|Bible Research > Canon > Lists > The Cheltenham List|
This list of canonical books, called by some the Cheltenham list and by others the Mommsen List, is a list of the books of the Bible first discovered by Theodor Mommsen in a Latin manuscript in a private library at Cheltenham, England. Afterwards another copy of this same list was found in a manuscript in the library at St. Gall. The manuscripts themselves, which consist of extracts from various works, were apparently copied during the ninth and tenth centuries, but chronological notes in the manuscripts (along with other internal evidence) indicate that the material copied in them derives from the middle of the fourth century. Below we reproduce the list according to the critical edition of Erwin Preuschen, Analecta: Kürzere texte zur Geschichte der Alten Kirche und des Kanons, zusammengestellt von Erwin Preuschen (Leipzig: Mohr, 1893), pp. 138-40, 1 followed by an English translation and notes.
Incipit indiculum veteris testamenti qui sunt libri canonici sic
|Hiesu Nave||ver MDCCL|
|Fiunt||libri VII||ver XVIIIC|
|Regnorum||liber I||ver IICCC|
|Regnorum||liber II||ver IICC|
|Regnorum||liber III||ver IIDL|
|Regnorum||liber IIII||ver IICCL|
|Paralipomenon||liber I||ver IIXL|
|liber II||ver IIC|
|Machabeorum||liber I||ver IICCC|
|liber II||ver MDCCC|
|Psalmi Davitici CLI||ver V|
|Prophetae maiores||ver XVCCCLXX numero IIII|
|Prophetae XII||ver IIIDCCC|
|Erunt||omnes versus numero||LXVIIIID|
Sed ut in apocalypsi Iohannis dictum est: 'vidi XXIIII seniores mittentes coronas suas ante thronum.' maiores nostri probant, hos libros esse canonicos et hoc dixisse seniores.
Item indiculum novi testamenti
|Evangelia IIII||Mattheum||vr IIDCC|
|Fiunt omnes||versus X|
|Eplae Pauli||n XIII|
|Actus aplorum||ver IIIDC|
|Eplae Iohannis III||vr CCCL|
|Eplae Petri II||ver CCC|
Quoniam indiculum versuum in urbe Roma non ad liquidum, sed et alibi avaritiae causa non habent integrum, per singulos libros computatis syllabis posui numero XVI versum Virgilianum omnibus libris numerum adscribsi.
Here begins a list of the canonical books of the Old Testament
|Genesis||3700 lines 2|
|Joshua son of Nave||1750 lines|
|Total for||the seven books||18,100 lines 3|
|Kings||book I||2300 lines|
|Kings||book II||2200 lines|
|Kings||book III||2550 lines|
|Kings||book IIII||2250 lines|
|Total||9500 lines 4|
|Chronicles||book I||2040 lines|
|book II||2100 lines|
|Maccabees||book I||2300 lines|
|book II||1800 lines|
|The 151 Psalms of David||5000 lines|
|The books of Solomon||6500 lines|
|The Major Prophets||15,370 lines, 4 in number|
|The Twelve Minor Prophets||3800 lines|
|The total||number of lines||69,500 lines 5|
But as it was said in the Apocalypse of John, 'I saw 24 elders casting their crowns before the throne,' our predecessors prove these books to be canonical, and that the elders signify this. 6
Likewise a list of the New Testament:
|The Four Gospels||Matthew||2700 lines|
|All the lines amount to||10,000 lines 7|
|The Epistles of Paul||13 in number 8|
|The Acts of the Apostles||3600 lines|
|The Apocalypse||1800 lines|
|3 Epistles of John||350 lines|
|[one only] 9|
|2 Epistles of Peter||300 lines|
|[one only]. 9|
Since the index of lines in the city of Rome is not clearly given, and elsewhere also through avarice for gain they do not preserve it in full, I have gone through the books singly, counting sixteen syllables to the line, and have appended to every book the number of the Virgilian hexameters. 10
1. Preuschen's text is a critical reconstruction based upon the two manuscripts, with notes showing the various readings. For an exact reproduction of the list as it appears in the Cheltenham manuscript see William Sanday, "The Cheltenham List of the Canonical Books of the New Testament and of the Writings of Cyprian," Studia Biblica et Ecclesiastica, III (Oxford, 1891), pp. 217-325. In his article Sanday states that the list is "reprinted from Mommsen's article," in which the "Latinity and clerical errors of the MS. are reproduced as they are" (p. 222), and refers to Theodor Mommsen, "Zur lateinischen Stichometrie," in Hermes, Bd. xxi. (1886) pp. 142-156. For a transcription of the list as it appears in the St. Gall manuscript, see Miscellanea Cassinese (Montecassino, 1897), pp. 6-7.
2. The compiler of this list provides the number of "verses" for each book according to the standard unit of measurement of his day, the sixteen-syllable line used in Latin poetry. The numbers are given because scribes were commonly paid according to the number of verses copied. But the numbers have been thoroughly corrupted in transmission. See C.H. Turner's Appendix to Sanday's article (pp. 304 ff.) for a discussion of the matter.
3. The total given here is incorrect. The sum of the numbers given for the seven books is 18,200 (XVIIICC).
4. The total given is incorrect. The sum of the numbers given is 9550.
5. The sum of the numbers given from Chronicles to the end is 56,030. The total for all the books of the OT is 83,780.
6. In ancient times, the vision of the twenty-four elders in Revelation chap. 4 was generally explained as symbolizing the honor given to God by the canonical books of the Hebrew Old Testament, which were twenty-four in number according to a traditional Jewish enumeration: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Minor Prophets, Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Esther. But the Cheltenham list does not include all of these (Ezra-Nehemiah and Lamentations are missing) and it includes some books outside the Hebrew canon (Maccabees, Tobit, Judith). It is not clear how the books listed here can be counted as 24. Perhaps this paragraph is extraneous to the original list.
7. Again the total is incorrect. The sum of the above is 9500.
8. The number of lines for Paul's Epistles is not given. "13 epistles of Paul" would seem to imply the omission of Hebrews, but this point should not be pressed too hard in view of the corrupt state of the text. Note also the omission of the epistles of James and Jude from the list.
9. The words "una sola" after "Iohannis III" and "Petri II" appear in the Cheltenham manuscript, but not in the manuscript of St. Gall. For one explanation of this phrase see the comments of Bruce Metzger reproduced below.
10. On this last paragraph Sanday notes "There is evidently some corruption here; see p. 263 below, where it is proposed to omit posui (with Mommsen) and to take versum Virgilianum as standing for gen. plur.—partly by the use of a vernacular form (versum = versuum), partly by corruption" (op. cit., p. 224). The writer implies that the managers of Roman scriptoriums omit the numbers of lines in such catalogs to avoid paying scribes according to the number of lines copied.
From The Canon of the New Testament (Oxford, 1987), pp. 231-2.
[A] Latin list of Biblical books, probably originating in North Africa soon after the middle of the fourth century (c. 360), is of interest in testifying to a conflict of opinion, some moving toward a wider canon than in the previous century, while more conservative minds refused. This list, discovered by the German classical scholar Theodore Mommsen, is included in a tenth-century manuscript belonging to the Phillipps Collection at Cheltenham, England. [It is] provided with notations giving the length of each book in terms of the number of stichoi.
The order of the Gospels as well as some of the other books is unusual. The Gospels stand in the sequence Matthew, Mark, John, and Luke, and they are followed by the mention of thirteen Epistles of Paul, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Apocalypse. The list closes with the enigmatic lines:
Three Epistles of John [containing] 350 lines
Two Epistles of Peter [containing] 300 lines
What does 'one only' mean? Harnack's suggestion, adopted by Jülicher, is exceedingly improbable—that the second line refers to the Epistle of James, and the fourth line to the Epistle of Jude. This would be a most unusual way in which to bring the scriptural character of James and Jude to the attention of the reader.
The words look like the expression of two opinions in the list. The writer appears to have been of reactionary opinions, for he omits Hebrews and Jude as well as James. As to the notation of the Johannine and Petrine Epistles, the explanation is probably as follows. The writer copied the first and third lines from some earlier list, but he himself thought that only 1 John and 1 Peter were Scripture, and therefore added in each case 'one only.' Why did he then write 'Three Epistles of John' and 'Two Epistles of Peter'? Why did he not simply write 'One Epistle' in each instance? The reason lay in the number of stichoi lines, binding 1, 2, and 3 John together as a unit, and 1 and 2 Peter as a unit. Since he could not tell precisely how many stichoi were to be subtracted if he omitted 2 and 3 John and 2 Peter, he was, so to speak, forced to copy lines 1 and 3 each as a unit. But by adding the words 'one only' he was able to express his own opinion that the shorter Epistles were not to be reckoned as canonical.
|Bible Research > Canon > Lists > The Cheltenham List|