Eusebius of Caesarea was not only an influential theologian in general, but more specifically a great innovator. In his Chronicon, he presented Christians and non-Christians with an innovative learned work that was based on the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) and aimed to demonstrate that the Christian tradition was older and better than the traditions of past empires like the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes, Persians, or Greeks. While the Chronicon discussed, as it were, the time of history, another work dealt with its space.
The only preserved part of this latter work, the Onomasticon of Biblical Place Names, lists and describes 985 places mentioned in the Old and New Testaments, and organizes the material alphabetically from Alpha to Omega. Biblical places were thus shown to be not a mythical never-neverland, but real sites in a real historical world. Eusebius’ work, which is likely to date to 313 or 314 (p. CXLIX), was translated into Latin by Jerome (Hieronymus) some eighty years later, and became the most influential work on biblical geography in the Latin West.
The Greek text of Eusebius’ Onomasticon survives only in the late tenth-century Codex Vaticanus gr. 1456 (and its apographs), and a Syrian translation for which we have to rely on an edition of 1922/23 (and this edition’s re- edition by Timm1), while the manuscript appears to be lost. However, there are more than 125 copies of Jerome’s Latin version, for which there is still no critical edition. For Jerome’s version, neither Timm nor Georg Röwekamp, in his recent bilingual Latin-German edition,2 aimed to replace the 1904 edition by Erich Klostermann, which is based on just three of the more than 125 Latin manuscripts preserved.3
Timm’s fresh edition of the Greek text is based on the above-mentioned Codex Vaticanus gr. 1456 (obviously, its apographs cannot contribute anything useful to an edition and are rightfully ignored). In his very full introduction, Timm first discusses the manuscript and its peculiarities at length, and always convincingly. Timm’s thorough knowledge of the codex justifies his decisions on the best readings in the edition. A second part of the introduction presents an equally thorough discussion of the work’s date, and a third explains why this new edition differs from Klostermann’s 1904 edition, which was published in the first series of the very same collection of Greek Christian Writers (Griechische Christliche Schriftsteller). In addition to numerous improved readings, Timm is to be applauded in marking conjectures in the text of his edition, not just in the apparatus, thus alerting users to the fragility of some readings. The edition itself presents the newly established Greek text, with a full apparatuses, and annotations, and Jerome’s Latin version (based on Klostermann’s 1904 edition) on facing pages; in keeping with the format of the series there is no translation into a modern language. The book closes with full indices and a comprehensive bibliography.
Timm argues at length in his introduction (p. CLXXVII) that, even if one day a scan of the codex were to be published, this would prove to be disappointing for its users. In fact, the manuscript has since been made available as part of the Digital Vatican Library, and allows the users to check Timm’s readings, and judge for themselves whether they are disappointed or not. But Timm is right, of course, when he points out how much more than a mere scan a proper edition provides, and he is to be congratulated on his thorough and most helpfully annotated edition of the Greek text. In the late 1970s, British Rail ran an advertisement campaign with the slogan “This is the age of the train” to shake off the impression that trains were a thing of the past. The airline industry replied with the slogan “This is the time of the plane,” pointing to the speed of air travel. Forty years later, the rarity of fresh critical editions and the fast availability of scanned codices online might lead to the impression that “This is the time of the online scan.” However, Timm’s excellent work amply demonstrates that “This is the age of the critical edition”.
1. Timm, Stefan (ed.). Eusebius von Caesarea, Das Onomastikon der biblischen Ortsnamen: Edition der syrischen Fassung mit griechischem Text, englischer und deutscher Übersetzung. Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur (TU), 125. Berlin; New York: De Gruyter, 2005.
2. Röwekamp, Georg (ed.). Eusebius/Hieronymus. Liber Locorum et Nominum / Onomastikon der biblischen Ortsnamen. Fontes Christiani, 68. Freiburg; Basel; Wien, 2017.
3. Klostermann, Erich (ed.) Eusebius Werke. Dritter Band. Erste Hälfte, Das Onomastikon der biblischen Ortsnamen. Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte (GCS), 11.1, Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1904, available on archive.org.