Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Forged Decretals Described (or The Preface, Part II)

Weather has me down, so I fear today's post will be a little meager. But I want to take a closer look at how our good merchant describes his collection in the preface. Here’s a (very loose!) translation. I’ve bolded/italicized the material that comes out of the Hispana:
Now at the beginning of this volume we have described how we conduct councils, so that if anyone wants to follow our practice, he will know how to do it. Those who choose to follow the best practice should do things as they were done at the that just, canonical and wisest of councils. And so, because of their authority, we have placed the so-called “Canons of the Apostles” before the other councils, even though some call them apocryphal – for many accept their authenticy and the holy fathers have affirmed their pronouncements by synodal authority and have placed them among the received councils. Then we have included decrees from various apostolic letters – namely from Clement, Anacletus, Evaristus, and the rest of the popes – however many we have been able to find – up until Pope Sylvester. And afterwards we have included the Nicene synod, because of the great authority of this council. Then we have placed [the acta] of various Greek and Latin synods in the appropriate chronological order, also adding the remaining decrees of the Roman bishops up to St. Gregory, [including] some of his letters [as well]. Because of the great authority of the apostolic see, all of these letters enjoy an authority not unequal to that of the councils. [We have done] all this so that the teachings of the ecclesiastical order might be collected and digested by us into one volume, and so that the obedient ministers and people of the church might be supplied with spiritual examples and might not be deceived by the depravities of evil men.
A few points:

1) All that rumbling about the relative authority of canons is straight from the Hispana.

2) Isidore entertains doubts about the authority of the Canons of the Apostles entirely on his own. Though this pre-Pseudo-Isidorian forgery occurs in the HGA, the canons are not part of the ordinary Hispana tradition, and so the Hispana preface has nothing to say about them. (It looks like Pseudo-Isidore got them from the Dionysio-Hadriana).

3) The Hispana preface says that it's sticking Nicaea I first because of its great authority. Isidore keeps this language even though, in his collection, Nicaea has been buried behind 59 forged decretals. This leads to that odd sentence explaining that he has placed Nicaea after the decretals because of its great authority.

4) Isidore also departs from the Hispana to say that Part 3 of his collection extends up to “St. Gregory” – that is, Gregory the Great (right?). Both the HGA and Part 3 of Pseudo-Isidore, though, conclude with a synod convened under Gregory II. So, strictly speaking, the preface is in error. Not such a small point either; the synod in question comes with a rubric that mentions Gregorius Iunior right up front.

5) Look at that complaint about "evil men," slipped in right at the end.

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