Heidegger's Bible Handbook: New Testament in General: Sectional Divisions

4. Περικοπαὶ/sections, ἀναγνώσματα/readings, τίτλοι/titles, what were they to the ancients? what was a πίναξ, πινακίδιον/table?



When, therefore, the books of the New Testament first came into the hands of the Christians, so that they might be able more advantageously to be read and understood, whether privately or publicly, they were immediately divided by pious and studious men into περικοπὰς/sections, or greater parts, that is, materials of the same argument joined together, and comprehended under one title/heading, as it were. Of which περικοπῶν/sections mention is made in Clement of Alexandria’s[1] Stromata, book VIII, Athanasius’ Oratione 3 contra Arianos, Basil’s[2] book II de Baptismo, question 4, and Chrysostom’s Homily 3 de Lazaro. Buddeus[3] calls them certain ῥήσεις/passages/speeches, or περιόδους/periods, that is, sentences comprehended in a certain circuit of speech. Concerning which the Most Learned Crojus is to be consulted in his observationibus in Novum Testamentum, chapter 4. The Greek Fathers, as it is evident out of Origen’s[4] book III contra Celsum, Athanasius’[5] Oratione contra Arianos, Epiphanius’[6] Hæresi 64, section 29, also call these sections ἀναγνώσματα or ἀναγνώσεις, Readings; and the Latin Fathers, as it is gathered out of Augustine’s Sermone de Lucta Jacob, Leo’s[7] Sermone 6 in Epiphania, Taurinensis’ Homilia 2 in Epiphania especially, call these sections Lectiones/Readings: because on individual days some περικοπαὶ/sections of the Gospels and Apostles were read in the Sacred Assemblies. For which was constituted the office of Ἀναγνωστῶν/Lectors/Readers, of which there is mention here and there in the writings of the Ancients. For, with the Deacon crying out, πρόσχωμεν, let us give our attention, immediately the Lector was reading the text of Sacred Scripture. Also, it was customary that these sections were called τίτλους or titles, because the individual περικοπαὶ/sections were having their own titles, or ἐπιγραφὰς/inscriptions. Moreover, the place in which these sections with their titles were transcribed one by one was wont to be called the πίναξ, or πινακίδιον/Table, the Index by the Latins. The Most Learned Heinsius[8] in his Exercitationibus prefixed tables and indices of sections and titles of this sort according to the ancient division to the individual books of the New Testament following Erasmus.[9] Where, for example, the Gospel of Matthew is resolved into sixty-eight sections or titles; Mark, forty-eight; Luke, eighty-three, etc. Nevertheless, others arranged the sections or titles of the books differently. Moreover, since that entire division of sections and titles has come into disuse today, we refrain from saying more concerning it.

[1] Titus Flavius Clemens Alexandrinus (died c. 215) was the head of the Christian catechetical school in Alexandria, Egypt. He was trained in pagan philosophy before his conversion to Christianity.


[2] Basil the Great was a fourth century Church Father and stalwart defender of Nicean Trinitarianism.


[3] Johann Franz Buddeus (1667-1729) was a German Lutheran philosopher and theologian. He served the church as a professor, of philosophy, first at Wittenberg (1687), than at Jena (1689); of Greek and Latin at Coburg (1692); of moral philosophy at Halle (1693); of theology at Jena (1705). He was considered among the most learned and able theologians of his era.


[4] Origen (c. 185-c. 254) succeeded Clement of Alexandria as the head of the catechetical school in Alexandria. He was perhaps the greatest scholar of his age.


[5] Athanasius (c. 298-373) was bishop of Alexandria, and a great defender of Nicean orthodoxy.


[6] The profound erudition of Epiphanius (c. 310-403) led to his installation as Bishop of Salamis. He was something of a heresy hunter, combating Apollinarianism, Origen, and even at one point Chrysostom.


[7] Leo I (c. 400-461) was bishop of Rome from 440 to 461. He is remembered for persuading Attila to turn back from his invasion of Italy, and for his influence over the Christology of the Council of Chalcedon.


[8] Daniel Heinsius (1580-1655) was an eminent Dutch scholar. He edited many Greek and Latin classical works, distinguished himself for his poetic talents, and contributed to the Elzevir edition of the Greek New Testament.


[9] Desiderius Erasmus (1467-1536) was a renowned Dutch humanist, classical scholar, and Roman Catholic theologian.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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