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.