The Origenic Recension of the Greek Psalter, Re(dis)covered from the Catena Tradition

Felix Albrecht
June 1, 2023

My research, based on all the collations of the Greek Psalter that have been available in Göttingen and have now been completely digitised as part of the Academy project “Die Editio critica maior des griechischen Psalters”, has led to an extremely important insight, the consequences of which are certainly of inestimable value for the constitution of the Greek Psalter text: A careful analysis of the collation results has shown that, contrary to previous assumptions, an Origenic recension (O-group) is detectable in the primary tradition of the Greek Psalter.

Until now, it was assumed that the Origenic recension or O-text,[1] apart from a few Greek fragments of the hexaplaric tradition, had only been preserved indirectly in the Latin tradition of the Psalterium Gallicanum. However, I have now discovered that two important witnesses of the Catena Palestinensis seem to have preserved the Origenic recension more or less directly. I first presented my research results in March 2023 at a conference in Vienna organised by Uta Heil and Sebastiano Panteghini.[2] The publication is currently being prepared. At this point I would only like to summarise my most important insights, because they are in my opinion of essential importance for further editorial work on the Greek Psalter.

The current state of research indicates that the ancient Palestinian catena — which is primarily based on the commentaries of Origen, Eusebius, Didymus, Apollinaris and Theodoret — has been transmitted in two editions, one in tripartite and one in bipartite form. An overview of the tradition, which is divided into a direct and an indirect tradition, can be found in the Clavis Patrum Graecorum under the siglum C12.[3] According to this overview, which is based on Karo-Lietzmann, the direct tradition comprises two classes or types:

  • Psalms 1–50 of this type are classified as Catena Typus VI = CPG C19.[4]
  • Psalms 51–150 of this type are classified as Catena Typus XI = CPG C24.[5]

The tripartite edition of the Catena Palestinensis has survived only for Ps 1–100 (i.e. the first two volumes) and the bipartite edition only for Ps 77–150 (i.e. the last volume). The following Rahlfs Mss. belong to this catena form: [6] 1021-1113-1121-1270, 1209-1675-1756-1906.

The table indicates which psalms are contained in each of the manuscripts:

1021 – tripartite (I/III)

Ps 1–50

Catena Typus VI = CPG C19

1113 – tripartite (I/III)

Ps 1–50

Catena Typus VI = CPG C19

1121 – tripartite (I/III) – main witness

Ps 1–50

Catena Typus VI = CPG C19

1270 – tripartite (I/III)

Ps 1–50

Catena Typus VI = CPG C19

1209 – tripartite (II/III) – sole witness

Ps 51–100 (fragm.)

Catena Typus XI = CPG C24

1675 – bipartite (II/II)

Ps 83:4–150

Catena Typus XI = CPG C24

1756 – bipartite (II/II)

Ps 78:3–150

Catena Typus XI = CPG C24

1906 – bipartite (II/II)

Ps 77:1–78:3

Catena Typus XI = CPG C24

The most important witness to the tripartite edition for part one is manuscript Ra 1121 (Cod. Oxoniensis, Bodleian Library, Barocci 235, late 9th century). The most important textual witness of the tripartite edition for part two is manuscript Ra 1209 (Codex Taurinensis, Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria di Torino, C. II. 6, 10th century). The most important textual witnesses of the bipartite edition, in the case of which only the second part has survived, are Ra 1675 (Cod. Ambrosianus F 126 sup., 12th century) and Ra 1756 (Cod. Patmiacus, Ἰωάννου τοῦ Θεολόγου, 215, 13th century).

In my study, I selected sample passages from the intersection of the bipartite and tripartite tradition, i.e. from Psalms 77–100. In doing so, I was guided by two questions: First, whether the textual witnesses of the Catena Palestinensis form a separate group within the catena manuscripts. Secondly, whether the biblical text of the Catena Palestinensis has its own textual character.

First, I investigated the question of whether the group 1209-1675-1756-(1906)[7] could be isolated within the catena manuscripts. The result was clear. Ra 1209 testifies to a non-Lucianic text. This was evident from the passages where Ra 1209 stood against L. Often this manuscript was accompanied by the two witnesses of the bipartite Catena Palestinensis, namely Ra 1675 and Ra 1756, but these partly deviated and went with the Lucianic text, thus showing Lucianic influence. Other manuscripts joined the attestation sporadically.[8]

These observations were followed by a follow-up question: Does the biblical text of the Catena Palestinensis have a textual character of its own? The close relationship between the biblical text of the Catena Palestinensis and the Origenian tradition was methodically demonstrated by comparing the biblical text of the Catena Palestinensis and the Septuagint column of the Origenian tradition in Rahlfs-Ms. 1098. Indeed, characteristic readings could be found that testified to a convergence of the Catena Palestinensis with Ra 1098(ο′). The fact that the representatives of the Palestinian catena stood out supported the idea that the Catena Palestinensis represented its own type of biblical text. Could this initial assumption be substantiated in more detail?

In a further step, I therefore examined the textual character of the Catena Palestinensis in the case of Psalms 1–50. Four manuscripts have preserved the first volume of the tripartite Palestinian catena of the Psalter: Ra 1021, 1113, 1121, 1270. Manuscript Ra 1121 is the oldest (late 9th century) and most important witness that offers Psalm 1–50 in its entirety. Thus, the relationship of Ra 1121 to the other three manuscripts, i.e. to Ra 1021 (s. X), Ra 1113 (s. XI) and Ra 1270 (s. X) remained to be determined. Ra 1270 proved to be entirely Lucianic, while Ra 1113 was largely and Ra 1021 partly shown to be under Lucianic influence. An extended comparison with Ra 1098(ο′) made it clear that Ra 1121 always goes together with Ra 1098(ο′), and in parts even with the Psalterium Gallicanum.

To sum up: The tripartite edition of the Catena Palestinensis transmits a biblical text that is of high text-critical value. For the area of Psalms 1–50, this evidence is placed on a somewhat broader basis with a total of four witnesses (Ra 1021, 1113, 1121, 1270), whereby Ra 1121 stands out from the others. For the area of Psalms 51–100, only Ra 1209 is to be mentioned as a witness. However, in comparison with the representatives of the bipartite Catena Palestinensis, which has survived only for the second part, i.e. Psalms 77–150, this shows that the tripartite edition bears witness to a special text which, unlike all the other Catena manuscripts of the Psalter, is not influenced by the Lucianic tradition. A further comparison with the Septuagint column of the hexaplaric fragments of Ra 1098 has proved extremely revealing. It illustrates that both Ra 1121 and Ra 1209 have preserved a biblical text that is very close to the text of the Origenic recension.

I therefore conclude that an Origenic recension resp. O-text is traceable in the primary tradition of the Greek Psalter, which I call the O-group and whose main witnesses are the Mercati Psalter (Ra 1098, ο′-column), which admittedly preserved only parts of the Psalter in the Origenic recension, alongside the Psalterium Gallicanum (and the Vulgate) as well as the sources already mentioned by Rahlfs (Ra 2005, Jerome), and above all the two outstanding witnesses of the Catena Palestinensis, i.e. Ra 1121 and Ra 1209. I believe that the text-critical significance of these two catena manuscripts for the constitution of the Greek Psalter text can hardly be overestimated. Thus, the following notation has emerged, which will be used as a working hypothesis in the further editorial work: O = 1098(ο′)-1121-1209-Ga.

[1] Origenic recension or O-text means in the following the text of the Septuagint that Origen received and placed in the fifth column of his Hexapla. It is a text which was only slightly revised by him, and which probably came very close to the Old Greek (Vetus Graeca). This is to be distinguished from the Hexaplaric recension, which denotes an edition of the biblical text by the hand of Origen and his successors. Cf. F. Albrecht, “Hexapla of Origen,” in: Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception 11, Berlin et al. 2015, 1000–02; and my blogpost “The Hexapla of Psalms.”

[2] Cf. my paper: “Der Ertrag der Catena Palestinensis für die Editio critica maior des griechischen Psalters” (Vienna, March 24, 2023). Presented at the conference “Sammeln – Präsentieren – Studieren – Überliefern: Die Schriftauslegung altkirchlicher Autoren in alten Katenenhandschriften und neuen Datenbanken.” Conference in Vienna, 23–25 March 2023.

[3]  Mauritius Geerard and Jacques Noret, Clavis Patrum Graecorum, vol. 4, Concilia, Catenae, Corpus Christianorum (Turnhout: Brepols, 2018), 260–261. Ekkehard Mühlenberg, Psalmenkommentare aus der Katenenüberlieferung vol. 3, Untersuchungen zu den Psalmenkatenen, PTS 19 (Berlin et al.: Walter de Gruyter, 1978), 5, designates the Palestinian catena as “Grundtyp A.”

[4] Geerard and Noret, CPG 42, 270–271; Georg Karo and Hans Lietzmann, Catenarum Graecarum Catalogus (Göttingen: Commissionsverlag der Dieterich’schen Universitätsbuchhandlung Lüder Horstmann, 1902), 29–30; Mühlenberg, Psalmenkommentare III, 26–27 (“Typ VI”); cf. Gilles Dorival, Les chaînes exégétiques grecques sur les Psaumes. Tome 1, SSL 43 (Leuven: Peeters, 1986), 115–138.

[5] Geerard and Noret, CPG 42, 275–277 (the indication of the delimitation “in Psalmos 50–150” must be corrected to “in Psalmos 51–150”); Karo and Lietzmann, Catalogus, 38; Mühlenberg, Psalmenkommentare III, 29 (“Typ XI”); cf. Dorival, Chaînes 1, 115–232.

[6] Ra 1178 and Ra 1705 as apographs of Ra 1221 are not taken into account. On the manuscript tradition as a whole, see Marcel Richard, “Les manuscrits de la chaîne du type VI sur les psaumes,” Revue d’Histoire des Textes 3 (1974): 19–38.

[7] Ra 1906 is of course a witness to the Catena Palestinensis only for Ps 77:1–78:3.

[8] E.g. Ra 1171, which represents the Theodoret catena for Psalms 1–50 and 77–150, but draws from another source for the section of Ps 51–76. To give two examples: In case of Ps 71:3 LXX, Ra 1171 has preserved the plural ἀναλαβέτωσαν, which in my opinion represents the O-reading (Ra 1209 is not preserved here). In case of Ps 71:19a LXX, the O-reading is probably εὐλογητόν (attested by Ra 1209, and supported by catena manuscripts Ra 1171, 1115), while the complete rest of the catena manuscripts goes with the L-group, attesting the v.l. εὐλογημένον. On Ps 71 LXX see my forthcoming article: Felix Albrecht, “Solomon, Rahlfs, and Beyond: Commenting on Psalm 71 LXX (72 MT),” in XVIII Congress of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies. Edited by Marieke Dhont, Alison Salvesen, Joshua Alfaro, and Gideon Kotzé.