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Arthur Vööbus

Early Versions of the Bible, Manuscript Studies

chapter one



(a) Questions Concerning its Origin.

In the history of the versions, as well as in the early phase of textual developments of the New Testament as a whole there is no greater and more important name than Tatian. This is not an overstatement.

It is a pity that so little is known about him; and the little that is known is of such a nature that it does not concern itself with the problems which are of interest for New Testament textual criticism. He called himself an Assyrian1. This permits us to conclude that he came from Assyria, the land between the Tigris and Media on the West and East, and the Armenian mountains and Ctesiphon on the North and South, probably from Adiabene, a land which played an important role in the dissemination of the Christian faith beyond the Tigris. Of his background we know nothing, except that he was a Syrian2 and that had found no satisfaction in his seemingly promising conditions at home. For this we have his own words in his Apology: 'I do not like to rule, I do not wish to be rich, I decline military command' 3. It may be that this statement contains a further hint. The last verb in the Greek text stands in the perfect tense and can be translated as a strong present or also as a perfect. If, indeed, this tense was chosen purposely, then the statement sounds as though Tatian actually

1 γεννηθεις μεν εν τη των Ασσυρίον γη, TATIAN, Oratio adversus Graecos,

Patrologia graeca VI, col. 888.

2 Conerning this the ancient tradition in Clement of Alexandria, Epiphaniusand Theodoretus of Cyrrhos is unanimous.3 βασιλεύειν ου θελω, πλουτειν ου βούλομαι, την στρατηγίαν παρήτημαι, op.

cit., col. 829.



had served in the army, a propaedeutic which places him at the side of other great religious personalities who after a military career have experienced a similar change.He left his home country and travelled to Rome. This place was determined to become the scene of a far greater change in his life. He was converted to the Christian faith and became a pupil of Justin Martyr.

With regard to the question of the date of his conversion we also encounter difficulty. A. v. Harnack stated that this took place before 150 A.D.1; O. Bardenhewer shifted it to about fifteen years later, shortly before 165 A.D.2.

Through his conversion, the Christian cause in this eventful epoch won an eager champion. Tatian must have been a gifted and powerful person. Even though we have nothing but his apologetic Oratio, we can deduce this. It has been observed that. his writing is difficult to understand, but through it one can feel a powerful personality 3 whose direct influence over the men of his day must have been enormous.

Besides his well-known Apology and other treatises which have not come down to us, Tatian's name is connected with the composition of the Gospel Harmony, known to the world as the Diatessaron. The oldest testimony about this is given by Eusebius 4, and later witness by Latin, Greek, and Syrian authors.

Tatian took sections out of each Gospel and combined them into a more or less chronological whole. The parallel pericopes he melted together, conjoining phrases and words in one Gospel with those preserved in another. This filigree-work produced a monument, which is not a synopsis in the modern sense, but a sort of Life of Jesus in running narrative. Thus, Tatian's purpose was to give a Gospel which contains the substance of the Gospels. In Syriac-

1 Chronologie der altchristlichen Literatur, Leipzig, 1897, I, p. 284.2 Geschichte der altkirchlichen Literatur, Freiburg i.B., 1913, I, p. 264.3 G. KRÜGER, Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur in den ersten dreiJahrhunderten, Freiburg und Leipzig, 1895, p. 72.

4 ο μέντοι γε πρότερος αυτων αρχηγος ο Τατιανος συνάφειάν τινά και

συναγωγην ουκ οιδ οπως των αυανγγελίων συνθείς. Το δια τεσσάρων τουτο

προσωνόμασεν, ο και παρά τισιν εις ετι νυν φέρεται, Hist. eccl. IV, 29, 6,

ed. E. SCHWARTZ, GChS IX, 1, Leipzig, 1903, p. 392.



speaking areas this Harmony was called the Evangelion da-Mehallete (the Gospel of the mixed); in the West it was known as the Diatessaron.

Thereby Tatian gave a monument which has significance for the whole of Christianity. It proved to be a real magnet. It became important in spite of the fact that the author, after coming into conflict with the Roman congregation under Bishop Soter (ca. 166-175), was declared a heretic; and in spite of the fact that, after he had returned to the Orient in the year 172 A.D., he himself disappeared from the eyes of historiography. Concerning the last facts, Irenaeus has preserved important information, according to which the death of Justin Martyr effected a change in his outward attitude toward the church 1. He left the church and tried to press his own Encratite views 2 upon the Christian movement 3.

This unique monument of ancient Christian literature is beset with numerous complicated problems which have made this whole question one of the most difficult topics in all the field of New Testament, textual criticism. And in many a point the efforts to solve its problems have not been crowned with complete success.

The first question is: where did Tatian compose his Harmony? The first studies in the Diatessaron looked to Mesopotamia as the probable place. T. Zahn was of this opinion 4, as well as Harnack5. Later research reckoned with other possibilities. C. C. Torrey, for instance, preferred Antioch as the probable place e. Following the new impulse caused by the investigations of H. J. Vogels and D. Plooij, a new turn in the road appeared. It is particularly Vogels who has caused an advance in the study to take place. After he had earlier postulated the existence of a Diatessaron in Latin 7,

l Adversus haereses I, 28, 1, ed. A. STIEKEN, Lipsiae, 1853, I, p. 259.

2 See J. E. HARRIS, The Mentality of Tatian, Bulletin of the Bezan Club IX

(Leyden, 1931), p. 8 ss.

3 According to the Chronicle of Eusebius his activity as a heretic is

connected with the 12th year of Marc Aurel, March 172/3, Chron. ad ann.

Abr. 2188, ed. A. SCHOENE, Berolini, 1866, II, p. 173.

4 Tatians Diatessaron, FGNtK 1, Erlangen, 1881, p. 291.

5 Tatians Diatessaron und Marcions Commentar zum Evangelium bei Ephraem

Syrus, Zeitschrift fur Kirchengeschichte IV (Gotha, 1881), p. 492.

6 Documents of the Primitive Church, New York-London, 1941, p. 273.

7 Die Harmonistik im Evangelientext des Codex Cantabrigiensis, TuU

XXXVI, 1, Leipzig, 1910, p. 46 ss.



his investigations in the Latin Harmonies led him to recognize that behind all the several Latin Harmonies there was an Old Latin recension of the Diatessaron, which was the first attempt to dress the Gospel in a Roman garment 1. The same road was taken by Plooij. In his various studies he suggested Rome as the only possible place where Tatian could have produced it 2. I think that one who studies the whole of our materials will find that this thesis works better than any other. According to this result the Diatessaron first found its way into ecclesiastical circles of the West. This, of course, could only have been possible while Tatian was still in the Catholic church, i.e., before he was declared a heretic and excommunicated. The spread of his Harmony in Rome is conceivable only by supposing that Tatian composed it in Rome, before his quarrels disqualified him as a member of the church. However, it must be admitted, the logic of this argument appears to halt.

The presentation of these arguments by Vogels, and then later by Plooij, was so convincing that A. Baumstark, who formerly had held quite the opposite views 3, declared that he had to capitulate before such clear arguments. Afterwards he became an ardent champion for this line of reasoning. By his various studies he has strengthened the observations already made 4. This must be said also of his pupil, C. Peters,5.

This line of explanation is, of course, closed to those who believe that Tatian composed the Gospel Harmony in the Orient.

The second question is: what was the original language of the Diatessaron? This problem has been discussed widely. Zahn was

1 Beiträge zur Geschichte des Diatessaron im Abendland, NtAbh VIII, 1,

Münster i.W., 1919.

2 A Primitive Text of the Diatessaron, Leiden, 1923, p. 68; Further Study of

the Liege Diatessaron, Leiden, 1925, p. 43 a.

3 Geschichte der syrischen Literatur, Bonn, 1922, p. 19 a.

4 See his remark: 'Unter dieser Voraussetzung wird es aber auch am besten,

ja vielleicht muss man sagen: nur unter dieser Voraussetzung wird es über-

haupt begreiflich, wenn gerade in Rom die lateinische Übersetzung desselben

beheimatet war und am stärksten im lateinischen Texte der Einzelevangelien

nachwirkte', Die Evangelienzitate Novatians und das Diatessaron, Oriens Chris-

tianus XXVII (Leipzig, 1930), p. 13; Tatianismen im römischen Antiphonar,

ibid., p. 173.

5 Das Diatessaron Tatians, OCAnal CXXIII, Roma, 1939, p. 211 ss.



convinced that Tatian wrote his work in Syriac 1, and this appealed to many. Harnack was equally convinced that it was composed in Greek 2. Both have taken into account only general considerations. This discussion entered this century without being deepened by new aspects. After this conflict had reached a stalemate, Plooij entered the field and revived the fray. Some of his arguments do not hold, but be pushed the question into focus by his fundamental thesis that Tatian wrote his Harmony in Syriac 3.

However, it must be admitted that the discussion was not always guided by fact. One part of the argument was that the total absence of any trace of the Greek Diatessaron speaks conclusively in favor of the Syriac original. This was Plooij's mistake. Later on, in 1933, when the excavations at Dura Europos uncovered a fragment of the Diatessaron in Greek, and in 1937 when a new fragment was found among the papyrus remnants brought from Egypt 4, the matter was considered settled. Now the parchment and papyrus fragments were heralded with surprisingly confident freedom as positive proof that Greek was the original language. But these questions are not so simple. It must be said that both types of approach are invalid from a methodological point of view.

That which tipped the scales in the course of the discussion in favor of the Syriac original, was the new recognition made by Baumstark. He was the scholar who tried to bring order into this situation by seeking positive arguments. He submitted the Greek fragments to a thorough examination and found that they help us a step forward beyond pure assumption. He discovered that these fragments bear unmistakable signs of a Syriac original. In the text he found not one, but numerous Syriasms 5. That means

1 Geschichte des neutestamentlichen Kanons, Erlangen, 1888, I, p. 414.

2 Chronologie, I, p. 289.

3 Further Study, p. 76 ss.

4 See p. 10.

5 'Überblickt man dies alles, so wird man nicht fürchten müssen, zu viel

zu sagen, wenn man ausspricht, dass das griechische Tatianbruchstück vonDura-Europos geradezu auf Schritt und Tritt den Charakter einer im Anschlussan den griechischen Text der vier kanonischen Evangelien durchgeführten.Übertragung einer syrischen Vorlage verrate', Das griechische Diatessaron-fragment von Dura-Europos, Oriens Christianus XXXII (Leipzig, 1935), p. 250;

see also his Ein weiteres Bruchstück griechischer Diatessarontexte, ibid. XXXVI(1939), p. 111 ss.



that the Greek text must have been translated from Syriac. His conclusion seems to be the soundest yet written concerning the problem of the original language of the Diatessaron as far as the present sources allow us to go. I would, however, want to underline the almost irresistible force of this argument. It goes without saying that this discovery is an awkward one for those scholars who maintain that the Diatessaron was written in some tongue other than Syriac 1.

As regards the theory of the Latin origin of the Diatessaron, we need not even so much as discuss it 2. It is built upon an unstable foundation and therefore is beyond any serious consideration.

From the point of view of the sources that we possess to-day in the Greek fragments, and some historical considerations, we can say that Tatian wrote his Harmony in the Semitic idiom of his homeland, not in the language in which he wrote his apologetic work. This means that Tatian did not compose his work for the learned Christian circles - as A. Jülicher thought 3. In those circles in Rome the Greek language was in use at that time. Obviously, he had in mind the simple circles of believers in his native Orient, and the considerable Syrian element in the Western communities, who not only have left their mark in historical sources, but also in ancient Christian art. This element has furnished the church with outstanding personalities. It may be added here that, according to Roman tradition, even the bishop of the Roman congregation, Anicet (ca. 154-165), who was bishop while Tatian was there, was a Syrian, from Emesa 4.

(b) A Survey of Extant Material

It is a pity that this important monument of ancient Christian literature is lost in its original. This is not the only place where the Syrian church has been too eager to efface the traces of its

1 A. PUECH, Histoire de la littérature grecque chrétienne, Paris, 1928, II,

p. 184.

2 F. G. BURKITT, Tatian's Diatessaron and the Dutch Harmonies, Journal

of Theological Studies XXV (Oxford, 1924), p. 128.

3 Der echte Tatiantext, Journal of Biblical Literature XLIII (New Haven,

1924), p. 166.

4 Liber pontificalis, ed. L. DUCHESNE, Paris, 1886, I, p. 134.



past. And. here it has done such a thorough job that only sporadic vestiges exist in Syriac. These are preserved in the lectionary texts for the Passion Week l and in quotations in early Syriac literature 2. Scholars have given up the hope that it will ever emerge in toto.

Fortune, however, sometimes smiles upon the depressed scholar who mourns lost documents. Regardless of this situation we fortunately possess other resources. As we shall see, this document has enjoyed such enormous popularity that it spread far beyond the confines of the Syriac idiom and found access to many churches in the Orient as well as in the Occident. It was translated into many languages and a number of these manuscripts have come down to us. Some were known already in the last century, but particularly the successive discoveries during the last decades have brought to light material which is very welcome indeed for the exploration of this problem.

The discussion of the Eastern group of the Diatessaron-witnesses begins with the Arabic translation. Two manuscripts, both in the Vatican Library (Vat. arab. 14 and Vat. Borg. arab. 250, the first from the thirteenth or fourteenth century, the second somewhat later), have been known for a long time. On the basis of these A. Ciasca published the first edition: Tatiani Evangeliorum harmoniae arabice, Romae, 1888.

Since that time the materials have been enlarged by the discovery of fragments3, and particularly by a manuscript found by A. S. Marmardji in the Library of the Coptic patriarchate in Cairo. This codex is younger (dated 1795 A.D.), but has preserved somewhat more of the ancient character of the text than the codices known earlier. Marmardji published it: Diatessaron de Tatien, Beyrouth, 1935.

1 H. H. SPOER, Spuren eines syrischen Diatessaron, Zeitschrift der Deutschen

Morgenländischen Gesellschaft LXI (Halle, 1907), p. 850 ss.; G. A. BARTON

and H. H. SPOER, Traces of the Diatessaron of Tatian in Harclean Syriac

Lectionaries, Journal of Biblical Literature XXIV (New York, 1905), p. 179 ss.

2 A number of these references is gathered by J. E. HARRIS, Fragments

of the Commentary of Ephraem Syrus Upon the Diatessaron., London, 1895.

3 The so-called Beyrouth-Fragments were published by G. GRAF, in S.

EURINGER, Die Überlieferung der arabischen Übersetsung des Diatessaron,

BiSt XVII, 2, Freiburg i.B., 1912, p. 61 ss.



Besides the manuscripts just mentioned, two new codices have emerged. One was copied in 1797 1; the second, a codex in the Bodleian Library, is even younger, but is more significant because it is a copy of a text written in 1107 2.

The Arabic Diatessaron, which has survived in two different forms3, was translated from Syriac. The text of the Syriac was not intact, but had undergone adaptation to bring it into conformity with the Peshitta and so had lost very much of its original character, but not all of it.

The controversy4 with regard to the origin of this version has been silenced but only temporarily. The information given in the preamble and in the postscript of several manuscripts was considered to be trustworthy, namely, that the Syriac copy was in the handwriting of 'Isa b. 'Ali, a pupil of the famous Hunain b. Ishaq, which copy was translated into Arabic by Abulfaraj 'Abdallah b. at-Taiyib (d. 1043), a well-known Nestorian author, who also has to his credit the salvaging of other important Syriac documents through his translation-work. But this common attribution of the version to him was challenged by Marmardji 5. He came to this conclusion mainly on the ground of its bad Arabic style and because of the silence of the sources which give lists of the works of at-Taiyib. This suspicion has found confirmation in a column of the Bodleian codex. None of the Arabic scholars had anything to do with the Diatessaron 6.

1 Bibliotheque de manuscrits Paul Sbath, Cairo, 1928, II, p. 135.

2 A. F. L., BEESTON, The Arabir Version of Tatian's Diatessaron, Journal

of the R. Asiatic Society (London, 1939), p. 608 ss.

3 KAHLE, The Cairo Geniza, London, 1947, p. 212 ss.

4 For instance, Zahn did not see it as a translation, but as a secondary

formation, in which the Arabic version of the Gospels was re-arranged according

to the pattern of the Gospel Harmony of Tatian, Tatians Diatessaron, p. 294 ss.5 Op. cit., p. xciii ss.6 None of them is mentioned in the group of manuscripts written to Christ-

ians, but their names were inserted in the copy which was written for the

Moslems. As the codex was given the external appearance of the Quran, so

also great Arab authors were connected with the history of the text in order

to enhance its importance in the eyes of Moslem readers. This copy became the

archetype for the second form of the Arabic Diatessaron. See A. J. B. HIGGINS,

The Arabic Version of Tatian's Diatessaron, Journal of Theological Studies,

XLV (Oxford, 1944), p. 187 ss.; particularly KAHLE, op. cit., p. 211 ss.



The last accession to Tatian's Diatessaron in the group of Oriental manuscript-witnesses is a very valuable one. It was discovered by G. Messina. This is a Persian manuscript which was copied in the year 1547 by Ibrahim ben Shammas, a Jacobite deacon, from an original dating from the thirteenth century. As linguistic observations show, including its Semitisms, this earlier copy, made by Ivannis *Izz al-Din, a Jacobite layman, is a slavish translation from a Syriac base. Thus in the Cod. Mediceo-Laurenziano XVII (81) we meet again with Tatian's work through the medium of a mediaeval translation.

The one who is interested in the order of its pericopes is disappointed, because these two hundred and fifty sections do not appear in the same order as in the Arabic Diatessaron. They have been moved about and transposed, and new sections which did not appear in Tatian's work - the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke - have been inserted. But. as regards the quality of the readings scholars have every reason to be thankful that this Oriental manuscript was saved and that it found its way into the Bibliotheca Laurentiana in Florence. To be sure, the Syriac original had lost many of its archaic readings, but still it kept a large amount of textual remnants which go back to Tatian's work. The first section of the document was issued by Messina in a preliminary publication l, and the complete text was edited by the discoverer shortly before his death, Diatessaron persiano, Roma, 1951 2.

In Armenian up to now little has come to light. Here no codex has survived, but we have a commentary which Ephraem Syrus wrote on the Diatessaron, and which was translated from Syriac into Armenian3. What we have in the lemmata constitutes a noteworthy aid 4, although only a part of the material is quoted.

1 Notizia su un Diatessaron persiano tradotto dal siriaco, BeO X, Roma,


3 BeO XIV.

3 Srboyn Ephremi matenagrowt'iwnk, Venetik, 1836, II, p. 5-260.

4 Since it was preserved in Armenian, it remained completely unknown,

and even its Latin translation, prepared by J. B. AUCHER. and G. MOESINGER,Evangelii concordantis expositio, Venetiis, 1876, did not arouse interest. But

since Ezra Abbot called attention to it in 1880, it became an object of

interest and research.


The quotations here and there have undergone certain modifications. Restraint is needed in view of the nature of these passages as far as their use goes for textual studies.

Numerically much larger is the group of translations of the Diatessaron in the Western languages.

In the Greek language only very small scraps have been preserved. In 1920 the remains of a Roman fort were discovered at Dura on the Euphrates, which once was the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire. Here, in 1933 among other valuable archaeological findings and a number of vellum and papyrus fragments, a small vellum fragment1 was found which proved to be the Diatessaron in Greek 2. The palaeographical features show that a hand of the first half of the third century had been at work, supported by the historical fact that in the year 256 the place was finally captured by the Persians. The fact itself, that a Greek copy of the Diatessaron was found at the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire, does not cause difficulties. Dura was once a strategic center where Latin and Greek was much used. Other fragments, military and business documents, are also written in Latin and Greek.

Another leaf of a papyrus codex was found by O. Stegmüller in 1937 among the remnants brought from Egypt. He was of the opinion that this was a new fragment of the Greek Diatessaron3. Not all are convinced that this is another splinter, but probably a Greek text infected by Tatianic readings4.

Long ago Ms. Bonif. 1 in Fulda, known as Codex Fuldensis, had aroused curiosity. This Harmony was prepared at, the direction of Bishop Victor of Capua in 546 A.D. It displays the text of the Vulgate which has permeated its harmonistic composition. This is a phenomenon which makes itself manifest in the whole area of the Western group - the Vulgate gradually intruded into the text

1 Dura Parch. 24 is in the Yale University.

2 O. H. KRAELING, A Greek fragment of Tatian's Diatessaron from Dura.

TaD III, London, 1935.

3 O. STEGMÜLLER, Ein Bruchstück aus dem griechischen Diatessaron, Zeit-

schrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft XXXVIII (Giessen, 1937),

p. 223 ss.

4 C. PETERS, Ein neues Fragment des griechischen Diatessaron?, Biblica

XXI (Roma, 1940), p. 51 ss.



and destroyed the ancient pattern. But regardless of this process, the codex has a number of ancient readings, in Vogels' estimation about six hundred. The preface1 of the codex indicates that thisHarmony once contained the Old Latin text. This manuscript was edited by E. Ranke, Codex Fuldensis, Marburgi et Lipsiae, 1868. To-day Codex Fuldensis is not alone. A great contribution was made by H. J. Vogels in opening up the whole area of the Latin branch of the Diatessaron. He discovered a series of manuscripts, which make us acquainted with several forms of the Latin Harmony 2. Among these there are codices which have preserved much more of their ancient character than Codex Fuldensis. Other manuscripts, which seem at first sight to be copies of Codex Fuldensis, actually contain independent readings.

A manuscript of the Diatessaron in Dutch, the Liege manuscript, Vita Jesu Christ Flandrice, was known even earlier than the Codex Fuldensis. It was published by G. J. Meijer in 1835 3. In addition to this codex of the fourteenth century, two younger manuscripts were found, which necessitated a new edition4. But no one could guess their value for New Testament textual studies. Its significance was noticed much later. J. A. Robinson was the first to make references to this textual witness 5. But the credit for having recognized the real value and extent of this branch of study belongs to D. Plooij, whose discoveries as well as studies gave a new impetus to research on the Diatessaron. He increased the bulk of the material with his discoveries of new codices, and prepared this material for a new edition: The Liege Diatessaron edited with a textual apparatus, by D. Plooij, C. A. Phillips and A. J. Barnouw, Part I-V, Amsterdam, 1929-1938 6.

These forms of the Dutch Harmonies are derived from a Latin Harmony which had not suffered under the process of adaptation

1 D. DE BRUYNE, La préface du Diatessaron latin avant Victor de Capoue,

Révué bénédictine XXXIX (Paris, 1927), p. 5 ss.2 Beiträge, p. 34 ss.3 Het Leven van Jesus, ed. G. J. MEIJER, Groningen, 1835.

4 De Levens van Jesus in het Middelnederlandsch, ed. J. BERGSMA, Leiden,


5 Tatian's Diatessaron and a Dutch Harmony, The Academy XLV (London,

1894), p. 249 s.

6 VerhKAW Afd. Letterkunde Nieuwe Reeks, Deel XXIX, 1, 6; XXXI.



to the Vulgate in the same measure as Codex Fuldensis. Whether all forms rest on one and the same Latin archetype, and whether all the Dutch texts derive from one early Dutch translation, as Plooij believed 1, is not so clear.

Remarkably rich and manysided is the branch of mediaeval German Harmonies in various dialects. There are many manuscripts - among which an Old High German (ninth century) 2 and the Ms. Mon. Cgm 532 (1367 A.D.) take an outstanding* place - as well as fragments 3. All this material constitutes several groups, the relationship of which is not fully clarified. Thanks to the investigations of Baumstark, preliminary order was put into this large bulk of material and an evaluation given for this field of research 4.

With regard to the background of this branch of study, research has ascertained interesting facts. The larger portion of this material goes back to the Dutch Vorlage. That means, here we have to do with a secondary version. But it should be stated that by no means is this a reason for neglecting these manuscripts. On the contrary, secondary versions can surprise us because of their great value; and this is the case with the German Diatessarons, which have often preserved better traditions than the Dutch branch itself.

Certain fragments of the fourteenth century, discovered and published by A. E. Schönbach 5, open up a new channel in the history of the Diatessaron on German ground. Their Vorlage was Latin. This Latin form, as usual, has not escaped adaptations to the Vulgate, but in this case it has not been so thorough. And so in these fragments we come across the interesting fact that sometimes these fragments alone have preserved an older textual tradition, or more of the harmonistic framework, than all other German and Dutch witnesses 6.

1 A Primitive Text, p. 17.

2 Tatian lateinisch und altdeutsch, ed. E. SIEVERS, BaDL V, Paderborn,


3 See a survey of these materials in PETERS, Diatessaron, p. 177 ss.

4 Die Himmelsgartener Bruchstücke eines niederdeutschen « Diatessaron »-

Textes des 13. Jahrhunderts, Oriens Christianus XXXIII (Leipzig, 1936),

p. 80 ss.

5 Miscellen aus Grazer Handschriften, MittHVS L (Graz, 1903).

6 A. BAUMSTARK, Die Schönbach'schen Bruchstücke einer Evangelienharmonie



The Diatessaron was translated also into the Italian language. The earliest monuments of the developing Italian language have preserved the Harmony in two dialects for us: the Diatessaron Veneto and the Diatessaron Toscano, of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries respectively. Both were translated from the Latin, but both represent different forms of the Latin Diatessaron. The Latin form, from which the Diatessaron in the Venetian dialect was derived, must have contained many more Old Latin textual characteristics than that which lies behind the Diatessaron in the Tuscan dialect. Unfortunately it is just the Diatessaron Veneto that has come down to us in a single manuscript, while the Harmony in the Tuscan dialect is backed by twenty-four manuscripts, collected by A. Vaccari 1. Both Harmonies were published by V. Todesco, A. Vaccari and M. Vattasso, Il Diatessaron in volgare italiano, testi inediti dei secoli XIII-XIV, Citta del Vaticano, 1938 2.

Traces of the Diatessaron in French have emerged in the translation made by Guyart des Moulins from Latin into French, which was completed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and so became the first French Bible 3.

Finally, there is the Diatessaron in the English language. In 1902 Miss A. C. Paues disclosed the real contents of a manuscript which erroneously had been catalogued and labelled as a collection of Wycliffe's sermons. This Middle-English Harmony, Ms. Pepys 2498, a codex of the fourteenth century, is in the library of Magdalene College in Cambridge and is the only codex of its kind. Its text was edited by M. Goates, The Pepysian Gospel Harmony, London, 1922 4. As the striking evidence of vocabulary and phraseology shows, this text is derived from a French Vorlage. French words have slipped in, and also certain curious errors which obviously are mistranslations from the French 5. Investigation

in 'bayrisch-österreiccischer Mundart des 14. Jahrhunderts, Oriens Christianus

XXXIV (Leipzig, 1937), p. 103 ss.

1 Propaggini del Diatessaron in Occidente, Biblica XII (Roma, 1931),

p. 326 as.


3 Bible historiale, Paris, 1487, I-II.

4 EEngTS Orig. Ser. CLVII.

5 Ibid., Introduction, p. xv as.



shows that this, regardless of its deviations, belongs to the group of Diatessaron-witnesses.

Now the task remains to touch upon some endeavors to reconstruct this lost document, endeavors accompanied with much human tragedy. It is worth while to set down in the barest outline some facts in connection with this.

The first attempt to reconstruct a part of the text was made by Zahn. He based his reconstruction upon the Latin Diatessaron and quotations of Ephraem Syrus and Aphrahat 1. This tentative reconstruction contains only about one-fifth of the whole work and has great gaps, not to speak of the disjointed condition of the text. To be sure, the basis was too narrow for such a huge undertaking. At that time Zahn naturally could not guess that the materials at his disposal were insufficient to accomplish this task.

After World War I, the Academy of Heidelberg charged E. Preuschen, professor at Heidelberg, with the duty of gathering remnants of the Diatessaron which are important for its reconstruction. Preuschen devoted himself to this task until May 1920, when death took him from his work. He was permitted to reveal only his project: the reconstruction was to be carried out on the basis of the Arabic Diatessaron and the quotation material furnished by Ephraem Syrus and Aphrahat2. Thus, his basis was enlarged only by the Arabic Diatessaron, the value of which, incidentally, is more limited for this purpose than one might expect.

Preuschen's work was continued by A. Pott, professor at Königsberg. He published the preparatory volume 3 but could not start with the second which was scheduled to bring the reconstruction in Greek, for in February 1926 death frustrated his further plans. Pott did not enlarge the basic material but tried only to materialize the project sketched by Preuschen.

A new approach along a quite new way was made by Baumstark, professor at Bonn. His conception of the task was quite different. All the new discoveries taught him that the way that was being followed could not lead to the desired goal. His idea was that the

1 Tatians Diatessaron, p. 133 ss.

2 Unterschuchungen zum Diatessaron Tatians, StzkHAW Phil-hist. Kl. XV,

Heidelberg, 1918.

3 Tatians Diatessaron, Heidelberg, 1926.



original Syriac Diatessaron must be reconstructed through the medium of all available material, including the various translations made from the Latin text, as well as tertiary versions. This patriarch of Christian Oriental studies, who was nearly eighty years old, worked day after day, increasing his collection of cards with passages, ardently desiring that God might give him added years to complete his work. But in May 1948, the evening of his days descended upon this tireless worker. According to his will, his collection of cards went to the library of the Benedictine Monastery of Beuron in Germany. There this material is waiting for the scholars who have the courage to resume this interrupted work of reconstruction when the time is ready. At present the time is not yet ripe,l.


(c) The Character of its Text.

The Diatessaron is not a synopsis in the modern sense, but a composition in which the threads of the narrative are dexterously interwoven into a continuous Life of Jesus.

With regard to the sequence of the pericopes in the structure of the Harmony, the church fathers have furnished us with some valuable data. Thus we know that it began with the first verses of John's Gospel 2, after which, instead of the Johannine summary, "There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John', the Diatessaron reproduced Luke's narrative of the nativity of John the Baptist. We also know that the Matthean and Lucan genealogies of Jesus were omitted 3.

The original sequence of the pericopes has not been preserved in every branch in the transmission of the text. The sequence we have in the Arabic Diatessaron in general goes with the sequence in the commentary of Ephraem Syrus4. Also Codex Fuldensis


1 See my The Old Syriac Version in a new Light, and Urgent Tasks in Textual Criticism of the New Testament, Apophoreta Tartuensia (Stockholm, 1949), p. 144 ss.

2 Concerning this we have an explicit statement from Bar Salibi.

3 THEODORETUS, Haereticarum fab. comp., Patrologia graeca, LXXXIII,

col. 369 ss.; see also Isa ibn Ali's Lexicon in R. PAYNE SMITH, Thesaurus

syriacus, Oxonii, 1879, I, col. 869 s.

4 BURKITT, Tatian's Diatessaron, p. 115 a.



belongs here. Regardless of some discrepancies, all these represent, more or less closely, the original framework as it was used by Tatian. In other branches this structure is no longer intact. Constant revision and adaptations have altered the original setting and supplemented it with parallel sections, and even with those portions which were left out by Tatian, e.g., the genealogies.

In the preparation of the text Tatian tried to utilize everything he found in the Gospels, melting this material into the filigree-work of his Diatessaron. This procedure was guided by a meticulous care to include everything possible. Hardly a word was dropped which could have been embodied.

But in the course of this work Tatian had to decide how he might handle several matters as the tradition, drawn as it was from several Gospels, was being fitted together. It is also of interest to take a glimpse at how Tatian handled contradictory sections. The question, whether Judas was present in the room when the Eucharist was instituted (as it appears clearly in Luke), or whether he left the room before (as Mark and Matthew have been understood since the early fathers), was decided by Tatian against Luke: Judas had left the upper-room before the Eucharist was instituted.

Another case in point is with the passage concerning the Roman soldier who pierced Jesus' side with a spear so that both blood and water came out. Concerning the question, whether this happened after the death of Jesus or before, evangelical tradition disagrees. In the Fourth Gospel this incident appears to have happened after his death (John XIX, 34), but in certain manuscripts in Matthew this is supposed to have taken place before Jesus' death (Matthew XXVII, 49). Whether the latter tradition was found in ancient manuscripts - this seems to be probable because this difficult reading in Matthew was hardly caused by the passage from John - or whether Tatian had other reasons, in any case Tatian decided the matter against John: the soldier pierced Jesus' side when he was still alive. This is what is expressely stated by a scholion in a minuscule Gospel codex 1 and it finds confirmation in Codex Fuldensis, where this verse in John is omitted.

l Min. 52 (Ms. Br. Mua. Harley 5647) adds to Mt. XXVII, 48 a marginal



Tatian's work of harmonization was also guided by several other considerations which had their share in determining how the textual material was to be embodied, and this helped to shape its character.

Irenaeus' statement, that Tatian evaluated marriage as q)9ood xal nooveia and that he believed in the non-salvability of Adam 1, finds confirmation in the Diatessaron which has made room for his Encratite convictions in a number of places. For this purpose Tatian did not hesitate to introduce changes and modifications. One of the clearest examples is Luke II, 36. Instead of the Greek text, ζήσασα μετα ανδρος ετη επτα απο της παρθενίας αυτης, Tatian modified what was normal for married life, expressed by the verb ζήσασα, and changed it to mean a state of celibate life: era rimasta sette anni vergine con suo marito in the Persian, and in haren magedomme, 'in her virginity', in the Dutch Diatessaron.

The same tendency is observable in several omissions and modifications which have in mind the purpose of avoiding reference to Joseph as Mary's husband. It is interesting to notice that it did not demand very much from a capable man like Tatian to impart certain implications to his Gospel text. We are often surprised how very simple means were employed to the greatest effect: here a gloss, there a little change in word-order, sufficed to remind the reader that the carnal link between husband and wife is sin, merely a human invention, not intended by God, and to make it unmistakably plain that the prize of eternal life demands virginity 2. The answer of Jesus in the pericope, Luke XX, 27-40 (and parall.), which refers to the state in eternity, is modified to mean this life: the people of this world marry, but not those who shall be worthy of eternal life 3. In Matthew XIX, 5 the Liege Diatessaron inserts 'Adam', and this completely changes the meaning of mar-

note which says that this addition appears in Tatian'a το καθ' ιστορίαν ευαγγέλιον.l Adversus haereses I, 28, 1, ed. STIEREN, I, p. 259.

2 See my Celibacy, a Requirement for Admission to Baptism in the Early

Syrian Church, PapETSE I, Stockholm, 1951, p. 17 ss.

3 'The people of this world take wife and make marriages; but they who

shall be worthy of the life of that other world and of the resurrection of

the blessed, will neither take wives nor make wedding feast', The LiegeDiatessaron., ed. PLOOIJ, PHILLIPS,, BAROUW, V, p. 473 s.



riage; only a spiritual union between man and wife is created by God, but the fleshly union is nothing more than an invention of Adam1.

Another remarkable aspect which has contributed its share to the modification of the text is in its anti-Jewish attitude. Some slight retouches sufficed to alter the whole complexion of the narrative so that the guilt of the Jews in the death of Jesus is brought out more clearly than in the Greek text. When Matthew XXVII, 20 says that there were 'crowds', οχλοι, which gathered before Pilate's judgment-seat demanding the death of Jesus, Tatian replaced this by (pic018), so that the Jewish nation is made responsible for this guilt. In Matthew XVI, 21 a little change served the same purpose. The Greek πολλα παθειν is elaborated upon to mean that the elders, chief priests and scribes will kill Jesus, as it is seen in the Persian Diatessaron: e lo ucciderabbero, and in the Dutch Harmonies: en dat menne al daer doeden soude, 'and that they would kill him there'.

Another side of the same tendency is the solicitous care to free the Gospel from the grip of Jewish influence. The great joy in Luke II, 10, proclaimed 'to all the people' παντι τω λαω was changed to (pic018) ' to the whole world' 2 which has repercussions even as far as in the ancient German homilies influenced by Old German Harmonies: div allir werlt 3. And the harsh word of Jesus spoken to the Syro-Phoenician woman: that it is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs, was slightly altered so that it took on quite a different meaning: it is not fair to take the bread which children throw to the dogs, i.e., it is not fair to feed the Gentiles only with crumbs for the whole Kingdom belongs to them. Under these circumstances it is understandable that a word like John IX, 22, 'salvation is of the Jews', could not stand. A microscopic change from 'Jews' into 'Judaea' gained its purpose 4.

1 Ibid., p. 317.

2 See further changes in my Untersuchungen über die Authentizität einiger

asketischer Texte, überliefert unter dem Namen « Ephraem Syrus », ContrBU

LVII, Pinneberg, 1947, p. 7 ss.

3 H. VOLLMER, Verdeutschung der Evangelien und sonstige Teile des Neuen

Testaments von den ersten Anfängen bis Luther, BuDK IV, Potsdam, 1935,

p. 156.

4 See other examples in VOGELS, Handbuch, p. 200 ss.



Further, Tatian was doubtlessly moved also by exegetical considerations. For instance, he understood Matthew X, 39 (and parall.), which speaks of losing and finding the ψυχή, as though Christ did not speak of the 'soul', but of the 'person' and 'himself, and the reward of the 'losing' is not 'himself', but 'eternal life'1.

A striking alteration involves the Greek σλωζωμ σωτηρία and σωτήρ. It is interesting that Tatian discarded the ordinary meaning 'to save', 'salvation' and 'Savior' and introduced in these places 'to live', 'life' and 'Life-giver'. The traces of these readings can be seen in all branches of the tradition, among which the Persian Diatessaron offers the best evidence. The motives that led to these changes are not known. It is easier to supply the negative arguments. We know that this was not caused by the lack of Syriac equivalents. It is also clear that at this time the Old Testament Peshitta cannot have been his source for the reason that it uses several words. But nothing positive can be put forth with any confidence, except only guesses. Was it caused by the eminent role which the word 'life' occupied in Hebrew thought2, and certainly so also in early Jewish-Christian Christianity? Or had Tatian a more specific reason, caused by some written documents, for instance, by the Gospel according to the Hebrews ?

Another aspect in the treatment of the text invites our attention. There is evidence which shows that Tatian also kept his eye on the Old Testament in order to modify the quotations and references which were not in accordance with it. For instance, he noticed that in Matthew II, 23 the prophecy concerning Jesus does not appear in the 'prophets', as the Greek text says, but there is only one allusion which could have prompted this quotation. Accordingly, Tatian corrected the reading into the singular 3. This is one of the several instances where Tatian checked his Syriac Old Testament in order to bring his Diatessaron in conformity with it4.

A very remarkable feature is in the readings which do not exist in the Greek text, but are of extra-canonical provenance. The

1 See my Untersuchungen, p. 21 ss.

2 This concept covers much more than the Greek word; it means not only

'to save', 'to make alive', 'to bring to life' but also 'to heal'.

3 So the Arabic, Persian, Italian and Dutch branches of the tradition.

4 B. M. METZGER, Tatian's Diatessaron and a Persian Harmony of the

Gospels, Journal of Biblical Literature LXIX (Philadelphia, 1950), p. 275 s.



episode of the Lord's baptism is supplemented by the appearance of the light which covered the Jordan 1 - a phenomenon told in the Gospel according to the Hebrews 2.This apocryphal element 3, on the one hand, and Epiphanius' statement on the other hand, that some people have called the Diatessaron the Gospel according to the Hebrews 4, prompted Baumstark to establish the theory that Tatian did not only use the four Gospels, but also a fifth source, which was the Gospel according to the Hebrews 5. On that account he believed that he had found the explanation for the otherwise enigmatic remark made by Victor of Capua: that Tatian composed the 'Diapente' 6.

But this is hardly the last word on this still very puzzling problem. The question of the apocryphal element becomes even more complicated, because there are elements which Tatian did not find in the Gospel according to the Hebrews. Messina has noticed that in the nativity story the Diatessaron offers a number of readings which appear in the Protoevangelium of James 7. In Matthew I, 24, instead of the Greek text: παρέλαβεν την γυναικα αυτου, the Persian Diatessaron has: e custody Maria, and Ephraem Syrus' commentary offers the same reading 8. This task of Joseph, namely, to take Mary into his custody, appears in the Protoevangelium Jacohi: και εφύλασσεν αυτήν 9. In Luke I, 38: γενοιτό μοι κατα

1 Warranted by the Commentary of Ephraem, Srboyn Ephremi matenagrow-t'wenk II, p. 40; among the various branches of the Diatessaron this element

has been preserved only in the Pepysian Harmony.

2 και φωνη εκ του ουρανου λέγουσα • σύ μου ει ο υιος ο αγαπιτός, εν σοι

ηυδόκησα, και πάλιν • εγω σήμερον γεγέννηρά σε • και ευθυς περιέλαμψε τον

τόπον φος μέγα. EPIPHANIUS, Panarion XXX, 13, 7, ed. K. HOLL, GChS XXV,

Leipzig, 1915, p. 350 s.

3 Concerning these elements see C. PETERS, Nachhall ausserkanonischer

Evangelienüberlieferung in Tatians Diatessaron, Acta Orientalia. XVI (Lugduni

Batavorum, 1937-38), p. 258 sa.

4 Panarion XLVI, 1, ed. HOLL, p. 203 a.

5 Die syrische Übersetzung des Titus von Bostra und das Diatessaron,

Biblica XVI (Roma, 1935), p. 290; see also PETERS, Nachhall, p. 258 ss.

6 Tatianus... unum ex quattuor compaginauerit euangelium cui titulum

diapente conposuit, Codex Fuldensis, ed. RANKE, p. 1.

7 Lezione apocrife nel Diatessaron persiano, Biblica XXX (Roma, 1949),

p. 10 ss.

8 Srboyn Ephremi matenagrowt'iwnk, II, p. 24.

9 και φοβηθεις Ιωσηφ παρέλαβεν αυτην εις τήρησιν εαυτω, IX, 3, Evan-

gelia apocrypha, ed. C. DE TISCHENDORF, Lipsiae, 1876, p. 19.



το ρημά σου, is changed in the Dutch Diatessaron into also mote m geshin alse du hefs gesagt, 'may it happen unto me as thou hast said', which is as it appears in the Protoevangelium of James in the Syriac 1 and Ethiopia versions 2.

Whatever the solution might be, in any case it is clear that the Gospel according to the Hebrews was not used as the first and leading source, as Baumstark had thought. The apocryphal element is there, but it does not occupy such a considerable place in the structure of the Diatessaron as to justify this supposition.

Finally, the Diatessaron was invested with literary qualities which furnished it with a peculiar charm. His hand becomes visible again and again as it smoothens and files the text into conformity with his taste. There are interesting instances which reflect how Tatian's linguistic feeling and literary taste could not leave the text without improving it. In Matthew II, 15: και ην εκει, the 'was' must have appeared too flat to him and he replaced it with a better term which has been preserved in several branches of his Harmony: Arabic Diatessaron: (pic021), 'and he remained there'; Persian: e ivi resto; Dutch: en bleef dar wonende, ' and remained there'; Pepysian Manuscript: 'dwelled'. The same -change was made in verse 13. In Matthew VII, 25, 27, in the parable of the house built upon sand, the Greek says that the floods 'came', ηλθον οι ποταμοί; but Tatian felt the need to replace it by a more appropriate term: (pic021), 'the floods overflowed'. This is seen in the Arabic Diatessaron. Another very good example is in Luke XIV, 27 (and parall.), where he felt the need to add something. The Greek text speaks of the bearing of the cross, using the general term: βαστάζει τον σταυρόν. But Tatian preferred to render this in a more picturesque way and added 'upon his shoulder'; Persian Harmony: e chiunque non solleva la sua croce sul suo dorso; Dutch Harmonies: die syn cruce non nemt op sinen hals; Pepysian Harmony: 'and nyme eueriche day his crouche upon his bak'. This addition in Syriac: (pic021) has been preserved by those

1 Apocrypha syriaca, ed. A. 8. LEWIS, StSi XI, London, 1902, p. 10.

2 Liber nativitatis Mariae, ed. M. CHAINS, CSCO Scr. aeth. ser. I, 7, Romae,

1909, p. 10.



authors who used the Diatessaron 1, and by the Old Syriac texts which were closer to the Diatessaron than our present manuscripts 2.From among other more characteristic features the following can be mentioned in passing: a tendency to reduplication in Jesus' mode of address (Martha, Martha; Simon, Simon) in passages where the Greek text does not require it3; to prefer the direct way of expression in the second person plural instead of indirect speech 4; to drop unnecessary words 5, and to improve construction e.

Whenever anything was needed to clarify the meaning, or to bring out the sense more pregnantly, Tatian did not hesitate but did just that.

Thus this Gospel composition was given a magnificent stylistic form. The man, who in his apology reveals himself as a master of the Greek language, also shows himself as a master of the language of his home country. Learned in both literature and rhetoric, this author was able to give his work a commensurate stylistic and artistic dress in polished, classical Syriac.

As this brief survey shows, Tatian did not only re-arrange the evangelical tradition into a harmony, but when composing the Diatessaron left his fingerprints on its pages. And these can be noticed again and again when one becomes attentive and sharpens his gaze on the more subtle influences in the evangelical stream.

(d) Its Role in the Church.

Historically the Diatessaron played a very significant role, not only in a local area, but in world-wide Christianity. Tracing the

1 Ephraem, Hymni et sermones, ed. T. J. LAMY, Mechliniae, 1902, IV, p. 249.2 Johannan of Ephesus, Lives of the Eastern Saints, ed. E. W. BROOKS,Patrologia orientalis XVII, Paris, 1924, p. 626; Emmanuel as-Sahhar, Ms.Br. Mus. Or. 1300, fol. 159 b; History of the Monastery of Qartamin, Ms. Br.

Mus. Add. 17,265, fol. 86 a; DENhA, Histoire de Marouta, éd. F. NAV, Patrologia

orientalis III, 1, Paris, 1905, p. 88; cf. a Service-book, Ma. Br. Mus. Add.

12,145 fol. 116 b; Giwargis, bishop of Arabs, Poemi siriaci, ed. V. RYSSEL,

RRAL CCLXXXVIII, Roma, 1892, p. 46.

3 See some examples in BURKITT, Evangelion da-Mepharreshe, II, p. 131.

4 See my Die Evangelienzitate in der Einleitung der persischen Martyrer-

akten, Biblica XXIII (Roma, 1952), p. 226 s.

5 Particularly (pic022) 'behold' where it is not necessary.

6 O. PETERS, Zum Problem der Stilistik in Tatians Diatessaron, Orientalia

Christiana Periodica VI (Roma, 1940), p. 508 ss.



vestiges of the Diatessaron from Armenia to Abyssinia, and from Persia to the British Isles, we gain a grandiose view of the expansion of this document. This testifies of its marvellous power of attraction. By observing its influence in these distant regions in the Orient and in the Occident, one can obtain some idea of the extent of its significance.

Very early it must have been translated into Latin and used as a popular and handy Life of Jesus among the Latin-speaking Christians, who were certainly glad to have this document in their hands in their mother tongue at a time when they heard Greek spoken in the liturgy. From the Latin the whole Western branch originated, translated either directly, or from versions derived from the Latin.

It was translated also into Greek. There are indications that its role on Greek ground must have been much greater than those fragments can tell us. H. v. Soden attributed much of the confusion in the earliest texts to the Diatessaron, not only in Syriae but also in Greek1. This view, however, has not found approval. But it seems that the critics have handled the question too hastily. Had his work appeared to-day when our information about the extent of Tatian's influence is more fully known, which amounts to a new revelation, expert critics would have had good reason to be much more careful concerning Soden's outcome.

From Syriae the Diatessaron invaded the domains of Oriental Christianity, where it was translated into Armenian, Arabic, Persian, and probably into some other languages.

We have occupied ourselves with this expansion in a previous section. Among these areas there is one in which the Diatessaron played a unique role - that of Syrian Christianity. This, however, is something which needs looking into more closely.

The circumstances under which the Diatessaron appeared in the Syrian Orient are completely hidden. Concerning the question, whether it found its way into the Orient already before Tatian returned, or with his arrival, we have no answer.

With regard to the question where Tatian aided the dissemination of the Diatessaron after he left the West, we seem to-day to be on the correct track. Formerly it had been thought that this place

1 Die Schriften des Neuen Testaments, Göttingen, 1911, I, 2, p. 1639 ss.



was the metropolis of Mesopotamia, Edessa. This view must be dismissed. The nature of the information we possess in the Chronicle of Edessa seems definitely to block this way. The earliest period of Edessene Christianity is characterized by names like Bardaisan, Marcion, and Mani, but not by Tatian1. And this silence concerning Tatian is significant enough to take seriously.

P. E. Kahle proposed the view that Tatian returned to his home country of Assyria and settled there 2. This proposition doubtlessly fits in better with our present knowledge.

Anyhow, wherever it was that Tatian exerted an influence upon his return to the Orient, the introduction of this work constituted a major event in the growth and development of Syrian Christianity.

How the Diatessaron spread, and how quickly it conquered the most important center of Syrian Christianity, we do not know. Our sources fail us. Thus only by means of some general considerations may we pass over this territory.

Certainly its success has been due to a combination of qualities which inhered in this document. Indeed that it was handy and cheaper, was not the only factor. But besides this, qualities of far greater importance must have contributed to its success.

The national factor must have promoted the prompt spreading of the Diatessaron. This Evangelion da-Mehallete was a Syrian Gospel, created by a Syrian, who was born and bred in the Syrian Orient. The author was their own man, and this Gospel was composed originally in their own tongue. No other Christian community could claim such a Gospel text as its own.

The Diatessaron possessed - as we have seen - several innate characteristics which ensured its successful appeal and widespread use. And last but not least, its rigorous interpretation of the Christian faith must have appealed to the primitive phase in the development of Syrian Christianity3. And in this respect the Diatessaron was able to give a clear and definite position. Its Encratite views must have found a favorable echo in communities where this type of radical Christianity already existed 4.

1 Chronicon Edesssenum, ed. I. GUIDI, Chronica minora, CSCO Scr. syr. III,

4, Parisiis, 1903, p. 3 a.

2 The Cairo Geniza, p. 198.

3 Concerning this phase see my Celibacy, p. 21 ss.

4 If Casey is right in his conclusions then even the Marcionites have used



These are powerful reasons which contributed to the marvellous effectiveness of the Evangelion da-Mehallete. It arrived on the scene at a suitable time, and it became the Gospel of the Syriac-speaking communities. Thus it came about that Tatian's work continued to be used throughout several generations, serving the spiritual needs of Syrian Christianity, officially in the church as well as privately in the homes. For generations the ears of the Syrians were accustomed to the sound of phrases taken from it. They were repeated at religious services, in both liturgy and sermon. They were learned by heart, memorized in the congregations of the believers, and recited in the monks' cells. Many believers knew this Gospel text by heart. The Diatessaron held a similar position in literature and had also assumed scientific authority. In a word, the Gospel Harmony penetrated into the various aspects of the spiritual life of Syriac-speaking Christians in a most decisive manner.

Finally, as to its further history some words need to be said. We have clear evidence that in the fourth century it was still used in many circles. This impression we get from more than one source. Some of them deserve our particular attention.

Much importance attaches to the Syriac translation of Eusebius' Curch History. As is known, Eusebius made a remark there about Tatian's work. This learned Greek father felt the scarcity of the information in the Greek sources, and stated that the Diatessaron was used only by a few at his time,1. But the man who translated Eusebius' work into Syriac, knew the textual conditions in his home country much better and corrected Eusebius' statement to accord with the facts. This valuable addition made by an anonymous hand runs: 'now this (i.e., the Diatessaron) is the Mehallete, the same that is in the hands of many unto this day',2. Probably this anonymous translation was made in the middle of the fourth century, if not earlier. This passage leads us to the recognition that at that time the Diatessaron was still in the hands of many.

the Diatessaron, The Armenian Marcionites and the Diatessaron, Journal of

Biblical Literature LVII (Philadelphia, 1938), p. 192.

1 Hist. eccl. IV, 29, 6, ed. SCHWARTZ, I, p. 392.

2 The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius in Syriac, ed. W. WRIGHT and

N. McLEAN, Cambridge, 1898, p. 243.



Among these many, for example, we know that Ephraem Syrus, who until 373 wrote his works and composed his commentaries in a cave near Edessa, used the Diatessaron and wrote a commentary

on it. It is also probable that his disciples continued to use it,1.

These conditions did not only exist in Edessa. We possess good information about Cyrrhos, some fifty years later. Thanks to the writings of its outstanding and energetic bishop, we are allowed to look at the textual conditions in Cyrrhestica in the second quarter of the fifth century. Theodoretus relates how the believers, innocently, continued to use the Diatessaron as a handy compendium. He then took action in his diocese to stamp out the use of this book. In the process he found more than two hundred such copies in use in the churches. He collected and destroyed them and substituted the tetraevangelium for them,2. Cyrrhestica was a backward diocese, but certainly not the only one.

In addition to this, it should be mentioned that probably in monachal circles the Diatessaron continued to exist for a longer period of time. Besides the generally conservative trend, which makes itself manifest in monasticism, other factors were involved. The Diatessaron was much more convenient to use, because any parallel sections were omitted and so it was much shorter. The Gospel codex was both easier to handle and cheaper, and we could expect that the monks with their ideal of poverty would prefer the less expensive text. One might mention another reason in passing - these codices were also easier to carry. Syrian monks in the earliest stages of monasticism were wanderers, always on the move,3. They did not have cells, caverns, or huts. They carried onlv a Gospel manuscript with them. Certainly for this purpose the Harmony was convenient in its condensed form, particularly for those monks who used to carry their Gospel codex tied around their necks4.

1 Fragments de Mar Aba, disciple de Saint Éphrem, ed. F. NAU, Revue

l'Orient Chrétien. XVII (Paris, 1912), p. 69.

2 Haereticarum fab. comp., Patrologin graeca LXXXIII, col. 372.

3 See my Origin of Monasticism in Mesopotamia, Church History XX

(Chicago, 1951), p. 30 ss.; A Letter of Ephraem to the Mountaineers, OBU

XXV, Pinneberg, 1947; and Manichaeism and Christianity in Persia under the

Sassanids, Yearbook of the Estonian Learned Society in America (New York

1952). '

4 Acta martyrum et sanctorum, ed. P. BEDJAN, Parisiis, 1895, V, p. 407;

Ms. Berl. or. quart. 1051, fol. 204 a.





In comparison with what we possess of and know about Tatian's work on the Gospels, we do not know anything certain as soon as we leave the area of the Gospels and direct our gaze toward the Apostolos. The questions, whether Tatian arranged only the Gospels in Syriac, or whether he also has a share in the preparation of the primitive Syriac text of the Apostolos, are very difficult to answer. The sources leave us completely in the dark. The only remark which historiography offers is not encouraging. In fact, Eusebius mentions that Tatian dared to paraphrase and to correct certain words of the Apostle,1 but this is cryptic. And this situation gives the reason why modern scholarship has not touched upon this question at all.

Any discussion of this matter has to start with the evidence which proves the existence of an archaic text of the Apostolos. And this is something which belongs to the scope of this study, regardless of the outcome of the question whether Tatian's hand was involved here or not. To be sure, no codex, and even no portion or fragment of this text, has come down to us; nevertheless, we have evidence that a primitive text of the Acts of the Apostles existed and circulated in the earliest Syrian Christianity. This evidence is given by the remains which ancient Syrian literature has preserved. We come across them in the earliest monuments which we can find. In the first part of the fourth century Aphrahat has quoted a text of archaic character,2. And in the third quarter of the same century Ephraem Syrus composed a commentary on this text. Unfortunately in this exposition the renowned Edessene monk makes less use of the text than in his commentary on the Diatessaron. Besides this, the text in its original form has perished, and only a translation in Armenian,3 has saved it from complete destruction. Among other documents also the Liber graduum deserves special mention,4. All we find in the literary ^sources is sufficient for the recognition that

1 Hist. eccl., IV, 29, 6, ed. SCHWARTZ, p. 392.

2 Demonstrationes, ed. I. PARISOT, Patrologia syriaca I, 1-2, Parisiis, 1895-


3 Meknowt'iwn gorcoc arak'loc, ed. H. N. AKINEAN, Vienna, 1921.

4 Liber graduum, ed. M. KMOSKO, Patrologia syriaca I, 3, Parisiis, 1926.


this 'Acts of the Twelve Apostles' or the 'Preaching of the Twelve Apostles' existed as an early version.

In general the same can be said on the corpus of the Pauline Letters. The earliest portions we have are in the homilies of Aphrahat. Ephraem Syrus composed a commentary on it, which, again, has been salvaged for us by the Armenian translation,1. And its scattered remains must be gathered in other literary monuments in Syriae, beginning with the Liber Graduum.

Thus this evidence shows the existence of an early version of the Apostolos in Syriac. Its archaic text circulated in the lands of the Euphrates and Tigris. It cannot have been ephemeral because its influence and traces emerge here and there even later. After this is established, the question arises: do the vestiges of this archaic version belong to the text prepared by Tatian? In itself it would not be at all strange. On the contrary, it would be something natural to expect that Tatian, after having given a Harmony of the Gospels to the church in the Syrian East, also added the Apostolos to it.

It is also not so easy to see how a negative stand can be taken in this matter when one considers what we know of the moving ideas and issues of the contemporary situation. It was at. this time that Marcion established the New Testament canon in two parts - Gospel and Apostolos - which met with such success that his theological enemies were obliged to pick up the idea quickly and establish their own canon too. Moreover, it was just that area where Syrian Christianity had first begun to develop which very early became the field of operation for Marcionite Christianity. Already Justin Martyr, in the middle of the second century, could not conceal his astonishment concerning the elan of Marcionite propaganda which appeares everywhere,2. But it found particularly fertile ground in the Syrian Orient where its seed grew up exuberantly and very soon it could reap a rich harvest. Judging from the literary activity of Bardaisan in Edessa towards the end of the second century it must be concluded that he saw the Marconite movement as the greatest danger in Mesopotamia at, his time,3. If so, then it

1 Srboyn Ephremi matenagrowt'iwnk', Venitik, 1836, III.

2 Apologia I pro christianis I, 26, Patrologia graeca VI, col. 368 s.

3 This interesting author composed hymns and treatises against Marcion.



does not seem probable that Tatian would have been satisfied with giving Syrian Christianity only the Gospels, and yet would have remained untouched by all the great issues which, in connection with the arrangement of the scriptural base, moved the orthodox, as well as the heterodox, group to act. Thus it would not take an undue stretch of the imagination to reckon with the possibility that Tatian also added the Apostolos to the Gospel Harmony.

"When the question, whether Tatian also arranged the Apostolos, seems to be answered in the affirmative, a new question arises: can the remnants we possess be the vestiges of this alleged revision made by Tatian?

According to the present state of our materials and possibilities at our disposal some interesting observations can be made. There are some features which cannot be silently by-passed. Evidence shows that this primitive text was not only a translation from the Greek into Syriac, but also a revision and an emendation. And, remarkably, the tendencies which have remodelled this text arrest our attention because they have the same ring which we noticed in Tatian's work on the Gospels.

First of all, the Encratite tendency leaps up at the eye of the reader. When ascetic sayings were put by Tatian into the mouth of Jesus, it is natural to expect that the Christian concept of life would have found explicit description in the life and work of the Apostles who carried on Jesus' teaching and thereby became the models for the believers. And, indeed, this is so.

It must, however, be admitted that the occurrence of the Encratite elements would be not a very weighty argument in itself because the predominance of asceticism in the earliest Syrian church would have caused this without Tatian's hand. And so this argument cannot be put forth with any degree of certainty.

I would speak of the possibility of Tatian's authorship of the archaic text of the Apostolos with much greater hesitation had we no other observations for this suspicion. Certainly an interesting feature in the primitive text of Acts is the combination of the original text with elements of apocryphal character. One is partic-

They were written in Syriac and were later translated into Greek. Nothing has

survived, except the remarks in Eusebius, Hist. eccl., IV, 30, 1, ed. SCHWARTZ,

p. 392.



ularly striking'. It has already been noted that Tatian felt that the description of the scene of Jesus' baptism, as it stands in the Gospels, was not satisfactory and so he felt it was necessary to complete the account by adding visible signs to the place where God's presence was operative,1. Just the same interest appears in the Acts. The description of the scene of the pouring out of the Spirit and that of the Paraclete's presence did not appear to the reviser to be satisfactorily recorded in the Greek text, and similar features were added to say that the presence of the Divine is accompanied by certain visible signs. Ephraem Syrus in one of his homilies says that 'the fragrance of paradise' was perceived,2, and in a catena it is more explicitly stated that this was a fragrant smell which was exhaled from the violence of the wind,3. And the Liber graduum,4 is more informative: (pic030) 'the place shone in which they were, and the odor of fragrancy of the Spirit of the Paraclete came upon them as by vehemence'. This phenomenon of the light is well attested by other authors,5. But now it is interesting to notice that the original account was enlarged exactly in the same way as the Lord's baptism in the Diatessaron, for here the phenomenon about the light which shone on the Jordan was accompanied also by the fragrance, as witnessed by Isho'dad of Merv,6.

Furthermore, these observations seem to find confirmation in other features which remarkably resemble the motives which inspired Tatian in his arrangement of the text in the Gospel

1 See p. 20.

2 De paradiso Eden, Sermo XI, Opera omnia, ed. P. MOBARREK, Romae.

1743, Syr. III, p. 797.

3 Among other extracts this catena contains also those of Ephraem, Meknow-

t'iwn gorcoc arak'eloc, Venetik, 1839, p. 45, 49.

4 Liber graduum, ed. KMOSKO, col. 553.

5 For instance, in a prayer for Pentecost, composed by Balai, Beiträge zur

Kenntnis der religiösen Dichtung Balais, ed. K. V. ZETTERSTÉEN, Leipzig, 1902,

p. 12; see also Homiliae selectae Mar Jacobi Sarugensis, ed. P. BEDJAN

Parisiis, 1906, II, p. 677.

6 The Commentaries of Isho'dad of Merv, ed. M. D. GIBSON, HS VI, Cambridge

1911, II, p. 45.



Harmony. Some touches obviously purported the anti-Jewish tendencies and intended to bring out more clearly the universal character of the Gospel. And, finally, a screening of stylistic means produces some additional observations along the same lines. There are some passages which indicate the same interest and taste we see in the Diatessaron,1.

But although special tastes, sympathies and characteristics of the remnants of the archaic Apostolos are conspicuous, yes, seducingly similar to those which are displayed in the Gospel Harmony, yet it must be said for the sake of caution that the time is not ripe to make a final decision. Before this can be made, the evidence stands in need of fuller substantiation. For this more work has to be done and, above all, more sources are needed.

l For further information see my study Das Problem des ältesten Apostolos-

textes im Syrischen.


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