Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Towards a Theory of Pseudo-Isidore: Part V

The Pseudo-Isidorian library, we are coming to see, is not homogeneous. In particular, there are serious differences both in methodology and in ideology between two apparently earlier installments  — the interpolated Hispana and Divinis praeceptis — and the decretal forgeries. We have found some reason to associate the interpolated Hispana and Divinis praeceptis with the year 833. As for the decretal forgeries, we have yet to establish any date at all. We have only seen that they must postdate the Hispana, and that Zechiel-Eckes's specific arguments for placing at least some central group of them between 836 and 838 have not held up well.

More than that, we have observed the various properties that make Divinis praeceptis an intriguing decretal. Its contents align it with the interpolated Hispana rather than with the other decretal forgeries. Unlike its forged colleagues, it draws almost exclusively on Hispana texts for its legal citations, and the interest appears to be mutual: Our Hispana interpolators have devoted particular attention to a genuine decretal crucial for the argument of Divinis praeceptis (Innocent for Victricius). In both respects, Divinis praeceptis puts me in mind of nothing so much as JK †551, Cum in Dei nomine, more commonly known as the De privilegio chorepiscoporum — a short forgery to the disadvantage of chorbishops in the name of Leo the Great.

Like Divinis praeceptis, Cum in Dei nomine is not without its Pseudo-Isidorian features. More specifically, it is very down on chorbishops, just like our decretal forgers are. Also like Divinis praeceptis, it draws exclusively on the (interpolated) Hispana to make its points, and still more like Divinis praeceptis, there is room to think of its relationship with the (interpolated) Hispana as a two-way street. That is, a close reading of Cum in Dei nomine alongside its Hispana source text drive us to wonder whether certain Hispana-level editorial interventions (aka interpolations) are not, in some way, a consequence of the composition of Cum in Dei nomine.

One other comparison between Divinis praeceptis and Cum in Dei nomine proves fruitful. I have so far neglected to discuss the manuscript tradition of Divinis praeceptis; it survives in the little-studied C recension of Pseudo-Isidore, and also among materials originating with the diocese of Le Mans (where Aldric was bishop, of course). It does not occur in our major, early Pseudo-Isidore recensions, A1 and A/B, and for this reason it took scholars a long time to recognize that it might be a Pseudo-Isidorian product. Cum in Dei nomine also lacks full integration with the False Decretals, though it does occur in the A1 recension. Because Paul Hinschius thought A1 was the earliest and most original version of the decretal forgeries, he edited it, and the consequence is that Pseudo-Leo's Cum in Dei nomine has, if anything, been insufficiently differentiated from the corpus of decretal forgeries. As I have argued at length in an upcoming article, however, we would probably do best to see A/B as the recension most closely reflecting the designs and aims of our decretal forgers. And Cum in Dei nomine is conspicuously absent from A/B, though it does crop up, rather surprisingly, in Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, Preu├čischer Kulturbesitz Hamilton 132, or B132 — an important (though complex) ninth-century interpolated-Hispana witness from Corbie.

Unlike the highly sophisticated Divinis praeceptis, Cum in Dei nomine depends entirely upon one source: the seventh canon of the Second Council of Seville. We encountered this canon in Part IV; originally, it was written to describe and delimit the sacramental faculties of priests, as opposed to those of bishops. Our interpolators inserted references to chorbishops throughout, such that, in the interpolated Hispana, c. 7 of Seville II addresses both priests and chorbishops, and applies the same limits to the sacramental faculties of both. Cum in Dei nomine is simply this canon repackaged as a decretal of Leo the Great, issued to all the bishops in Gaul and Germany. 

So on the one hand Cum in Dei nomine is boring; it's nothing we haven't seen before. But in other ways it's highly interesting, as a closer examination of its interpolations will show. There are five points at which c. 7 of Seville II mentions priests, and thus five instances of interpolation to study. We will compare the treatment of each locus in the forged decretal and in the interpolated Hispana:
1. In the first instance that c. 7 mentions priests, the Hispana interpolator revises the phrase to "chorbishops or priests." That's it. Whoever forged Cum in Dei nomine, however, adds a whole phrase at this point, such that what was originally a simple reference to "priests" becomes a reference to "chorbishops, who according to the canons of Neocaesarea and the decrees of other fathers are the same as priests, and priests." (For the legal citation, betake yourself to c. 13 of the  Council of Neocaesarea; we'll get to the "decrees of other fathers" shortly.)
2. In the second instance that c. 7 mentions a "priest" (this time in the singular), our Hispana interpolator predictably revises to "priest or chorbishop." At the same point, Cum in Dei nomine reads "chorbishop or priest." This interpolation is crucial, as the text goes on to deny "priests" (and, as interpolated, "chorbishops") a long list of sacramental faculties.
3. In the third instance that c. 7 mentions priests, our Hispana interpolator does nothing, while Cum in Dei nomine remembers to revise to "chorbishops or priests." This mention of priests is not directly tied to any legal restrictions, so our Hispana interpolator's neglect of this passage does not really undermine his anti-chorepiscopal program. 
4. In the fourth instance that c. 7 mentions priests, our Hispana interpolator revises to "priests or chorbishops," while Cum in Dei nomine revises to "chorbishops, who are known to be after the example and form of the 70 disciples, or priests." (For the 70 disciples in question, betake yourself to Luke 10:1; more on this shortly.) 
5. And finally, in the fifth instance that c. 7 mentions priests, our Hispana interpolator revises to "them" ("eis"); the antecedent is clearly intended to be both presbyteri and choriepiscopi, as both have just been mentioned. Interestingly, Cum in Dei nomine retains "priests" at this point, and here that retention has legal force (unlike in instance 3 above), because the presbyteri in question are denied a further list of sacramental faculties. The interpolated Hispana thus succeeds in denying exactly the same set of sacramental faculties to both priests and chorbishops, whereas Cum in Dei nomine, despite insisting that priests and chorbishops are the same, denies the initial set of faculties to both orders, but the second set of faculties only to priests. 
It is strange but apparently true: Neither the interpolated Hispana recension of c. 7, nor the Cum in Dei nomine recension of c. 7, is clearly dependent upon the other. Our Hispana interpolator slips up (inconsequentially, as it turns out) in instance 3 above, while our decretal forger slips up in instance 5; neither error recurs in the other version. In instance 1 we have "chorbishops or priests" on the one hand and "chorbishops...and priests" on the other; in instance 2 it is "chorbishop or priest" and then "priest or chorbishop"; in instance 4 it is "priests or chorbishops" and "chorbishops...or priests." It looks for all the world like c. 7 of Seville II has been reworked twice, on two separate occasions, by two people with very similar agendas, neither of whom bothered to (or was able to?) consult the work of the other.

But that's only the beginning. By now, dear reader, you will have noticed that Cum in Dei nomine adds content to this text that our Hispana interpolator does not include. In instance 1, our decretal forger claims that chorbishops are the same as priests according to the canons promulgated at Neocaesarea and to the decrees of other fathers. And in instance 4 he asserts that chorbishops, like priests, are after the example of the 70 disciples mentioned in Luke 10:1. Now if you betake yourself to c. 13 of the Council of Neocaesarea (a text widely available in the Carolingian Empire through the Collectio Dionysio-Hadriana), you will see that it briefly discusses priests, and then proceeds to declare that "chorbishops likewise appear to be after the example...and form of the seventy." The argument is that the twelve apostles are models or forerunners of the episcopate, while the seventy disciples from Luke 10:1 are models or forerunners of the presbyterate, and (according to the fathers gathered at Neocaesarea) the chorepiscopate as well. The visionary behind Cum in Dei nomine presses this point rather further than the Neocaesarean canon, and uses it to declare that priests and chorbishops are the same. Identical reasoning would appear to underlie the Hispana interpolations; the difference is merely that the decretal forger has shown his work.

At this point it might interest you to know that the thirteenth canon of the Council of Neocaesarea was also cited to the disadvantage of the chorepiscopate by other people in Pseudo-Isidore's world. These other people were the bishops gathered at the 829 Council of Paris, and they addressed the sacramental faculties of chorbishops in their lengthy acta at c. 27. As you will recall, the decrees of Paris 829 are among the latest (and most important) sources used by our decretal forgers. Canon 27  opens by clearly stating that "the acts of the apostles and canonical authority openly demonstrate that bishops hold the place of the apostles, while chorbishops hold the example and form of the seventy disciples." It goes on to complain that chorbishops have the reprehensible habit of (among other things) imparting the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands, which is wrong since none of the seventy disciples are read to have imparted the Holy Spirit; Acts 19:1-6 proves that this faculty was reserved for the apostles and their successors. The text then cites c. 13 of Neocaesarea, and also c. 10 of the Council of Antioch, which simply cautions chorbishops to know their place. Paris 829 concludes by advising bishops to see that their chorbishops do not exceed their competence, and to avoid assigning their chorbishops any tasks that do not pertain to their (that is, the chorbishops') office and that are not prescribed in the canons.

The seventy disciples argument is therefore not exclusive to Cum in Dei nomine or the interpolated Hispana. A version of this same argument was advanced at Paris 829, which was the first church council anywhere in the history of Western Christendom to question the sacramental faculties of chorbishops. The relationship between our forged decretal and the 829 acta is therefore anything but fortuitous. In this context, the gesture of Cum in Dei nomine to the "decrees of the other fathers" would seem to have its parallels in the  gestures of Paris 829 to "canonical authority," and to the largely undefined limitations on chorepiscopal ministry that this council claims are to be found "in the holy canons," and perhaps even to c. 10 of Antioch, which this council cites to suggest the limited sacramental competence of chorbishops.

The Seventy Disciples Argument (for lack of a better term) in Paris 829 is not quite the same as the Seventy Disciples Argument in our forged and interpolated texts. Paris 829 grounds this point in Neocaesarea c. 13, but stops short of pushing on to the conclusion that this argument seems designed to yield—that chorbishops and priests are identical. It says openly that the sacramental faculties of chorbishops are limited, but beyond imparting the Holy Spirit it leaves the limitations wholly undefined. It mentions priests not at all. In the interpolated recension of c. 7 of Seville II, as well as in Cum in Dei nomine, the argument is fully realized. Priests and chorbishops are equated to one another, with the result that choreipscopal sacramental faculties can be precisely delimited. The forger behind Cum in Dei nomine retains the citation to Neocaesarea, while the interpolators of c. 7 simply equate chorbishops and priests without argument. Yet it is easy to see how a convinced student of the Seventy Disciples Argument might see the interpolations to c. 7 as clarifications or corrections of ambiguous terminology. And of course we have seen that the Hispana interpolators are interested in nothing so much as clarifying and correcting.

I have deliberately avoided characterizing Paris 829 as a source for the argument of our Hispana interpolator and the forger behind Cum in Dei nomine. Certainly that is one possible scenario, but I think we have to be open to others. The argument about the seventy disciples could just as easily have originated among some of the bishops gathered at Paris in 829, among them perhaps our Hispana interpolators; the acta as actually promulgated accepted this argument for the most part, but shrank from drawing the radical conclusion it was designed to support. Our Hispana interpolators, meanwhile, felt themselves constrained by no such caution. (To the extent that the imperfect and vaguely defined limitations on chorepiscopal competence promulgated at Paris demand an explanation, this would seem to be the most obvious one.) A third possibility, dangerously and outrageously speculative but not mutually exclusive of the second, might be that adherents of the Seventy Disciples Argument prepared certain texts, perhaps a letter in Leo's name, perhaps a slightly "clarified" or "corrected" version of c. 7 of Seville II, to press home their case. They could have done this either in advance of the Paris negotiations or afterwards, when some might have felt that the official acta failed to go far enough. 

In any case, we again have something like a spectrum before us. Paris 829 marks a new moment in the approach of the Frankish episcopate towards chorbishops. The interpolated recension of c. 7 of Seville II and Cum in Dei nomine, meanwhile, use the same basic argument to go even further. And when we turn to the decretal forgeries, we find that they adopt an even more extreme position. 

The text to compare here is JK †244, Licet fratres karissimi, Pseudo-Damasus's extended rant on chorbishops. Curiously, no part of c. 7 (and therefore no part of Cum in Dei nomine) lacks its counterpart in Pseudo-Damasus. You might even call it a rewriting of Cum in Dei nomine. The seventh canon and Cum in Dei nomine open by offering excuses for episcopal ignorance in the matter of priests and chorbishops. Pseudo-Damasus begins his screed by specifically excluding the possibility of ignorance, and declaring that the entire episcopate knows that chorbishop are illicit. Those bishops who violate the canons and employ chorbishops are not ignorant, but rather lazy and interested only in securing their own leisure. Pseudo-Damasus even compares them to prostitutes who foster their children to leave more time for their libidinous recreations. Pseudo-Damasus then introduces the example of Moses and Aaron, straight from c. 7 and Cum in Dei nomine. In the Seville text, we read that the task of erecting the altar in God’s tabernacle was allotted to Moses alone; priests (and chorbishops) act in place of the sons of Aaron, and should not exceed their competence. The problem is that this precedent only addresses the consecration of altars—the central concern of the original prohibitions aired at Seville II (and thus in Cum in Dei nomine), but a relatively peripheral matter in the sweeping condemnation of Pseudo-Damasus. Our fake pope therefore needs further biblical proof. “The shadow of the law [i.e., the Old Testament] has passed,” he writes after wrapping up his sons-of-Aaron disquisition, “and the light of the Gospel, through God’s grace, shines clearly upon us.” Pseudo-Damasus proceeds to argue that the seventy disciples from the Luke 16:1 represent the priesthood, while the apostles are the bishops. He then draws the explicit conclusion, which the 829 Paris acta dance around and Cum in Dei nomine alludes to only obliquely: Since only these two orders exist, a third is impossible; chorbishops are therefore nothing more than priests. Finally, Pseudo-Damasus combines the separate lists of sacramental prohibitions from c. 7 and Cum in Dei nomine (see instances 2 and 5 in our list above) to build one long list of faculties forbidden to the chorepiscopate. Along the way he resolves some linguistic infelicities (left standing in c. 7 and Cum in Dei nomine), and further prohibits chorbishops from consecrating subdeacons (which nobody seems to have cared about before). 

Where does all of this leave us? 

The interpolated Hispana is closely related to two decretal texts at the margins of the Pseudo-Isidorian project, namely Divinis praeceptis and Cum in Dei nomine. Divinis praeceptis is explicitly dated to 833, and assigning its text to that year makes a fair amount of historical sense. Cum in Dei nomine and the interpolated recension of c. 7 of Seville II, meanwhile, advance arguments that are in some way related to legislation promulgated at Paris in 829.

From here on out, to save keystrokes, we will refer to these three texts (Divinis praeceptis, Cum in Dei nomine, and the interpolated Hispana) as the Hispana complex. We have good prima facie reasons to suppose that some part of this complex was in place by 833, and it contains clear ideological parallels to the reforms enacted at Paris in 829. The Hispana complex, in other words, seems very much at home in the early 830s.

But we have seen, in far more detail than is healthy, that for all the similarities between the decretal forgeries and the Hispana complex, there are differences in equal measure. Where and when do the decretal forgeries belong? Why were they developed, and what is their relationship to the complex of texts built from and upon the interpolated Hispana?

These are questions that later installments can only begin to answer. In the meantime, have an Addendum on the nature of the Hispana. Have another Addendum on the priority of the Hispana.

Back to Part I, Part II, Part III, or Part IV


  1. So why did the venerable fathers at Paris in 829, and those responsible for the Hispana complex have such great issues with the chorbishops? They seem innocuous enough. Would it not have been enough to pull rank on them?

    1. If we take them at their word, the problem was simply that chorbishops lacked apostolic foundation; they had no sacramental competence beyond that of ordinary priests. They could not validly consecrate churches or impart the Holy Spirit, regardless of whether they acted with episcopal permission.

      I guess the other theory is that the reformers were opposed to the Carolingian tactic of leaving dioceses vacant, in the hands of chorepiscopal administrators, so they could attach the revenues. If that was the Hispana interpolator's concern, he never makes it explicit, and at one point the decretal forgers complain about episcopal negligence in letting their chorbishops run wild. It doesn't seem that the focus is on independent chorepiscopal administrators so much as it is on bishops farming out their sacramental duties to deputies.

      The decretal forger is also fond of that line from Pope Zachary, about the need to avoid corrupting the episcopal name by having multiple bishops in one city, or stationing bishops in rural locations (meaning, presumably, excessive reliance on chorbishops). Perhaps the deeper sentiment is that they cheapen episcopal dignity somehow, to the extent that they make the sacramental faculties reserved for bishops widely available, placing them in the hands of priest-like deputies.


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