Dan Batovici, «Eriugena’s Greek Variant Readings of the Fourth Gospel.», Vol. 26 (2013) 69-86
In a 1912 note of less than two pages, E. Nestle presented a number of instances where Eriugena mentions several readings of the Greek text of the Gospel of John which did not survive in our manuscripts and which where not mentioned by Souter or Tischendorf. He stressed that such an example ‘shews that even so late an author deserves the attention of an editor of the Greek New Testament’ (596), before asking where these would fit in the manuscript tradition of John. This article will follow Nestle’s suggestion and re-examine the variant readings offered by Eriugena – all explicit quotations – in light of the post-1912 developments in textual scholarship on both the Greek text of John and on Eriugena’s works devoted to the Fourth Gospel.
72 Dan Batovici
In his interpretation of John, Eriugena draws mainly on Augustine’s
exegesis of this gospel; yet he also heavily relies on the Greek authors
he is acquainted with11 – Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite, Gregory of
Nazianzus, and Maximus the Confessor –, and the high regard he had for
these Greek Fathers best accounts for the privileged treatment received
by Greek Johannine variants in his works.12
Yet the aspect of his exegetical method potentially most relevant
for the discussion at hand is the following: when faced with different
interpretations of the above authorities on the same Johannine verse,
Eriugena’s option is not to choose one of them as the most accurate, but
to present them all together, one after another.13 To him, the diversity
of interpretations echoes the multiple meaning of Scripture; put in
Eriugenian terms, this diversity merely reflects the different possible
depth levels of understanding that ultimately complete and clarify each
This is not something unparalleled in previous authors, but it is
quite relevant when addressing Eriugena’s treatment of textual variants:
given that he is not looking for a singular and definitive interpretation
of a Scriptural passage, but indeed for all available authoritative
interpretations, Eriugena is noticeably sensible to the variant readings he
finds in the manuscripts he uses. This is especially true of Greek variants:
due to his high regard of all things Greek, such witnesses are markedly
presented as authoritative.
translation and commentary: M. Cristiani, ed., Giovanni Scoto: Il Prologo di Giovanni
(Scrittori greci e latini; Milano: Monadori, 1987). An English translation of the homily
can be found in O’Meara, Eriugena, 158-176: “Homily of John Scot, the translator of the
Hierarchy of Dionysius.”
Jeauneau, SC 180, 26.
On the peculiarities of Eriugena’s use of sources see W. Beierwaltes, ed., Eriugena.
Studien zu seinen Quellen. Vorträge des III. Internationalen Eriugena-Colloquiums.
Freiburg im Breisgau, 27-30. August 1979 (Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 1980); B. McGinn and
W. Otten, eds., Eriugena: East and West. Papers of the Eighth International Colloquium
of the society for the Promotion of Eriugenian Studies. Chicago and Notre Dame 18-20
October 1991 (Notre Dame, London: University of Notre Dame Press, 1994); Dan Batovici,
“Eriugena’s Use of Byzantine Biblical Exegesis in his Commentary on the Fourth Gospel,“
in Selected Proceedings of the I and II Postgraduate Forums in Byzantine Studies: Sailing
to Byzantium, Trinity College Dublin, 2007-2008 (ed. Savvas Neocleous; Cambridge:
Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009), 105-126.
Cappuyns, Jean Scot, 284-285. On his exegesis, see the following collections of essays:
G. Van Riel, C. Steel and J. McEnvoy, eds., Iohannes Scottus Eriugena. The Bible and
Hermeneutics. Proceedings of the Ninth International Colloquium of the Society for the
Promotion of Eriugenian Studies held at Leuven and Louvain-la-Neuve, June 7-10, 1995
(Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1996).
Cappuyn, Jean Scot, 285-286.