Timeline, from 501 until 1700 C.E.
Christianity becomes an established religion in which Church tradition dominates. The Great Schism sees the Roman church separate from the Eastern Orthodox. The dominance of the Rome is challenged by protestantism.
Selection of events
At around this time the
size of the library at Caesarea Maritima, in which Jerome (347-420
C.E.) places a rare copy of the Hebrew version of Matthew, is estimated
to have been about 30,000 books (Murphy-O
Conner 1980, 161).
After the death of Mohammed ibn ‘Abdullāh (ca. 570/571 – 632), his successors, the Caliphs, began to wage war on surrounding nations. During the century that followed Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia, Egypt, North Africa, and the South of Spain came under attack, in particular from one dominant family, the Umayyads. One by one, Christian nations where overwhelmed by force as part of this empire-building. Mohammed saw Jesus as a prophet, but no more.
In 634 Caesarea was attacked by a Muslim army and, after a protracted siege, it fell in 640 or 641 (Hohlfelder 1996, 801). At some point in this tumultuous period it appears that the great Christian library at Caesarea was lost, and with it many precious early manuscripts.
The Great Schism brought division between eastern Christianity and that in the west. However, the Sermon on the Mount continued to be influential in both sections of the Church.
The twelfth century
Birth of Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone, later to be canonized as St. Francis of Assisi. In one of the best loved incidents attached to St. Francis, that of him preaching to birds, he draws his text from the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 6:26). He may have addressed the birds, but the message was pointedly intended for the followers who were with him.
Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) published his Golden Chain, collecting together and making accessible a selection of the opinions of earlier commentators. The work covers all four of the Canonical Gospels.
Pope Boniface VIII (1235 – 1303 C.E.) celebrated the first jubilee for Christians, declaring that, in contradiction of the Hebrew Bible’s stated frequency of fifty years, the next would be in a hundred years. This incident is significant as it provides one of the many strands of evidence against the antiquity of the manuscript, purporting to be the Gospel of Barnabas as mentioned by the church fathers and re-discovered by Fra Marino Moro in the sixteenth century (Sox 1984, 9, 71-72). Cox recounts how, “the extant gospel [of Barnabas] was basically unknown in the Muslim world until 1734,” when it was mentioned in passing in the introduction and commentary of Georger Sale’s translation of the Koran (Sox 1984, 25). However, since then, the Gospel of Barnabas has been vigorously presented by some as the only true gospel, as when, in the 1940s, Professor Abu Zahra of Ciaro’s al-Azhar University announced “The most significant service to religion, and to humanity, would be for the Church to make an effort to study it [ the Gospel of Barnabas] and to refute it, and to bring to us the proofs on which it supports its refutation” (Sox 1984, 10-11). Hence it is appropriate to note a few of the issues with any earlier dating of this text:
- The earliest known manuscript is in Italian and on medieval, watermarked, paper (Sox 1984, 28);
- The author did not understand the geography of Judea and placed Nazareth on the coast of the sea of Galilee (Barnabas 20-21), yet its elevated position is inherent in its name (see Chapter 18 of The Emmaus View);
- There are anachronisms, such as having Pilate co-ruling Judea with Herod at the time of Jesus birth and the use of wooden flasks for wine (Barnabas 152; Slomp 1978, 94);
- The writer did not understand Hebrew, as they considered Christ and Messiah to be different titles (cf. Barnabas 42);
- There are references to medieval ideas that were alien to
first-century Judean culture, such as:
- the period for jubilee’s recurrence being 100 years (Sox 1984, 28-29), which was only the case after 1300 C.E.;
- Adam and Eve eating an apple, which was a medieval idea (Barnabas 40; Slomp 1978, 94); the Gospel of Barnabas gives the value of a gold coin as sixty times that of the smallest coin (Barnabas 54; Slomp 1978, 94), but at the time of Christ the half-aureus (the smallest gold coin) was worth 400 quadrans (the smallest copper coin), a situation which prevailed until the 3rd century.(RNG, 2015).
Blackhirst (2005, n.p.), concludes that the Gospel of Barnabas as we have it today is a fraudulent work “prepared by Cardinal Giulio Santorio to incriminate Cardinals Marcantonio and Ascanio Colonna. His motives were a combination of revenge, self-defense, ideological zeal and political leverage.”
The fifteenth century
During this period the likes of Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) and Cardinal Ximénez strove to provide an exact Greek text of the New Testament (Noll 1997, 185). Erasmus produced a detailed scholarly study of the Sermon, treating it as a concise collection of Christian teaching.
The sixteenth century
Erasmus produced a new Latin translation of the New Testament. Significantly, he included with it a critical edition of the Greek text. Working from several early manuscripts, he then adjusted the Greek in many places, to agree with either the Vulgate or readings taken from the Church Fathers. This Greek edition became known as the Textus Receptus and forms the basis for the later King James Version.
The first record of a complete version of Tyndale’s English language New Testament. This publication was opposed by the established church, one argument for restricting its circulation being that uneducated people, taking Matt 5:29-30 literally would fill the land with blind people and leave it weakened and in confusion (Kaiser 1997, 361).
Beginning on Nov. 9, 1530, Martin Luther preached regularly as a locum, during which time he often spoke on the fifth, sixth and seventh chapters of Matthew. His sermons were published, first in 1532, at Wittenberg, under Joseph Klug, then in 1533 at Marburg and in 1539, once again in Wittenberg, but under Johann Weiss. In 1533 they were translated into Latin by Vincent Ohsopoeus (Hay 2009, n.p.). Luther promoted the theory that the Sermon presented an impossible ideal to which the people of God should aspire.
In fulfilment of the wishes of Theseus Ambrosius, an old scholar of Bologna, Alb. Widmanstadt, Chancellor of Ferdinand I., published a manuscript passed to him by Theseus. At the time, this Syriac translation of the Bible was thought by many to present Jesus’ sayings in their original language (Schwietzer 1906, 272).
Cornelius Cornelii À Lapide (1567-1637) produced his Great Commentary, covering most of the canon. Much, including the commentary on Matthew, was only edited and published after his death, but at least by 1645.
Joseph Justus Scaliger, after analysing the text of the Syriac translation and the Targums, concluded that the disciples spoke a Galilaean dialect of Chaldaic (what we would now call a dialect of Aramaic), together with the Syriac of Antioch (Schwietzer 1906, 272).
"Denominations from Augustus until the end of the 3rd century A.D." RNG, The Roman Numismatic Gallery. Cited:15 May 2015. Online: http://www.romancoins.info.
Hohlfelder, Robert L. 1996. “Ceasarea (Place).” Pages 198-803 in vol. 1 of ABD.
Schweitzer, Albert The Quest of the Historical Jesus: A Critical Study of its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede. Translated by W. Montgomery, with a Preface by F. C. Burkitt, D.D. A. & C. Black, Ltd:1910; Translation of Von Reimarus zu Wrede: eine Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung,1st ed., 1906.