Origins of Catena in Gaza

Written by Timothy W. Seid

An important aspect of paleography and codicology is the analysis of development. The most crucial development that concerns paleographers is script. In general terms, this was the change in writing from various kinds of uncial script to the smaller and cursive writing of minuscule which took place around the ninth century. An earlier development was the adoption of the book as opposed to the more cumbersome roll. About the same time, scribes began using the more durable parchment rather than papyrus in the formation of codices. Another development had to do with the way in which the scribe tried to help the reader. In earlier documents, such as a papyrus roll, the text contained lines of continuous writing with little or no concern for distinguishing one unit from another, whether that be what we call words or sentences. A gradual concern for this sort of "mark-up" -- a modern expression in text processing -- can be detected in the history of textual transmission and writing. These are all ways in which development from a loose and sporadic form to one which is more consistent and advantageous has occurred. The issue of development is, of course, relative since difference does not always mean something is better. Development is not always the same throughout any particular region nor does it proceed at the same rate. Genetic relationships is especially difficult. Scholars still debate over the origins of the codex. Some argue that it was a product of Christian convention while others trace it back to the binding of wax tablets. These issues are also applicable to the catena and its relationship to scholia.

It is impossible to say with any certainty when and from where the catena came into existence or to what degree, if any, the scholia depends upon it. What is significant is that the interest in providing commentary with an ancient text precedes the surge of scholarly activity of the ninth century and the form of script which provided more space for marginalia.

The foremost proponent of the view that the catena comes from the School of Gaza is N. G. Wilson. His arguments are an attempt to show the possibility of a change in the form of annotated manuscripts before the ninth century. It is the claim of Zuntz that there were no scholars between the second century and ninth who could have brought about such a change (Zuntz, 274). However, the School of Gaza seems to have been involved in the collating of the opinions of commentators of preceding centuries.

Procopius describes his method in the following excerpt from an hypothesis:

Having been supplied the ability before God, we collected the explanations which were put down from the Fathers and the others into the Octateuch, combining these things from commentaries and different sayings. But then we selected with the very words of the sayings themselves of the selected passages; either they occurred in harmony with one another or they did not. And from what seemed to us an incomprehensible mass, hence, I extended the document. Now I see together from a manageable size and I comprehend the Scripture (PG 87.21-24).

From this we learn that Procopius took selections from authorities and added them to the text. This enlarged the text but it made more manageable the corpus of opinions of the Church Fathers.

Photius also refers to the catenae of Procopius in Bibliotheca 206-207. Since he does not question the authenticity of these catenae, it is hard to imagine that these are only a later attribution and actually are a work of any contemporary.

The distinction made between a catena and a scholium is that the former consistently makes an attempt to cite the name of the authority and usually before the quotation. The author is more of a compiler and editor with very little to add to the work. The term is reserved for annotated biblical texts rather than classical texts.

There are different types of catenae. In some cases the catenae is the major text while in other cases it occupies the margin. They also differ in the way in which the quotations are "chained" together.

An important link in the history of the catena is Codex Zacynthius (040). It is the only extant manuscript of the New Testament in which the text and commentary are written in uncial script. The dating of the manuscript is uncertain. W. H. P. Hatch postulates the sixth century (Hatch, 1931 plate xxv). Wilson assigns it to the eighth or ninth century: "after examining the book I share the conviction of Zuntz and others that such a dating (6th) is inconsistent with what little we know of the development of uncial script (Wilson, 1967 253)." However, the arguments concerning the dating of Codex Zacynthius are more involved than the type of script.

Codex Zacynthius is a palimpsest of eighty-six parchment leaves and three half-leaves. Whereas they now are 28 cm. x 18 cm., they were originally about 35.5 cm. x 28. At some point the manuscript was taken apart, the well-preserved leaves cut and then bound. The upper writing is a gospel lectionary of the thirteenth century. The lower writing now contains Luke 1:1-11:33. Whether it was actually erased is hard to tell since it is still quite clear and even has faded onto the opposite page of the present binding (Greenlee 994).

The gospel text is written in a single column at the inner side of the page. The placement of the catena depends on its size. Where there is more catena there is less text and the catena fills the three margins. Sometimes the catena occupies the top and side or only the side margin. In some cases when the catena runs for several pages, the gospel text is repeated. There can be no doubt that the catena was written concurrently with the text of Luke.

The ink appears a rusty brown with some headings and section numbers written in bright red. Greenlee distinguishes five styles of letters (Greenlee 995,96).

Hatch disagrees with the view of Tregelles, the first modern scholar to work with the codex, concerning the date of the manuscript. Hatch quotes Tregelles early comments:

The Text is in round full well-formed Uncial letters, such as I should have had no difficulty in ascribing to the sixth century, were it not that the Catena of the same age has the round letters (epsilon, theta, omicron, sigma) so cramped as to appear to belong to the eighth century (Tregelles ii; Hatch, 1937 334).
On the one hand, the confined letters of the Catena suggest the eighth century; while those of the Text are such as we have been accustomed to ascribe to the sixth, and the general absence of accents and breathings, even from the Catena, seems hardly compatible with the later date (Tregelles xvii).

Hatch demonstrates from other manuscripts that these compressed and elongated forms occur elsewhere from as early as the third century B.C.E. (Hatch, 1937 335,36). It is not then necessary to date the manuscript later for the reason of writing style.

The authorites quoted in the catena include Apollinaris, Basil, Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, Eusebius, Isidore, Origen, Severus of Antioch, Titus of Bostra, Victor of Antioch, and other anonymous writers. The latest are Severus of Antioch and Victor, who is called "presbyter."

It was Tregelles theory that the manuscript may have been written before 536 when Severus came under fire for his monophysite views. A synod in that year condemned Severus, and Justinian confirmed their decision with an imperial edict. Tregelles thought that since Severus was quoted it meant acceptance of his heretical views. He further hypothesized that after the edict of 536, the name of Severus was erased in the manuscript for purposes of avoiding reprisals.

Greenlee forcefully objects to Tregelles opinion concerning the erasure of Severus.

In the first place, the present writer could detect no evidence that the name of Severus had been erased apart from the erasure of the entire ms. after it had been used for several centuries. In the second place, Tregelles found only five of the twenty-seven occurrences of the name of Severus, in most of which there is absolutely no reason to assume that the name was tampered with (Greenlee 999).

Greenlee also takes issue with Tregelles arguments based on Severus' status as a heretic. Hatch follows Tregelles in this regard in relation to the date of Codex Zacynthius. Greenlee points out that the catena clearly states in the introduction that "rejected exegetes and heretics are quoted as well as orthodox Fathers (Greenlee 998)." The compiler of the catena then quotes a statement from Cyril of Alexandria: It is not necessary to avoid and exempt everything which the heretics say. For they confess many things which we also confess (folio 1 recto).

It would seem from this that the arguments about Severus as a heretic bear no weight. The compiler is merely using that which he deems worthy. However, there is more to the argument. Hatch points out that not only does the editor call Severus hagios but also calls him "Archbishop of Antioch." This goes beyond Greenlee's argument about including heretics. Here is strong internal evidence that the codex was written before 536.

If this is true, then it is all the more possible that Procopius could also have been compiling catenae and annotating the biblical texts with them. It demonstrates that uncial script could be used in a creative fashion in order to construct a marginal commentary.

Although Wilson dates Codex Zacynthius later, his arguments concerning the catena are instructive. Zuntz proposes a later date for the emergence of scholia:

According to him [Zuntz] the evidence from the history of scholarship and from surviving books of the period in question shows that the scholia cannot have been put into their present composite form and transcribed into the margins of books earlier than the ninth century (Wilson, 1967 244).

This view suggests that commentaries or excerpts from commentaries were available in the ninth century when literary men such as Photius compiled and transferred them to the margins of minuscule books. But Wilson doubts that the commentaries would have lasted the five centuries especially if they had not been copied onto parchment from papyrus (Wilson, 1967 245). It is also possible that these commentaries were copied into the margins of codices and then were excerpted in the ninth century to form scholia (Wilson, 1967 246). Wilson takes a mediating positon between these two views .

Wilson is also able to marshal evidence from papyri which contain marginal scholia. One example is the Callimachus fragment (P. Oxy. 2258). It is written in a Coptic uncial and probably dates to the sixth or seventh century. All four margins of the fragment contain scholia.

While it is true that the minuscule script was much more economical in terms of space, it is also true that uncial script was used for marginal commentary for both biblical and for classical texts.

Wilson uses the evidence from Latin scholia to support his case. In Philargyrius' commentary on the Eclogues of Vergil, scholia are subdivided by aliter, the Latin equivalent for allws. Wilson argues that Philargyrius, who lived in the fifth century, probably is to be credited with this feature.

Despite our ignorance of the life and activities of Philargyrius we may suppose that it was he who used aliter to subdivide scholia. If this is true, we may also suppose that he did not himself invent this form of commentary, which shows clearly where the compiler ceases to transcribe from one source and begins to use another. More probably he took over a convenient feature of a Greek book that found its way into his hands (Wilson, 1967 250).

Wilson is able to show that allws was used very early as a way to designate an alternative case (Wilson, 1967 251).

Wilson again confronts the problem of derivation. He has made the point that both catenae and scholia occur prior to the ninth century. But who borrowed from whom? If the use of a marker is an important feature in catenae then perhaps the derivation of the scholia and catenae predates Procopius and is to be found in the fifth century with Philargyrius. But it is also possible that this work was being done in Gaza in the fifth century.

There may have been someone in the fifth century interested in scholia if the information can be pieced together. The Suda entry for Zosimus (Z 169) reads:

Zosimus, of Gaza or Ascalon, a sophist, during the time of Anastasius the emperor. He wrote a rhetorical lexicon according to the alphabet and a commentary on Demosthenes and Lysias.

In Cedrenus, a Zosimus of Gaza, a rhetor, is put to death during the reign of Zeno in A. D. 490. On the one hand, we may have a Zosimus contemporary with Procopius who is involved in scholia on classical authors or, on the other hand, there may have been two of that name: It is possible that the rhetor/scholiast Zosimus of Gaza flourished in the mid-fifth century. In that case, he may have been responsible for introducing the practice of entering scholia such as is attributed to a Zosimus (Wilson, 1967 254).

An example of the catena which is attributed to Procopius is that found in Cod. Marc. Gr. 22. It contains a catena on Ecclesiastes. The introduction states:

An epitome by Procopius, a Christian sophist, of exegetical chosen selections from the discourse of Gregory of Nyssa and Dionysius of Alexandria, Origen, Evagrius, Didymus and Olympiodorus of Nile.

The text occupies the inner side of the page with commentary taking up the three remaining margins. The minuscule hand of the margin is smaller than that of the text. The marginal citations are marked both in the main text and in the margin in order to find the place quickly. These are some of the marks used:

While the type of script and perhaps the markers are products of the post-ninth century era, the placing of commentary in the margin and the citing of the authorities is not.

There is clear evidence that both scholia and catenae existed prior to the ninth century. The uncial script was adapted for marginal commentary. The issue of derivation is virtually unanswerable given the lack of manuscript evidence and, in turn, the uncertainty of paleographical arguments. It is even questionable whether a distinction should be made between scholia -- marginal commentary on classical texts -- and catenae --marginal commentary on biblical texts. There is little to suggest that the School of Gaza would have recognized such a distinction since the classical tradition had become so intertwined with the Christian. To demand that the change in form could only have occurred in the ninth century is merely to associate this change with another, namely the introduction of the minuscule script. The evidence suggests that marginal commentary on biblical texts had a beginning in the fifth to sixth century and was probably of Palestinian origins if not the School of Gaza itself.


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