Use and Change

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, ms grec 79, fols 7v–8r, Synoptic κεφάλαια

Since many ancient, medieval, and modern readers have sought to read the Gospels together, Eusebius’ system enjoys an enormous reception. Already in Late Antiquity, Eusebius’ project became a standard feature of Gospel manuscripts from Ireland to Ethiopia to Central Asia. The Eusebian apparatus accompanies the Gospels in at least a dozen languages and in thousands of manuscripts produced from the fourth century CE up until the present.

One of the central foci of my project is tracing how Eusebius’ fourth-century system was adapted and changed in response to readers’ changing priorities for Gospel reading.

This involves thinking about the physical operations involved in using a system of cross-references: paging back and forth, marking one’s place with a finger or a bookmark while finding a related parallel, and so forth.

Moreover, changes to the system — across time, language, and geography and in both manuscript and print — offer an index for how readers approached the Gospels. What did they want to know? Did they simplify the apparatus to make it easier to use? Or did they refine it to coordinate the Gospels in even more fine-grained ways?

I’ve explored some of these questions in a recent essay and in my submitted dissertation. Over the coming weeks, I plan to write about a number of specific examples here.