Colligite fragmenta ne pereant

February 8, 2007 | 14 comments
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In a manuscript I’m looking at right now, I’m trying to find what verses two or three biblical citations refer to. Before I declare them to be hopeless cases, do any of the three sound familiar to you?

1. “As St. Paul says, ‘Whoever cleaves to God is a spirit with…’”
2. “…in his book, ‘Whomever He loves, God protects from all evil.’”
3. “…his virtue, as we have testimony from St. John the Evangelist, whom…”

The search for these references is proving difficult for a lot of reasons.

First, the language is medieval German, written about 650 years ago. There is no standard Bible translation to look up verses in. Also, I know of no other witnesses for the text I’m working on.

Second, the translation being referred to is the Latin Vulgate, mostly. In the manuscript I’m looking at, the writer’s usual practice is to cite a verse in Latin, then render it in German. Most of the citations are just what you find in modern editions of the Vulgate, but sometimes a few words have changed places, or slightly different synonyms are used, as if the writer was relying on his or her memory in some cases. The German renditions are usually quite close, but are sometimes rather free.

Third, about 500 years ago, a bookbinder sliced up the German parchment manuscript into narrow strips in order to reinforce the quires of a Latin paper manuscript. The strips are no longer in their original order, and about a third of them are missing. Often I’m left with only the top half of a line of text, or much worse, only the bottom half. The ellipses in the quotations above indicate where the text is missing, not where I’ve omitted something.

Fourth, the parchment strips are still in place, deep in the folds of a couple of 550-year old paper manuscripts. Some of the lines of text are covered by thread, or hidden on the underside of the folded parchment strip.

For the first citation, I can’t get a clear view of the top of the line, so “cleaves” (an haftet) might actually be “hurries to” (an hastet), and “spirit” (geist) might be something else entirely (gellt??), although nothing else that makes sense occurs to me. Is this a verse in Paul that anyone has seen before?

For the second, I can’t guarantee that this is not a very loose translation of Proverbs 8:17, “I love them that love me,” which is cited in Latin just after this. But it looks to me like this is actually a different biblical reference. I’ve searched modern English translations for similar verses without any luck so far. (It could also be a citation from something else, but I doubt it; in the rest of the text, only the Bible is cited, and “as X says in his book” is a common way for the writer to introduce biblical quotations.)

As for the third citation, is there some passage of John that talks about Christ’s virtue? I mean, more than the rest of that gospel. I’m not certain that this is a reference to a specific verse at all.

In case you’re curious, recycling old manuscripts in book bindings was common practice for hundreds of years, well into the seventeenth century. Many of the manuscript fragments are still there, unnoticed inside of late medieval and early modern book bindings, unless they’re written in one of the European vernaculars, which makes them interesting to literature scholars and antiquarian booksellers. But 90-95% of what you find is Latin ecclesiastical prose, which few people care about, and fewer still care when extra bits of it turn up.

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14 Responses to Colligite fragmenta ne pereant

  1. TrailerTrash on February 8, 2007 at 10:48 am

    Are the citations you have the full text of the citation? Are the ellipses because that is all you have or because you didn’t fully write it out? For instance, #3 doesn’t seem to have any of the actual citation at all.

  2. Ivan Wolfe on February 8, 2007 at 10:59 am

    This is a total longshot, but #2 immediately made me think of the following:
    2 Thessalonians 2:16 Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,
    1 Corinthians 8:3 But if any man love God, the same is known of him.
    Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.

    But that’s tough. Honestly, I’m stumped. Hopefully later today when I’m home, I’ll have time to crack out my Greek New Testament concordance and see what I can come up with.

    Unless someone smarter than me figures it out before then.

  3. Julie M. Smith on February 8, 2007 at 11:52 am

    What can you tell us about the word ‘virtue’ in #3? I ask because a very quick (sorry–in a hurry) search shows some modern bibles never using ‘virtue’ at all–let alone in John. I also tried ‘power’ (because the KJV uses ‘virtue’ when it meant ‘power’ in Mark 5:30) but that isn’t in John, either.

  4. Justin on February 8, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    I believe the first citation is to 1 Cor. 6:17.

  5. TrailerTrash on February 8, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    Can you give us the Latin?

  6. Ivan Wolfe on February 8, 2007 at 1:03 pm

    I believe Justin has it right for #1.

    #2 could be a psalm – here’s a few from the NIV & KJV:
    Psalm 37:28 For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off;
    For the LORD loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.

    Psalm 91:14 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
    Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.

    As for #3 –

    If virute is taken to mean “strength” and we assume they believed St. John wrote Revelation- we could have a reference to:
    Revelation 5:12: In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” – Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.

    FWIW.

  7. Robert C. on February 8, 2007 at 1:33 pm

    Tough question. For the second one, here are a few NT passages I found about being protected/delivered from evil, though none of them seem to fit all that well (mainly b/c “love” isn’t mentioned in the same verse, though I didn’t check too closely if love is mentioned in a nearby verse): 2 Thes 3:3; Gal 1:4; 2 Tim 4:18; John 17:15; 2 Pet 2:9; 1Thes 1:10; Col 1:4, 13.

  8. g.wesley on February 8, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    #2 brings to mind 1 john 5.18, in part:

    …but he who was begotten of god protects him and the evil one does not seize him.
    …sed ille qui genitus est ex Deo, conservat eum, et Malignus no tangit eum.

    love isn’t there but it is a major theme elswhere in 1 john.

  9. Jonathan Green on February 8, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    Justin, I think you’ve nailed the first one. Ivan, the verses from the Psalms you suggest are almost certainly what I’m looking for on the second. Thanks very much to both of you. I can’t put your name in lights, but you at least deserve acknowledgment in a footnote. Robert, GW, thanks for your suggestions too, and I’ll double-check them to see how they fit.

    TT, Julie, and anyone else philologically inclined:
    The word for ‘virtue’ is tugend, which in medieval German has a dozen meanings that all add up to something like “manly virtue”. The text I have occurs in a tract about the superiority of God’s love to human love, in a section that seems to be about how human love can be unrequited, but God loves all who love him. The text has a gap of three missing lines, followed by these lines:

    sinev tvgent. als wir vrkvnde han.
    an sant Johanne ewangelista. dem

    and then another gap of six lines before #2 above, so I don’t have a lot of context to work with. (TT, the ellipses are places where the text is missing, not where I’ve left something out.) Of course, for all I know this is a reference to the entire lifetime output of John, rather than a specific verse.

  10. Keri on February 8, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    It’s a long shot, but perhaps #3 is referring to 1 John chapter 4. The chapter is all about how God is love.

  11. Robert C. on February 8, 2007 at 6:24 pm

    I agree that Psalms is probably your best bet for #2, but I noticed this interesting note for the NET version of 1 John 5:18 which I thought was quite interesting (b/c the KJV and even NRSV seem pretty confusing…).

  12. Robert C. on February 8, 2007 at 7:05 pm

    For #3, I noticed dunamis (usually “power” as Julie noted above) shows up a lot in Revelation quite a bit. Also, a related word (often translated the same in English, but I have no idea in Latin or German!) is exousia which shows up a bit in the Gospel of John as well as Revelation again.

  13. Ivan Wolfe on February 8, 2007 at 7:18 pm

    Jonathan -

    it’s all part of my master plan. I start with footnotes in academic work and eventually work my way up to WORLD DOMINATION! You’ve fallen for my clever plan!!!! hahahahahahaha!

    (did I just say that out loud?)

    ;-)

  14. njensen on February 9, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    I believe #3 is 1 John 3:3. Virtue and purity (I’m trying to recall my courtly love lectures) are linked secularly, and by the 14th century, I can imagine a text using the two terms interchangeably.

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