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The Journal of Sacred Literature, 4th series vol. 9 (1866) p. 117; vol. 10 (1867), pp.150-164.


THE tract which I now offer to the readers of The Journal of Sacred Literature, is ascribed to Eusebius of Caesarea ; and there is no reason, so far as I can see, to doubt the correctness of the statement. It is entitled : Concerning the Star ; showing how and through what the Magi recognized the Star, and that Joseph did not take Mary as his wife. Consequently, it stands in a certain connection both with parts of the Chronicle and with the Quaestiones, edited by Mai in his Scriptorum Veterum Nova Collectio, t. i., and his Nova Patrum Bibliotheca, t. iv., p. 219 foll.

This tract is, I believe, now published for the first time. The Greek original appears to have perished ; and the Syriac fragment De stella quae Magis apparuit, given by Mai in the Nova Patrum Bibl., t. iv., p. 281, is evidently extracted from a different work. I have taken it from a manuscript in the Nitrian collection, Add. 17,142, a small octavo volume of seventeen leaves, dating apparently from the sixth century. The text, which I have reproduced as faithfully as possible, is, I am sorry to say, very corrupt ; but I shall endeavour to correct at least some of the mistakes in the notes to the translation, which I hope to publish in the next number of this Journal.

24th March, 1866.

[Syriac of pp.118-136 omitted from online text]


"ICH habe den seltsamen Tractat über den Stern mit Interesse durchgelesen, obgleich er ganz ändern Inhalts ist, als ich erwartete. Meinen Freund Gutschmid interessieren die Königslisten sehr, und er ist schon dabei, alle nach ihren Quellen zu ordnen. Die assyrischen Könige gehn auf Ktesias zurück. Das persische Verzeichniss findet sich eben so bei Malala. Den König [Syriac] erkannte Gutschmid sogleich als a1llos, und diese Conjectur bestätigte ihm der Text des Malala. Nur mit dem Verzeichniss der Könige seit Alexander ist Gutschmid nicht im Heinen. Uebrigens bestätigt Gutschmid meine entschiedene Zweifel an der Echtheit des Werkchens, welches zwar vielfach auf Eusebius' Chronik zurückgeht, aber doch von einem weit weniger hervorragenden Mann geschrieben sein muss. Ich glaube sogar, der Urtext ist Syrisch, hauptsächlich weil die Bibelstellen und biblischen Anklänge mehr Aehnlichkeit mit der Peshito, als mit den LXX zeigen."

So writes my friend Professor Noeldeke of Kiel (21st May, 1866), and I am glad to find that this little Syriac tract "on the Star" should have proved so interesting, not only to a linguist like himself, but also to a historical critic like Von Gutschmid.

With regard to the authenticity of the work, I am quite prepared to give it up, now that I have studied it more carefully myself, and have heard the opinion of Noeldeke and Ceriani, and the reasons on which that opinion is based. Considering the age of the manuscript, which certainly cannot be assigned to a later date than the sixth century, there can, I think, be but little doubt that this tract is the production of a writer who lived not long after the time of Eusebius----say, towards A.D. 400 ----and who made use in composing it of the first and second books of the Maccabees, the Chronicle of Eusebius, the works of Ctesias, and the writings of one or two other ancient chroniclers.

With regard to my translation, I have done, on the present occasion, precisely as heretofore ; that is to say, I have striven to be as accurate and literal as possible, my main object being to translate, not to comment and annotate. The names of the Assyrian and Median kings, from Ascatades down to Astyages, I have reproduced in Greek letters. a This will convey to such of my readers as are not orientalists, some idea of the corrupt state of the manuscript. The names themselves, as well as those of the Persian kings from Cyrus to the last Darius, may, 151 in general, be easily identified and restored by referring to the lists of Ctesias (ed. Müller, appended to Dindorf s Herodotus, 1844), Eusebius ( Chronicon bipartitum, ed. Aucher, Yenice, 1818; Chronicorum Canonum libri duo, ed. Mai and Zohrab, Milan, 1818), Jerome (in the eighth volume of the Benedictine edition, 1734-1742), Georgius Syncellus (ed. Dindorf, 1829), Joannes Malala (ed. Dindorf, 1831), and the Chronicon Paschale (ed. Dindorf, 1832). The list of kings, however, from the time of Alexander to that of Augustus Caesar, I have not yet traced to its source, and must now leave it to the care of others. These names I have reproduced in Roman capitals, as several of them do not admit of being transcribed into Greek.

London, September, 1866.

a I had written "Greek uncials," but for printers' reasons I have had to submit to the use of small type.

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