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The Latin Versions of Acts Known to the Venerable Bede

  • M. L. W. Laistner (a1)


That Bede knew and used several Latin versions of Acts is abundantly clear from his own statements. Moreover, his special interest in this book of the New Testament is suggested by the fact that he composed two separate commentaries on it and may have proceeded, in part at least, from the comparative neglect of Acts by earlier commentators. Neither Bede's Commentary on Acts nor his Retractation can be dated precisely, but this much can be regarded as certain, that the former is an early work, while the latter was composed towards the end of his life. Thus twenty years or more may have elapsed before Bede, following the example of the eximius doctor Augustinus, revised errors that he had committed in the Commentary, defended himself against the attack of critics, and added much new material that was the fruit of his ripest scholarship.



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1 The Retractation is not included in the list of his own works given by Bede in H. E., 5, 24, and it is therefore a reasonable assumption that it was written after 731. Plummer (ed. of H. E., I, cxlvii) dates the Commentary between 709 and 716, since it was composed before the Commentary on Samuel (c. 716), but after Acca became bishop of Hexham (709). The date of Acca's elevation to the episcopate seems certain, and Bede in his dedicatory epistle addresses him as bishop. Nevertheless Plummer overlooked that Bede in his comment on Acts 13, 21 makes an error in O. T. chronology which he had already corrected in the De temporibus, published in 703. It is surprising that Bede, even though, as he tells us, he composed the Commentary in a hurry, should have left uncorrected a chronological error for which he had been much criticised. Hence one wonders whether, owing to Acca's urgent request, he utilised notes on Acts that he had made much earlier, without stopping to revise them. In this way a mistake committed a good many years before 709 might have been overlooked, whereas, if the comment on Acts 13, 21 had been composed in 709, Bede must have given the chronology found in De Temp., in the De temporum ratione, and finally also in the Retractation.

2 Cf. the full list of allusions to manuscripts of the Bible or parts of it given by Plummer, H. E., I, liv, note 7.

3 Mss. of the Retractation are relatively rare. I know of 24 as against 80 of the Commentary.

4 The following abbreviations are used hereafter:

Co. and Re. = Bede's Commentary and Retractation respectively.

Vg. = Jerome's Vulgate as given in the text of Wordsworth and White.

W.-W. = Wordsworth and White.

O. L. = Old Latin.

The usual sigla have been used for Bible MSS.

5 Mss. of Co. are not unanimous, but there is a strong preponderance for Remfam. Aug. lxxvii (c. 815) has both in successive lines, the conflated MS. Aug. cxxxv has Rempham in both cases.

6 One MS. (early 10th c.) has duri.

7 tollitur is found in one MS. only.

8 One MS. (late 9th c.) reads pyra; in one (10th c.) a corrector has altered pruna to pyra.

9 Aug. Ep. 82 (CSEL, 34, 358, 5); Jer. Ep. 112 (CSEL, 55, 378, 11–13).

10 A. Souter, Pelagius’ Exposition of thirteen Epistles of St. Paul, I, 169.

11 W.-W. are wrong in saying that the Bede-text has deus.

12 All the Bede MSS. read civitatem, not civilitatem as given by W.-W. and, following them, J. H. Ropes, The text of Acts 215, note. Both editors also omit te from Bede's text.

13 Only one MS. of Co. gives nauclerio. All the MSS. of Re. have nauclero, save one with the ungrammatical nauclerus.

14 Cf. Souter, op. cit., I, 137.

15 Ropes, op. cit., cxxix, says, without qualification, that F ‘lay in Northumbria in the late years of the seventh and early years of the eighth century,’ but what is his authority for so positive a statement? Even J. Chapman, whom he seems to be following, is not so categorical. Chapman (Early History of the Vulgate Gospels 157 and 158) argues that Boniface took the codex with him from England and that he obtained it from Jarrow or Wearmouth. But the evidence that he offers, though of some weight, still leaves the matter in doubt, and this Chapman himself seems to have felt. Later in the same book (188) he more cautiously remarks: ‘The Codex Fuldensis and the Codex Laudianus of Acts are possibly two of the volumes brought to Northumbria by St. Benet Biscop, and they still survive.’ H. Leclercq (Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, s.v. Fulda) is more non-committal in sketching the wanderings of this famous manuscript, though he admits that the Insular glosses in it may have been written by Boniface himself.

16 E. A. Lowe, Codices Latini Antiquiores, II, no. 257.

17 Six MSS. read ‘versus minus habent,’ but this is clearly a later correction, because Bede's words are a little ambiguous. It seems likely that he is thinking in part of A and the corrector of A who adds verse 7. Three MSS. representing one group have diiudicans.

18 Three MSS. omit sum; two give dominus for deus. All read patrum (fratrum W.-W. wrongly).

19 One MS. (12th c.) has sancti spiritus.

20 W.-W. attribute to Bede the reading usque ad Asiam, but this is found in only one MS. (10th c.) of the seven.

21 The app. crit. of W.-W. is wrong in several particulars, since Sabatier clearly relied on late MSS. of Bede or an edition based on such. It is particularly to be noticed that Bede read Caude, not Claude, and thus supports the better reading. Souter, Novum Testamentum Graece, ad. loc., should be corrected accordingly.

22 As for the words, colligere vela coeperunt, they correspond to the Greek συστεíλαντεϛ τὰ ἱστíα. Of this Ropes (op. cit., 243, 15) says: ‘Cassiodorus and Bede, but no other Latin witnesses, clearly refer to that part of the “Western” text found in 614, (= Milan, Bibl. Ambros. E 97 sup.).

23 I know of no evidence to show that Bede knew Vigilius, De trinitate.

24 Cf.the excellent description of p in Ropes, op. cit., cviii-cix.

25 One passage seemed too doubtful to include in the text above. In commenting on Acts 9, 26 in Co., Bede cites 26, 20 in the following form: in omni regione (so A: omnem regionem Vg.) et gentibus praedicabam (adnuntiabam Vg.). W.-W. quote no us. authority for praedicabam, but praedicavi is the reading of h. However, it is safest to assume that Bede was here quoting from memory.

26 Six MSS. add ‘eunuchus’ after respondens autem, the other nine and Aug. cxxxv rightly omit it. It is clearly a gloss that crept in later to explain the unexpressed subject of dixit.

27 Cf. p. 42 above for a parallel with Codex Bezae (D gr.), and for another see note 22.

28 I know of three other conflations of Co. with Re., namely, Dijon 153 (s. xii, from Citeaux), Oxford, Bodl. Laud. Misc. 268 (s. xiv) and Laud. Misc. 312 (s. x ex.). In each case the printed catalogue describes the MS. as Bede's Commentary on Acts. These three conflations are independent of one another, but I have not enough data at my disposal to say whether any of them is a copy of Aug. cxxxv.

The Latin Versions of Acts Known to the Venerable Bede

  • M. L. W. Laistner (a1)


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