« PreviousContinue »
olvrium. 'Ut in prima mense, pott xiv. diem patchalem feitivilatem pracedentem, una Sabbatorum celebrari sine ambiguitate censueriL' Ut ut legerig. Bensus hie tibi sit, celebrandum nempe pascha die dominica, post lunam xiv, proxime venture. * Veritas, C. s Tulit, id. 6 Regale,, id. 7 Quod et Dominun, id. • Sed ait, deest in Cotton. 'Exod.xii. 6. "Quod maxima, Cotton. "Bomana, Sorbonicus habet, sed suffixis punctis, ac si id foret delendum; supra lineam eadem manu ibidem corrigitur Apostolica. Vide Proleg. art. 11, n. 3.
We must leave this difficult passage as we find it, both as to readings and translation. We will not engage in any attempt to conjecture or decide on the right text. Neither will we plunge into the intricacies of the Paschal controversies, one of the most obscure subjects of all the questions of antiquity. We will confine ourselves to what is tolerably clear.
We conceive that no one who was not most deeply imbued with ultramontane views, so deeply as to lose sight of the fact that the power of the 'Apostolic See' has been of gradual growth, could have imagined it possible that the sentence of Victor against the Asiatic Churches was intended by the "anathema of the universal Church," mentioned in the opening words of this passage. It is surely quite certain that no writer of the second, or many following centuries, could thus ignore the existence of other Churches, as the ultramontanes of the Latin Church now do. The assertion that the Universal Church anathematized those whom the Bishop of Rome, standing alone, without the consent or sympathy even of the Bishops of the West, had excommunicated, as was notoriously the case in Victor's excommunication of the Asiatics, would have been too preposterous a statement to have been made by any one; without at least some explanation of a view, which was then at all events, if not now, a strange view, that Rome standing alone was virtually the Church Universal.
The fact is, the words imply that this was written not merely after the Council of Nice,—which ordered all to conform to the general practice, which was the Roman, in observing Easter on Sunday, instead of on the 14th of the moon, on whatever day of the week that fell,—but after Councils which followed between that and the Council of Constantinople, that were in later times received by the whole Church, and pronounced a sentence of excommunication on those who did not observe the rule of the Nicene Fathers on the subject of Easter. This was the earliest date at which the whole Church could be said to anathematize those who kept to the rule of the 14th day.
Now, it is notorious that, from one cause or other—from different cycles,or other variations—questions about the right day of observing Easter were continually arising. The Audoeni, a sect of Novatians, at the end of the fourth century, wished to conform to the Jewish time and manner of observance; but we think they were scarcely of importance enough to be written against in the West. That other earlier controversies should have arisen on the same point is, of course, highly probable; and the numerous occasions on which differences did arise are notorious. We are disposed, then, to refer the treatise to the time of the controversy on the proper time of observing Easter, between the Roman missionaries in Britain and those who adhered to the old rule of the British Churches, or to some similar controversy at a somewhat earlier period. Indeed, Dom Pitra conceives, from the early date of our English copies of this and the following tract, that they had been circulated in our island in reference to that controversy. There were two points at issue between the British and Roman parties :—i. What cycle should be used; which was quite a secondary point, not involving any principle, any more than determining Easter by the old or new style, and the consequent difference in the time of observing it between the Greek and our own Churches, ii. Whether, in case the 14th of the moon fell on a Sunday, that day or the next Sunday should be Easter Day. This will be found in Bede, v. 21, 22, and in Columbanus' letter to S. Gregory (in S. Gregory's Works, vol. ii. col. 1036), which last shows how much the point was contested, and is most valuable in illustrating the subject, and, we think, in determining the age of this tract. Now, in the passage which we have cited from the tract, the ride of the Church, which is said to be enforced by anathema, is against those who celebrated the Pascha with the Jews, i.e. on the 14th. The writer of i he tract says there was a difference of practice, some simply not observing Easter Day on the 14th (but of course after it), others not observing the commemoration of our Lord's death, which they would connect with the Passover, or the irapaaKevr}, before the 14th. But he says that all agreed in this, that they should not keep Easter Day on the 14th—namely, that the rule of the Universal Church not to celebrate it on the Jews' day was against those who kept it on the 14th, whether it was Sunday or not—which, in fact, would be the very argument against the British rule. Cum Judeeis Pascha facere non debemvs, was, says Columbanus, the one argument against the British practice. The British Churches understood the rule of the Catholic Church to be that Easter Day should be on a Sunday; if the Jews' Passover fell on Sunday, they observed it accidentally on the same day as they, but not on the Jews' principles, but their own. The Romans said, we should not observe it on the same day with them, anyhow. Of course it was not unlikely that a controversialist would lay the charge of Judaizing to those who acted thus; it was the very ground which would he taken, as it is in this tract. It will be observed, also, that the author of it speaks of those sigainst whom he writes as making a schism on this question; which was true of the British Christians, as it had also been of the Audoeni.
We are not unconscious of the numerous intricacies in which the question is involved, and which make it difficult to give an exact and at the same time an intelligible account of the subject in a brief space. All we maintain is, that there is no sufficient evidence from this passage for placing the date of the treatise in the age of Blastus and the second century; on the contrary, that it is certainly later than the fourth century, when the statements about the Universal Church and the Apostolic See would be natural and usual.
IV. MuKDitJS—We are disposed to say the same of the fragment of a Homily on the Pascha, bearing the name of Murinus, or Morinus, or Maurinus, Bishop of Alexandria (!). The following words occur in it:—' Typus namque Christi, agnus qui occisus * est; et manducatur agnus quotidie a septemvirit, id est, a septem 'gradibus Eccle&ioB.' We submit that this familiar way of speaking of the daily celebration of the Eucharist, and of the seven gradus of the Church, is certainly much later than the third century. The whole air of the fragment is of a late period, say the seventh century. As for the author, his name is utterly unknown except from this fragment, and a mention of him, with two lines extracted from a writing of his in a work of Alcuin, (De Bissexto, Op. torn. ii. p. 366.) In both he is called Episcopus Alexandrinus, which Dom Pitta would understand to be Alexandrinus et Episcopus; since he does not appear among the lists of the Bishops of Alexandria, or, indeed, of any other Oriental see; he thinks that he may have been an Alexandrian by birth, and bishop of some other place ; or that he may have been a bishop associated with a Patriarch of Alexandria. The fact is admitted that no such bishop was ever heard of anywhere. We think the conjectures of little value; we reckon the tract itself to be a production of the seventh century, the period of the later Western controversies on the time of observing Easter: and we should think that the name of a Bishop of Alexandria who never existed is a mistake, if not a forgery. The settling the time of Easter was, we need not say, committed to the Bishops of Alexandria by the Church. The name Murinus, or Morinus, or Maurinus, does not sound like a Greek name, nor is there any appearance in the composition itself of its being a translation.
V. S. Dionysius Of Alexandria.—After thus differing from the good fathers of SoKhnes on so many points, we are glad to express our agreement with them respecting a beautiful fragment of S. Dionysius of Alexandria, on the admission of grievous sinners to reconciliation at the time of death; it does, indeed, breathe a spirit of primitive simplicity and earnestness, and is on a question belonging to that age, not then determined by any Council. The thoughts and language are in some respects like those of a fragment published by Canon YVordswortn, in his recent work on Hippolytus. The most remarkable portion, considered in regard to doctrine, is the view expressed as entertained by the dying sinner, that if he receive absolution, he will obtain a relaxation and alleviation of punishment hereafter. The rule laid down is, that those who ' want and entreat to obtain remission' in prospect of death '. . . having before their eyes the 'judgment to which they are going, considering that they will 'suffer if delivered up bound and under sentence, and believing * that if they be freed here they will obtain relaxation and 'alleviation of punishment there, for that the good pleasure '(evBoKla) of the Lord is true and sure . . .' shall receive absolution, and that if they live they shall not be put back into the state of excommunicant8 or penitents. If, however, the person so reconciled, after he has recovered, should seem to need fuller conversion, he is advised voluntarily to submit to a penitent's life; and if he should refuse this advice, that, it is said, would of itself be a sufficient ground for a second excommunication.
The fragment is said to be from a letter to Conon; it is taken out of a MS. in the Bodleian Library. Cod. Barocc. cxcvi. fol. 75. A letter of S. Dionysius to Conon on the subject of penitence, is mentioned by Eusebius, Hist Eccl. vi. 46, who describes Conon as Bishop of Hermopolis; and, after Eusebius, by Jerome and others; but, by a series of mistakes, Conon has been changed into Canon in some copies of Jerome, and into Collon in Syncellus. The genuineness of the fragment is confirmed by a canon, cited as a canon of Dionysius of Alexdria, by Aristenius, a Greek Canonist of the tenth century, which is evidently derived from the passage now recovered; but which, when it rested on the single authority of Aristenius, was rejected by the Roman editors of S. Dionysius' works. It thus receives, whilst it gives, a proof of genuineness.
Then follow a fragment of a Latin version of a writing of the same Dionysius on the same subject, that of receiving gladly returning penitents, of which the Greek was printed by Cardinal Mai, 'Classici Auctores,' torn. x. p. 484; and an extract from an anonymous Greek Commentary on Ecclesiastes, containing some references to Dionysius' exposition of the verses, which are the subject of the commentary. They are of value, for the dust of S. Dionysius is gold.
VI. Commodianus.—We pass now from these fragments of early writers to a longer work, a poem by Commodianus, an African Bishop, who lived in the middle of the third century, consisting of above a thousand lines, of which a small portion only at the end is illegible. The MS. from which this is taken is a part of the invaluable collection of Sir Thomas Phillips, of Middle Hillj'and hence ithas been distinguished in the Spicilegium by the Latin title of ' Codex Mediomontanus.' The MS. is of the eighth century, written continuously, without either the words or verses being separated, the deciphering and restoration of which reflect great credit on the laborious editor. The portion of the Prolegomena which treats of Commodianus and his composition, and fully establishes, we think, its genuineness, is most interesting, as is also an Excursus on the same subject in the Appendix, which contains some additional notes and observations on the readings.
This production is valuable to the theologian, and still more so, perhaps, to the scholar. To the theologian, as indicating the way of viewing religious subjects by one who was not of high authority as a teacher, who represents, probably, rather the popular way of treating Christian topics; but particularly for the views it puts out respecting 'unfulfilled prophecy,' as it is called. To the scholar, as another specimen of a very peculiar kind of verse composition, of which the Imtructiones of the same writer, first published by Rigalt, at the end of his edition of Cyprian, in 1666, was the only specimen previously known.
The verses of Commodianus may be called Rhythmo-metrical Hexameters;' that is, they are hexameters such as are now made in English and German ; the metrical value of the syllables being determined, not by the laws of quantity, but by pronunciation or accent. They are heroic verses, made by those who knew Latin only as a spoken language, and were untaught in quantity, except by ear. We call them Rhythmo-metrical to avoid the ambiguity of the word Rhythmical. Prose is Rhythmical in two respects: first, because it regards pronunciation or accent only; secondly, because it has no determinate measure. But the verses of Commodianus are rhythmical in the first sense only; in the latter they are metrical. They are heroic verses, of which the metrical value of the syllables is
1 It is probably not generally known that Sir Thomas Phillips possesses one of the best, perhaps the best, MS. of S. Irenseus, and one of the two MSS. of Justin Martyr's Apologies, and his Dialogue with Trypho, both formerly in the library of the Jesuit College at Paris—the College of Clermont, so called from the Bishop of Clermont, who established it; hence the name Codex Claromontanus, so often meeting our eye in works of this kind.
1 It may be said that the lines are made simply to run in a kind of Heroic cadence, but we conceive that they are really metrical.