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COMPAUL Report Summary

Project ID: 283302
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: United Kingdom

Final Report Summary - COMPAUL (The Earliest Commentaries on Paul as Sources for the Biblical Text)

The COMPAUL project investigated the earliest commentaries on the Pauline Epistles as sources for the biblical text. The focus was on Latin writers of the fourth and fifth century (Marius Victorinus, Ambrosiaster, Jerome, Augustine, Rufinus and Pelagius) and the earliest Greek commentators (Origen, John Chrysostom, Theodoret). The project showed that these commentaries preserve forms of text which are no longer found in New Testament manuscripts, making them important witnesses to readings which have otherwise been lost. The same is true of the earliest Latin commentary on the Gospels, by the fourth-century bishop Fortunatianus of Aquileia: the rediscovery of this work in 2012 allowed the project to extend its scope in order to advance knowledge of a previously unknown commentary.

To what extent can we tell whether the biblical text in a commentary was the version originally used by the commentator? The COMPAUL project developed a method of analysis to determine this, comparing the text of the biblical lemma with other quotations in the commentary, the textual transmission of the work and biblical tradition more generally. Two results of the application of this method stand out: the project identified 29 new readings in Jerome’s Commentary on Galatians which differ from the standard later text, known as the Vulgate, and are more likely to have been in Jerome’s original; we were also able to confirm that the text of the gospels in the single complete manuscript of Fortunatianus’ commentary, which features a number of previously unknown readings, is most probably that used by the author. At the same time, we also identified several instances of the replacement of a commentary’s original biblical text with a completely different version. Most examples of this practice seem to go back to the fifth or sixth century, soon after the composition of these writings and before the predominance of the Vulgate. The original layout of commentary manuscripts facilitated this replacement.

Early Greek commentaries on Paul have not so far been widely studied, and the project has published the first introduction to Greek New Testament commentaries as part of a landmark book on the history and text of early commentaries. One of the most common types of Greek commentary is known as a catena, combining the New Testament text with a selection of observations from early Christian writers. Some 526 catena manuscripts are included in the standard register of Greek New Testament manuscripts, but the COMPAUL project has identified an additional 100 catena manuscripts which do not feature in this list.

In order to determine how evidence from commentaries related to the rest of biblical tradition more broadly, we gathered a considerable amount of electronic data for the text of the Pauline Epistles. This includes at least 115 transcriptions of manuscripts (several for the first time) and 134,970 quotations of the Epistles in Latin and Greek from the second to the eighth century. This has enabled us to publish the most extensive collation ever of evidence for the earliest Latin text of Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians and Galatians, and also contributed to the first-ever monograph on the whole of the Latin New Testament.

Further information about the project and its publications may be found on Electronic resources have been made available for examination and further study at

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