Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Thirty-Sixth Letter (Item 42): Pope Fabian to all the Eastern Bishops and Faithful

This letter, the second ascribed to the third-century Pope Fabian, is nothing if not hefty. It's also more closely crafted than usual, with arguments spliced together from a wide range of sources, and textual excerpts carefully integrated for a smoother-than-usual effect. It's not the summit of medieval Latin literature, but it manages to avoid that clunky feel that plagues a lot of the other false decretals.

While the contents are mostly familiar (same old stuff on judicial proceedings against clerics), we do get an unusual bit on chrism right up front. Usually liturgical content in Pseudo-Isidore depends on the papal biographies in the Liber Pontificalis. Most of the time, it turns out that the biography ascribed some liturgical innovation to the pontiff in question (i.e., Easter is to be celebrated on Sunday), and Pseudo-Isidore -- always on the lookout for gaps in the historical record that he can fill with his forgeries -- invents a letter that supposedly establishes that liturgical point. Of course the other 90 percent of the letter is about primates and judicial proceedings against bishops and assorted stuff; the liturgical angle just gave Pseudo-Isidore a nail to hang his coat on.

Here, though, things are different. Fabian says that "certain people" aren't consecrating the chrism every Paschal season; some argue that if they have enough left over from last year, why bother to consecrate more? Fabian is very, very opposed to this kind of liturgical neglect. No less an authority than Jesus, he says, commanded the blessing of chrism when he washed the apostles' feet at the Last Supper: It's to be done every year without exception. None of this has anything to do with Fabian's biography in the Liber Pontificalis, though the same argument does occur in Benedictus Levita. What's going on here? Were there any contemporary ninth-century arguments about the annual consecration of chrism? So many questions.

The rest of the letter covers more familiar ground. A very tightly constructed paragraph, with nearly all its words taken from other sources (primarily Benedictus Levita and the Bible: it took me nearly twenty minutes to disentangle it all, and this is WITH the help of Hinschius's apparatus fontium), drags out the same old arguments. Nobody can bring an accusation who is himself under suspicion, who is an enemy of the accused, who is infamis, whose conversatio is less than perfect, whose faith, life and libertas are unknown. Certainly no members of the laity are permitted to acccuse the clergy.

Onto a point that seems at first completely unrelated: Pseudo-Fabian starts citing passages from the Old Testament that, he asserts, establish the Christian diaconate. If deacons were so important to God, what about priests and the higher clergy? Now you get where he's going. Nobody in the priesthood can be condemned humano examine; only God can judge priests. From there back to the subject of accusations: The apostles and all their successors aimed to make it well nigh impossible to accuse members of the clergy of any crime -- and they did this for a reason. From there we get familiar lines about the exceptio spolii: no bishop who has been deprived of goods or office can be tried until he's been restored to his former state. Also, clerics who consipre against their bishops are to be kicked out of office and handed over to the episcopal curia, which they are to serve for the rest of their lives as infames.

You might think Fabian would be winding down, but he's still going strong. Nobody should ever be an accuser, a judge and/or a witness at the same time, and so every judicial process requires at least four people (an ELECTED judge, an accuser, a defendant, and a witness). Bishops should only really be tried if they've deviated from the faith, and even then the proper thing is for their subordinates to approach them first and attempt to correct them in private. If this doesn't work -- quod absit ! -- they're to be brought before their primate or the Apostolic See (NOT their archbishop!). If the problem does not involve matters of faith, it's better for everyone just to put up with the offending bishop.


Recipients: eastern bishops and faithful

Date: 19 Oct.

Sources: Letters of Zosimus, Siricius, Celestine I and Innocent I (all from the Hispana); an additional letter of Innocent I (from the Quesnelliana); other letters of Gregory the Great, Jerome and Ambrose; Gregory's Regula pastoralis; Benedictus Levita; Augustine, sermons 46 and 351, as well as his Enchiridionn; the Bible; Capitula Angilramni; Isidore, Synonyma and Sententiae; acta of the 418 Council of Carthage

Contemporary Carolingian Legislation: 816 Council of Aachen (?)

Words*: 2300

*Karl Georg Schon has only provided .pdf editions, with numbered lines, through item 41, the first Fabian letter. Thus for letters after item 41 we'll  have to gauge length differently, by word count (which, in retrospect, I should've been dong all along). Over the next few days I'll add wordcounts to the older posts, so we'll have a consistent means of comparison.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Thirty-Third Letter (Item 39): Pope Pontian to All Bishops

The second and last letter of Pontian starts with a brief gloss on Luke 2:14 ("Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will"). From there it eases into a discussion about the "sons of God and the sons of the devil" . The sons of God always strive after those things which are of God; the sons of the devil...well, you know what they get up to.

You can always tell that Pseudo-Isidore is getting around to his point when the verbal echoes of Benedictus Levita start to resound. Nobody, he says suddenly, should do anything to a brother that this brother doesn't want. Enemies, those under suspicion, the litigious (facile litigantes), those "who do not lead a good life or whose life is worthy of accusation and who do not hold to or teach the right faith": all these cannot bring accusations against others.

Then we get a very long series of quotes from Ecclesiasticus (32:1-3, 37:21, 35:2,5; 27:18-33, 28:1-30; 5:8-18; 6:1-4) that bring us right up to the end of the letter. Before signing off, Pontian tells his readers to defend the oppressed and help the needy.

Longer than the last Pontian letter, but as most if it is a pastiche of unedited passages from the Bible, still pretty light on content.


Recipients: all bishops

Date: 28 April, "Severo et Quintiano vv. cc. conss"

Sources: the bible, the Sentences of Sextus, Benedictus Levita, letter of Gregory the Great

Lines : 105

The Thirty-Second Letter (Item 38): Pope Pontian to Felix Scribo

In this very short and straightforward decretal (the first of two pieces ascribed to Pontian) our forgers show us the pope writing to one Felix Scribo, who has been defending various priests "against the perfidies of evil men" (contra pravorum hominum insidias). The pope, of course, is convinced that this good conduct is highly pleasing to God.

Most of this letter consists of reassuring pastoral passages lifted from the register of Gregory the Great. Pseudo-Isidore trots out his pet themes only in one brief passage about halfway through: Not only are priests to be honored, but they are not to be accused by pestilential men. And if they're in error, they cannot be corrected by the laity, but only by their felow priests and the pope.


Recipient: Felix Scribo: a fictitious person, though the by-name seems to have been borrowed from one of Gregory the Great's correspondents.

Date:  23 Jan.; the consuls are Severus and Quintianus, from the Liber Pontificalis again

Sources: Gregory the Great, letters; the Bible; a letter of Jerome (?); Benedictus Levita

Contemporary Carolingian Legislation: 816 Council of Aachen (?) -- It's hard to tell whether one particular passage is citing the Jerome epistle or these conciliar acta

Lines: 50

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Thirty-First Letter (Item 37): Pope Urban I to all the faithful

Fellow investigators, I have a confession to make: I've been reading the Decretals for longer than I've been blogging them. Also, all my notes on the addresses are in New Haven, while I am in Philadelphia. This means two things: 1) We'll be resuming with our ordinary programming in the meantime (an occasion more for relief than regret, perhaps?), and 2) I'm going to fast-forward us to item 37, a letter from Urban I (d. 230) directed to all the Christian faithful. Fear not! We will return to fill in the gaps. But Pseudo-Isidore did not write a novel; his decretals were not intended for cover-to-cover reading. So with any luck we'll survive.

This is the one and only epistle ascribed to Urban. It's one of the letters we highlighted last time for its atypical address; it echoes 1 Peter 1:2. Finally, it's one of several letters in the first part of the decretals very concerned about the common possession of goods, and even has some material in common with the similarly-themed fifth item (no. 11, Clement I to James, Jesus's brother).

Urban, like Clement, derives his image of apostolic communism largely from Acts; once again we have the story of Ananias and Sapphira quoted verbatim -- though Urban, unlike Clement, doesn't claim to have been around for the action. Perhaps the most interesting bit in the whole letter comes right before this episode. For once speaking in their own words, our forgers say that in the wake of the apostolic period it has become clear that estates (hereditates et agres) are more useful to the church than the money that they can be sold for; thus, we read, everyone should just give the church land instead of selling the land and passing on the money. Naturally, the transferred properties are to remain in the possession of the church "now and in the future." In the course of this we get some verbal borrowings from the 829 Council of Paris, which help the Pseudo-Isidor emphasize that these land donations are to be reserved exclusively for ecclesiastical use.

More rumbling, from Benedictus Levita, about those who fiddle with church property, and then some general statements about episcopal authority; more remarks on the common life; and than a final paragraph decreeing that "all the faithful should receive the Holy Spirit through the imposition of the bishops' hands after baptism," based in part on the 836 Council of Aachen.


Recipients: all the faithful

Date: 5 Sept., "Antonio et Alexandro vv. cc. conss." Consular names here, as almost always, taken from the Liber Pontificalis.

Sources: Cyprian, De habita virginum; the Bible; Benedictus Levita; Gregory the Great, Homiliae in evangelia; Fourth Council of Carthage; Isidore, Etymologies; Eusebius, homily for Pentecost

Contemporary Carolingian Legislation: 829 Council of Paris; 836 Council of Aachen; 816 Council of Aachen (?)

Lines: 110

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Epistolary Addresses in Pseudo-Isidore: I

Distinguished lectores, there are always patterns, and it is our job to find them. In the process of forging scads of papal letters, the Pseudo-Isidore also forged scads of epistolary addresses -- the bit at the start of a letter that tells everyone to whom, and from whom, the letter is sent. Pope Damasus to all bishops in the whole world everywhere, health and prosperity as long as you do what I say.  That sort of thing.

Pseudo-Isidore fakes all these addresses because his forgeries wouldn't look like real letters without them. But beyond the simple identities of sender and recipient, what does he stick in his addresses? Does he try to make them look ancient and archaic; does he squeeze arguments into them; does he do anything ridiculous and strange? I know these questions have been bothering millions of people; they've been bothering me too. It's time to deal with them.

Pseudo-Isidore forges about ninety addresses in all: Eighty-four of them are cast in the mouths of popes, while the other six are from others addressing the pope. For now we'll set the latter aside and concentrate on the former.

The papal addresses in Pseudo-Isidore, Part 1 are pretty homogenous. The vast majority have the pope calling himself "bishop" (frequently, "bishop of the city of Rome") and wishing his addressee(s) "health" (salutem) or (more frequently) "health in the lord" (salutem in domino). Our fictive popes tend to be more expansive with their titles if they're sticking their names first, and they tend to exclude or minimize their titles if they're sticking their addressees' names first. And what of the addressees' names, when these come first? Then Pseudo-Isidore can at least spare them an adjective in addition to their title. In Part 1, these adjectives are almost always either dilectissimus or carissimus (declined as necessary). These tendencies remain through a substantial portion of the forgeries in Part 3 as well, though later on we do encounter a little more variation (which we'll get to). I've not consulted manuals of papal diplomatics for this post, but I assure you that none of this is overwhelmingly out of line with ancient epistolary practice. (More on Pseudo-Isidore's models soon.)

This relative uniformity makes the exceptions quite interesting. Particularly curious are four addresses in Part 1 modeled on the addresses of the Petrine epistles (item 12: Anacletus to all the faithful, using 2 Peter 1:1-2; item 14, Anacletus to all bishops also using 2 Peter 1:1; item 19, Alexander to the entire priesthood, using 1 Peter 1:2; and item 37: Urban I to all the faitfhul, also using 1 Peter 1:2). Does that mean anything? In future posts we'll survey the contents of these letters with this point in mind.

Also interesting are ten letters (items 20, 22, 25, 26, 28, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35), all of them near each other and all in Part 1, where all else is more or less normal, but where the pope calls himself archbishop of Rome: A highly irregular title that, as far as I can tell, occurs nowhere outside of the Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries. And wasn't Pseudo-Isidore supposed to be a) pretty partial to the papacy, and b) pretty down on archbishops? I know that's an oversimplification but still, you must admit that this is odd.

But the most interesting irregularities crop up in Part 3, right at the beginning. The initial burst of forged letters through Damasus, including correspondence to and from Athanasius (from item 127 to item 146 or so), has addresses that, for the most part, really stand out. See items 128 and 130: the first letters to use the adjective venerabilibus; 136, the first occurrence of reverentissimis; 138, sanctissimis et deo amantissimis; 144, where Damasus calls himself servus servorum dei (two-hundred years before Gregory I!); and 146, venerabilibus again. Of all these new features only reverentissimus sticks around (we find it again in items 292 and 299); otherwise, after item 146 the addresses return to the standards familiar from Part 1.

I've not sorted out all my thoughts on what this means, but it does mean something. In the first place, the Damasus letters are an obvious seam in the Pseudo-Isidorian decretals: They're the bit where our forgers begin to blend their invented papal decretals with genuine papal decretals from the Hispana. It's also interesting to find deviations in items 144 and 146, both of which are additionally irregular in that they're two of only four forged decretals in all of Pseudo-Isidore that also occur in the HGA.

And there's another reason we should care about irregularities at the beginning of Part 3. The A2 recension, remember -- the recension that Zechiel-Eckes suggested might be the earliest -- ends right at the beginning of Part 3, midway through the letters of Damasus. And I was just saying that we first get adjective reverentissimus in item 136, but that's not quite right. That word also occurs in the prefatory material to the Decretals, and specifically in the address of item 3,  the forged letter from Damasus to Aurelius of Carthage. You remember this piece: It's the one in which Damasus says he's sending Aurelius decretals from the time of St. Peter's successors up to his own day. It's the letter that grabs our attention because it seems to be describing the contents of the A2 recension, as we said earlier, and because it essentially suggests the canonical collection of Isidore the Merchant contains within it the earlier canonical collection of Damasus (i.e., Pseudo-Damasus within Pseudo-Isidore).

So can we say that item 3 and the forged decretals constituting the anomalous sequence of items 127-146 were written around the same time -- around the time that our forgers first conceived of changing things up a bit by varying their use of adjectives in the address? I think it's not such a crazy assumption to make. It's one indication that the Aurelius/Damasus exchange was written to preface a shorter collection -- one ascribed to Damasus, not Isidore. So goes my thinking anyway.

More on the addresses next time.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Fourth Letter (Item 10): Pope Clement I to His Fellow Bishops Julius and Julianus and Their Associates

Of all the Clementine forgeries, the fourth is the most heavily dependent on the Recognitiones. Our forgers contribute only about 13 of 160 lines. The rest is a single, continuous passage lifted from Recognitiones book 6 (chapters 2-12).

The letter is primarily about heresy -- specifically, episcopal error in matters of faith -- and only the first few lines were written by Pseudo-Isidore. In this passage "Clement" says that his addressees, the bishops Julius and Julianus (who, as far as I can tell, are fictional) have been led astray by various gentes (peoples? or just people?)  in their midst. It is of course better that they return to "the way of truth" than that they persist in error. And not only should they return to truth, Clement says -- they should drive as many of those who led them astray back to the right path.

Then comes the long Recognitiones excerpt, which is basically just a rambling sermon. The transition is pretty smooth, as the borrowed passage starts out talking about that "just and necessary anger" which everyone should deploy against those who have fallen into error. There follows a long discussion of Matt. 10:34: "I did not come to bring peace, but a sword," and thereafter the sermon runs pretty far afield. We have the statement that we should revere our parents as "ministers" but not as "givers of life," because only God is a giver of life. This leads into a rather opaque discussion of God's creation, and the special place water has been accorded therein. From there the leap to baptism is a short one.

Towards the end we get some odd remarks on purity (castimonia). Men are not to mix with (have sex with?) menstruating women, in accordance with the law of God. Everyone should wash their body with water (no word on how often though). Clement assures us that purity comes from within, but argues that those who are externally filthy are doubtless filthy within as well. Before too long, though, he's forced to acknowledge that this doesn't always work in reverse.

All of that from the Recognitiones. Pseudo-Isidore only shows up right at the end to close off the letter, which he accomplishes by citing Rom. 3:23 and 1 Cor. 14:1 ("For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And so, dear friends, follow the way of love and eagerly desire better and spiritual things.")

An easy read for your blogger; more difficult problems await.


Recipients: the bishops Julius and Julianus (both are called fratres, so I'm assuming they're bishops), and their associates

Date: none

Sources: Recognitiones; Pauline epistles

Lines: 160

Cross references: none

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Third Letter (Item 9): Pope Clement I to All Faithful

Now that we've got all of Clement's letters to James out of the way, it's time to backtrack and cover his universal epistles. Both are heavily dependent on the Recognitiones.

This, the third epistle ascribed to Clement, is all about obeying bishops. We get this theme right up front, in the first thirty-five lines or so. Priests, we read, are to teach the faithful, and people are in turn to obey the priests as if they were God. Also, priests, deacons, subdeacons and the lower clergy, together with "all princes" of any rank, and the entirety of the people, are to obey the bishops. Those who don't are infames; they'll be excluded from the kingdom of God and from the church. Clement insists that nothing is worse than sons who rebel against their father, or clerics or laypeople who rebel against their teachers, or disciples who disobey their masters (some of this from the Recognitiones). Like the unfaithful, these disobedient wretches will bear no fruit. He quotes Matt. 7:19: "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."

Then we get a long, long pastiche of Recognitiones material: about 170 lines of it. While the forgers have mashed together all kinds of disparate passages here, they've done very little editing of textual snippets. The result reads like a long sermon delivered by somebody who's had too much coffee. The faithful are admonished to look after churches and widows, first of all. Then we hear about baptism, the place of man in God's creation, faith, true and false teaching, free will, sin, and prophecies of the Incarnation. I've probably left a few things out, but that's most of it.

Around line 200 Pseudo-Isidore steps out from behind the curtain to have another go at the theme of obedience. Priests, deacons and the rest of the clergy are not to do anything without episcopal license, and priests in particular are not to celebrate or baptize anyone without their bishop's permission. God, we read, gives great gifts to the obedient, while those who resist bishops oppose the Lord himself.

Only about thirty lines of that, and we're back to Recognitiones stuff. This time we get to hear about salvation through Jesus Christ and various stuff on evangelization (some of it lifted from the Acts of the Apostles). In closing, Clement tells his readers that nobody can be saved unless they obey the precepts outlined in this letter.

All in all, a longer decretal, but the contents are pretty thin. What's the point of pulling in all this Recognitiones material anyway? Is the idea just to show Clement acting all pastoral?


Recipients: all faithful

Date: None

Sources: Letters of Gregory II, Celestine I, Lull of Mainz; 418 Council of Carthage; Canones Apostolorum; Recognitiones; the Bible; Benedictus Levita

Contemporary Carolingian Legislation: 829 Council of Paris

Lines: 314

Cross references: None

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Fifth Letter (Item 11): Pope Clement I to James, Jesus's Brother, For the Last Time

Who says we have to go in order? Let's make today all about James.

As everyone knows, the less illustrious son of Zebedee is also the addressee of the last letter Pseudo-Isidore ascribes to Clement. Unlike the first two Jacobian missives, though, there's no foundational document. This letter is the invention of our forgers.

The Recognitiones forms the backbone of this short piece. It starts out with exhortations towards the common life and the common use of goods. In a moment of blinding anachronism, Pseudo-Isidore has Clement write to James the Apostle that "the apostles and their disciples adhered to this manner of life." As if in compensation, a few lines later he adds parenthetically that "we were all present" when Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead (Acts 5:1-10, otherwise related more or less verbatim). Clement recalls the story as a warning to those who might try to keep any of their wealth out of communal use.

About halfway through the letter there are some vague lines about people in James's diocese who hold heretical views; there follow admonitions about the proper understanding of scripture and the divine law. And that's the whole of this, Clement's last letter to James.

Now that I've reread all the three James letters, I want to return to a point made by Fuhrmann that I reported earlier. Medieval chronological authorities, Fuhrmann noticed, have James predeceasing Peter by seven years, which makes the first of the three Clementine epistles in Pseudo-Isidore appear chronologically impossible. Fuhrmann argued that Pseudo-Isidore was unaware of this problem, for he not only included a second Clementine forgery addressed to James, but invented his own Clement-to-James missive (i.e., this one) as well.

I'm not sure that's right. Bede (along with Jerome/Eusebius) certainly has James dying in 61 and Peter living until 68. But I believe the Recognitiones also has Peter consecrating Clement well in advance of his death. Bede himself says as much (check out the Historia Ecclesiastica II.5); apparently Clement needed to be a bishop so that he could help Peter evangelize. This means that when Peter chose Clement to succeed him in the preface to the Recognitiones, Clement was already a bishop, and had been for some time.

Now only the first Clement letter mentions Peter's death at all, and there of course the chronological error is not Pseudo-Isidore's fault. He's inherited it, as we said before. The second Clement letter says not a word about Peter's death, though the address styles Clement as "Romanae ecclesiae praesul." Once again, as the address comes from the underlying foundation document, it implies nothing about Pseudo-Isidore's knowledge.

Only in the final Clement/James letter do we get an address that Pseudo-Isidore has actually composed himself. And how does that address read?


"Dilectissimis fratribus et condiscipulis Hierosolimis cum carissimo fratre Iacobo coepiscopo habitantibus Clemens episcopus."

That is: "To beloved brothers and codisciples dwelling in Jerusalem, together with his dear brother and cobishop James -- the bishop Clement."

No see for Clement!

This is not all that at all unusual in the broader context of the forged decretals; I'd estimate that Pseudo-Isidore has his popes describing themselves as nothing more than episcopi -- without any gesture towards their see -- about ten percent of the time about half the time (corrected now that I've embarked upon a serious survey of the addresses). Of the five Clementine epistles that occur in Pseudo-Isidore, though, this is the only one with an address that does not describe Clement as bishop of Rome. I think it's at least worth considering that our forgers might, in fact, have been aware of the problem with making Clement a pope (at least explicitly) while James was still alive.

(I hasten to add that the rubric heading the fifth Clement letter does refer to "Clemens papa": but I think there's plenty of room to read that retrospectively.)


Recipient: James

Date: none

Sources: Recognitiones, the Bible, and a few bits from that 567 Council of Tours that we also found in the second letter

Lines: 50

Cross references: none

The Second Letter (Item 8): Pope Clement I to James, Jesus's Brother, Once Again

Distinguished readers, we march onwards.

As I said before, the second letter, like the first, purports to be from Clement to James, and it is once again based on a pre-Pseudo-Isidorian forgery. In this case the underlying document is not widely known outside the context of Pseudo-Isidore, and though it may have been inspired by the Recognitiones (insofar as it uses the device of a letter from Clement to James, reporting on Peter's instructions), it otherwise has nothing to do with the Pseudo-Clementine apocrypha. It's full of rules for the proper handling of the consecrated bread and wine and the sacramental vestments. The document in pristine form -- without Pseudo-Isidore's manipulations -- is conveniently ed. at PL 56, col. 893, if any of you want to have a look (it's JK +11 in Jaffe).

Anyway, Pseudo-Isidore handles this document much like he did the last one. The first seventy lines are the foundation document (with one important interpolation, which we'll get to); the last hundred or so lines are Pseudo-Isidore's contribution.

Clement opens by assuring his readers that what follows is straight from St. Peter. He then outlines a series of draconian instructions relating to the "sacraments of the divine secrets." What remains of the Lord's body after Mass is to be guarded "with fear and trembling." Nobody is to keep anything overnight; it should all be consumed that same day. The ministers who consume the remaining hosts are to fast aftewards, so that they don't pollute the Lord's body by bringing it into contact with ingested food. Oh, and the ministers are to try as hard as possible to consecrate no more bread than is necessary for the faithful, though Clement/Peter understands that there will sometimes be leftovers.

The clergy are to burn worn-out altar coverings, and bury the ashes in some corner of the baptistery where nobody walks. Or they can put them underneath the paving stones in the church, or in a wall -- the main thing is that nobody step on them. It is particularly important that everyone remember that dead bodies are not to be wrapped in altar cloths before burial, and that the deacon is not to cover his shoulders with a velum that has been used at the altar. Offenders are to be excommunicated. Also, altar cloths are to be washed inside the secretarium and not taken outside.

Then we get to an interesting bit. Clement/Peter doesn't want any clerics going to the houses of women by themselves (they're supposed to go in twos or threes instead), and nobody should enjoy excessive familiarity with women who aren't their relatives. Sounds reasonable enough, and originally Clement/Peter left it at that. Pseudo-Isidore, though, expands these provisions with a great big chunk of prose that seems to be modeled on a canon promulgated at the 418 Council of Carthage, or perhaps a provision in Benedictus Levita: Priests are also to avoid gossiping with women, and no archdeacon or deacon "under pretext of humility" is to visit any matron's house, or to entrust anything in secret to any matron through his clerks and/or servants. If any such secret transaction is discovered, she's to return whatever she received and is no longer to be allowed in church. But if there's some excuse/objection (? -- the Latin is intercessio, and I'm not quite sure how to take that given the context), the matter should be submitted for review to the bishop. And of course if there's a woman whom the bishop needs to visit, for whatever pious reason, he's allowed to go, or he may direct others (you guessed it) in groups of two or three.

Sort of an eccentric passage to stick in there, no? Especially given its distance from Pseudo-Isidore's pet themes about episcopal authority and episcopal accusations and whatnot.

Back to the original letter, which at this point is almost over. All that remains is a warning about keeping the chalice clean, and some final bellowing that only worthy sorts should be selected to minister at mass. We're now around line 70, and we've reached the end (more or less) of the foundation document. Pseudo-Isidore pops up right at the end just to emphasize that nobody's to ignore these orders and that everyone should be careful not to touch the "divine sacraments" carelessly.

Now onto Pseudo-Isidore's additions. These are strangely colorless and limp compared to what's come before. We get a long passage pulled out of the Recognitiones full of vacuous moral advice: observe modesty, avoid the society of the unfaithful and dishonest, pray to God with your whole heart. Then, via other sources, we're advised that it's the priests' duty to correct the faithful, provide a good example, and steer them towards salvation. Anyone who sins against priests is to be absolutely condemned (this from Benedictus Levita, in part), and bishops shouldn't persecute each other. At least we got a few fireworks at the end.

And then before you know it we're done. I neglected to mention it earlier, but the first Clement letter ends with a paragraph taken from the conclusion of the underlying document here. It's just a brief passage in which Pseudo-Clement emphasizes that he's gotten all of this "from the mouth of St. Peter," and assures us that anyone who doesn't keep these precepts is anathema. Interestingly, our forgers keep this conclusion for their second Clement letter as well, which means we have identical passages at the ends of two successive decretals.

Wouldn't that have struck a contemporary reader as deeply odd? Together with the obvious seam between Recognitiones and non-Recognitiones material in the first letter, that gives us two clumsy and suspicious fumbles in a row.


Recipient: James again

Date: None (we're still in that initial sequence of eight undated decretals)

Sources: An earlier forged Clement letter (JK +11), the Recognitiones, Prosper of Aquitaine, the Bible, a document associated with the a 567 Council of Tours, Justinian's Confessio rectae fidei against the Three Chapters; Benedictus Levita; a provision from the Second Council of Constantinople; Gregory the Great (ep. IX.121); and Gregory III to Boniface (these last two just mined to fill out the concluding rhetoric).

Lines: 176 (hurray for shorter forgeries)

Cross references: None

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Another Component of the Forgery Complex, or, Pseudo-Isidore's Autograph

Invisible readers,
discerning commenters, I have neglected a crucial piece of information, and your imagined reproaches have haunted me day and night. Herewith a final and belated addition to the various background posts (linked in the sidebar).

Last month I described the other forgeries associated with Pseudo-Isidore. These include the forged capitularies of Benedictus Levita, the Capitula Angilramni, the HGA and the newly-discovered Collection Danieliana. Well there's a fifth piece that I missed, identified by Zechiel-Eckes in the wake of his important discovery.

It's a collection of excerpts from the acta of the Council of Chalcedon, and it bears this clumsy rubric: Nonnullae sanctiones sparsim collectae actionis primae sancti et magni Chalcedonensis concilii, which we might translate loosely: "Some statutes collected here and there from the decisions of the first, holy and great Council of Chalcedon." The title is nothing if not descriptive; the text occurs in twenty-three MSS. The excerpts concentrate on episcopal power, Roman jurisdiction, and secular interference in ecclesiastical affairs; in some places the text has been interpolated or otherwise inauthentically revised.

Now scholars have long known that this text was one of Pseudo-Isidore's ingredients, as bits and pieces of it crop up in the false decretals and Benedictus Levita. But they'd always ascribed the collection to Bishop Verecundus of Junca, a sixth-century Three Chapters dude. So inauthentic revisions aside, this was just put on the shelf with the rest of Pseudo-Isidore's spice cabinet/source library. There were never any good reasons to ascribe the collection to Verecundus, though (his name's not on it, to start), and in the 1970s Karl Georg Schon proved that Verecundus never could have been the compiler. The collection draws on the Chalcedon acta as edited by the deacon Rusticus between 564 and 566. Verecundus died in the early 550s, so that cuts him right out.

If Verecundus wasn't responsible for this little collection, who was? You see where this is going. Schon pointed out that the Nonnullae sanctiones rarely occurs in MSS that don't also carry the false decretals; most often it functions as a kind of appendix to Pseudo-Isidore's magnum opus. Decades later, Zechiel-Eckes showed that our little compilation was assembled directly from Paris, Ms. Lat 11611, a ninth-century Rusticus manuscript from Corbie (surprise surprise). Nearly every passage that makes up the Nonnullae sanctiones is marked off by marginal notes in this manuscript. The system of marginal annotation is identical to that found in the other manuscripts that our forgery team used.

So Pseudo-Isidore drew up this collection of excerpts from Rusticus, and worked it over a bit in the process. He put it to work when he drafted the false decretals. For good measure, he also circulated it separately as an appendix to his larger decretals collection.

As I said above, the Nonnullae sanctiones has some of the Chalcedon texts in interpolated form. As you might expect, these interpolations correspond to marginal additions in Lat. 11611. This means that we have Pseudo-Isidore's autograph -- or, more accurately, one of his autographs. That's the picture that heads this post, which I've snipped from Zechiel-Eckes's article. The marginal annotation is one of Pseudo-Isidore's inauthentic additions to the conciliar acta; it reads "...quod apostolicae sedis missi prius semper debeant iudicare..."("...which the messengers of the apostolic see should always judge beforehand...": a lot of the interpolations have to do with papal prerogatives).

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The First Letter: Some Further Observations

All this just to continue the last post.

1) Horst Fuhrmann points out two things in connection to Pseudo-Isidore and the Recognitiones: First, it looks like at least a few Carolingian-era readers were skeptical that the Recognitiones was genuine. Second, according to all the most authoritative chronological sources (Eusebius, Jerome, Bede), James predeceased Peter by seven years (dying in A.D. 61, whereas Peter was thought to have clung on until 68). Insofar as it is possible to be in error about the chronology of vaguely legendary religious figures like the apostles, then, Pseudo-Clement is in error. Perhaps the second point explains the first. In any case, Pseudo-Isidore seems to be unaware of this fact: While our forgers inherit the outlines of the first two Clement letters, both of which are addressed to James purportedly after Peter's death, the fifth Clement letter in the decretals is also from Clement to James, also purportedly drafted after Peter's death, and is entirely of Pseudo-Isidore's making.

2) Here's a fun fact about Pseudo-Isidore: Clement aside, the forgers never invent more than three letters for any pope. Another fun fact: With two important and very marked exceptions (Damasus and Leo), if Pseudo-Isidore includes genuine letters from a given pope (as happens frequently in Part 3, where genuine decretals come from the HGA, and sometimes the Dionysio-Hadriana and the Quesnelliana as well), he does not include any forgeries in the name of that pope.

At first glance, Clement seems to violate the first of these principles -- Part 1 includes five Clementine epistles. But the Pseudo-Isidore only invents the last three out of whole cloth, so in fact you might call Clement the exception that proves the rule . What about the second of these principles, though? Doesn't Pseudo-Isidore invent three letters for Pope Clement, while also including what some at least thought to be genuine letters for the same pope? Here again, a closer look is illuminating. Though in Clement's name, the first two letters are primarily devoted to relating apocryphal precepts of Peter the Apostle. So in a way, you might say that the collection has two decretals for St. Peter and three for Clement. The first two for Peter are interpolated but based upon arguably "genuine" material (not really but anyway), and the three for Clement are forged. All this fits perfectly with the rhythm of the rest of the collection.

3) I mentioned it last time, but it's worth repeating: The seam between Recognitiones material and Pseudo-Isidorian material in the first Clementine letter is really obvious and clumsy. I also cited Seckel's theory: that starting out with the two Clement letters was an attempt to make the whole book look familiar. But if that was the purpose, why handle the transition so poorly? Why interpolate a known text so clumsily? Is Pseudo-Isidore in fact exploiting contemporary doubts about the authenticity of the Recognitiones here? Is the implication that this is the real letter from Clement, which got truncated and appended to the inauthentic fairy-tale of the Recognitiones? It's worth noting that the letters that Pseudo-Isidore forges in Clement's name are chock-full of Recognitiones passages, many of them favorable to Pseudo-Isidore's agenda. Clearly he found the text sympathetic.

Post corrected (bolded text above).

The First Letter (Item 7*): Pope Clement I to James, Jesus's Brother

Once again, apologies for delays in posting: Holiday traveling had me preoccupied. Finally, though, we're beyond the prefatory material, and onto the first letters! Hurray and so forth.

The first two letters of the collection (here and here in .pdf format) , both in the name of Pope Clement I (Peter's successor), are a little atypical. Unlike the rest of what we'll encounter in Part 1 of Pseudo-Isidore, these aren't outright inventions of our forgers. They're forged through and through, but the core of each document was invented long before Pseudo-Isidore got to work. The important point to take away from this is that both of the pre-Pseudo-Isidorian Clement letters were accepted as authentic (more or less) in ninth-century Europe. Here we have our forgers interpolating what they regarded as genuine documents, rather than drafting new letters from whole cloth.

Seckel suggests starting out the forged collection with a few seemingly genuine pieces makes sense. Too much unknown or unfamiliar material, right at the beginning, could only give up the game. Which I sort of agree with, though (as I'll talk about later) I'm still a little confused about the exact game our guys are playing here.

Anyway, the first letter decretal in Part 1 of Pseudo-Isidore is in the name of Pope Clement I, and it's addressed to James, Jesus's brother. The first half (roughly speaking) -- including the address -- is taken over from the pre-Pseudo-Isidorian forgery; the second half is the invention of our forgers.

So what is this old forgery that Pseudo-Isidore is expanding upon? It's from the Pseudo-Clementine Recognitiones, a widely studied piece of apocryphal literature. It relates Clement's conversion to Christianity, his meeting of Peter the Apostle, and various other exploits. The whole collection is prefaced by a letter addressed to James, the Lord's brother, in Jerusalem. This is the very letter that our forgers have extracted and put to work in their decretals collection.

They've used the whole letter, which starts out with Clement notifying James of Peter's death. Clement relates a flowery and improbable deathbed speach by the apostle, which begins with Peter designating Clement as his successor (talk about canonical irregularity). After some obligatory tussling about Clement's worthiness for episcopal office, Peter launches into about 150 lines of advice. Clement is to "live impeccably," to avoid "saeculare negotium," to rely upon the deacons to teach the people (this speech is big on deacons), on and on. Peter admonishes the onlookers to obey Clement and listen to him (we see now why Pseudo-isidore likes this letter). Then we get an odd tirade about adultery, which is the second worst offense after apostacy (this line, we'll see, comes back to haunt our forgers later on, as they'd like crimes against bishops to be up in the top two). Clement is also to look after the needs of the Christian community, to promote harmony and accord, to remember that "deacons are the eyes of the bishops" (those deacons again), and then we get an extended metaphor about the church as a great ship, and finally some more verbiage on the necessity for the laity to obey clerics. Then comes an important bit declaring that those who maintain relations with the excommunicated will themselves be excommunicated. This is a sentiment that becomes important in the history of the Investitutre Controversy; it makes its way into a lot of later canonical collections and Gregory VII and the other reformers cite it. Of course everyone says it's a Pseudo-Isidorian principle, which we see is only half-right. Yeah, Pseudo-Isidore picks up on it and uses it, but Pseudo-Clement was there long before him.

Anyway, shortly after that bit on excommunication Peter starts to wind down. He tells Clement to write to James and tell him about their exploits together. And so, Clement says, now the time has come to follow Peter's order, and relate their adventures, including travels to various cities, their preaching, the miracles they worked, etc. In the Pseudo-Clementine Recognitiones, this is the point where the preface breaks off and the narrative begins, but of course in Pseudo-Isidore we don't get the story. We get the forged material instead, all 300 lines of it. A remarkably obvious seam, which must have left many a reader quite puzzled. And wouldn't anyone who knew the Recognitiones (the text enjoyed some distribution in Carolingian Francia) have been driven to immediate suspicion? Something to think about.

The stuff that Pseudo-Isidore adds is all cast in Peter's voice; it's basically a continuation of the deathbed speech begun earlier in the letter. Remarkably cheeky of our forgers to stick their words into the mouth of an apostle, don't you think? And also, perhaps, a golden opportunity to associate some of their key arguments with one of the most authoritative figures in ninth-century Latin Christendom. Peter's second speech starts out with some platitudes about faith (all taken from Venantius Fortunatus), rambles on about the importance of charity and harmony, and finally, after extensive citation of scripture, begins to get down to business. Around line 320 the bishpos appear. They are to be established "per singulas civitates"; he also establishes "primates or patriarchs" ("in illis...civitatibus, in quibus olim (!) apud ethnicos primi flamines eorum atque primi legis doctores erant"), and then archbishops ("in illis ...civitatibus, in quibus dudum apud praedictos erant ethnicos eorum archiflamines" -- and am I wrong in thinking Pseudo-Isidore just made up the term archiflamen? I know there were flamines minores....). Then the standard song and dance about accusations against bishops; greaters are not to be judged by lessers; the people are to obey the priests; drunknness is forbidden (that kind of stands out, doesn't it?); priests are not to act without episcopal jurisdiction; bishops are to be judged by the Lord alone.

And that's pretty much it. Peter's speech ends, Clement says goodbye to James, and we're done. This the longest forged decretal in Part 1 of the collection; I've got more to say about it, but this post is already pretty long. So we'll have more Clement next time.

*I have discreetly skipped Items 4-6 -- the Ordo de Celebrando Concilio (carried over from the Hispana) and the Canones Apostolurum (a pre Pseudo-Isidorian forgery) with preceeding capitulatio -- because as everyone knows the forged decretals are more interesting.


Recipient: James (of biblical renown)

Date: None. In fact the first eight letters lack dates. Does this reflect gaps in consul lists available to Pseudo-Isidore? Something I've yet to look into.

Sources: A great many. The prefatory letter to the Recognitiones, (as well as excerpts from the text itself, incorporated late in the letter), the Bible (buckets of quotes), Venantius Fortunatus, Gregory the Great (Moralia, Homilies on the Gospels), Isidore of Sevile (Sentences) Ambrose (De dignitate sacerdotali); genuine letters of Innocent I, Zachary I, Leo the Great; Council of Chalcedon, Benedictus Levita, the Liber Pontificalis, the Rule of St. Benedict. Those are all the major pieces.

Contemporary Carolingian Legislation: A few lines taken from the 813 Council of Mainz.

Lines: 572

Cross References: None. It would be odd if Clement were to refer to his successors' future letters, or to future conciliar legislation.


UPDATE: The Clement letter has contributed a substantial chunk of new material for our collection of Pseudo-Isidore In His Own Words.