Did Ambrose use an Old Latin or Vulgate text in the pericope adulterae?

This post responds to the helpful comments I have received concerning my suggestion that Jerome might be the interpolator of the pericope adulterae (= PA) in John. Of course, any suggestion of this kind must ultimately be evaluated in light of the textual evidence.

Ambrose’s witness to the PA turns out to be highly significant because it dates to the same decade that Jerome released the Vulgate gospels, the first indirect witness to the PA in John. The question we must ask is whether Ambrose depended on a newly-minted Vulgate text or an existing Old Latin text. If Ambrose relied on a new Vulgate text, it is evident either that he cited rather freely or relied on a different edition — a possibility suggested by Jerome’s own citations of the PA, which differ from the standard Vulgate form. On the other hand, if Ambrose relied on an Old Latin text, it is not like any Old Latin text we have, though it shares some distinctive readings with the Old Latin witnesses.

The following table shows Ambrose’s agreements with the Old Latin and Vulgate texts in the pericope adulterae. Text shared with the Vulgate is green (104 units), text shared with at least one Old Latin witness is yellow (34 units), and text unique to Ambrose is red (71 units).1

MS 2 MS 5 MS 8 MS 14 Vulgate Jerome, Pelagius Ambrose, Epist 68 Ambrose, Epist 50 Ambrose, Misc 1 Ambrose, Misc 2
John 8:4
et offerentes ergo eam (+ et W, + publice M)
dixerunt dicunt dixerunt dixerunt dixerunt dixerunt
ad
illi illi ihm ei ei
temptantes
eum
sacerdotes
ut
haberent
accusare
eum
magister magister magister [m]agister magister
haec haec haec haec haec hanc
mulier mulier mulier mulier mulier mulierem
modo modo
depraehensa conpraehensa deprehensa depraehensa deprehensa inuenimus
est est est est est
sponte palam publice
in in [in] in
moecata adulterio moecatione adulterio adulterio moechantem
John 8:5
2 5 8 14 Vg HI Pel AM Ep 68
in in in
lege moyses intellege lege lege
autem autem autem autem autem scriptum est enim (autem r)
nobis in in
lege lege
moyses moyses Moses Moysi (Moysis m)
mandauit praecepit precepit mandauit mandavit
nobis [n]obis nobis
moyses
ut
huiusmodi tales qui huiusmodi huiusmodi omnem moecham
in
alturio
deprehenditur
lapidare lapidare lapidetur lapidare lapidare lapidari
tu tu tu tu tu tu
ergo autem nunc autem autem ergo uero
quid quid quid quid quid quid (qui E*)
dicis dicis dicis di[ci]s dicis dicis
de de
ea ea
John 8:6
2 5 8 14 Vg HI Pel AM Ep 68 AM Ep 50 AM Iob AM De spiritu
hoc haec hoc haec quae hoc hoc
enim autem autem cum igitur
dicebant dicebant dicebant dicebant dicerent
temptantes temptantes temptantes temptantes
illum eum eum eum
ut ut ut ut
haberent haberent [pos]sent possent
quomodo causam
eum eum
unde cum Iudaei
accusarent adcusandi accussare accusare accusarent
eum eum adulteram
praeuidens digito mystice etiam
dominus dominus dominus
ihs ihs ihs ihs Iesus at Iesus Iesus Iesus Iesus Iesus
autem autem autem autem autem
inclinato inclinatus inclinato inclinans inclinans inclinans inclinato inclinato inclinato
[… se
capite capite d]eorsum deorsum capite capite capite
digito digito digito digito digito digito digito digito
supra suo suo
terram
scribebat scribebat scribebat scribebat scribebat scribebat scribebat scribebat scribebat scribebat
in in in in in in in in in
terram terram terra terra terra terra (terram Pl) terra terra terra
cum a Iudaeis adultera esset oblata
John 8:7
2 5 8 14 Vg HI Pel AM Ep 68 AM Ep 50 AM David
et
cum cum cum cu[m cum cum
ergo autem autem aute]m autem
perseuerarent inmanerent interrogarent perseuerarent perseverarent exspectarent
interrogantes interrogantes expectantes interrogantes interrogantes ut audirent
eum eum eum eum eum
quid […]
diceret
et
adlebauit erexit erexit erexit erigens
capud caput
se se se se
et et et et et
dixit dixit dixit dixit dixit dixit iterum erigit quasi dicturus sententiam et ait
illis illis eis eis eis
si
quis quis quisque qui qui qui qui qui qui
uestrum est uestrum
sine sine sine sine sine sine sine sine sine
peccato peccato delicto peccato peccato peccato peccato peccato peccato
est est es[t est est est est est, inquit,
ipse uestrum …] vestrum uestrum (+ uestrum F P1 al., ~ est sine peccato M)
prior prior prior primus primus prior prior prior
super super in in
illam eam eam [… illam
iniciat mittat mittat
super eam
lapidem lapidem lapidem lap]ide[m] lapidem lapidem lapidet lapidet lapidet
iactet mit[tat] mittat eam eam (lapidem in illam mittat F) eam
John 8:8
2 5 8 14 Vg HI Pel AM Ep 68 AM Ep 50
et et et […] et et
iterum iterum iterum iterum iterum
se
inclinato inclinatus inclinas inclinans inclinato
capite se capite
de
digito digito
suo
supra
terram
hoc autem dixit et
scribebat scribebat scribebat scribebat scribebat scribebat
in in in in in
terra terram terra terra (terram Pa*) terra
John 8:9
2 5 8 14 Vg HI Pel AM Ep 68 AM Ep 50
illi unusquisque illi
autem autem igitur
cum iudaeorum cum
audissent audissent audientes audientes audientes (+ autem P, audiens M*)
autem autem
hoc uerbum
exierunt foras
unus paulatim […] unus unus (unum M) illi
post secedebant post post post
unum singuli unum unum unum
exiebant exiebant exiebant exiebant exire coeperunt
singuli
incipientes incipientes adcipientes incipientes incipientes incipientes incipientes (insipientes M)
a a a a a a
senioribus presbyteris senioribus […]bus senioribus senioribus senioribus
et sedebant cogitantes de se uel quod ipsi plura haberent crimina qui diu uixerant uel qui priores (priorem B* F L P) uim intellexerunt sententiae quasi prudentiores
uti
omnes omnes
exire recesserunt recedentibus ergo illis
et et et et et et
solusque
relictus remansit relictus remansit remansit remansit remansit remansit
est est
ihs ihs
solus solus solus solus solus solus solus
ihs Iesus Iesus
et et et et et cum et
ecce
mulier mulier mulier mulier mulier mulier mulier
illa
in in in in in in
medio medio medio me[dio] medio medio
cum cui
esset erat stans stans locutus est Iesus stans
John 8:10
2 5 8 14 Vg HI Pel AM Ep 68 AM Ep 50
cum cumque et
adleuasset erigens erexisset erigens erigens eleuans eleuans
autem autem autem autem autem
capud se se se se caput caput
ihs ihs ihs ihs Iesus Iesus
dixit dixit dixit dixit dixit dixit
ad ad
ei eam ei ei
mulier mulieri mulier mulier mulier mulieri (mulier B) mulierem
ait
ubi ubi ubi […] ubi ubi ubi ubi
sunt sunt sunt sunt sunt sunt sunt sunt
qui qui qui qui
te te te te
perduxerunt accussabant accusabant accusabant
nemo nemo nemo nemo nemo nemo nemo nemo
te te te te te te te te
condemnauit lapidauit condem[na]uit condemnavit condemnauit lapidauit (condemnauit r) lapidauit (condemnauit HSr)
John 8:11
2 5 8 14 vg HI Pel AM Ep 68 AM Ep 50 AM Ep 64 AM David
iudicauit
dixit
et et et et
ad
illa illa illa illa illa
quae quae quae
respondens
dixit dixit dixit dixit ait respondit respondit
illi
nemo nemo nemo nemo nemo nullus nemo nemo
dne dme dne dne Domine domine domine
ad
ille
dixit dixit dixit dixit dixit responditque et ait dicit ait
autem autem autem autem
ei ei ad illam ei
ihs ihs i[hs] Iesus Iesus Iesus Iesus
ad illam
nec nec nec nec nec neque nec nec
ego ego ego ego ego ego ego ego
te te te te te te te te (x F)
iudico condemno damnabo condemnabo condemnabo condemno damnabo (condemnabo EFHMOSWd) damnabo (damno r, condemnabo cett.)
i uade uade uade vade uade uade uade uade uade
hinc
et et et et et et et et
ex ex ex post
amplius hoc hoc ho[c] amplius amodo amodo amodo amodo haec
uide uide (x B, ~ uide amodo m) uide uide
iam iam iam iam
noli noli noli noli noli noli ne (nec F) ne ne ne
peccare peccare peccare peccare peccare peccare pecces pecces pecces pecces
2 5 8 14 vg HI Pel AM Ep 68 AM Ep 50 AM Ep 64 AM David

Footnotes

  1. Data is from Vetus Latina 19, Evangelium secundum Iohannem.

4 thoughts on “Did Ambrose use an Old Latin or Vulgate text in the pericope adulterae?

  1. Nice table, I have not checked any details but I appreciate that you take this evidence seriously. When you say that Ambrose agrees in 104 units with Vulgate the other OL MSS that you have included also goes with the Vulgate, right (the Vulgate is also a witness to the Old Latin). You have not said how you evaluate this data. Can you see that it is problematic to say that the Vulgate text is where the Latin version of the PA started?

    • Dear Prof. Wasserman,
      thank you. I appreciate the discussion. As you noted, the colors emphasize the Vulgate to see how it works with my suggestion.

      “You have not said how you evaluate this data.”

      From the outset I have acknowledged the problem posed by Ambrose, because it presents a clear (though by no means insurmountable) difficulty with an otherwise plausible suggestion, supported by multiple instances of demonstrable fabrication in Jerome’s work.

      First of all, the textual evidence is ambiguous because we do not know the sequence. While it is generally a safe bet that continuous manuscripts precede writers’ citations, this is only because of the generally predictable continuity of the tradition. But in the PA we do not have continuity in the tradition, so we cannot depend on fifth-century manuscripts having ancient texts. This possibility is already strained by our only fourth-century Old Latin witness (3), which lacks the PA, and by the PA’s absence in at least one segment of the Old Latin attested by f l q, the segment from which the Vulgate derives. Moreover, a writer of Ambrose’s stature could be expected to influence the local textual tradition. Both 2 and 8 come from Ambrose’s region and are the two MSS with his peculiarities (caput in 2 and damnabo in 8). Local readers and scribes could be expected to know Ambrose’s work, since they likely contributed to its preservation.

      But, secondly, Ambrose’s parallels with the Old Latin are not incredibly impressive and most allow for alternative explanations. The two key parallels are the mention of Jesus’ head (in vv. 7, 8, and 10, shared with 2) and damnabo for condemnabo (in 8). The agreement with lapidauit (v. 10) looks more impressive than really is, since it probably assimilates to vv. 5 and 7, which the traditions all share. The rest of the agreements involve common words, like the addition of de ea (v. 5), hoc for haec (v. 6) prior for primus (v. 7), the name Iesus (v. 9), and et illa (v. 11). Then there are some morphological differences. None of these can establish Ambrose’s dependence on an existing Old Latin tradition. Nor is there any consistent pattern of agreement. It is just as likely that a reader checked Ambrose’s text and notated his readings in marginal commentary, which was incorporated ad hoc by later copyists.

      Thirdly, though, the biggest problem is Ambrose’s own independence in nearly every verse, especially the memorable pronouncement in v. 11. Even internally, his citations do not agree. So I would suggest that Ambrose is an inconclusive witness for either tradition. Whatever text he used, he appears to have cited loosely and for rhetorical effect. It is still plausible that Ambrose cited an early Vulgate gospel.

      “Can you see that it is problematic to say that the Vulgate text is where the Latin version of the PA started?”

      It is clear the situation is already rife with difficulties. My research on Jerome suggests that the kind of interpolation we find in the PA in John is well within the realm of plausibility and supported by a range of circumstantial historical data. To appreciate the historical aspect, a good starting point is Rufinus’ Apology and Oberhelman’s article. So it seems we are missing something crucial about Ambrose’s data.

      • Of course one should take into account other Latin writers like Augustine and Pacian, the latter wrote in his Against the Novatians 20.2 about the adulteress which he found in the Gospel, “quam nemo damnarat.” The patristic data vs the Vulgate and more or less pure Old Latin MSS to me plainly suggests that the Vulgate is a later revision.

        • Dear Prof. Wasserman,

          Thanks for the feedback (and push back) on the Jerome-PA idea. It’s too bad we don’t have dates on Pacian’s writings to better locate his citation/allusion.

          Pete

What do you think?