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Method and Sources

The treatment of each place name almost seems whimsical, varying from one or two words to a whole page. The simplest entries are "tribe of..." or "lot of..." and "station (camp) in the desert." Other simple notations are the listing of the variant readings from one of the columns of the Hexapla. Significantly for textual criticism (see below) the two longest entries are both out of the supposed geographical limits, namely Ararat and Babel. Both are padded with direct quotations from Josephus’ Antiquities. The longest legitimate entry is Beersheba.

Seven or eight items appear with more or less regularity in the Onomasticon usually in the same artificial order. This arrangement is not at all conducive to great literary style and the translation does not attempt to smooth things out. Eusebius is not noted for style even in his Church History. In the present work, as we seem to have it, it is the work of an archivist who accumulated xxii miscellaneous facts. There may be also in these items material for literary criticism. The items that occur are as follows:

1. A word for word quotation of the biblical text of the Hexapla with some allusion to variant readings.

2. A generalized location of the place in tribal or provincial area which may or may not be contemporary to the editor.

3. A summary of the events or event associated with the place, with any Gospel allusion usually coming at the end as an addendum.

4. A quotation of or reference to other authorities such as Josephus.

5. A specific location in reference to the fourth (?) century towns and roads, with or without indication of distance and direction.

6. A modern name of the place and whether still inhabited or in ruins along with reference to present memorials or tombs.

7. Notations about the present inhabitants (pagan, Christian, Jewish, Samaritan) and some of their activities.

8. Reference to similarly sounding names in "other" regions.

9. Reference to Roman garrisons and forts.

There can be little doubt that Eusebius based his work on the text of the Hexapla, 13 that great compilation in six columns of the current variant Greek texts which brought them into conformity with the Hebrew (which appears as column 1). Caesarea was the place in which Origen produced the Hexapla. The text of the Onomasticon uses the transcriptions of the Hebrew into Greek letters (Col. 2) more often than any other Greek forms. Reference to Aquila (Col. 3), Symmachus (Col. 4), Theodotion (Col. 6), and Origen (Col. 5) in the text may also be wholly from the Hexapla, although Col. 5 would represent other Greek manuscripts of the Old Testament. A few of the Hexaplaric annotations are marginal glosses later than the 4th century.

If Eusebius knew Hebrew he did not utilize the Masoretic text, and unlike Jerome, was dependent upon the Hexapla. Some think there is use of simple Hebrew by Eusebius in the Demonstratio Evangelica but this Hebrew could also be derived from Philo and Origen. The few references in the Greek version of the Onomasticon to "in Hebrew" could all be references to Col. 1 or 2 of the Hexapla and require no great knowledge of either Hebrew language or texts. As noted above they could be glosses or a later editorial addition. The occasional etymological notations and the frequent quotations of the interpretations of Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion could also be accounted for in the same ways. Some of the etymologies found in the Masoretic text in Hebrew are not utilized by the Onomasticon.

Additional information based on the Bible includes the lists of Levitical cities and the cities of refuge, as well as the stations of the desert. Occasionally there is added reference to the capture of the place by Joshua and the subsequent killing of its king, or the fact that the tribe to whom the place was allotted was unable to dispossess the original inhabitants and so take possession of their territory. Three times the Samaritan founding of a city by those transported by the Babylonians is noted. xxiii

Often the generalized location of the place is solely the biblical location. The tribal allotments are fairly completely recorded. Of course, Eusebius is confused as much as modern scholars about the real status of border towns or other towns listed in different tribal territories according to diverse texts. For much of this localization Eusebius must have had first hand and personal knowledge of the country, although certainly not as thorough as that of Jerome. The Greek text is more detailed and accurate in the location of sites in the central hill country than elsewhere. Perhaps this was because Eusebius, as bishop of Caesarea, frequently traveled to Jerusalem and also because his earlier sources were produced there in Jewish circles.

Topographic references are found in his other works. So we find in Demonstratio Evangelica Bethlehem (I, 1; vii, 2), Mt. of Olives (iv, 18); in De Vita Constantini Bethlehem (iii, 41f), Mt. of Olives (iii, 41), Jerusalem (iii, 25-40), Mamrē (iii, 51); in De Laudibus Constantini Bethlehem (ix, 17), Mt. of Olives (ix, 17), and in Theophania Jerusalem (iv, 18). These are but a small sample. In his Church History allusions to topography and geography are especially frequent in the first two books. Brief topographical notes are recorded also in some of his commentaries.

The famous library at Caesarea and the library of Bishop Alexander in Jerusalem were treasure houses of source materials for Eusebius, especially in his Church History and Demonstratio Evangelica. 14 Anonymous sources seem to be referred to with "it is said" or "they affirm" but whether these were written records or local oral traditions cannot be determined. Josephus is quoted twelve times. The commentaries of Origen and the writings of Paulinus were also referred to. Roman administrative lists, maps, charts and military documents have also influenced the final recension of the text, but at what date is unclear. The two early fourth century itineraries, the Antoninus and the Bordeaux, are very close to Onomasticon and all three may depend on a common source. Paula and Jerome, of course, used the Onomasticon as one of several sources for their travels.

The Roman road system was well organized and charted. 15 Many of the milestones of the first three centuries must have survived into the fourth even though it was the custom of each emperor to install new markers as a kind of memorial to his reign. For the most part distances seem to be according to mileposts. The slight divergence between Jerome and Eusebius, which is often only one mile, can be largely accounted for by the fact that a site is seldom so small as to be only at one milestone and also that in seventy-five (or more) years the roads and starting points normally would change slightly.

The Tabula Peutinger, a kind of road map of the Roman Empire, is perhaps contemporary with Eusebius (possibly a little earlier) even though all our extant manuscripts are medieval. A check of some of the roads suggests that it or its forerunner was a source for the Onomasticon. For example, on the coastal road, Eusebius notes every point from Sidon to Ostracine except Apollonia. From Damascus to Petra on the "King’s Highway" he has all except three non-biblical stops, but adds the three biblical towns Madaba, Dibon and Heshbon. From Caesarea to Jerusalem nothing is missing. There is no doubt that the twenty-eight places located by means of two fixed points and a milestone, as affirmed by Martin Noth, are on the Roman roads. 16 The formula is either "in the border of city a x miles from city y" or "going from city z toward city b xxiv at sign x." Sometimes a compass direction is added. Occasionally the distance is not in terms of miles, but of the number of days needed for the journey (see Appendix V).

Another method of localization is from a fixed point, with a distance and sometimes a direction but with no definite road outlined. The city is usually the datum point for location both by distance and by region. There are 226 common distances of which 190 are based on a city and only thirty-six on some other locality. Similarly ninety-three directions appear of which seventy-four are oriented on a city and only nineteen on some other fixed point. 17 The four major cities of reference are Eleutheropolis, Jerusalem, Legeon, and Hesbon. 18 In addition there are ten city regions in which villages are located, the more important being Eleutheropolis, Jerusalem, Diospolis, Diocaesarea, Sebaste 19 and Neapolis (see Appendix VIII).

In addition to the use of the Roman road system and the city regions, localization is also made by the use of the expressions "near," "around," "not far from," "extending up to," "between x and y," "along side," "midway between a and y" (see Appendix IX). Distance is also variously recorded as "separated from," "distant from," "going up to," "going into," "going down," "along the road between" (see Appendix V). There is a possibility that different sources were used and so reflect themselves in the various methods of localization. It is quite possible that each editor had his own style for locating a contemporary site or tradition. When the Onomasticon has been programmed through a computer it may be possible to isolate clearly these editorial additions. This would also be true of Latin translation of various Greek terms (see Appendices I and IX).

It must be remembered that Eusebius was writing for his contemporaries and some knowledge of the country and its oral traditions of the time could be assumed even though modern scholars might wish for more specific information. The different editors may have utilized other oral traditions and travelers’ information as well as their own personal experiences and additional written sources. Priests and bishops from other areas of the Holy Land would naturally exchange road information in the 4th century just as tourists and pilgrims do today.

Most important is the data indicating the fourth century status of the site. (This assumes Eusebius is the major redactor, but the variety of terms used may reflect different traditions and strata.) Several Greek words are used for "exists," "remains," "is still," as well as several synonyms for "called," or "named," and "pointed out" or "shown." There is also the reference to present inhabitants and importance which can be checked out in other literature and by archaeological excavation. At least two hundred items have a notation of fourth century existence of which three quarters are fairly well localized and identified. A few sites are indicated as abandoned or in ruins. It is possible that at times topos as well as eremos represents a ruined site (cp. Galgala 66:4 where both words are used together).

Among the incidental facts given is the religious constituency of a town. Anaia (26:9, 14), a double village, is a Jewish village which has a companion Christian settlement. There are eleven wholly Jewish villages; three Christian, one Samaritan and one Ebionite recorded in the text (see Appendix II). Heathen shrines are reported in at least three places. Idols are mentioned at least ten times. A special interest is shown in tombs and memorials without any critical analysis of contradictory items such as the various traditions for the location of the tomb of Habakkuk xxv (70:22, 88:26, and 114:15). Tombs of the Maccabees, Mary, Abraham, Haran, Rachel, Joseph, Joshua, Jesse, and David are mentioned. Again these traditions may be from several editors' hands. Jerome remarks on five churches built in the 4th century (see Appendix I). 20

Usually the last item to be noted is the presence of a fort or Roman garrison. There is a very close parallel to much of the material gathered in the Notitia Dignitatum which dates from slightly later than Jerome’s translation of the Onomasticon. The Notitia Dignitatum or a similar work must have been used for the final recension.

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