Sunday, February 24, 2013

Per Fidem Solam: Romans 3:24 in the Würzburg Glosses


Romans 3 in the Würzburg Codex (f2r)
I have already written on the Irish Würzburg glosses here. I'm working through Romans 3 for school at the moment and so I thought I would examine the Würzburg glosses to see how an early Irish theologian interpreted the same text in the 8th century.

I've reproduced both the biblical text and the glosses here together. The glosses are italicized and were originally written in Gaelic and Latin.

"(23) For all have sinned and do need the glory of God. (24) Being justified freely by his grace [that is, by faith alone, i.e. the faith of belief in Jesus Christ], through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, [that is, it is He that has redeemed and it is He also that is the ransom, i.e. by the blood] (25) Whom God had proposed to be a propitiation [that is, it has been set forth in the mysteries of the Godhead, to make atonement for those who believe his liberation would be in the blood], through faith in his blood, [that is, through the faith of every one who believes in his salvation through His blood] to the showing of his justice, for the remission of former sins."

The gloss 'Per Fidem Solam'
added in tiny a tiny hand over 'per gratiam ipsius'
What is interesting is the phrase 'by faith alone'. Our Irish scribe added this gloss in Latin (per fidem solam) over verse 24 'justified freely by his grace' (Iustificati gratis per gratiam ipsius) and then expanded it with a Gaelic gloss relating this justification by faith alone to faith in Christ.

Luther was famously criticized for adding 'alone' (allein) to his German translation of Romans 3.28, 'man is justified by faith [alone]', although it doesn't appear in the Greek (or Latin text). Of course Luther's 1522 translation wasn't the first vernacular translation to add 'alone' to Romans 3.28. Several earlier Roman Catholic editions did the same thing (e.g. the Nuremberg Bible of 1488, the Geneva Italian version of 1476). In a similar fashion our 8th century Irish theologian interpreted Romans 3.24 as teaching justification per fidem solam. Luther, it seems, wasn't alone.

... id est per fidem solam ...
... per gratiam ...
Ó Néill, Pádraig P., “The Old-Irish glosses of the prima manus in Würzburg, m.p.th.f.12: text and context reconsidered”, in: Richter, Michael, and Jean-Michel Picard (eds.), Ogma: essays in Celtic studies in honour of Próinséas Ní Chatháin, Dublin: Four Courts, 2002. 230–242.

Breen, Aidan, “The Biblical text and sources of the Würzburg Pauline glosses (Romans 1–6)”, in: Ní Chatháin, Próinséas, and Michael Richter (eds.), Irland und Europa im früheren Mittelalter: Bildung und Literatur / Ireland and Europe in the early Middle Ages: learning and literature, Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1996. 9–16.


Ní Chatháin, Próinséas, “Notes on the Würzburg glosses”, in: Ní Chatháin, Próinséas, and Michael Richter (eds.), Irland und die Christenheit: Bibelstudien und Mission. Ireland and Christendom: the Bible and the missions, Veröffentlichungen des Europa Zentrums Tübingen. Kulturwissenschaftliche Reihe, Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1987. 190–199.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Judas the Trógán

Book of Armagh f. 38a.
Trógán is added to the second column half way
down the page in the center margin.
In the Book of Armagh at Matthew 10:4, next to Judas Iscariot's name the Irish scribe wrote trógán in the margin (i.e. miserable wretch). Irish commentators like Cummian regarded Judas as one the chief heretics of the world, along with Simon Magus and Arius, "whose memory is deadly." 

A far more elaborate scribal attack on the enemies of Christ can be seen in a 14th century Greek-Latin diglot manuscript of the Gospels (Greg. & Aland no. 54). In that particular manuscript, possibly written by an Armenian scribe, four different ink colours are used for the gospel content.

For the general narrative he used vermillion, for the words of Jesus he used red, (some bible's still employ this tradition today), for OT quotes of the followers of Jesus (e.g. Mary, John the Baptist, the disciples) he used blue. But for Judas, the Pharisees, the devil and (strangely) for the shepherds in the nativity account, he used black ink.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Symbols of the Evangelists in the Irish Tradition

Book of Kells, f. 27v
A seventh century Irish commentary on the four Gospels (Expositio quattuor evangeliorum) explains the four symbols of the Evangelists; “There are four symbols which designate the four Evangelists: a man’s face for Matthew; a calf’s face for Luke; a lion’s face for Mark; and an Eagle’s face for John. All these our Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled in Himself. He was a man in his birth, a calf in his sacrifice, a lion in his resurrection, and an eagle in his ascension.”

Another Irish writer applies the symbols to the Christian's life. The Lion represents the strong in faith; the Calf, the merciful; the Man, humility; and the Eagle stands for the mystic.

The ultimate source for these widespread symbols of the four evangelists is in Ezekiel 1.10 and Revelation 4.7. Next time you're in an old church keep your eye out for these four symbols, you're bound to see them somewhere.

(To my Corkonians, have you noticed them above the west front facade of St. Finbarr's Cathedral?)