Fuldensis as the oldest extant Gospel Harmony - Diatessaron - Vulgate text

Steven Avery

Vigiliae Christianae Vol. 57, No. 2 (May, 2003), pp. 176-199 (24 pages)
In Search of Tatian's Diatessaron in the West (2003)
Ulrich B. Schmid

It is all the more surprising, then to realize that the oldest physical representation of a complete gospel harmony extant today stems from Northern Italy, and is written in Latin: Codex Fuldensis (Latin Vulgate siglum “F”). On April 12, 547, Victor, bishop of Capua, finally approved a manuscript he has commissioned and heavily corrected. This manuscript includes the entire New Testament, save for a gospel harmony replacing the four canonical Gospels. 6 Victor deals with this unusual feature at some length in a seven-page preface. Here he explains that, by chance, he happened to come across an “unum ex quattuor. . . euangelium” lacking any title or author’s name. Based on subsequent research into this issue, Victor identified two names from the past that had been associated with compiling some sort of a Gospel harmony, namely Ammonius of Alexandria and Tatian, the pupil of Justin Martyr. Victor finally decided in favour of the latter as the author of the harmony in his hands. Today this judgement is unchallenged in the sense that the harmony extant in Victor’s manuscript is understood to derive, ultimately, from Tatian’s Diatessaron. At the same time, however, scholarship realizes that the present shape of the Latin harmony could hardly be more than a remote echo of the original Diatessaron, because the gospel harmony in Victor’s manuscript is a fine example of an early Vulgate text. Thus, at some point in its transmission-history, the text of the harmony found in Codex Fuldensis must have been adapted to a Vulgate model, effectively weeding out most, if not all, of the marks left from Tatian’s times. - p. 177


(lots of Vogel detail)


2. The Old-Latin harmony hypothesis--presuppositions and blind spots

The Old-Latin harmony is, strictly speaking, a scholarly postulate. There is no external testimony that such a text ever existed, nor has any evidence of it ever been found. It has been postulated in order to account for readings among the western harmonies that deviate from the Vulgate text of Codex Fuldensis—readings which, at the same time, also agree with what are considered to be eastern Diatessaronic or/and Old-Latin witnesses. Scholarly postulates usually have merit when they are deemed to be necessary to explain data that otherwise remain unexplained. At the same time a scholarly postulate should form an integral part of a plausible scenario in which all the other related data are sensibly accounted for, i.e., a scholarly postulate should not explain some data at the expense of other data. In the case at hand, what are the costs, then, for postulating an Old-Latin harmony? What is the design of the overall scenario, of which the Old-Latin harmony forms an integral part? p. 181


b. anachronistically founded

It is a well-known fact that the harmony found in Codex Fuldensis fathered a considerable Latin textual tradition. The present writer has counted four manuscripts that were dated to the ninth century, and seventeen manuscripts that were dated to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.31 Many more copies belong to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Moreover, the Fuldensis harmony saw two commentaries produced on its text from the twelfth century: one by magister Zacharias Chrysopolitanus, still extant in more than 100 manuscripts32 (of which one was used for the Patrologia Latina edition, Vol. 186), and a second by magister Petrus Cantor, still extant in at least 25 manuscripts.33 In other words: there is a vast Latin Fuldensis-harmony tradition, with multiple copies extant. Most of them belong to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, which makes them slightly older contemporaries to the vernacular harmonies (Middle Dutch, Middle High German, etc.) Diatessaronic scholarship is scrutinizing for remnants of the Old-Latin harmony ... p. 186



To sum up: The Old Latin harmony hypothesis is anachronistically founded, because it rests on comparisons between mid-sixth century Codex
Fuldensis and late-thirteenth and fourteenth century (and later) vernacular harmonies, while ignoring at the same time the vast Latin Fuldensis tradition that lies between the two. From what has been said so far, deviations between Codex Fuldensis and late vernacular harmonies are best accounted for by ascribing them to the later, developed, then-contemporary’ Latin Fuldensis tradition (in the ninth through thirteenth centuries) that mediated these deviations to the vernaculars. In other words: From a theoretical viewpoint there is simply no room left for the postulated Old Latin harmony (tradition). Occam’s razor is very sharp on this: entia non sunt multiplicanda. p. 188


Our investigation into the Old Latin hypothesis, as developed by Diatessaronic scholarship, has yielded no positive results. Although it is conceivable that such an Old Latin translation of Tatian’s Diatessaron once existed, the efforts to reconstruct this text by using later western harmony witnesses, especially in the vernacular, have not been successful. Even if one ignores the overly-complicated theoretical design of the Old Latin harmony hypothesis, there is simply no need for it to explain parallels between the witnesses that have been adduced as Diatessaronic witnesses. The large Latin textual tradition that was generated by Vulgate Codex Fuldensis, which had evolved even into annotated and glossed harmonies by the time the vernacular harmonies were being produced, is sufficient to explain most of the “parallels” found among the later western vernacular harmonics. For the rest, the appeal to chance is not just a cheap escape, but based on observable fact. p. 198-199
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