The Van Kampen Collection seeks to acquire a representative number of witnesses to the Bible from both Eastern and Western traditions in the early Middle Ages. Emphasis in this period is placed on the original Eastern languages. However, Latin texts are indicative of the organization and use of the Bible in the West, as well as illustrative of the Latin West's dependence on Eastern models and versions.

Early Greek biblical manuscripts are of particular importance. The Greek New Testament is perhaps the most prolific text of late antiquity and continues to be the basis of the enterprise of biblical textual scholarship. The Van Kampen Collection has eleven witnesses including some which are previously unrecorded. The majority predate the thirteenth century. The earliest, a ninth-century Gospelbook with lists of Kephalaia, presents an early text organization and contains full-page portraits of the Evangelists. Two Gospel books and a Lectionary date to the eleventh century, and two manuscripts of the Acts of the Apostles belong to the twelfth.

VK 901, The Gospels in Greek, 9th century

The Greek manuscripts in the Collection are complemented by the holdings of early Syriac translations, which in both the Old Syriac and the Peshitta revision are derived from the Greek. Scholars have argued that the Syriac text, translated and copied in Edessa in the early second through fifth centuries, represents some of the earliest evidence for the Greek text as it was known in Antioch. The earliest witness in the Collection to the Syriac Bible is a seventh-century small-format Psalter, originating from the Monastery of St. Catherine, Mount Sinai. Two New Testament manuscripts date from before the ninth century: the well-known Yonan Codex and a Peshitta Pentateuch from Eastern Syria.

VK 631, The Psalms in Syriac, 7th century

The Armenian Church originated in the late third century and was the product of Syrian missionary activity. For the first one hundred years of its existence, the Armenian Church used the Syriac versions of the Bible and the liturgy. The early fifth century saw the first translation of the Scriptures from Syriac into Armenian. The majority of the Collection's Armenian manuscripts are late medieval or early modern; however, the earlier period is represented by a tenth- or eleventh-century fragment of an unrecorded witness to the text of Matthew.

Other important textual traditions derived from the Greek are those of the Coptic and Ethiopic Scriptures. The holdings of the Collection in Coptic are generally earlier than those in the Syriac and Armenian versions, and are addressed in the previous section. Ethiopic holdings are described independently (see pages 16-19).

VK 845, Book of Matthew in Latin, with commentary of Claudius of Turin, c.830

The Van Kampen Collection has a number of Latin items dating earlier than the thirteenth century including several eleventh- and twelfth-century glossed texts, from both the Old and New Testaments. The Collection also contains one of the earliest Latin presentations of the Book of Matthew, a manuscript copied in c. 830 with the commentary of Claudius of Turin, an iconoclast theologian of the early ninth century. This manuscript bears marks of ownership from the libraries of the cathedral of St. Stephen at Lyons (c. 900) and of the convent of St. Croix de la Bretonnerie in Paris (1671).

It is a high priority in the current development philosophy to continue to build this area of the Collection, in all pertinent languages and traditions.

NEXT: Late Middle Ages

 

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