- Prophètes, apôtres et disciples dans les traditions chrétiennes d’Occident: Vies brèves et listes en latin by François Dolbeau
François Dolbeau may be known best, among scholars of late-ancient and medieval Latin studies, for his discovery in 1990 and subsequent publication of a group of newly discovered sermons of St. Augustine of Hippo (Paris, 1996). Dolbeau, a professor at the École Pratique des Hautes Études and a collaborator in the Analecta Bollandiana, has had a long and distinguished career as a scholar of hagiography, sermons, medieval Latin lexicography, and the history of libraries. As a scholar of manuscripts who bases his scholarship on the contents of European manuscript collections, he has particularly concentrated upon the transmission into Latin of Greek hagiographical works; this book is a collection of his essays, previously published in journals difficult to find outside specialized libraries. It is the second such collection; Dolbeau previously published a collection of articles in two volumes: Sanctorum societas. Récits latins de sainteté (IIIe–XIIe siècles) (Brussels, 2005).
The present volume has two parts: the first, containing five chapters, deals with “brief lives” of prophets and apostles; the second, containing seven chapters, discusses various examples of short biographies of apostles and lists of disciples. In the first, there are discussions of biographies of biblical figures before the work of St. Isidore of Seville, a notable encyclopedist at the end of the early Christian period, as well as the work attributed to Isidore, known as De ortu et obitu patriarchum, of the lateeighth century. The second half deals with lists of apostles and disciples, translated into Latin, up until the sixteenth century.
These contents make clear that the search for the earliest founders of Christianity had not diminished since the late-second century, when the originally Greek-speaking Irenaeus introduced the doctrine of apostolic succession to his Western readers. Irenaeus’s principle was convincing, but it lacked details. Who were the disciples, and what were their names? Latin readers did not know, and so they turned to Greek apocryphal sources to find lists of seventy or seventy-two disciples. Although these lists faded from interest in the early-modern period, Dolbeau has found manuscript versions of them, composed at the initiative of individual translators.
In doing so, Dolbeau explains, he was part of a team of scholars attempting to amplify and correct the work of Theodor Scherman, Prophetarum vitae fabulosae (Leipzig, 1907), a study of works attributed to Dorotheus, Epiphanius, Hippolytus, [End Page 765] and other early Christian authors. The larger project was to sort out the entangled but distinct Greek and oriental versions of these lives; a division of convenience was made between the lives of the prophets and those of the apostles and disciples.
Dolbeau admits that the Latin opuscula surveyed in the book may seem at first glance to lack literary value and historical interest. On the other hand, some Latin translations are earlier than the surviving copies of the Greek originals to which they witness and therefore can help establish the texts of their models. The most important lesson to be learned from such investigations, according to Dolbeau, has to do with l’ordre philologique. Dolbeau’s work is instructive for all students of philology and hagiography.