codex Dresden. 85 (copy of 'a')
Rome, Vatican Codex Ottobonianus 108 (copy of 'a')
Florence, Mediceo-Laurentian Library Codex Laurentianus 196  (copy of 'a')
Venice, San Marco Codex Marcianus 337 (copy of Cod. Laur. 196)
Paris, Biblioth?ue Nationale Fran?is Codex Parisinus Graecus 1435.  (copy of Cod. Marc. 337).  Labelled 'D' by Burton, and 'Codex Fuketianus' by Valesius [from which I presume it then belonged to Foucet, the minister of Louis XIV].
Oxford, Bodleian library Codex Bodleianus Misc. 23.  (copy of Cod. Marc. 337). Labelled 'F' by Burton and 'Codex Savilianus' by Valesius.
Descendents of T
Rome, Vatican Codex Vaticanus Graecus 150 (copy of T)
Rome, Vatican Codex Vaticanus Graecus 973 (copy of Cod. Vat. 150)
Descendents of E
Mt. Sinai Codex Sinaiticus 1183 (copy of E)
Paris, Biblioth?ue Nationale Fran?is Codex Parisinus Graecus 1436. (copy of cod. sin. 1183).
Descendents of B
b Venice, San Marco Codex Marcianus 339. (copy of B)
β Paris, Biblioth?ue Nationale Fran?is Codex Parisinus Graecus 1432. (copy of B)
Rome, Vatican. Codex Vaticanus Graecus 2205 (copy of β)

Secondary MSS derived from more than one primary MS

Siglum

Location

Shelfmark & Notes

Date /
Century

Paris, Biblioth?ue Nationale Fran?is Codex Parisinus Graecus 1437. Paper. A descendant of B, crossed with some readings derived from the A-family, probably from Cod. Dresden. 85 (or some similar MS) rather than A or a.  It was the basis of the editio princeps of Stephanus (1544), and is quoted by Valesius as 'codex Regius', by Burton as 'A', and by Schwegler as a and q.  (The double use was due to an error by the editor after Burton's death.  Burton referred to the MS, but also owned a collation.  The editor didn't realise these were the same and published the collation as an appendix to the edition. This led Schwegler to suppose two MSS where only one existed). 14
Paris, Biblioth?ue Nationale Fran?is Codex Parisinus Graecus 1434. Paper. A descendant of A crossed with B or one of its descendants.  It was occasionally used by Stephanus, is quoted by Valesius as 'codex Medicaeus' and by Burton as 'B'. 16
London, British Library Codex Arundelianus 539. Paper. A carelessly written descendant of A (not of a), crossed with the B group.  Quoted by Burton as 'G'. 15

None of the secondary MSS are of importance for the text.

Summaries, tables of contents, chapter titles

There are summaries at the start of every book.  These are thought authorial, because of a note at the end of the summary of book 2; "Our book was compiled from those of Clement, Tertullian, Josephus and Philo".  The medieval chapter divisions are derived from these.

The Syriac Text

A Syriac translation of the Church History survives in two ancient manuscripts, and there are also some fragments in other manuscripts.  Curiously the later manuscript is the better text, the other having some corruptions.  Since one manuscript dates to 462, yet shows evidence of being copied many times, and an Armenian translation was made from the Syriac at the start of the 5th century, it is reasonable to suppose that it was translated from Greek either during the life of Eusebius himself or soon after (W. Wright, A short history of Syriac Lit. p. 62).

The Syriac text has summaries, and is divided into chapters.

Siglum

Location

Shelfmark & Notes

Date /
Century

A

Russia: St. Petersburg, Public Library Vellum.  Quarto.  123 leaves, the first being a flyleaf taken from another volume.  The first few are much stained and torn, especially ff. 1, 2, 3 and 121.  The quires are numbered with Syriac arithmetical characters; there were originally 29.  Each quire was usually of 8 leaves.  There is a long lacuna after f. 84, consisting of quires xiii and xiv.  There are defects elsewhere also.  Each page is divided into 2 columns.  There are between 29 and 34 lines per page.  The text is written in a fine, bold, Estrangelo with little pointing.  The colophon on f.123v states that it was written in A. Gr. 773, that is AD 462, by a certain Isaac for someone whose name has been erased.  It was probably written at Edessa.  Book 6 is not present, and books 5 and 7 are missing a lot, because of the lacuna.  On f.1 there is a simple drawing of the cross, coloured brown, and beside it a note which states that the book was given to the monastery of St. Mary Deipara (in the Nitrian desert in Egypt) by one Sahlun, a priest from Harran.

Fol. 121 has been roughly repaired with a fragment of a beautifully written Armenian ms. of the 9th century.  Many other leaves have been patched with a Syriac paper ms. of the 12th century.

The replacement fly-leaf, fol. 1, is part of two leaves of a Syriac Chronicle.  More of the same text is preserved in British Library Add. 17216, on fol. 2-14.  The bookhand is a good, regular estrangelo, probably of the 8th century.  It covers the reigns of Ptolemy Lagus and Ptolemy Philadelphus, and the years specified are AM 5194, 5198.  There is also some accouint of the family of the Herods and part of the history of our Lord.

4 mss were bought from a certain Pacho (who had double-crossed Henry Tattam acting for the British Museum) for 2500 rubles, and it arrived as one of these at the library in 1852 (so Dorn, Melanges Asiatiques, t. 2. St-Petersburg 1853, p.195).  Loaned to Bedjan at the University of Leipzig on 6th September 1896.

462 AD

B

British Library.  Additional 14639.  Vellum.  130 leaves. Contains books 1-5.  Written in a fine regular estrangelo.  The colophon originally contained the date but this has been erased.  Book 1 is imperfect; "portions of the index and of the first, second and third chapters are missing" (Wright), which indicates that the summaries have been translated also and thus their early date. 6th
C British Library Add. 12154.  Contains part of book 1, ch. 12, on f.151.
D British Library Add. 7157.  Book 2, ch. 22 is on f. 196.
E British Library Add. 14650.  Part of 2.23 on f.70f; 3.23 on f. 71f.; 3.31 on fol. 72f. 4.15 on fol. 73f.
F British Library Add. 14641.  3.23 on fol. 144f. 3.31 on fol. 145f. 4.15 on fol. 146ff.
British Library Add. 14620.  Fol. 5ff give us book 6, ch. 16, 17 and 25.  This is the only authority for the Syriac text of this part of the work apart from the Armenian ms.

The Armenian Text

An Armenian translation was printed at Venice by the Mechitarists in 1877 from two modern mss in a cursive hand.  There may be a third in Vienna (the catalogue is vague).

This version was created from the Syriac at the start of the 5th century, and reflects a good and ancient version of the Syriac, free of some of the corruptions that affect both A and B of that version.  However the printed edition is itself full of copyist errors.

Siglum

Location

Shelfmark & Notes

Date /
Century

Venice, San Lazaro (Mechitarists) Ms. 750.  Paper, 310 pages.  Large quarto: 330mm x 220mm.  Copied by a scribe Garabed, a "humble priest".  Undated. 17th (first half)
Venice, San Lazaro (Mechitarists) Ms. 1660.  280mm x 190 mm.  Pages are unnumbered.  No subscription or date.  Written in Persia at the monastery of "Nuova Ciugha" in Ispahan.  Manuscript also contains the Church History of Socrates. 17th (end)
Vienna (Mechitarists) Ms. 49.  This may be a further manuscript, copied by the same priest Garabed.  However alternatively the first two mss. may have been copied in 1695 from an ancient ms. in Cilicia, and, as they say, the catalogue entry has been misread by Wright &c.  (P. Jacobus Dr. Dashian, Catalog der armenischen Handscriften in der Mechitharisten Bibliothek zu Wien, Wien 1895)  1695

All three mss derive from the same older exemplar, since they share common lacunae.  The orthography has been changed since letters are found which were only introduced in the 12th century.  The translation is of the utmost accuracy.  However the translator did not understand Greek or Latin, as his transcription of names from those languages makes clear.

The translation may have been one of those mentioned by Moses of Chorene (III. 60).  In the early 5th century Mesrop Mashtots, the inventor of the Armenian script, and Isaac the Great, sent translators to Edessa to make copies from Syriac of all the fathers, translated into Armenian.  We still have translations from the Syriac of Ephraem, Aphrahat, Labubna; the letters of Ignatius of Antioch; Irenaeus, possibly Hippolytus.  The style of the translation of Aphrahat is identical to that of the Eusebius.

Bibliography

K. LAKE, Eusebius: The Ecclesiastical History, London: Heinemann, New York: G.P.Putnam (Loeb Library), (1926).
P. Bedjan, Eusebe de Cesaree: Histoire ecclesiastique.  Editee (en syriac) pour le premier fois. Leipzig (1897).  Printed in the Nestorian hand.
W. WRIGHT and N. McLEAN, The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius in Syriac.  Cambridge (1898).  Online at archive.org

See also Google translation of Russian web page.

Constructive feedback is welcomed to Roger Pearse.

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