Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Towards a Theory of Pseudo-Isidore: Part V, Addendum

Before moving on to the decretal forgeries, I realize that we have left an important question unanswered. In Part III and again in Part IV, I suggested we ask about the nature of the interpolated Hispana more fundamentally. What is this Hispana recension, and what was it created for?

We begin with readership. Although only one direct interpolated-Hispana manuscript survives today, the Middle Ages knew more copies. Altogether, we have evidence of at least seven separate medieval manuscripts, and in a recent article I argue that two rather clearly distinct interpolated-Hispana recensions have been incorporated within the Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries. The point is that this was a text that saw significant circulation in its own right, uncombined with the decretal forgeries.

Pseudo-Isidorian enthusiasts will remember that the interpolated Hispana is simply a revised and lightly interpolated version of the Hispana Gallica, and that the Hispana Gallica is a rather corrupt and problematic (but fully authentic and non-Pseudo-Isidorian) Gallican version of the ordinary Collectio Hispana. Sometime after the 850s, those involved with the early circulation of our forgeries got their hands on an ordinary Hispana text and used it to correct lingering problems with the interpolated Hispana incorporated in their forgeries. (My recent article presents pretty conclusive evidence of this point.) Before the 850s, though, the men behind Pseudo-Isidore could only rely on their ingenuity to correct problems with the Hispana Gallica, because--and this is point is very basic but also very crucial--they only had access to Hispana texts through the corrupt Hispana Gallica.

It is therefore interesting to observe that, with evidence for seven medieval witnesses, the interpolated Hispana does rather better than the Hispana Gallica, which has left behind evidence of only four medieval witnesses. Granted, Pseudo-Isidore has been studied more intensively than the Gallican Hispana, so it is possible that our knowledge of interpolated-Hispana manuscripts is simply better. Nevertheless, we have every reason to suppose that the interpolated Hispana and the Hispana Gallica enjoyed roughly comparable degrees of circulation in Carolingian Gaul. The interpolated Hispana might even be called modestly successful from the standpoint of manuscript circulation, and it is not overbold to ascribe that success to its defining feature--the philological improvements that our interpolators supplied.

The interpolated Hispana has only received inauthentic adjustments in a few instances. In Part IV we outlined Maassen's fourteen especially clear cases of interpolation. There is nothing systematic or comprehensive about these interpolations. We have also seen that two of the most extensive revisions--the adjustments to the opening passages of Innocent I's letter to Victricius of Rouen, and the adjustments to c. 7 of the Second Council of Seville--are related in interesting ways to two decretal texts that we have placed in the Hispana complex (Divinis praeceptis and Cum in Dei nomine). We have even wondered whether these two Hispana interpolations do not, in some way, reflect the increased attention that c. 7 and Innocent's letter received in the process of composing Divinis praeceptis and Cum in Dei nomine.

Everything suggests, therefore, that the interpolated Hispana is nothing more than a straightforward effort to correct a problematic but important legal collection. Those involved in the correction of this legal collection were simultaneously deploying it in the service of honest (perhaps Gregory IV and Divinis praeceptis) and not-so-honest (Pseudo-Leo and Cum in Dei nomine) legal arguments. Their early appropriations left interesting traces (i.e., c. 7 of Seville II and Innocent to Victricius), but those traces were not the purpose of the revised recension. They are merely its most interesting features. The improvements were sufficient to win the interpolated Hispana some modest circulation in Frankish Gaul, where non-Gallican Hispana recensions were hard to come by.

So that's what the interpolated Hispana is. But why were these corrections undertaken? What is our text for? Those are very appropriate questions to put to a legal forgery, but maybe they're not well suited for our text. We have seen, after all, that the interpolated Hispana resembles a forgery rather less than it resembles a juristic or even a philological project--or even something approaching a work of scholarship. In that respect, it puts us in mind of another rather odd, disorganized, but occasionally scholarly element in the Pseudo-Isidorian library, namely the capitularies of Benedictus Levita. Way back in Part I, I had this to say about our good friend Benedictus, the supposed date of his collection to 847, and his relationship to the forgery project:
After long and tedious investigations, I’ve begun to think of Benedictus Levita, at base, as something like a thinly disguised florilegium of mostly-genuine legal material. It has some Pseudo-Isidorian elements, but for long stretches it’s just somebody’s enormous pile of random legal flotsam and jetsam. It certainly seems that Pseudo-Isidore availed himself of some portions of this monumental collection of favorite quotations. Genuine sources, in particular, recur in Pseudo-Isidore, complete with Benedictus Levita’s alterations and truncations. It also seems that the Pseudo-Isidorians, at some point, took this enormous legal florilegium, slapped on a preface, and did some light editing to make the whole thing look, however superficially, like a collection of capitulary legislation. So I would date the thin capitulary veneer after 847. The contents, though—who knows?
I cannot yet provide a good answer to the what-is-it-for question, but I can point to parallels with Benedict's capitularies, and propose the following: By sometime in the early 830s at the latest, certain people in the Pseudo-Isidorian orbit had begun to dig very deep indeed into the legal traditions of Western Christendom. Some of these people unearthed a legal collection, known outside of Spain primarily in heavily corrupt form, and began trying to sort it out. Some of these people (the same people? different people? at the same time? later?) began compiling an enormous and broadly disorganized legal florilegium, drawing on scattered secular and ecclesiastical legal sources, as well as on the interpolated Hispana.

To be continued...

Back to Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV or Part V, forward to Addendum on Hispana priority


  1. I love what you have done here. You made a complex subject intelligible to a casual researcher; myself. Quite plain is the organized efforts of early catholic interests to rewrite history and legal precedence in their favor. The Vatican is owing its authority over the other churches to fraud from early times, and this is a clear instance of systematic deception to further this project. Thank you for sorting it out for me.

    1. Yours is an absurdly bigoted twisting of the conclusions of a real scholar who doesn't at all spew any hate toward anybody. These decretals were a product of the FRENCH church in a time of political turmoil into which the "forgers" were trying to re-introduce principles of legality in lieu of solving disputes naked force. Their "forgeries" if that's what they were maybe 1% of their output. Rome wasn't even involved. Only during the struggle between Empire and Papacy that took place in the ELEVENTH century -- according to Eric Knibbs (you don't read very carefully, do you?) -- did the False Decretals become a tool of the Papal Party. And by then their actual origin in the NINTH century would have disappeared in the mists of time past. MOREOVER, the evidence Knibbs brings up above -- that appeal to Rome for arbitration and mediation between all other bishops was an "ancient custom", and that all the Decretalists added was that it was a "synodal decree" -- rather proves that Papal supremacy was already established customary law. You are a goosestepping little idiot.


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