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John of Salisbury and the world of the Old Testament

  • Avrom Saltman (a1)

Extract

It is likely that during the years of his exile (1163/4-70) John of Salisbury’s attachment to the bible was strengthened at the expense of his ‘classical humanism’. A glance at the index to Brooke’s volume of the later letters of John of Salisbury does much to confirm this hypothesis. As Smalley pointed out in this context, ‘the holy page reasserted her rule over the artes’. The ancient pagan sources which bulked large in his earlier writings are submerged under a flood of biblical quotations, allusions and exempla. The main topics of these later letters arc the Becket controversy, the papal schism and the empire-papacy conflict. The very nature of these themes must have influenced John’s mental processes. He was no hypocrite, and would not have recommended his exiled archbishop to study the psalms and Gregory’s Moralia had he himself not done likewise.

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References

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1 [The] Letters [of John of Salisbury,] 2, [The Later] Letters [(1163-1180) (edd W. J. Millor and C. N. L. Brooke, OMT, Oxford 1979).] Professor Brooke’s splendid edition has greatly aided the preparation of this work and I take this opportunity of thanking him for his encouragement to proceed with it.

2 Smalley, [B.], [The Becket Conflict and the Schools] (Oxford 1973) p 107 . For John’s more classicistic pre-exilic attitude see Liebeschütz, [H.], [Mediaeval Humanism in the Life and Writings of John of Salisbury (London 1950)] pp 934.

3 Letters 2, 144 p 34.

4 Letters 2, 256 p 518.

5 Kelly, J. N. D., Jerome (London 1975) p 44 n 39; Rand, E. K., Founders of the Middle Ages (Cambridge, Mass. 1929) p 134 ; Letters 2 pp 824-9; Smalley p 106.

6 Smalley p 88.

7 Policraticus viii. 17, 2, p 356; Acts viii.30.

8 Letters 2, 271 p 548.

9 Webb, C. C. J., ‘Note on books bequeathed by John of Salisbury …’, Mediaeval and Renaissance Studies 1 (London 1943) p 128.

10 Policraticus iv.4-11, 1, pp 244-76.

11 Letters 2, 288 p 638 and compare Liebeschütz pp 98-100.

12 Letters 2, 136 pp 6 and 10; 215 p 358.

13 Policraticus viii. 18, 2, p 359. William of Ypres is the most notorious example of a non-princely tyrant. See [The] Letters [of John of Salisbury,] 1, [The Early Letters (1153-1161) (edd W.J. Millor and H. E. Butler, revised C. N. L. Brooke, London 1955)] 23 p 37; 24 p 39; Letters 2, 136 p 2.

14 Policraticus viii. 20, 2, pp 373-4. The exceptions are David, Hezekiah and Josiah.

15 ‘Licet potestatem tenuerit, jam non regimen impendere, sed magis tyrannicam vitam ducere visus est’, Rabanus Maurus, Commentaria in libros Regum (PL cix.40).

16 Policraticus viii. 18, 2, p 358; 1 Samuel viii. 11-18.

17 Policraticus iv.3, 1, p 241; 1 Samuel xv.22.

18 Policraticus ii.27, 1, pp 145-8.

19 Letters 2, 187 p 236 (twice); 275 p 580; 281 p 616 (twice), and see references to Henry II in the index.

20 Letters 2, 176 pp 168, 174; compare 275 p 580 (twice).

21 Letters 2, 168 p 104; 1 Samuel xv.17.

22 Letters 2, 175 p 152; 180 p 194; 181 p 202.

23 Letters 2, 172 p 132. The identification of Doeg with Saul’s armourbearer is derived from Pseudo-Jerome on I Samuel xxxi.5, but John’s source is more likely to be Rabanus or the gloss (Pseudo-Jerome, Quaestiones on the book of Samuel (ed A. Saltman: Ley den 1975), pp 49-50, 104, 159).

24 Letters 2, 174 p 142.

25 By June 1166 Gilbert was universally recognised as the spokesman and leader of the English episcopate and chief defender of the king’s ecclesiastical policy.

26 2 Samuel xvi.20-xvii.4; Letters 2, 172 p 132.

27 2 Samuel xv.34, xvii.7-14.

28 Letters 2, 172 pp 130-2; 175 p 162; 176 p 176; 181 p 204; 184 p 216.

29 Letters 2, 175 p 162; 181 p 204; 184 p 216.

30 Letters 2, 175 p 162; 181 p 204; 184 p 216; 191 p 260.

31 Letters 2, 184 p 216 n 8. The Ethiopians should not be identified with the Midianites. The legendary connexions of Moses with the Ethiopians are derived from Numbers xii. 1 which refers to his Ethiopian wife. The account of Josephus in his Jewish Antiquities ii. 246-54, (Loeb) (ed and trans H. St. J. Thackeray etc., 9 vols: London 1926-65, 4 pp 272-5) is followed by most Christian scholars, Rupert of Deutz, De trinitate (PL clxvii.869-70); the gloss (PL cxiii.190); Peter Comestor, Historia Scholastica (PL cxcviii.1144). But according to this version Moses never lived in Ethiopia. John of Salisbury’s ultimate source is more likely to be the Jewish midrash ‘Chronicles of Moses’ Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem 1971) xii.413, cited by normative Jewish exegesis on Numbers xii. 1. In this version Moses lived in Ethiopia for forty years.

32 Letters 2, 176 pp 174-6.

33 Letters 2, 175 p 162; 181 p 204; 184 p 216; 243 p 480. The identification of Ahab’s steward with the prophet of the same name is derived from Jerome In Abdiam prophetam (CC lxxvi.352).

34 Letters 2, 182 p 208; 184 pp 214-6.

35 Letters 2, 182 p 206; 184 p 214.

36 Letters 2, 175 p 162; 181 p 204; 184 p 216; 191 p 260.

37 John makes no distinction between the two Pharaohs of the oppression and exodus.

38 See Exodus v.14-21 and Letters 2, 171 p 126; compare 187 p 244.

39 Letters 2, 219 p 372 n 4 and see Exodus vii. 1. Liebeschütz’s ingenious suggestion is therefore superfluous, and the reference is to Henry II.

40 Letters 2, 187 p 232 n 19.

41 Letters 2, 200 p 290. As the bishops do not want to be freed, they will remain permanently enslaved in accordance with the law (176 p 170; Exodus xxi.5-6).

42 Letters 2, 191 p 260.

43 Letters 2, 306 p 740; 307 p 746.

44 Letters 2, 307 pp 742-9.

45 1 Kings xvi.31-3, xviii.4, 21.

46 Policraticus ii.25, 1, pp 136-7; viii.21, 2, p 379.

47 There are fourteen references to Ahab, eight to Jezebel.

48 ‘Quis unquam tanta immanitate distraxit copulam nuptiarum’ (Letters 2, 187 p 244).

49 1 Kings xviii.19.

50 Letters 2, 176 p 172; compare 174 p 146 and 181 p 200.

51 Letters 2, 187 p 246; compare 176 p 172.

52 Letters 2, 180 p 194; 235 p 436.

53 Letters 2, 213 p 350.

54 1 Kings xx. 33-42. Compare the deposition of the tyrant Saul for sparing Agag king of the Amalekites.

55 Another example of John of Salisbury’s reserve in allowing the readers of the letter to complete the picture (see above text to n 21). His intensified biblical studies during his exile provide some justification for his new role of ‘man of God’.

56 Policraticus vii.12, 2, p 144.

57 John of Salisbury, Historia Pontificalis (ed and transl M. Chibnall, JVMT Edinburgh 1956) p 26.

58 See above text to n 4.

59 Compare Augustine, De Cenesi contra Manichaeos ii:10 (PL xxxiv.203).

60 ‘Non enim supra, sicut agni, sed juxta tabernacula pastorum haedi pascuntur’, Bernard, Sermones in Cantica xxxv.2 (PL clxxxiii.963). As John has intra instead of Bernard’s supra, Gregory would appear to be a better source.

61 ‘Si agnos pasceres, in tabernacula pastorum pasceres’, Gregory, In canticum canticorum (CC cxliv.43).

62 Letters 2, 191 p 260.

63 John iv.9.

64 Jerome, Liber Inlerprelationis Hebraicorum Nominum (CC lxxii. 154). Another brilliant use of Jerome’s etymologies (ibid p 127) is John’s accusation that the monks of Canterbury were bowing down to the idol Milcom, the etymology of which is rex eorum, obviously Henry II (Letters 2, 242 p 476).

65 Compare Smalley, B., The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages (Oxford 1952) p 94.

66 Policraticus ii. 16, 1, pp 95-6.

67 Translation by Pike, J. B., Frivolities of Courtiers and Footprints of Philosophers (Minneapolis 1938) pp 823.

68 Policraticus vii.5, 2, pp 108-10.

69 Policraticus, vii.21, 2, pp 193-4.

70 Policraticus, vii.10, 2, p 130; compare [Augustine,] De civitate Dei xiv.21 [(ed E. Hoffmann: CSEL 40,] 2, pp 44-5).

71 Policraticus vii.10, 2, p 130.

72 Policraticus viii. 16, 2, p 342.

73 See text to nn 4 and 59.

74 Letters 2, 147 p 44.

75 Policraticus viii.25, 2, p 420.

76 Policraticus viii.24, 2, p 412.

77 Policraticus viii.11, 2, p 295.

78 Letters 2, 252 p 508.

79 Policraticus vii.21, 2, p 197; De civitate Dei xv.7, 2, pp 68-9.

80 See Constable, G., Monastic tithes from their origins to the twelfth century (Cambridge 1964) pp 2867.

81 Policraticus vii.21, 2, p 197.

82 Policraticus iii.9, 1, p 198.

83 Letters 2, 307 p 744.

84 Policraticus i.6, 1, p 39.

85 Letters 2, 168 p 106; 174 p 146.

86 ‘Lamech … non sponte, sicuti in quodam Hebraeo volumine scribitur, interfecit Cain’, Jerome, ep 36 (Lettres, ed J. Labourt: 8 vols, Paris 1949-63 ii.54); ‘opinio antiquorum tradit Hebraeorum’, Hugh of St. Victor, Adnotationes elucidatoriae in pentateuchon (PL clxxv.44-5).

87 The death of Cain is depicted in an eleventh century mosaic in Monreale cathedral, Sicily, entitled ‘trahens Lamec arcu suo interfecit Caym’ photograph in Ch. Merchavia, The Church versus Talmudic and Midrashic Literature (500-1248) (in Hebrew: Jerusalem 1970), facing p 192.

88 The legend is based on Genesis iv.23.

89 Policraticus iii.9, 1, p 198.

90 Ibid.

91 Policraticus vii. 10, 2, p 130; viii. 16, 2, p 342; and see 1 Peter iii.20, 2 Peter ii.5.

92 Genesis ix.22.

93 Genesis ix.25.

94 Genesis ix. 1.

95 Jerome, Hebraicae quaestiones in libro Geneseos (CC lxxii. 10-11); Liber Interpretation!; Hebraicorum Nominum (CC lxxii. 63).

96 Vulgate-Nembroth, Nemrod etc.; septuagint—Nebrod.

97 De civitate Dei xvi.3, p 129.

98 Policraticus viii.20, 2, p 373.

99 Policraticus i.4, 1, pp 27-8.

100 Policraticus viii.20, 2, p 373.

101 Letters 2, 187 p 232 n 14. If Merob is taken as a corrupt form of Nembroth (see n 96 above), the passage makes sense.

102 Policraticus vii.2, p 94.

103 Letters 1, 33 pp 57-8. For details of a sumptuous banquet he attended in Apulia, probably with similar results, see Policraticus viii.7, 2, pp 270-1.

104 Policraticus viii.13, 2, p 323.

105 Policraticus iv.5, 1, p 247.

106 Letters 2, 265 p 536; 324 p 800.

107 Policraticus viii.13, 2, p 323.

108 Policraticus, ii.26, 1, p 139; iii.9, 1, p 198.

109 Letters 2, 203 p 302.

110 Letters 2, 209 p 318.

111 Letters 2, p 332.

112 Letters 2, pp 324-32.

113 Letters 2, pp 332-4.

114 Letters 2, p 324.

115 Letters 2, p 326.

116 Here John touches on an unsolved mystery. There are a goodly number of references by Christian writers to a Jewish book or books entitled ‘Gamaliel’ whose subject-matter covers many aspects of post-biblical Jewish literature. The Jews do not seem to refer to this book. However, Hermann, a convert from Judaism, roughly contemporaneous with John of Salisbury, speaks of ‘the superstitious comments of Gamaliel on the old testament’ and of Gamaliel’s ‘old wives’ tales’, Hermannus quondam Judaeus opusculum de conversione sua (ed G. Niemeyer, MCH Quellen iv.113).

117 Letters 2, 209 p 326.

118 Letters 2, p 324.

119 See below text to n 124.

120 Letters 2, 209 p 324 n 22.

121 Hugh of St. Victor, De scripturis (PL clxxv.16); Eruditionis Didascalcicae (PL clxxvi.779-80). The two lists are identical.

122 talmud, Babylonian, Baba Bathra (Hebrew-English edition transl Simon, M. and Slotki, I. W., ed Epstein, I.: 2 vols London etc. 1976) fols 14vb-15ra.

123 Isidore, De ecclesiaslicis officiis i. 12 (PL lxxxiii.747). I am grateful to my colleague Dr Batsheva Albert for drawing my attention to these significant variations.

124 Rabanus, De institutione clericorum iii.7 (PL cvii.383-4).

125 Column references to PL cxcviii are given in the table.

126 Ginzberg, L., The Legends of the Jews (7 vols Philadelphia 1968), vi. 4478 n 56.

127 Letters 2, 209 p 328.

128 Babylonian talmud, Baba Bathra fol 15r margin (not translated).

129 Proverbs xxv.1.

130 Letters 2, 209 p 328.

131 Letters 2, p 329; 1 Kings iv.32-3.

132 The disputatio must be identified with Ecclesiastes rather than with the Song of Solomon. Disputatio refers back to the third clause of the quotation from 1 Kings, beginning et disputavit. The first two clauses deal with Proverbs and the Song of Solomon, and only Ecclesiastes remains.

133 Jerome, Commentarius in Ecclesiasten (CC lxxii.250-1).

John of Salisbury and the world of the Old Testament

  • Avrom Saltman (a1)

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