A Lost Spanish Gospel Book

A fascinating story of a vanished codex is told in an article by Mariano Revilla which was published in Spain 1918-20. As far as I know, it has never appeared in English, so I have used Google Translate to create a quick English version of the first half, and have edited this slightly, cutting parts that emerged as complete gibberish. The original can be read on Archive.org in the pages of La Ciudad de Dios, which published the article in four parts: 117, 118, 120:1 and 120:2. US readers may be able to read the re-publication in book form on Google Books.
The reason for my interest will be plain to the reader. Part of the text in the Codex Ovetensis comes from the Great Stemma.

The Codex Ovetensis of the Gospels and the Bible of Valvanera

“Colligite... fragmenta, ne pereant.” (Jn, 6:12.)

Modern critics seem to completely ignore the existence of these two ancient codices, of which Ambrosio de Morales speaks with great praise in several of his writings. Did they perhaps perish in one of many unfortunate accidents that our archives and libraries have suffered, or are they hidden at the bottom of them still unexplored? The research we have done in order to clarify this point has brought us to the sad conviction that were lost in the seventeenth century, but we dare not declare it in a categorical and definitive way because the arguments that underpin our conviction, are more negative than positive and perhaps new and more lengthy investigations can give a more satisfactory and promising answer. Fortunately, our work has not been entirely barren, for we have been provided with the remarkable discovery of fragments of these two codices where least expected, to wit, in the margins of a copy of the Vulgate printed in Venice in 1478. This magnificent incunable, which by the fineness of its vellum, the precision of its typography and the daintiness of the pen illuminations which adorn it seems made for the use of a Renaissance prince, belonged to the bishop of Plasencia, Dr Pedro Ponce de León, and when he died, it was bought with many others of the same origin for the Library of the Escorial. Ambrosio de Morales, in his report on the books of the bishop to be taken to the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo, describes the Bible as follows:
Sacred Bible. Slightly less than one hundred years old, printed on very fine parchment and with illuminations. Glosses have been placed with great diligence in the margins of this bible using a very ancient Gothic bible for the Old Testament and a different bible, of Oviedo, for the New Testament. [...]: On account of the diligence ... and taking account of the parchment and the illumination, valued at thirty ducats. Gilded margins. (1)
(1) Memoria de los libros que se deben tomar para El Real Monesterio de San Lorencio, de los que tenía el obpo de Plasencia Don pero Ponce de León (Memorandum of books to be taken to the Royal Monastery of St Lawrence formerly owned by the bishop of Plasencia, Dr Ponce de León). Ms. Esc etc.-II-15, fol. 239v.

The author of the marginal notes was that famous preacher of Philip II, the no less celebrated historian of the Dominican Order, Friar Hernando de Castillo, as he states in a foreword on folio 1 of the said Escorial Bible, which reads as follows:
"To the reader, from Ferdinandus de Castillo, O.P. Dear friend and reader, this bible has been glossed in reliance on many others, of which the great part were in manuscript form, in the [oldest?] Gothic script. One book, containing only the four Gospels, was written 700 years ago and was kindly loaned to me by the church of Oviedo. Another, of venerable antiquity, containing both the Old and New Testament, came from the reserves of the fathers of the Monastery of St Mary of Valvanera (“Benedictine” added in the margin)."
Although this asserts that Hernando de Castillo’s marginal variants were readings obtained from “many” examples, the great majority of the manuscripts consulted consist, if the truth be told, exclusively of the Codex Ovetensis of the Gospels and the Bible of Valvanera, as noted on folio 2r, and this was apparent to Ambrosio de Morales, since for the avoidance of doubt on this point, the same Father Hernando de Castillo states it strictly in the following note from folio 2v, written in his own hand by authority of Philip II:
"I, Hernando de Castillo of the Order of St Dominic, professor of sacred theology, preacher to King Philip II of Spain, made faithful inspection of all the holy Bible, placing variant readings of the New Testament in the margins sixteen years ago from two of the most ancient copies in Gothic script (on the one hand from the fathers of the Monastery of Our Lord of Valvanera, on the other hand from the church of Oviedo) carefully comparing the differences with the authentic Latin. In witness whereof I undersign the above by the authority of his Catholic majesty and this codex is hereby placed in the Royal Library, in the Royal Monastery of St Lawrence, in the month of July 1577. Signed: Hernando de Castillo."
Lacking the original manuscripts, it seemed difficult to ascertain to what extent this was a true and accurate collation of these manuscripts by de Castillo. We have, however, quite clear evidence of his fidelity and diligence including the scrupulous preservation of the original spelling. A comparison of his spellings with the marginal notes in the Gothic Codex Legionensis of the College of San Isidoro, whose text, as we shall see, belongs to the same family, passes this test favourably. Even to the extent of his exquisite calligraphy, the illustrious Dominican manifests a rare care and attention. It seems, therefore, that his work of collation guarantees all the fidelity required by modern criticism. Thanks to him we can now add a brief chapter, perhaps not lacking in interest, to the history of the Latin versions of the Bible in Spain.

Our first proposal to discover these ancient fragments was sent to the Benedictine Fathers who form the Pontifical Commission for the revision of the Vulgate so they could study them easily and use the variant readings, but without detracting from this we believed an examination would also contribute to learning, since these Spanish codices, apart from their intrinsic merit, have a value as venerable relics of our cultural roots in the heroic early days of the Reconquista. We will say, then, what we know about the origin, vicissitudes and critical value of these manuscripts and we will publish a selection of the fragments, since we cannot publish all that was preserved by de Castillo, as we had originally hoped.

I. - The Codex Ovietensis of the Gospels

a. - History of the manuscript

We know the original source and purpose of this manuscript by an instrument of donation that the author wrote at the end of the codex which de Castillo preserved with his usual fidelity on folios 2v and 3r of the Escorial incunabula described above. Here is this interesting document:
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, this book of the Gospels imbued with the sacraments and arguments was assembled by me, a useless and lowly servant of Christ by the name of Justus. I am not worthy of merit and my wrongs cannot be redressed. Through the intercession of the saints, grant unto me to be acquitted and at last be reconciled to my Lord and to be freed from the bonds of all my sins. This has been the reason for my devotion, and I ask that the present book be placed on the holy altar where my body is to be buried and where I swore to fulfill my vows of office. I ask all the priests [who read from this book] to constantly pray to Our Saviour and beseech God through whose hands I came into the world for the salvation of my soul and not to weary in it. For thus it is written: he who prays for others, God commends. But if any man in the church wills harm on others, let him [...] remain in everlasting punishment with Satan and his demons. Thus I go to my judgment before Our Lord.
Then follows a note, probably written shortly after the death of the notary Justus:
Justus, the servant of God, died in 810 of the Era on January 12.
So according to these documents, the Oviedo codex was written around the middle of the eighth century by a scribe named Justus, whose death occurred in 810 of the Hispanic Era or 772 CE and it was bequeathed to a church where he was to be buried so that priests would remember him in their prayers and offer prayers for the repose of his soul during holy mass. Use of the Hispanic Era also makes it clear that the codex is Spanish in origin, for which we will later see additional evidence. However we do not know for certain what region this was in, though perhaps it was Asturias, of which Oviedo is the capital, since it was preserved there until the sixteenth century, as evidenced by several of the documents cited and confirmed by Ambrosio de Morales. He writes thus:
"In the Library of the Church of Oviedo is ... a New Testament, which from its parchment and lettering seems notably older than the other Gothic manuscripts. In plain script at the beginning it states: “The Book of Justus.” And at the end it says: “Justus, the notary, died in DCCCL of the Hispanic Era on January 12."(1).
(1) Viage de Ambrosio de Morales, por orden del Rey D. Phelipe II, a los Reynos de León y Galicia y Principado de Asturias... Madrid, 1765, pages 93-95. Facsimile

This codex, improperly called a New Testament here, is, without doubt, the Codex Ovetensis of the Gospels described by de Castillo, as de Morales indicates in his report on the books of the Bishop of Plasencia that I have quoted cited above, although the date of death of the notary Justus reported by de Morales (DCCCL) is forty years off the date given by de Castillo (810). Clearly, one of the two made a mistake in transcription, and given the choice, we have preferred the date indicated by the latter, who studied the codex with more attention and diligence than de Morales could have done during his rapid journey through the churches of León, Galicia and Asturias. Our codex is thus a contemporary of the famous Codex Toletano, which is the oldest biblical manuscript preserved in Spain, with the exception of palimpsest fragments of a manuscript of León dating back to the sixth or seventh century.

The history of the manuscript from the sixteenth century onwards is unknown. We made repeated inquiries of the archivist of the Cathedral of Oviedo through a friend of ours and he has responded by saying that it is not to be found in the archives entrusted to him. The news is no surprise to anyone who knows the sad fate of the Library of Oviedo, of which [Manuel] Risco has said: "What I can state though it must cause severe pain to all those interested is that of the many books which existed in the church of Oviedo, only one of those which Ambrosio de Morales reported exists, and it is in reality just a mortuary of ancient deeds." (1).
(1) España Sagrada, Madrid, 1793, t. 38, pág. 115. Facsimile

Nor is there any trace of it in the Escorial, into which library a not inconsiderable number of the manuscripts of Oviedo were brought, and we have sought it in vain in modern works dealing with biblical codices or in the bibliographies of Spain, for it is either not mentioned at all or what is said by Ambrosio de Morales is simply repeated. It is therefore to be feared that it has perished, like so many other precious manuscripts from the same source. Therefore, the fragments preserved in the Escorial Library acquire a unique value.

b. - Description of the manuscript and review of its contents.

With the data provided by de Castillo and de Morales, we arrive at the following description of the manuscript of Oviedo: an 8th-century Gothic manuscript on parchment, written continuously, i.e. without regard to chapters and verses. It contained: (1) the four Gospels, (2) some prologues or notes, (3) the instrument of donation, which we have already copied. (2)
(2) "In the aforesaid book, no distinction of chapters occurs: it flows on in the manner of perpetual prayer as in the Greek-language codices of old. There is moreover prefatory matter, which we have not transcribed, since we are not concerned here with its content."

The prologue and note matter which de Castillo does convey to us is in large part, as we will see, a simple indication of the number of miracles narrated in each of the Gospels. The only matter of some interest is the prologue to the Gospel of St. Matthew and a historical note or gloss to Chapter II thereof. In this gloss the names of the Magi who came from the East to worship Jesus in Bethlehem are stated. The names given are slightly different from those found in other medieval documents. More noteworthy is the prologue, since it sets out a special system for reconciling the genealogies of Jesus Christ, according to which that in St. Luke is the genealogy of the Virgin Mary and that in St. Matthew is the genealogy of Joseph. This prologue, written in the middle of the eighth century, gives a resounding refutation of modern critics who have maintained that such a system, already rejected by St. Hilarius, not only was not supported by any other author but had not even been known of throughout the Middle Ages until Annius of Viterbo, a writer of the late XV century, proposed it. (1)
(1) See article by Prat in Dict. de la Bible, de Vigouroux, III, p. 169.

The biblical text contained in the Codex Ovetensis was that of St. Jerome's Vulgate. The Escorial fragments could serve as a basis for reconstituting it in its entirety if we could be sure that de Castillo had glossed all the places where the codex was different from the Venice edition of 1478, but since this is not established with certainty, we will refrain from such an attempt at reconstruction.

The variants that we have printed from de Castillo closely represent the interpolated readings of a Vetus Latina character which distinguish manuscripts of the Spanish family, to which the Codex Ovetensis seems to have belonged. Text scholars divide the Spanish Latin Bible into three groups as follows: the primitive, which is represented by the Codex Toletanus, from which the other two are derived: the Leonese, to which the Codex Gothicus Legionensis and the Emilianus etc., belong; and the Castilian, including the first Bible of Alcala and the Noailles Bible. Our codex cannot, in our opinion, be classified as belonging to either the Leonese or the Castilian group, for the simple reason that the Codex Ovetensis already existed before either of these recensions had been created, nor do we see any reason to support a direct mutual dependency between it and the Codex Toletanus, since there are quite numerous differences between them (1).
(1) The readings of the Codex Ovetensis which de Castillo has preserved match up with the Toletanus in 40 passages only, with the Emilianus in 38 and with the Compl. in 46.

We also collated our ancient codex with the Liber Comicus sen Lectionarias Missae (1) of the Church of Toledo and noted some remarkable agreement as well as not inconsiderable discrepancies. All this seems to prove that the Codex Ovetensis is a Spanish text, but in a recension somewhat different from that known, which can be indirectly confirmed by the preface to the St Matthew Gospel we discussed in the previous part, which is so singular that it is not to be encountered in any of the numerous manuscripts consulted by S. Berger. (2)
(1) Liber Comicus seu Lectionarius Missae, quo Toletana Ecclesia ante annos mille et ducentos utebatur. Edidit D. Germanus Morin. Maredsoli, 1893.
(2) Les Prefaces jointes aux livres de la Bible dans les manuscrits de Vulgate. Mémoire posthume de M. Samuel Berger. Paris, 1902.

In many places (at 81, if we have not miscounted), the readings of the Codex Ovetensis agree with the text edited by Wordsworth-White, which is based, as the reader knows, mainly on the AASY Northumbrian manuscripts, according to these authors, the most faithful representatives of the Vulgate of St. Jerome. When it does not agree either with the Spanish manuscripts or with the Northumbrians, it usually agrees with Colbertinus, the Corbeyensis, the Sangermanensis I and II and other Vetus Latina manuscripts. It should not be overlooked finally, that there are in the Codex Ovetensis some variations which are new, or at least very rare. These are: Mt IV, 25 et curavit omnes, XIII, 40 colligunt, XXI, 23 docentes, XXXIII, 18 debitorem, XXVII, 9 Zachariam; the omission of part of verses 55 and 56 of chapter IX of Luke (3), and so on.
(3) This omission is also noticed in the cod. Sangerm. I and in many Greek manuscripts.

As we are far from being masters of the difficult art of textual criticism, it would be temerity to deliver our opinion on the critical value of each of these readings, some of which would be judged as certain by the textual critics and others of which would be thought doubtful.

All that we intend to do here is to narrate the story and draw attention to the nature and importance of the Codex Ovetensis. We finish our brief survey with the publication of some small fragments of it which are preserved in the Escorial Bible, omitting only that which we consider of little or no use, namely those readings that deviate from the Venice edition of 1478 (which was the base text for the collation by de Castillo) but concord with the Clementine Vulgate.

Variations and variant readings in the Codex Ovetensis

Gospel of Matthew
1. Sicut Lucas eua~gelista per Nathan marie origine~ ducit: ita et Matheus eua~gelista per Salomone~ Joseph origine~ demo~strauit idest, ex tribu Juda: vt appareat eos de vna tribu exire, et sic ad xp~m secu~du~ carne~ peruenire, vt co~pleatur quod scriptu~ est: vicit Leo de tribu Juda radix Dauid. Leo ex Salomone: radix ex Nathan.
2. Sunt in hoc libro curati. 23. signa quinque, exceptis his quae. 12. discipuli a dn~o missi in locis fecere diuersis.
3. Nomina Magorum Bater, Tagarma et Melchi.

Gospel of Mark
In hoc libro sunt curati 18. Signa quinque ex ea quae missi a dno discipuli in diuersis locis fecerunt.

Gospel of Luke
In hoc libro sunt curati. 23. signa tria ex ea quae a domino missi discipuli eius seu duodecim in locis fecere diuersis:

Gospel of John
In hoc libro sunt virtutes quatuor signa quatuor.

[Revilla gives several columns of variants, mostly single words, which the reader can easily consult in the Archive.org edition, as no Spanish is required to understand them. The additions appear with the notation + (= addit) and omissions with - (= omittit). Revilla adds that sometimes, for clarity, he also quotes in brackets the corresponding reading from the Clementine Vulgate and precedes this with the letter l (= loco). The remainder of his article is concerned solely with the Valvanera Bible and is not translated here. I would appreciate readers offering any improvements to the above translation by way of the comment box below.]

A 1990 note on Hernando de Castillo OP (-1593), giving this and further literature, can be found in Klaus Reinhardt's Bibelkommentare spanischer Autoren (1500-1700). De Castillo also played a key role as a royal minister and influenced the Inquisition. This is discussed in Spanish political histories, for example in a book by Bruce Taylor, Structures of reform: the Mercedarian Order in the Spanish Golden Age. I have used the name spelling de Castillo, rather than del Castillo, since this seems to be more common. Reinhardt suggests the lost book should be called the Codex Ovetensis secundus, and this matches Ayuso's coding, which calls it Ov2. I remain unsure what the primary Codex Ovetensis is, but it seems this may be the inventory of deeds mentioned by Manuel Risco, which survived at the Escorial.

The story of the bishop of Plasencia and his library is told by Antolín, and an abstract of Escorial &-II-1 may possibly be in Catálogo de los Manuscritos Castellanos de la Real Biblioteca de el Escorial [RBE, Catálogo], 3 vols. (San Lorenzo de el Escorial, 1929) (try 272-74). See the RBE's own introduction as well.

Mariano Revilla Rico (1887-1936), incidentally, was shot during the Spanish Civil War, and seems to have later been beatified as a martyr by the Catholic Church of Spain.

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