Additional texts in the Bible

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The medieval Bible contained various additions aimed at facilitating the understanding and negotiation of the scriptures. These include prologues, chapter lists, stichometry (line-counting) and canon tables.

Prologues

Prologues were mainly excerpted from Jerome and served to introduce and explain various books or groups of books in the Bible. Gradually they were expanded to include texts by other authors as well. The choice of prologues could vary from one manuscript to another. When a new edition of the Bible was being prepared at the beginning of the thirteenth century, it was determined exactly which prologues the Bible was to contain. The edition, which came to be known as the University Bible (or Paris Bible, since it was adapted to the teaching requirements of the University of Paris achieved very widespread currency and is the foundation of the modern Bible.

The Codex Gigas prologues

The Codex Gigas prologues are somewhat differently composed from those of University Bibles. In this respect Codex Gigas basically conforms to an earlier edition of the Bible, known as the Alcuin Bible.

Codex Gigas lacks the usual prologue with which the Bible as a whole most often begins, starting with the words Frater Ambrosius (Brother Ambrose). This is Jerome’s letter to his pupil Ambrose. The initial F(rater) is often elaborately ornamented, sometimes with a picture of St Jerome sitting writing. Codex Gigas, however, starts with a prologue to the Pentateuch. [f. 1v] Jerome’s letter to Pope Damasus introduces the Gospels. Its opening words are Novum opus facere me cogis (‘You insist on my undertaking a new work’). [f. 253r] In the letter Jerome describes his misgivings over the translation assignment which the Pope gave him. Novum opus is followed by the prologue Plures fuisse (‘There were several’), explaining the number of the Evangelists and their symbols. [f. 253r] Codex Gigas also contains two more prologues: letters from Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea to one Carpianus, beginning with Amonius quidem (‘A certain Amonius’) [f. 253r] and Sciendum etiam (‘One should also know’), which appeared first in Carolingian times and was mistakenly attributed to Jerome. [f. 253r] Both letters explain the Canon Tables (See below).

Chapter lists

At early stage the Latin Bible was divided into sections to facilitate searching at the text. For each book of the Bible a list was compiled, summarising the content of each section (Lat. capitula, capitulatio, breves, breviarium, tituli). The sections were numbered, and the list served as a list of contents. Capitula could also be used as headings for each section of text and there were several series of chapter lists. These circulated independently of the actual Bible manuscripts, the text sections in the manuscript did not always tally with the list of chapters. The system continued until the thirteenth century, when it disappeared under the impact of the University Bible, which did not have any capitula.

Chapter lists in Codex Gigas

Codex Gigas has capitula for the Gospels only. These come after the prologues and, with the exception of the Gospel according to St Mark, they do not agree with text sections in the Gospels. The chapter list for Luke [f. 261va] is identical with that in another famous KB manuscript, Codex Aureus.

Stichometry

The method of indicating the size of a work in terms of the number of verses or lines it contained was inherited from the ancient world. The name stichometry comes from the Greek sti’chos, meaning verse or line, and me’tron, measurement. In the Biblical context the system was first applied to the poetical books of the Old Testament, after which it was developed for all the books. Among other things, the method was used for working out the scribe’s labour and remuneration.

Stichometry in Codex Gigas

Codex Gigas has stichometry in the book of Proverbs [f. 87va] Ecclesiastes, Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus.

Canon Tables

Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea (c. 265-339), acting by command of the Emperor Constantine, ordered the various main redactions of the Greek Gospels. In connection with that work he divided the Gospels into numbered text sections and compiled tables of concordances between the different Gospels. There came to be 10 such tables. The first one showed the passages occurring in all the four Gospels, tables 2 to 4 showed those common to three Gospels, and tables 5 to 9 those common to two only, while the final table contained passages occurring in only one Gospel. These tables were written in columns, usually fitted into a decorated arcade. Codex Gigas does not contain any canon tables, but there are a number of canon table references at the beginning of the Gospel according to St Matthew.