Seneca and Paul

Among the most intriguing Vatican items to be digitized this week is Vat. lat. 251, an 11th-century manuscript containing an entirely bogus correspondence between the Classical Roman writer Seneca and the Christian apostle Paul of Tarsus. Claude W Barlow, who published a translation of it to English in 1938, suggests the letters were really composed by a student of rhetoric in about 390 CE. 

Alcuin ( -804), the great English scholar, prepared an edition of the Correspondence. Whether he believed it to be genuine cannot really be divined, but in the high Middle Ages, this fiction was universally believed to be fact, and it was only the early humanists who dared point out that it was surely absurd to suppose the letters to be anything but a creative literary work.

The translation by Barlow, who denotes this manuscript as A in his 1938 edition of the correspondence, can be read at Archive.org.

The Latin letters are found at ff. 223v-225v of the newly digitized codex. Here is Seneca allegedly writing: "I must admit I loved reading your letters to the Galatians, to the Corinthians and to the Achaeans."
The complete list of digitizations on May 2, 2016 is below:
  1. Barb.gr.243,
  2. Barb.lat.1670, a 17th-century deed
  3. Borg.ebr.2,
  4. Borg.ebr.5,
  5. Borg.ebr.6,
  6. Borg.ebr.8,
  7. Borg.ebr.15,
  8. Ross.325, Torah, 15th century
  9. Ross.360, Mahzor, Sephardic rite, 15th century
  10. Ross.478, Haftarot, Italian rite, late 13th century
  11. Ross.533, Hebrew commentary on prophets, date about 1325
  12. Ross.1188, Hebrew Esther scroll, 18th century
  13. Ross.1189, early 18th century Esther scroll
  14. Vat.lat.91, Peter Lombard, Glossae continuae in Psalmos?
  15. Vat.lat.251, ff. 1-1v: Leo Magnus, a fragment of Ep. 16; 2-223v: Hilarius, Tractatus super Psalmos; 223v-225v Epistolae Senecae ad apostolum Paulum et Pauli ad eundem (the fictitious Correspondence between Seneca and St Paul); Barlow: XI cent., mm. 306 x 216, ff. I + 226. The entire manuscript was copied by a single scribe in two columns of thirty lines to the page.
    A note in a different hand on f. 226v claims this codex was one of the books acquired for the monastery of Avellana by Petrus Damianus while he was abbot 1041-1058, but Erik Kwakkel says that given the script of the codex (his book on the evolution of book hands), this date cannot be true:
  16. Vat.lat.352,
  17. Vat.lat.622,
  18. Vat.lat.625,
  19. Vat.lat.626,
  20. Vat.lat.627,
  21. Vat.lat.630.pt.1, Isidorus Mercator Decretalium collectio
  22. Vat.lat.638, Venerable Bede, 11th century ms, In Lucae Evangelium expositio, praeviis litteris
  23. Vat.lat.661, mainly Bernard of Clairvaux, 15th century manuscript
  24. Vat.lat.681, Sentences of Peter Lombard, with this couple (she is in a blue wedding dress, note her short veil) making their marriage vows, both left hands on the bible:
    Baschet notes that it is very rare to find a 12th century depiction of the vows being recited.
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 48 of Vatican digitizations. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to Digita Vaticana.

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