Saturday, November 22, 2014

Vulgate Manuscripts

Vulgate Manuscripts
The Vulgate – Latin Version of the Holy Bible

The Vulgate is the most famous name given to the Latin version of the Holy Bible which is a translation attributed to Jerome who was appointed by Pope Damasus I in 382 AD in order to make a revision of the old Latin translation.

Before Jerome, since the number of Latin speaking Christians grew, the Bible was translated to Latin. This helped the Christians of the time to understand the Bible better and it is believed that the first Latin translation was completed by 200 AD though no manuscripts of this era are traceable.

The first Latin manuscript was created in North Africa presuming that the church in North Africa was Latin speaking from the beginning when compared to the predominantly Greek speaking churches in Europe and Asia.

Towards the 13th century the revision came to be known as `versio vulgate’, which is the `commonly used translation’ and eventually it became the definitive as well as the officially promulgated Latin version of the Holy Bible of the Catholic Church.

Jerome Commissioned by Pope Damasus I

Pope Damasus I had commissioned Jerome to produce one standard Latin text since there were several different Latin versions of the Bible with different forms of text. He wanted the church to have one standard version in order to promote a universal doctrine and Jerome completed the translation by 400 AD.

Vulgate Manuscripts 1
His version was called the edition vulgate – the current text of Holy Scripture since he used the common or vulgar language of the early medieval era. Jerome began revising the Gospels by using Greek manuscripts that were available and at the same time he also began revising the Old Testament using Septuagint – a Greek version of the Old Testament.

 He also translated the Old Testament to Latin using the Hebrew text which he did without ecclesiastical sanction. The current Vulgate comprises of elements that belong to every period of its development which include:

An unrevised Old Latin text of the Book of Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, 1 & 2 Maccabees and Baruch

An old Latin form of the Psalter, which was corrected by Jerome from the Septuagint

Jerome’s free translation of the books of Job and Judith

Jerome’s translation from the Hebrew Old Testament excluding the Psalter

An Old Latin revision of the Gospels from Greek manuscripts

An old Latin New Testament which was revised.

Vulgate – First Translation of the Old Testament 

After the death of the Pope, Jerome who was the Pope’s secretary made his base in Bethlehem and produced a new version of the Psalms, which was translated from the Hexaplar revision of the Septuagint though from 390 to 405 AD he translated afresh, all 39 books in the Hebrew Bible with a third version of the Psalms that survived in a few Vulgate manuscript.

This new translation of the Psalms was known as `iuxta Hebraeos’ by him, though it was not used in the Vulgate and the translations of the other 38 books were used. The Vulgate is credited as the first translation of the Old Testament in Latin directly from the Hebrew Tanakh instead of the Greek Septuagint.

As Jerome completed the translation of each book of the Bible, he also recorded his comments and observations with other scholars in an extensive correspondence where they were subsequently collected and appended as prologues to the Vulgate text for the books where they exist.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Rockall – The Secret Island

Rockall is a small, uninhabited, remote islet located around 300 miles on the west coast of mainland Scotland. It is situated at the rough distances from the closest large island – 430 km North West of Ireland, 460 km west of Great Britain and 700 km south of Iceland.

 It lies within the United Kingdom’s exclusive economic zone and the nearest permanently inhabited place is the island of North Uist in the Scottish Outer Hebrids, 370 km towards the east. The islet measures over 80 feet wide at the base with a little over 70 feet in height and is the rocky peak of an extinct volcano.

Its earliest record was in 1810 which was made by Basil Hall, an officer who was stationed on HMS Endymion who is reported to have made the first recorded landing on Rockall though its actual position did not seem to be recorded till the year 1831, when chartered by Captain ATE Vidal, a Royal Navy surveyor. Rockall is the eroded core of an extinct volcano and is one of the few pinnacles of the surrounding area of Helen’s Reef.

Rockall – Marine Protected Area

The meaning and origin of Rockall is uncertain. The name of the islet, Old Norse could contain the element `fiall’, which means `mountain’. Moreover it has also been recommended that the name is from the Norse `rok’ which means `foaming sea’ and kollr, meaning `balk head, a word that seems to appear in other places in Scandinavian speaking areas.

Another presumption is that it is derives from Gaelic Sgeir Rocail which means `skerry of roaring’, or `sea rock of roaring’. Cold water coral mounds are found in the region which is presently being studied. These corals are slow in growth and long lived, a justification for designating Rockall and its waters as a Marine Protected Area of the micronation.

Towards late 16th century, the rock had been recorded though it is likely that some northern Atlantic fishermen already knew about the rock before its historical accounts surfaced. In the 20th century, the location of the island drew much interest due to the potential oil as well as fishing rights bringing about continuous debate between several European nations.

Peralkaline Granite – Rich in Sodium & Potassium

The island had also been of interest for adventurers as well as amateur radio operators who had landed briefly on various occasions and occupied the islet. Less than 20 individuals have confirmed landing on Rockall but the longest continuous stay of 42 days was by an individual. Rockall comprises of a type of peralkaline granite which is rich in sodium as well as potassium and within the granite are darker bands which are richer in the alkali pyroxene mineral, aegirine and the alkali amphibole mineral riebeckite.

While the dark bands could be a kind of granite which geologist terms it as rockallite, the use of this term has now been discouraged. Towards 1975, a new mineral surfaced on Rockall which was called bazirite that was named after the element, barium and zirconium.

The island forms part of the deeply eroded Rockall Igneous Centre which was formed as a part of the North Atlantic Igneous Province around 55 million years back when the ancient continent of Laurasia had been divided apart by plate tectonic. Europe and Greenland got separated while the northeast Atlantic Ocean was formed between them.

Marine Molluscs & Common Periwinkles

Common periwinkles and other marine molluscs are the islands’ only permanent macro-organism inhabitants.

Few seabird, like fulmars, northern gannet, black legged kittiwakes and common guillemots, make use of the rock to rest during summer while gannets and guillemots tend to successfully breed occasionally if the summer is calm without any storm waves washing over the rocks.

Overall there have been over twenty species of seabird and six other animal species identified on or near the islet. Surveys conducted in December 2013 by Marine Scotland brought to light four new species of animal in the sea surrounding Rockall and are believed to live in areas where hydrocarbons are released from the sea bed which is known as cold seep.

This discovery has led to the issue of restricting some forms of fishery in order to protect the seabed. Some of the species are Volutopsius scotiae Frussen, McKay & Drewery, 2013, a kind of sea snail around 10 cm long, Thyasira scotiana Zelaya2009, a clam and Isorropodon mackayi, a clam and Antonbruunia sp, a marine worm.

UK & Ireland Published EEZ – Resolved Disputes

United Kingdom had claimed Rockall in the year 1955 and had also claimed previously for an extended exclusive economic zone based on it. The extended zone claim was dropped due to ratifying UNCLOS in 1997 since rocks or islet like Rockall cannot sustain human habitation or even economic life which is not entitled to exclusive economic zone under the Convention.

Moreover these features are entitled to a territorial sea which extends 12 nautical miles and the UK’s claim to territorial water with Rockall was earlier disputed by Ireland based on uncertain ownership of the rock. Effective from March 31, 2014, the UK and Ireland published EEZ limits which helped to resolve any disputes with regards to ownership of the islet.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Giant Bible of Mainz

Giant Bible of Mainz
Giant Bible of Mainz – Last Handwritten Giant Bible 

The Giant Bible of Mainz is one of the last handwritten giant Bible in Europe representing the culmination of hundreds years of transmission of text through handwritten manuscript. It is a very huge manuscript that was produced in 1452-3, most probably in Mainz or the neighbouring place and was noted for its beauty which was written before the invention of printing in the West with possible connections with the Gutenberg Bible.

The Giant Bible comprises of 459 vellum skin leaves, where each measures about 22 x 16 inches and the pages are ruled fully in faint brown ink serving as guides for the scribe who wrote the text. The text on the other hand are organized in two columns of sixty lines on each page while the letter forms used by the scribe are erect, large laterally compressed black letter type which were common in manuscripts used in the middle and lower regions of the Rhine River though was not exclusive to Mainz.

Tones of two forms of black ink were used for the text while the chapter headings as well as paragraphs were highlighted with alternating red and blue ink in both volumes and the manuscript was bound in full contemporary pigskin, without making it decorative.

Illumination Embellish the Text

Giant Bible of Mainz 1
Text blocks has been secured by nine cords which have head and tail bands of red, white and green silk and the scribe who wrote the manuscript recorded the progress by writing the specific date when it started and finished a particular section of the Bible.

Moreover, he also began his work on April 4, 1452 and completed it on July 9, 1453 which was fifteen month on beginning the project, Another amazing characteristic of the Giant Bible are the illumination which embellish the text where the two volumes are decorated with patterned initial letters, with large letter containing an identifiable scene or figures and gilt-burnished initials.

Moreover finely crafted decorative borders are also seen on five pages of the first volume and while the borders are adorned with a branch, vine and floral patterns it acts as a framework with artistic images of bears, hunters, rabbits, stags, princesses and many more which are all exquisitely designed and painted in bright primary colours.

The border designs indicates evidence that link the Giant Bible to the city of Mainz which are being studied continuously on medieval illuminated manuscripts by experts.

Gifted to the Library of Congress 

The Giant Bible of Mainz was gifted to the Library of Congress on April 4, 1952 which was purchased by Lessing J. Rosenwald, about five hundred year after the manuscript was started. It originally belonged to a curator at the Cathedral of Mainz, Heinrich von Stockheim where his inscription is seen on the first leaf of the manuscript and the same remained in the Cathedral of Mainz till 1631.

Thereafter the Bible was seized by King Gustavus Adolphus II of Sweden as a means of prize of war who gave the Bible to Bernhard, Duke of Saxe-Weimar. The Bible then was passed down through members of the duke’s family till 1951 when Rosenwald purchased the same from the bookseller H.P. Kraus for Library of Congress.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Chi Rho monogram from the Book of Kells

The Chi Rho monogram
Chi & Rho – Two Letters of the Greek Alphabet
The Chi Rho monogram 4
Chi and Rho are two letters of the Greek alphabet wherein the first two letters of `Christ’, “Chi” gives a hard Ch sound while Rho is a R. Chi is written as an X while Rho is roughly written as a P. The Chi Rho is considered to be one of the earliest forms of christogram used by some Christian and is formed by superimposing the first two capital letters Chi and Rho – XP of the Greek work ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ – Christ in a way to produce the monogram.

Though not a Christian cross technically, the Chi-Rho refers the crucifixion of Jesus and symbolises status as Christ. The symbol was also used by pagan Greeks which was inscribed to mark a particular valuable or relevant passage in the margin, wherein the combine letters Chi and Rho stand for chreston which means good.

 There are some coins of Ptolemy II Euergets which are marked with a Chi-Rho. The symbols of Chi-Rho was used by the Roman emperor Constantine as military standard and Constantine’s standard was known as the Labarum while the early symbols similar to the Chi Rho were Staurogram ( ) and the IX monogram.

Book of Kells – An Illuminated Manuscript Gospel Book

The Chi Rho monogram 1
The Book of Kells also known as the Book of Columba is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book which is in Latin and contains the four Gospel of the New Testament along with a variety of prefatory text as well as tables which was created in a Columban monastery, either in Ireland or Britain or it could have had contributions from several Columban institutions from Ireland and Britain.

It is presumed to have been created around 800 AD and the text of the Gospels seems to be drawn from the Vulgate though it includes many passages from the earlier versions of the Bible called the Vetus Latina.

It was designed as a treasure and a wonder. An old chronicle called it the chief relic of the Western world. It represents the pinnacle of Insular illumination and is a masterwork of Western calligraphy. Since 1953, it has been bound in four volumes and as of date, the manuscript consists of 340 folios while the leaves are of high quality calf vellum and the elaborate ornamentation which covers them include ten full page illustrations with text pages that are vibrant with decorated initials.

Displayed at Trinity College Library, Dublin 

The Chi Rho monogram 2
The interlinear are miniatures which mark the extension of the anti-classical as well as energetic qualities of Insular art. The Insular majuscule script of the text seems to be the work of at least three different scribes while the lettering is in iron gall ink, the colour used were derived from a wide range of substance which were imported from distant lands.

The name of the manuscript is taken from the Abbey of Kells that was its home for centuries and presently is on permanent display at the Trinity College Library, at Dublin. The Library displays two of the present four volumes at a time where one shows a major illustration while the other shows typical text pages and the complete manuscript can be seen on the Library’s Digital Collections.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Gospel of Judas

Gospel of Judas
The Gospel Of Judas – Gnostic Gospel

The Gospel of Judas, the contents of which are a Gnostic gospel, comprises of the conversation between the Apostle Judas Iscariot and Jesus Christ. All are aware of the story of Jesus Christ’s disciple, one of the 12 Apostles who betrayed him for 30 pieces of silver, with a kiss and later on filled with guilt and grief hanged himself. He was the ultimate symbol of treachery. The gospel is said to have been written by gnostic followers of Jesus and not by Judas.

 It contains the late 2nd century theology which probably dates not earlier than the 2nd century and the only copy of the Gospel of Judas known to exist is a Coptic language text which has been carbon dated to 280 AD. National Geographic society first published the translation of the text, in the early 2006.

When compared to the canonical gospels that portrays Judas as the betrayer of Christ and delivered him to be crucified in exchange for money, it indicate Judas’s actions followed according to the scriptures.

The Gospel of Judas does not indicated that the other apostles were aware of Jesus’s teachings but it claims that they had not learned the true gospel which Jesus had taught only to Judas Iscariot who seemed to be the sole follower of the `holy generati’.

Leather Bound Coptic Papyrus Documents

Towards 1970, leather bound Coptic language papyrus evidence came to light near Beni Masar, Egypt which was named the Codex Tchacos after Frieda Nussberger Tchacos an antiquities dealer who seemed to be concerned over the deteriorating condition of the manuscript. The codex text which appeared to be from the late 2nd century AD was first translated in the early 2000 and included the self-titled `Gospel of Judas’ which claimed to be the story of Jesus’s death connected to Judas.

The papyrus documents were radiocarbon by Timothy Jull, a carbon dating expert at the University of Arizona’s physics centre, which dated between the third and the fourth century. Presently the manuscript seems to be over a thousand pieces with several sections missing due to poor upkeep of the same.

 Some of the passages seem to be scattered words while others contained several lines and according to Rodolphe Kasser, the codex originally comprised of 31 pages which had writings on both sides though it came to the market with only 13 pages in 1999. It is presumed that the missing pages could have been removed or sold.

Comprises of 16 Chapters 

Based on textual analysis with regards to the features of dialect and Greek loan words, it is presumed that the Coptic text contained in the codexcould have been a translation from an older Greek manuscript at the time of around 130 – 180 AD.

The Gospel of Judas comprises of 16 chapters which tells about the teachings of Jesus, about spiritual matter and cosmology. Judas seems to be the only one of Jesus’s disciple who seems to understand the words of his master. The Gospel contains some narrative elements and records how Judas was taught the true meaning of the message of Jesus.

According to A. J. Levine, belonging to a team of scholars responsible in unveiling the work, indicates that the Gospel of Judas does not contain any new historical information related to Jesus or Judas though the text seems to be helpful in reconstructing the history of Gnosticism particularly in the Coptic areas.