Origen: the Manuscripts of the "Philocalia"

The Philocalia is a collection of extracts from the works of Origen, assembled by St. Basil and St. Gregory Nazianzen.  Since most of Origen's works are lost, following the condemnation of "Origenism", and the text tradition of surviving works somewhat slender, it is a work of the highest value.

There are quite a few manuscripts, which form three main families. 

Siglum

Location

Shelfmark & Notes

Date /
Century

   

GROUP 1

 
B Venice, St. Mark. Codex Venetus Graecus 47.  A cursive quarto.  Contains unique prolegomena and also marginalia warning the reader of doctrinal abberations at various points.  Parchment, 156 leaves, 10 inches x 7½ inches.  31 lines per page.  The character is small minuscules hanging from the lines.  The headings are in small capitals, and the ink throughout is a reddish brown.

Most Mss. of the Philocalia commence with a short preface stating that it was compiled by Basil and Gregory, and sent by the latter to Theodore, Bishop of Tyana, together with a letter which then follows.  After this comes a table of contents.  However B begins with a long preface of 5 pages, including the usual material but with extensive additions amounting to a defence of the action of Gregory and Basil in producing a compilation from the works of Origen.  It also suggests that the text has been interpolated by heretics since it left their hands.  Finally the author adds that he has marked the heretical passages.  Then follows Gregory's letter, and another insertion.  

Finally the table of contents appears.  This shows 27 chapters, correctly numbered, with the subsections of chapter 21 also properly numbered. This MS is the only one in which the numbers are exactly correct.   Against some portions in a later, blacker ink are references to the corresponding passages in Contra Celsum.  The MS. ends on f. 156 r.  The verso contains some extracts relating to Origen from Photius Bibliotheca, 117-8, in a later hand, but the closely written text is smeared.

Two correctors worked on the MS.  One was contemporaneous with the main scribe; the other wrote in a black ink at a later period, and inserting corrections from an Ms. of Contra Celsum.  Finally a large and clumsy hand has written occasional notes to defend Origen against the charges made against him in the margin.

The MS. belonged to Cardinal Bessarion, whose signature appears on the first page. 

There is marginal note in ch.1 on the passage where Origen suggests that some beasts listed in scripture as unclean have no actual existence, being intended allegorically.  This reads, "But we once saw a trage/lafoj, which came from Thrace to Caesar Barda's house...".  Barda was a clever statesman in the reign of Michael III, under whom he enjoyed almost absolute power.  He was made Caesar in 862 and murdered in 866 AD.  Notorious for his vices, he was a good jurist and as the solitary patron of literature he brought about a revival of learning which alone redeems his memory from disgrace.  Among his acts was appointing Photius as patriarch, according to Zonaras (pp. 160-1).  This suggests that Constantinople in the second half of the 9th century was the location of the act of copying.

The preface describes the codex from which the copy was made as palaiota/th ou}sa ,suggesting a seventh century or earlier date, and so probably a good quality text.  This is found to be so.  Often the text of this MS agrees with our Ms. of Contra Celsum against the rest of the Mss. of the Philocalia.  But most importantly it shows that some loose leaves were extracted, and replaced in each other's position in an ancestor of all the other Mss.  Looking at the pieces of text out of order, we see that this ancestor of the others must have had 29 lines.

11
? Rome, Vatican Codex Vaticanus Graecus 389.  Copy of B.
? Berlin [Unknown]  This is an MS from Sir Thomas Phillipps' library at Cheltenham, now in Berlin.  Copy of B. 1573
   

GROUP 2

 
A Patmos, Monastery of St. John the Divine Codex Patmos 270.  Parchment.  Quarto.  435 leaves.  Each leaf is 8½ x 6 inches.  Written area is 6¼ x 4 inches.  The character is small minuscules sometimes crossing, sometimes hanging from the line.  There are usually 29 (occasionally 30) lines per page.  The ink is brown throughout.  The capitals are small and plain.  Headings are in small capitals.  There are scarcely any corrections.  Contractions are very numerous initially, but dwindle starting with fol. 143 r.  There are none from 143 v - 153 v, after which they recommence to a slight extent halfway down the page.  The grave and acute accents are very slanting; the circumflex is sometimes round and sometimes pointed.

Robinson: "During the Easter Vacation of 1887 I was hospitably entertained in the Monastery of St. John the Divine, while I was engaged in making a collation of this MS."  The MS became known after a visit by Tischendorf in 1844 and again in 1859, on his return from Mt. Sinai.  His attention was directed to a 10th century MS. erroneously described as 'Origenis Hexapla', which proved to contain (1) the Philocalia, (2) Scholia from the Hexapla on Proverbs, and (3) Scholia on certain works of Gregory the Divine, together with a life of that saint.  The MS is thus the oldest known, but is difficult of access, and so was unknown until this time.

The top part of f.1 is torn off.  The Philocalia ends on f.185 v, l. 5.  The second work follows, ending at f. 230 r.  f. 321 r gives an index to "some work of Gregory the Divine", followed by the scholia.  The writing stops suddenly on f. 435v.

The start of the MS. is damaged but the initial portion then contains the close of the long preface from B.  However none of the marginal notes from B appear, and the epithet directed at Origen at the end of the long preface has been omitted.

The text seems quite independent of B -- the long preface is their only point of contact.  This means that their agreement on a text reading gives a strong presumption that this is the original text, especially when confirmed by the Ms. of Contra Celsum.

10th (end of)
   

GROUP 3

 
C Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale Codex Parisinus Suppl. 615.  A beautiful vellum codex, written in two columns with 24 lines to a page.  Size 11 x 7 ¾ inches, and 198 leaves.  The character is minuscules hanging from the ruled lines.  The capital letters and heads of the chapters are in gold.  Several leaves are missing from the start of the codex, and others at various points.  The initial leaves have been disarranged by the binder.  There are some corrections by a scribe contemporary with the main hand: here and there a later hand has made changes in a blacker ink.  The first column of f. 104 r begins with a broad gold line, followed by an index with gold capitals to the headings but no numeration of chapters.  The index ends on f. 104 v, halfway down the second column: the rest of the page is blank and then a leaf is lost.  The index displays a feature of a group of Mss. all derived from this one, the division of the work into two books, the second starting with c. 21. 13th
F Basle Codex Basil. A. iii. 9.  Copy of C.  Written by a monk named Cyril.  Also contains Contra Celsum. 1565
? Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale Codex Parisinus 945 ('Codex Regius').  Copy of C, but very imperfect. ?

SUBGROUP 3b

? ? Monac. 523.  Descended from C but incorporating corrections from Contra Celsum and another group of Philocalia Mss. ?
? ? Constantinop. 453.  Descended from C but incorporating corrections from Contra Celsum and another group of Philocalia Mss. ?
? Rome, Vatican Codex Vaticanus Ottobonianus 410.  Descended from C but incorporating corrections from Contra Celsum and another group of Philocalia Mss. ?
? Oxford, Bodleian Library Codex Bodleianus Roe 8.  Descended from C but incorporating corrections from Contra Celsum and another group of Philocalia Mss. ?
? Cambridge, Trinity College Codex Cantab. Trin. Coll. O. I. 10.  Descended from C but incorporating corrections from Contra Celsum and another group of Philocalia Mss. ?
   

GROUP 4

 
D Venice, St. Mark's Library Codex Venetus Graecus 122.  Similar text to C, but not derived from it.  Often right where C has blundered.  Most important of this group.  Paper Ms.  377 leaves.  11¾ x 8¼ inches.  30 lines per page.  Written in a small and rapid hand with many contractions.  It contains three works of Cyril of Alexandria, a treatise of Photius, and a letter sent by Thomas, Patriach of Jerusalem, to the Armenian heretics.  This letter had been dictated in Arabic by Theodore Abucara and translated into Greek by Michael the Presbyter.  Then ff. 289-377 contain the Philocalia. 1343 AD
? ? Monac. 52.  Copy of Ven. 122. ?
? Turin Taurin. B. I. 6.  Copy of Ven. 122. ?
? Rome, Vatican Codex Vaticanus Graecus 385. Similar text to C, but not derived from it.   Often right where C has blundered. ?
? ? Athen. 191. Similar text to C, but not derived from it.  Often right where C has blundered. ?
? Rome, Vatican Codex Vaticanus Graecus 429. Similar text to C, but not derived from it.  Often right where C has blundered. ?
   

GROUP 5

 

SUBGROUP 5.1

E Venice, St. Mark's Library Codex Venetus Graecus 48. Written by same scribe as Ven. 44, an MS of Contra Celsum.  Fly-leaf missing, but undoubtedly owned by Cardinal Bessarion.  A paper quarto of 220 leaves.  No corrections apart from a handful by the original scribe.  Note by Bessarion on f. 220 v. 14
? Milan Mediol. A 165.  Copy of E. ?
? Leyden Lugd. Bat. 61.  Copy of E. ?
? Florence, Mediceo-Laurentian Library Codex Florentius Laurentianus Kk. I. 39.  Copy of E. ?
? Rome, Vatican. Codex Vaticanus Reginensis 3.  Copy of E. ?
? Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale Codex Parisinus Graecus 456.  Brought to Paris from Constantinople.  It is very closely related to E, but not copied from it.  Contains Arrian's Expeditio Alexandri immediately after the Philocalia, which is prefixed by a comparison between Origen and Alexander.  This was probably composed either by the scribe of this MS or its archetype, and appear in some later MSS with some variations of text, although Arrian's work is not included and so the whole point of the words is gone.  Also contains some iambics of the monk Bessarion on the death of Theodora. 1426 AD
? Rome, Vatican. Codex Vaticanus Ottobonianus 67.  It is very closely related to E, but not copied from it.  Contains Arrian's Expeditio Alexandri immediately after the Philocalia.  Robinson is unsure whether it contains the comparison between Origen and Alexander in Par. 456. ?
G Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale Codex Parisinus Graecus 940. Paper Ms. Once known as 'Codex Boistallerianus'.  Defective at the close, as are two other Mss therefore probably copied from it.  Contains after the Philocalia, Basil's homilies on the Hexameron, and two works of Gregory of Nyssa.  It stops abruptly on f. 81 v and leaves a blank until f. 82, ending finally seven lines from the foot of f. 83 r in mid-text.  This points to a mutilated archetype. 15th
? Oxford, New College Oxf. New Coll. 147.  Copy of G. ?
? Milan Mediol. H. 101.  Copy of G. ?
? Rome, Vatican Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1454.  An incomplete Ms, but related somehow to group 5.1, having e1ti prefixed to the last heading in the index. ?

SUBGROUP 5.2 

16th +
? Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale Codex Parisinus Graecus 458.  Philocalia followed by a work of Zacharias of Mitylene, written in very large characters.  Used as the basis of the only complete text before Robinson, the Tarinus edition of 1618.  He also added the Opiniones de Anima which he found in the 'codices Thuani' of the Philocalia, whose readings appear in his notes (see also below). 1531
? Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale Codex Parisinus Graecus 457.  Closely related to Par. 458.  ?
? Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale Codex Parisinus Graecus 459.  Closely related to Par. 458.  1543
? Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale Codex Parisinus Graecus 941.  Linked to 456 by including the comparison with Alexander in an altered text.  Also contains some iambics of the monk Bessarion on the death of Theodora. 1535
? Leyden Codex Ludg. Bat. 67.  Probably a copy of Par. 941. ?
? Florence, Riccardian Library Flor. Riccard. K. I. 13.  Linked to 456 by including the comparison with Alexander in an altered text, but not the same as Par. 941.  The beginning of this Ms. is lost.  After the Philocalia, and the verses on Origen and Alexander, contains some iambics of the monk Bessarion on the death of Theodora, two other verse pieces, an acrostic prophecy of Christ and the Cross by the Erythraean Sibyl. ?
? Rome, Vatican Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1565.  Related to Riccardian MS. ?
? Leyden Codex Ludg. Bat. 44.  Related to Riccardian MS. ?
? [Madrid, Escorial] [2 LOST MSS]  In E. Miller's catalogue of the Greek MSS in the Escurial (pp. 332-386) there are the contents of an old catalogue made before the great fire of 1671.  In this two Mss of the Philocalia appear, which then perished.  One of these is described as containing also certain verses of Bessarion, and other writers, and also verses of the Erythraean Sibyl. ?
? Turin Codex. Taurinensis B vi. 25.  Contains book 2 followed by book 1, and no index.  Of the same class as Par. 458. ?
? Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale Codex Parisinus 942 ('Thuanus').  Contains book 2 followed by book 1, but incomplete and with 2 indices. ?
? Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale Codex Parisinus 943 ('Thuanus')..  Contains book 2 followed by book 1, but incomplete and with 2 indices. ?
   

GROUP 6 (Incomplete, quite unimportant late copies)

 
? Rome, Vatican Codex Vaticanus Graecus 388.  Contains book 1 only, no preface or index. ?
? Vienna Vienna, no. 53 in the catalogue of Lambecius.  Similar to Vat. 388.  Ms is very hard to decipher, partly because of extensive bookworm but mainly becauseof a brown stain going through the whole book and covering seven-eighths of each page.  Contains only the first book. ?
? Rome, Barberini Library Ms. III 84. An Ms containing book 2 only. ?
? Oxford, Bodleian Library Codex Bodleianus Saville. 11.  Contains a portion of book 2; cc. 21, 25 and 27. ?
? Moscow In Matthaei's catalogue there are four very late fragments of book 2. ?
? Moscow In Matthaei's catalogue, no. 12, there is a complete Ms. of the Philocalia listed. 15

Stemma

 

Indirect Tradition

The text is also available from some catenae, although Robinson believes that more could be found if more catenae were explored.  

1.  Two considerable quotations from the Philocalia are found  in the Munich Catena on the Epistle to the Romans, published by Cramer at Oxford in 1844.  He used Ms. 412, which is described in Hardt's catalogue (vol. 4, p. 289) as a parchment codex of the 12th century.  The catena contains extracts from Oecumenius, so cannot have been compiled before the close of the 10th century.  The passages are from ch. 25 (Cramer vol.4, p.276), and ch. 21 (Cramer vol.4 p.340 ff and 349), although the latter is somewhat disarranged.

A comparison of the text with that of the Philocalia shows that they derive from a manuscript independent of all those now existing, and in a few instances is right when all the Mss. are wrong.  There are a few cross-combinations, but generally the Ms. must have been independent of the archetype of all the surviving Mss.  In several instances the readings agree with Ven. 47 against all the others.

2.  The Oxford Catena on the Romans (MS. Bodleianus E. II. 20, AD. 1601; Cramer, vol. 4, p. 5 ll. 21-25) contains five lines from ch. 25.

3.  Codex Vaticanus Graecus 762 contains a Catena on the Romans, but Robinson does not know whether or not it might contain material from the Philocalia.

The translations of Rufinus, which also contain some of the material used in the Philocalia, are generally too much of a paraphrase to help with specifics of the Greek text, although they represent the thought of Origen quite well.

Subtitles, summaries, chapter headings and divisions

[Unknown]

Bibliography

J. Armitage ROBINSON, The Philocalia of Origen: The text revised with a critical introduction and indices.  Cambridge University Press/New York:Macmillan (1893).  This is the primary source for all the information given.  However it abbreviates the shelfmarks very aggressively, which I have done my best to restore.

Constructive feedback is welcomed to Roger Pearse. Corrections and additions are very welcome.

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