The Birth [Gestation] of the Canon: from Scriptures to 'THE Scripture' in early Judaism and early Christianity *

[more popular talk for Toronto visit, at 8 pm on Thursday, 12 April 2007] [updated to 30ap07]
[uses Toronto#2.ppt as well as the jpg files linked in html]
[materials added after 12ap2007 in green]


We are accustomed to speak about "the bible" or perhaps "the scriptures" as a single work which we can hold in one hand [[Slide01]], and/or do it!]. Technological developments since about the 4th century of the common era have made this possible, and most of us simply take it for granted. For us, a "book" is a codex, with pages bound together on one side at the spine. But in earlier times, "book" normally meant a scroll, to be unrolled and hopefully rerolled after use.[[Slide02]]

This ambiguity can even blur our use of language. In reading the late 2nd century CE author Lucian's satirical essay on the addressee's profligate purchase of "books," I came across this translation by the Fowlers, published in 1905: [[Slide03]] "It is difficult to imagine that mind of yours bent upon literary studies, and those hands turning over the pages." This was somewhat jarring to me, since we would expect Lucian to be referring to scrolls (as he does elsewhere in that essay), in which it is impossible to "turn pages." A quick check of the Greek, however, shows that Lucian actually wrote "unrolling (the scroll)" not "turning pages." It was the choice of the translators to call up a more modern image that would easily convey the meaning of deliberate  reading to the early 20th century audience, despite what should have been to them an obvious technological mismatch.

Something similar occurs in the early Christian gospel of Luke. [[Slide04]] Jesus is depicted as presenting the synagogue reading from the prophet Isaiah, presumably in the form of a scroll. But the Greek texts of Luke 4.16-20 present two possible readings in describing what Jesus did with Isaiah's "book" -- did he "unroll" it, as we would expect in that presumably pre-codex era, or did he "open" it, and later "close" it, as later readers and copyists might have assumed with codices as their models? In most English versions (including RSV), Jesus "opens" and "closes" the "book," although in the NIV (and the Message, Holman, ESV, New Living) he "unrolls" and "rolls up" the "scroll" (in the Darby translation he "unrolls" and "rolls up" the "book"; in Young he "unfolds" and "folds" the "roll"; the Amplified version gives various alternatives).

Artists were not immune to this technological confusion. Numerous depictions of the authors associated  with biblical writings from around the 5th century onward have them producing codices: on the doorstep of the modern world, [[Slide05]] Caravaggio's 1602 Inspriation of Matthew, or [[Slide06]] Masaccio's St. Paul from 1426 are typical; interestingly -- if not quite uniquely --  in a late 13th century depiction [[Slide07]] in the Cappella Tega at Spello (= Hispellum),  in East-central Umbria (about 8 km = 5 miles South of Assisi) Matthew holds a rotulus (a scroll inscribed vertically, like some legal documents) as does Mark in the late 8th century Coronation Gospels (Krönungsevangeliar; Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer, SchK XIII. 8 [originally from Aachen]; ), while in the same book, Matthew is shown with a codex ( as are the other evangelists in the Spello manuscript;\n/ more normally for the period, and much earlier, we find codices depicted [[Slide08]] in the codex Aureus (Lorsch) [Matthew, Mark, Luke, John] from the end of the 8th century (ca 800); [[Slide09]] the Godescalc Gospel Lectionary [Mark, all] from the end of the 7th. [[Slide10]] The famous Christ the Pantocrator Icon, Mount Sinai, from the 6th or 7th century, shows Jesus clutching a decorated codex,  similar to some coins from a couple of centuries later. [[Slide11]] The Ravenna "Arian baptistry" mosaics (from the early 6th century) bring us closer to reality in this depiction of Paul, scroll in hand, although  in another Ravenna mosaic (chapel of San Andrea), Jesus holds a codex of John's gospel; [[Slide12]] at the San Vitale basilica in Ravenna (about 540 CE),  Moses also receives the law on a scroll, and both Matthew and Luke hold codices but have capsa full of rolls at their feet while Mark holds his own codex gospel -- a noteworthy early exception is the depiction of Mark writing "son of God" (in Greek; see Mark 1.1) on what appears to be an unrealistically wide scroll [possibly modeled on a rotulus? Rossano Gospels (Byzantine; sixth-century; also known as the Codex Purpureus of Rossano), Rossano (CS), diocesan museum (this is said to be the oldest surviving portrait of an evangelist in the history of manuscript illumination)]. Mark is depicted with the more usual codex in the following (thanks to John Dillon and other members of the Medieval-Religion electronic discussion group for the image URLs and related information):
[[Slide13]] In the San Apollinare in Classe basilica, a decade or so later, Jesus cradles a codex [in the wrong (right) hand; the picture is reversed] as does the Lukan Ox and the Johannine Eagle. [[Slide14]] The lunette mosaic depicting the Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna  (c. 425-26) shows the saint with codex in hand on the right, and [[Slide15]] a book cabinet filled with separate gospel codices on the left

\n/ Depictions of scrolls in rotulus format deserve further attention. The rotulus would have been familiar from its continued use for certain genres such as some legal and liturgical materials. For the Matthew image, James Bugslag suggests that perhaps the artist was reminded of the rotulus because of the genealogy at the start of that gospel -- "In the later Middle Ages genealogies were one of the few literary forms that were still produced in a rotulus format" (Medieval Religion electronic discussion list, 27 April 2007). But unfortunately,  that explanation would not apply to Mark (except perhaps by imitation). Christopher Crockett observes that in "all the 'Tree of Jesse' depictions --those guys are always holding rolls/scrolls, never books" [i.e. codices]. For some images of children reading books in various formats from ancient to modern times, see, especially the 5th century BCE vase painting, a wax tablet from the same period, the Pompeii fresco of a boy reading from a scroll. For Michaelangelo's use of the rotulus format in some of his paintings, see -- of the prophets, only Joel holds a proper scroll (twisted in his right hand) while Ezekiel seems to have a lengthy rotulus and others have codices (Isaiah, Jeremiah [?], Zechariah, Daniel); similarly of the Sibyls, only the Delphic has a scroll (possibly rotulus format -- and very long!) while others have codices (Persian, Erythrean, Cumaean, Libian). The series on the ancestors of Jesus also uses framed wall plaques similar to rotuli to list the names.
Famous medieval vertical rotuli include:
Lorsch, third quarter of the ninth century, and Frankfurt, early eleventh century [also here]
"Exultet Rolls" (e.g. Salerno [late 12th century], Barbarini [ca 1087, which also depicts a horizontally inscribed scroll], Monte Cassino [11th c.])
"The roll survived, however, throughout the Middle Ages, fulfilling certain specialized functions - although it was now ...
read vertically. Such forms were useful for storing lengthy records and thus were frequently used for administrative purposes (such as Exchequer Rolls). Rolls also carried genealogies and pedigrees, and some of these manuscripts were finely illuminated. Roll CHRONICLES often accompanied royal genealogies. Illuminated Exultet rolls, with texts for the blessing of the Easter candle, were designed for public viewing, with the text facing the reader and the image placed upside down in relation to the text, to face the congregation over the lectern. Prayer rolls also survive; they may have been carried as amulets" (
Further Rochelle Altman (private communication, 01my2007): "The English Pipe rolls = rotuli = parlimentary rolls,  exchequer accounts, royal estate accounts, sheriff's real property records. Exchequer rolls from 12th-century - 16th; book form through 19th. Parlimentary rolls still in use in 16th century England.  English legal rolls were 14" in width, written across the width, length as necessary. French rotuli records of supplications to the Pope, 14th, ditto width and direction of writing. The thirteenth-century rotuli of Koln were of parchment and used for the scripture, again, 14" by necessary length, written across the width."

According to E.G.Turner, this vertical roll format occurs only in documents in the Greco-Roman period, not unlike "transversa charta" where the normal letter format for a page is rotated 90 degrees with the writing parallel to the short side ( The Terms Recto and Verso, the Anatomy of the Papyrus Roll (Actes du XVe congr?s internationale de papyrologie, edd. J. Bingen, G. Nachtergael, 1e partie, Papyrologica Bruxellensia 16, 1978).
For details on the use of wood for documents (including wax on wood, inscribed with a stylus ["stylus type"], and ink on wood ["leaf type"]) see Alan Bowman and David Thomas, Vindolanda: the Latin writing tablets London: Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, 1983,  pp. 35-45, and The Vindolanda Writing Tablets (Tabulae Vindolandenses II), London: British Museum Press, 1994, pp. 40-46.

If this were an art lecture, I might go on to show [[Slide16]] King David and his codex book [second quarter of 12th c St. Alban's Psalter], or King Herod with a codex book, or  the apostles with codex books as they hear of the resurrection. The codex book has captured the imaginations of most artists from late antiquity onward, undoubtedly both reflecting and fortifying the understanding of their contemporaries.

As we move slightly earlier than the 5th-6th century Ravenna mosaics, into the catacombs of Rome, [[Slide17]] we find a 4th century Paul with scroll in hand and capsa (scroll box) beside his left foot, very similar to earlier Roman funerary statuary in memory of presumably proudly literate departed ones (see also here and  here, from the Vatican Museum); [[Slide18]] the catacomb of Domitilla depiction of Veneranda escorted by St Petronilla, including both a scroll filled capsa and a "flying" codex (probably also mid 4th century -- "after 356"); [[Slide19]] the earliest known image of a codex comes from the  3rd century CE catacomb of SS. Peter and Marcellinus, unless a wall painting from Pompeii (before 79 CE) shows a codex rather than wax tablets. From about the same time, [[Slide20]] a third century sarcophagus now in the church of St. Maria Antiqua depicts a seated man reading a scroll. This is the third century world of transition, with Christians moving more quickly to the new technology than did the surrounding world at large. Interestingly, [[Slide21]] a 5th century illustrated copy of Vergil (Latin) shows him sitting between a closed scroll capsa and a lectern (used also for writing?) -- Vergilius Romanus, Vatican, Vatican Library, Cod. Vat. lat. 3867. folio 14 recto, while [[Slide22]] a 6th century medical codex depicts the author awkwardly holding a codex -- Vienna Dioscurides, Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, cod. med. gr. 1, folio 5 verso (see also the "donor portrait" in the same manuscript, folio 6 verso).

\n/ Knowledge of the horizontally rolled scroll might have survived through awareness that classical Jewish liturgy preserved such scrolls (codices were used for study purposes in the same Jewish circles). Perhaps early depictions contrasting Church and Synagogue would show such a contrast, or points of contention in the numerous "Dialogues" between Christians and Jews. The evidence I've seen so far is not promising:  Frans van Liere calls my attention to a 12th century image in which Synagogue seems to hold a codex (Herrad of Hohenbourg's Hortus deliciarum [19th c.copy of a now lost 12th c. codex]), if  the copyist has been faithful to the original; also a 15th century confrontational scene, where both Christians and Jews read from codices.

Scriptures before the mega-codex Bibles

It was in the mid fourth century that we witness the appearance [[Slide23]] of the "mega-codex," capable of holding the entirety of what we know as Jewish and Christian Greek scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation, more or less,  and sometimes beyond -- [[Slide24]] Sinaiticus includes Barnabas and Shepherd of Hermas while Alexandrinus has 1-2 Clement. The oldest surviving examples of mega-codices are  Sinaiticus [page of Jer - Lam] and [[Slide25]] Vaticanus [details here] (each with missing portions) from the 4th century, [[Slide26]] followed by Alexandrinus (5th century) and several others. Probably a major catalyst to this development was the patronage of the emperor Constantine and his mother Helena. [[Slide27]] In a letter to Eusebius prior to Constantine's death in 337, the emperor requested that 50 parchment copies of the "holy scriptures" be made for use in the newly built churches in and around his new capitol city of Constantinople. [add ref to Skeat, Williams-Grafton]

This is not to deny that codex technology had been applied to traditional Jewish and Christian scriptures in earlier times. But the preserved evidence suggests that the earlier examples were "mini-codices," containing single books or small groups of books, [[Slide28]] often limited to the amount of text that a scroll could hold. This situation continued even after the 4th century "breakthrough," since creating complete bibles of the scope of a Vaticanus was both expensive and time consuming, not to mention inconvenient in terms of portability and thus access. While the use of traditional scrolls declined, the mini-codex continued to flourish alongside the technically innovative mega-codex. But the concept of "bible" as a single physical entity became firmly established, at least in the areas affected by these developments (Constantinople, Caesarea, probably Alexandria). And as some of the pictures show, [[Slide29]] "scroll" came to be associated with  the surviving vertical "rotulus" format, still used in legal and some other contexts (here, liturgical), rather than with the horizontally laid out scrolls of antiquity.

Our first unambiguous reference to the use of codex technology in the production of literary works comes from the Roman poet Martial, in the final quarter of the first century CE, [[Slide30]] who even names and gives directions to the bookseller in Rome who has issued some of Martial's work in convenient parchment codex format. Martial also refers to other known authors whose works are available in the new form. How widespread this development was in the late first century Greco-Roman worlds is impossible to judge from the surviving evidence. [[Slide31]] Rudimentary codices were in use as ledgers and notebooks well before Martial, so we are dealing more with technological refinement than with original invention. Still, it is with Christians that the technology was appropriated and developed most effectively and obviously, at least in Egypt. From the hundreds of "literary" papyri recovered in Egypt from the period before Constantine, there is a gradually increasing trickle of codex fragments that have no special relationship to Christianity [[Slide32]] (relative to scrolls, about 02% by 200 CE,  perhaps 10% by 300), and a relative flood of codex materials with Jewish and/or Christian connections. By the sixth century, the codex was virtually ubiquitous in all circles..

[ -- from Roberts-Skeat, statistics]

Evidence of "the canonical process" with the old scroll and mini codex technology

Later Christian vocabulary and usage reflects the conceptual changes that were taking place. [[Slide33]] "The books" (plural -- ta biblia) of the collective "scriptures" (ta grammata, ais grafais) ultimately become "the bible" (singular) and "scripture," much as the designation associated with the ancient divine council (Elohim = gods, powers) became the way of referring to the strictly monotheistic God of Israel (Elohim). But even before the advent of the physically unified "bible" in the 4th century mega codices, some Christian thinkers were imagining a unity of what they considered to be the scriptures. [[Slide34]] Origen (ca 225 CE), in good Platonic fashion, holds the idea of scriptural oneship to overcome scriptural plurality ...

On the Latin side, Jerome (ca 400 CE) is in a position even to produce a mega-codex containing his new translation/revision, [[Slide35]] although the oldest preserved Latin pandect is from a couple of centuries later -- Amiatinus. [[check out Tertullian evidence; does he use the word "canon," etc.?]]

Lists and their contexts

We rely in large part on preserved lists to get back to the earlier developments of canonical mentality, prior to the 4th century codex revolution. [[Slide36]] For the Jewish scriptures, we look especially to the translator of Sirach (ca 125 BCE in Alexandria), who mentions law, prophets, others; and to Josephus (ca 100 CE, from Jerusalem), who lists 22 books; and alongside them, early Christian materials such as in the Jesus tradition in Luke 24.44, which mentions law, prophets, psalms. Moving beyond the listing of general categories such as law, prophets, psalms, etc., we have  Melito [[Slide37]] (ca 180 CE in Asia Minor [Sardis]; HE 4.26.13-14), who apparently did not know exactly what to include, how many books or in what order, until he travelled to "the east" (the order of his list is Octateuch, Kgs 1-4, Paral. 1-2, David's Pss, Solomon [Prv = Wisd, Eccl, Song], Job, Prophets [Isa, Jer, 12, Dan, Ezek], Esdras), and Origen [[Slide38]] (225 CE; in Eusebius, HE 6.25.20), who speaks of 22 books in an order similar to Melito, but 1-2 Esdras [one book] after Paraleip, with Job and Esther at the end (no mention of the 12).  Of course, lists can also have lives of their own, and indeed, some of the early listings are known only from later quotations (e.g. in Eusebius, ca 300 CE).

Whether and when and by whom a specific overall order was prescribed (an explicit concern for  Melito!) is unknown and probably varied in details from list to list before the emergence of the mega-codices. [[Slide39]] The emerging Jewish rabbinic tradition had somewhat different ideas regarding order as well as exactly what to include.  How many people were actually in a position to consult all of the listed works cannot now be known (Melito makes excerpts to help address this problem). Probably those who lived in places known to have libraries (Alexandria, Caesarea, Jerusalem) were more likely to be able to convert a list into actual writings if they wished to do so, or for  that matter, to turn available writings into a list. [[Slide40]] In the 4th century and afterwards, lists often accompanied codices, as tables of content [see Alexandrinus, Amiatinus]. The famous list in Athanasius' Paschal (Easter) letter of 367 also plays a major role in discussions of Christian canon. [[Slide41]]

Lists, such as are found in Eusebius' Church History, can also enlighten us in another way. We can determine to some extent how much has been lost with the passage of time and the selectivity of scribal reproduction. Goodspeed and Grant compiled a partial list for us in their History of Early Christian Literature. [[Slide42]] It runs to almost 200 items, mostly Greek, although for some of them we do have translations into Latin and other languages. But Eusebius helps us in another way, by occasionally commenting on items that he presumably knows from lists and/or oral reports, [[Slide43]] but that he admits are no longer extant or available to him:
Indeed, Eusebius co-authored with Pamphilus an Apologia for Origen (HE 6.23.4, 6.33.4, 6.36.4) which has not survived. And in collecting Origen's letters, Eusebius arranged for "separate roll-cases, so that they might no longer be dispersed" (HE 6.36.3) -- an important, if ultimately unsuccessful, precaution in that transitional period. It might have been better to copy them all into a codex. 

Physical collections (libraries) and the concern for textual integrity

With regard to the question of textual consistency in the pre mega-codex worlds, other concerns were sometimes expressed. It would be easy for a scroll or mini-codex that had received revisional attention to be juxtaposed with other materials that represented a different sort of textual history, as clearly happened in some situations (the Greek of Samuel-Kings [[Slide44]] is an excellent example, where obvious changes in translational procedures occur  from place to place in various MS families). When such materials ultimately found their way into codices such as Vaticanus, textual confusion became standardized, to the frustration of modern textual critics. A more obvious example, perhaps, is the presence of the "Theodotionic" text of Daniel (and not the "Old Greek") in almost all extant codices side by side with non-Theodotionic (i.e. "Old Greek") neighboring books. The process of transmission in such an unregulatable world of  individual small units created problems that usually must have gone unnoticed, except by very textually aware scholars such as Origen. The production of Origen's famous "hexapla" was in part fueled by such issues.

Probably this is the significance [[Slide45]] of the claim by Josephus Ant 12.114 (see Aristeas) that  the king ordered that the LXX books be taken close care of so that they might remain intact (Loeb)/uncorrupted (Whiston) (or "pure, uncontaminated" -- καθαρῶς). [[Slide46]] Exhortations to careful and accurate copying are attested, as at the end of the NT book of Revelation, or with Irenaeus On the Ogdoad (HE 5.20.2). Similarly, claims that Jews and "heretics" were corrupting the scriptures were not unknown -- see already Justin the martyr on Isa 7.14 and some other passages (Dial 71-73), and [[Slide47]] the accusation recorded by Eusebius from an unknown anti-heretical writer that certain heretics "have tampered with the divine scriptures without fear ... saying that they have corrected them, ... [while] some of them disdained even to falsify them, and absolutely denied the [authority of the] law and the prophets" (HE 5.28.13-19)

[[check for similar references in TLG (Homer text work?) ]]

With regard to physical collections of various writings, in addition to state-sponsored systematic collections such as represented by the Alexandrian library, of which an extensive catalogue was drawn up as early as the late 3rd century BCE (Callimachus' Pinakes or "Tables"), we have some evidence for book exchanges at a less formal level. [[Slide48]] On a second century CE Oxyrhynchos papyrus (18.2192) the unknown author requests that the recipient

Make copies of books 6 and 7 of Hypsicrates' Characters in Comedy and send them to me. For Harpocration says that they are among Polion's books. But it is likely that others also have acquired them. He also has prose epitomes of Thersagoras' work On Myths of Tragedy. According to Harpocration, Demetrius the bookseller has them. I have instructed Apollonides to send me certain books of my own which you will hear of, in good time, from Seleucus himself. If you find any, apart from those I have acquired, make copies and send them to me. Diodorus and his friends also have some which I have not acquired. [See further, chapter 4 of Kim Haines-Eitzen, Guardians of Letters (Oxford 2000)]

More pertinent to Jewish and Christian interests is [[Slide49]] the very fragmentary book list on an early 4th century Oxyrhynchos papyrus, which mentions parchment copies of Exodus, Leviticus, Job, and Canticles along with the Gospels (probably) and Acts, Hermas, Origen, and various other unknown or unidentified items (total of 15). [C.H.Roberts, ZNTW 37 (1938) 186f.]. [[Slide50]] Eusebius mentions libraries in Rome (where he claims that Philo's On Virtues was deposited [HE 2.18.8], as well as the works of Josephus [HE 3.9.2]), and claims to have made much use of  the Jerusalem Church Library founded by Alexander (212-250) (HE 6.20). Of course, Eusebius' main connection is with the seacoast city of Caesarea, where Pamphilus had established a library specializing especially in the works of Origen, which Eusebius apparently also expanded  (HE 6.32.3, 7.26). Indeed, Eusebius notes that Origen wrote many letters to various persons; "As many of these as we have been able to bring together, preserved as they were here and there by various persons, we arranged in separate roll-cases so that they might no longer be dispersed. These letters number more than 100" (HE 6.36.3).

Of course, books can wear out, both from use and from age, and also may need to be transferred from older technologies to the newer. The activities in Caesarea after Eusebius [[Slide51]] included copying some of Philo's works onto parchment, carried out under bishop Euzoius around 367, as noted in one surviving manuscript. This might also have involved a move from papyrus rolls to parchment codices, although that is simply conjecture based on what we know about the period.

The Significance of Quotations, Allusions, and Explicit Mentions

The Jewish and Christian writings from before Constantine are often full of various sorts of evidence regarding previous literature and its uses. In what follows, I've added numbers to identify elements that ideally are present in explicit quotations -- (1) some formula or other indication of the intention to quote, (2) an identification of the source of the quoted material, (3) the quotation itself, with its own textual particularities (if any), and sometimes (4) the significance attached by the quoting author to the quoted material in this particular context. Here are some examples:  Philo, On Creation 25-26 [[Slide52]]

[1] this is the doctrine of Moses, not mine. Accordingly ... [2] Moses says also; [3] "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth:" [4] taking the beginning to be, not as some men think, that which is according to time; for before the world time had no existence, but was created either simultaneously with it, or after it; for since time is the interval of the motion of the heavens, there could not have been any such thing as motion before there was anything which could be moved; but it follows of necessity that it received existence subsequently or simultaneously

Or again, in section 129 [[Slide53]
(129) So [1] Moses, summing up [2] his account of the creation of the world, says in a brief style, [3] "This is the book of the creation of the heaven and of the earth, when it took place, in the day on which God made the heaven and the earth, and every green herb before it appeared upon the earth, and all the grass of the field before it sprang up." [4] Does he not here manifestly set before us incorporeal ideas perceptible only by the intellect, which have been appointed to be as seals of the perfected works, perceptible by the outward senses?

Unfortunately, our ancient sources are not usually so complete or explicit in their quotations. Formulas can be quite simple -- "he or it says" -- without reference to who or where. Quoted material, even with clear formulas,  does not always present wording that we find in the preserved texts. And when a context of interpretation is provided, it may not be of much help in clarifying the situation. A notorious example comes from the story of Jesus' infancy in the Matthean gospel (2.23): [[Slide54]]

And [4] he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, that [1] what was spoken [2] by the prophets might be fulfilled: [3] "He shall be called a Nazarene."

"Allusions" can be much more troublesome, since by definition they lack the formulaic elements and are often textually diffuse, relative to the presumed source text. Sometimes they have become part of the available language, with the user unconscious of their ultimate origin. [[Slide55]] How often have you heard a sports commentator exuding about how the individual or team "pulled that one out of the fire," without any awareness that this language comes into Christian vocabulary  from Jude 23 ("save others by snatching them out of the fire" οὓς δὲ σῴζετε ἐκ πυρὸς ἁρπάζοντες)? We live in a linguistic world of allusions, which usually tell us nothing specific about the reading habits or attitudes to literature of the users -- "meek as Moses," "patience of Job," "feel the spirit," "see the light," "go the second mile," and the like. Whether similar things are true of the ancient sources we interrogate is usually an open question. We cannot always tell whether what we see as an allusion to a scriptural passage was understood and intended as such by the presenter.

Of course, there are more revealing allusions to be found. At least two types can be distinguished: (1) verbal echoes, which call a particular passage or context to mind, and (2) specific references to people, events, etc., that may be of a more general nature (e.g. Philo's constant references to Moses as the "lawgiver"). Sometimes this type of distinction is blurred, where the person or event is linked to a particular passage with characteristic wording.

[Philo, On Giants 17] [[Slide56] "... he sent evil angels among them" {Ps 77.49}. These are the wicked who, assuming the name of angels, not being acquainted with the daughters of right reason, that is with the sciences and the virtues, but which pursue the mortal descendants of mortal men, that is the pleasures ...[alluding back to Gen 6.1-4, "daughters of men," on which the tractate is based]

[Luke 11.30] [[Slide57]] For even as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.

The latter (references to people and events) are probably more useful than the former, for understanding intention, unless other supporting evidence is present. When Philo is commenting on a passage that he has formally quoted, and in the ensuing discussion uses words or phrases found in that passage (as above), we have a clear verbal allusion that depends on and extends the quotation. It's pretty clear what is happening from the larger context. But without such a context, establishing an intentional connection between incidental wording and prior texts that contain such wording can be problematic.

Even explicit formulaic passages can present serious problems. Matthew's gospel (2.23) on the unidentified Nazarene quotation has already been noted; also well known is the "agraphon" found in Acts 20.35 [[Slide58]] on Paul quoting Jesus ("remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive'"), Paul in Romans 3.10-18 on what seems to be a pastiche from the Psalms and Isaiah introduced as a single quotation [[Slide59]] ("as it is written" Ps 13/14.1-3 [cf + 52/53.1-2] + 5.9/10 + 139/140.3/4 + 9.28/10.5 + Isa 59.7-8 + Ps 35/36.1/2), although something similar is found in many OG manuscripts of Ps 13/14;  Barnabas 4.3 on Enoch [[Slide60]] (so the Greek witnesses) or Daniel (so the Latin translation). Often such problems have been solved by appeal to faulty memory on the part of the author, or to intentional blending, or to the use of excerpts -- as well as to lost sources (often as a last resort?).

The bottom line here is that an exploration of this sort of  evidence shows that these early authors considered worthy of citation a wider body of respected  materials than what we have inherited as "bible." This impression has been greatly strengthened by the Dead Sea Scroll discoveries, in which not only do we have fragments of other scriptural sounding texts preserved, sometimes in impressive quantity (e.g. Jubilees), but occasionally even find similarly mysterious quotations and/or allusions:

CD page 16 [[Slide61]] refers not only to "the law of Moses" but in the same breath to "the book of the divisions of the periods according to their jubilees and their weeks"; and page 10 calls for ten men  in the central governance of the community who are "learned in the book of HAGY and in the principles of the covenant," whatever that may mean. That this is not likely to be a misprint is apparent from the similar reference on p. 13, where "a priest learned in the book of HAGY should not be lacking" from the leadershp group. And a separate instructional text, the "Rule of  the Congregation," states  that young people also should be instructed in "the book of HAGY" and "in the precepts of the covenant." Whatever this book consisted of, it seems to have been very important to them.

Even if HAGY is understood to be another name for a scriptural work that we already know -- which seems to me unlikely -- we have firmer evidence for scriptural plurality within the category of "psalms" among whomever is responsible for the psalm scroll from cave 11: [[Slide62]] col 27 attributes to wise and enlightened David 3,600 psalms, 364 special daily "songs," 52 sabbath "songs," and 30 other "songs" for other special occasions, plus 4 exorcism "songs" -- a grand total of 4,050! And among the psalms included in the preserved fragments of that roll, as well as in other Qumran fragments, are several psalms that are not found in any collections that became canonical. The popularity of hymnody among the scroll depositors is underlined by other manuscripts that do not contain what came to be biblical psalms, but other similar poetic compositions, the authorship of which is not disclosed by the extant pieces. This is all reminiscent of Philo's glowing description of the "Therapeutae" on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt, who are said to compose and sing all sorts of harmonious compositions in their isolated cells and communal meetings.

One further example in this quick sweep through this material. Qumran cave 4 produced an apparently independent sheet (not a scroll) on which four related quotations are found. [[Slide63]] It has been dubbed "4Q Testimonia"

(1) "And **** spoke to Moses saying [Deut 5.28-29 plus 18.18-19, if the people remain faithful God will raise up a prophet like Moses, to whom the people should listen]";
(2) "And he uttered his poem and said : [ Num 24.15-17, the promised "star" and "scepter"]";
(3) "And about Levi he says: [Deut 33.8-11, an authoritative victor]
(4) "At the moment when Joshua finished praising and giving thanks with his psalms, he said: [material that starts out similar to Josh 6.26 but continues the curse with reference to problems to be caused by a man "of Belial" and associates who instigate violence and  devastation]

Strikingly, the final quotation, from the "Psalms of Joshua," is found elsewhere in the scrolls from cave 4, in one of the fragments of a work that is being called Psalms or Apocryphon of Joshua (4Q379, p.283), probably the source of the quotation in 4Q Testimonia, but even if not, this coincidence of Joshua materials is another piece of evidence for scriptural plurality among the scroll producers and readers.


Much more could be said on this subject, but it is time to draw this excursion to a close. My contention is that we do an injustice to the Jewish and Christian heritage if we import our concept of "Bible," with its fixed and exclusive canon, back into the period when the respected literatures known as "scriptures" were transmitted piecemeal, on scrolls or mini-codices, and held together, if so desired, through lists or physical collections or conceptual abstractions which often were more open ended (or less closely defined) than became possible and actual with the development of the mega-codex in the 4th century CE. What I have called elsewhere "the tyranny of canonical assumptions" can restrict our understanding and appreciation of the sorts of scriptural worlds in which the subjects of our studies lived, for those of us who specialize in the pre-Constantinian worlds. There are, of course, many other aspects to the story beyond the physical development of the "Bible" book, and many nuances that need to be recognized, but I'm sure the picture is no simpler as we move back in time, and that by recognizing potential as well as actual pluralism in what "scriptures" signified to our subjects, we can continue to make progress in historical understanding.



--- [see also] ---

[* Original title: "Scriptures before 'The Scripture': Pre-Canonical Libraries, Lists and Locutions"]

Kim Haines-Eitzen. Guardians of Letters: Literacy, Power, and the Transmitters of Early Christian Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. Pp. x + 212. ISBN 0-19-513564-4. US $52.00.

James J. O'Donnell, "The Virtual Library: An Idea Whose Time Has Passed" [web]
[Deals with the late antique Latin library situation in relation to modern computer hopes]

L. Canfora, The Vanished Library: A Wonder of the Ancient World (Berkeley, 1989), is both a readable history of the Alexandrian library and at the same time an exemplification of its curious totemic hold on our culture's imagination. More accessible, perhaps is this general treatment of the Alexandrian library by Ellen Brudige of Tufts University.