F.F. Bruce - Marius Victorinus and His Works

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F.F. Bruce, “Marius Victorinus and His Works,” The Evangelical Quarterly 18 (1946): 132-153. Marius Victorinus and His Works F.F. Bruce [p.132] I. LIFE AND TIMES Gaius Marius Victorinus was a native of the Roman province of Africa, who achieved great eminence as a teacher of rhetoric at Rome about the middle of the fourth century A.D. A century and a half later, the great statesman and author Boethius could look back upon him as “almost the most learned orator of his time”.1 Our chief source o
  F.F. Bruce, “Marius Victorinus and His Works,”  The Evangelical Quarterly 18 (1946): 132-153. Marius Victorinus and His Works F.F. Bruce [p.132] I. L IFE AND  T IMES   Gaius Marius Victorinus was a native of the Roman province of Africa, who achieved greateminence as a teacher of rhetoric at Rome about the middle of the fourth century A.D. Acentury and a half later, the great statesman and author Boethius could look back upon him as“almost the most learned orator of his time”. 1  Our chief source of information about Victorinus is the eighth book of Augustine’s Confessions , where we read how Augustine, after reading some Platonic books translated intoLatin by this Victorinus, betook himself to Simplicianus (later Bishop of Milan), an older Christian who in his younger days had been intimate with Victorinus, and who told the youngAugustine the story of the great rhetorician’s conversion to Christianity. This narrative made adeep impression on Augustine, and led him farther along the road leading to his ownconversion. The relation between the thought of Victorinus and that of Augustine has also been, and still is, a fruitful field of study. At any rate, there can be no doubt of the profoundadmiration which Augustine had for the memory of Victorinus, and he describes, hiseminence as a scholar and philosopher in the most generous language: “ille doctissimus senexet omnium liberalium doctrinarum peritissimus quique philosophorum tam multa legerat etdiiudicauerat, doctor tot nobilium senatorum, qui etiam ob insigne praeclari magisterii, quodciues huius mundi eximium putant, statuam Romano foro meruerat et acceperat” ( Conf  .8.2.3).After Victorinus became a Christian, he proceeded to devote his talents to the defence of theCatholic faith, and to dedicate to the advancement of Christian learning the erudition which hehad amassed in his pagan days. The value of such erudition to the Church was appreciated byAugustine, as we may see in that section of his De Doctrina Christiana which deals with thequestion, Ab ethnicis si quid recte dictum in nostrum  [p.133] usum est conuertendum . “Nonne aspicimus,” he asks, “quanto auro et argento et uestesuffarcinatus exierit de Aegypto Cyprianus doctor suauissimus et martyr beatissimus? QuantoLactantius? Quanto Victorinus, Optatus, Hilarius, ut de uiuis taceam?” (2.40.61).Of ancient scholars Jerome seems to have been the only one who did not appreciate thequalities of Victorinus. If Augustine considered that his classical training was an advantage tohim, Jerome considered it a hindrance, because, he said, his occupation with secular learningled him to neglect the holy Scriptures ( Prologue to Commentary on Galatians ) ― a totallyunjustified criticism. Not only have we Augustine’s testimony to Victorinus’s study of theScriptures even before his public confession of Christianity ( Conf  . 8.2.4); his own writingsalso bear witness to his close acquaintance with them. But even Jerome included him among 1 “Victorinus orator sui temporis ferme doctissimus” ( In Porphyrium a Victorino translatum i. 1). As late as thetwelfth century Theodoric of Chartres in his Heptateuchon mentions Cicero, Quintilian and Marius Victorinus asfavourite models in rhetoric.  F.F. Bruce, “Marius Victorinus and His Works,”  The Evangelical Quarterly 18 (1946): 132-153. the number of illustrious men, and devotes the hundred and first chapter of his De VirisIllustribus to a brief account of him, of which we shall have more to say anon.We know neither the year when Victorinus was born nor the year of his death, but we can saywith considerable probability that 300 and 370 respectively are sufficiently approximatedates. Augustine and Jerome concur in saying that he was already an old man ( senex ) at thetime of his conversion, which must be dated between 353 and 359; while at the time whenSimplicianus told Augustine the story of Victorinus, that is to say in 386, he seems to have been dead for several years.We can fix with, practical certainty three dates in his life:( a ) 353, the year in which his eminence as a rhetorician was recognised by the erection of astatue to him in the Forum Romanum, according to Augustine, or the Forum Traiani , ac-cording to Jerome. (“Victorinus rhetor et Donatus grammaticus praeceptor meus Romaeinsignes habentur; e quibus Victorinus etiam statuam in foro Traiani meruit”: Jerome, Chron . ad ann . 2370.)( b ) 359, about which date he was engaged in the composition of his work against Arius. In Adversus Arrium 1.28.1061C he refers to the excommunication of Valens and Ursacius inlanguage which must mean that it had just taken place: “ et  [p.134] nunc Valens et Vrsacius... destructi sunt: ... et nunc Valens et Vrsacius reliquiae Arrii.” Theexcommunication of these two bishops occurred at the Council of Ariminum in this year.( c ) 362, the year of Julian the Apostate’s educational rescript, as a result of which Victorinuswas obliged to relinquish his public professorship of rhetoric at Rome: “Imperatoris Iulianitemporibus lege data prohibiti sunt christiani docere litteraturam et oratoriam, quam legem illeamplexus loquacem scholam deserere maluit quam uerbum tuum, quo linguas infantium facisdisertas “ (Augustine, Conf  . 8.5.10).Within this framework we can give the following skeleton chronological table of the life andtimes of Victorinus: c. 300. Birth of Victorinus.313. Edict of Milan.325. Council of Nicaea. 2  337. Death of Constantine. 2 The Council of Nicaea is referred to by Victorinus in Adversus Arrium 1.28.1061b “Vbi latuit? ubi dormiit anteXL annos, cum in Nicaea ciuitate fides confirmata per CCC et plures episcopos?” (Migne, following earlier editions, reads wrongly and, indeed, impossibly, ante undecim annos . See the introduction to the works .of Victorinus in Migne’s Patrologia   Latina viii. 998. It is easy to see how XI could be read by mistake for XL.) Butwe cannot date Adversus Arrium so late as 365. The reference to the excommunication of Valens and Ursacius asa contemporary, event ( Ar . 1:28.1061c) practically fixes 359 as the date of the first book at least. Besides,Constantius was still emperor, as may be seen from Ar . 2.9.1096a, where Victorinus, referring to the part played by the word oftoouvtos at the Council of Nicaea, adds: “probatum autem ab imperatore imperatoris nostri patre”,i.e., by Constantine, the father of Constantius. This reference, apart from the mention of Valens and Ursacius,makes it certain that Adversus Arrium was composed not later than 361, the year of Constantius’s death. So wemust apparently understand “forty” as a round number, meaning simply that Victorinus was writing in the fourthdecade after the famous Council.  F.F. Bruce, “Marius Victorinus and His Works,”  The Evangelical Quarterly 18 (1946): 132-153.c. 340. Victorinus leaves Africa for Rome.c. 340-355. Works on grammar, rhetoric and logic, and metaphysics.341. Council of Antioch.343. Council of Sardica.347. Birth of Jerome.353. Constantius reigns alone; statue of Victorinus erected in Forum.354. Birth of Augustine.355. Council of Milan.c. 355. Conversion of Victorinus, followed immediately by his earlier Christian works.357. Sirmian manifesto.  [p.135] 359. Council of Ariminum; excommunication of Valens and Ursacius, about the timewhen Victorinus was writing Adversus Arrium ; Council of Seleucia.361. Death of Constantius; accession of Julian. 362. Julian’s educational rescript;Council of, Alexandria.366. Death of Hilary of Poitiers.c. 370. Death of Victorinus.386. Augustine’s conversation with Simplicianus; Victorinus dead a considerabletime. Conversion of Augustine.   II. W ORKS   The extant works of Victorinus are as follows, in what appears to be their chronological order:1. An Ars Grammatica ( AG ) in four books, to which are appended three small works, viz., DeMetris Horatianis ( M. Hor .), a shorter  Ars Grammatica ( AG min .), and De Metris et deHexametro Versu ( M. Hex .). A critical edition of these is to be found in H. Keil, GrammaticiLatini ( GL ) vi, pp. 3-215. References to these writings are here given by page and line of Keil’s edition.2. Fragments of a translation of Porphyry’s introduction to the Aristotelian categories, E„sagwg¾ tîn pšnte fwnîn 3 ( Isag .), preserved in the two dialogues of Boethius InPorphyrium a   Victorino translatum , edited by S. Brandt in Corpus ScriptorumEcclesiasticorum Latinorum ( CSEL ) xlviii, pp. 1-132 passim.3. A small treatise De Definitionibus ( Def  .), formerly ascribed to Boethius, but shown to bethe work of Victorinus by H. Usener in Anecdoton Holderi (Bonn, 1877). It has been criticallyedited by Th. Stangl in  Tulliana et Mario-Victoriniana (Munich, 1888).4. Explanationes in Ciceronis Rhetoricam ( Rhet .), a commentary on Cicero’s two books DeInuentione . The best critical edition is by C. Halm, in Rhetores Latini Minores , pp. 153-304.5. De Generatione Verbi Diuini , a short but highly technical treatise in the NeopIatonic style,sent to his friend Candidus the Arian in reply to the latter’s Liber de Generatione Diuina . Nocritical edition exists of this or any other of Victorinus’s Christian[p.136] 3 The five fwna… being genus , species , differentia , proprium , accidens .  F.F. Bruce, “Marius Victorinus and His Works,”  The Evangelical Quarterly 18 (1946): 132-153. works. The most accessible edition is that of Galland, reprinted in Migne’s Patrologia Latina  ( PL ) viii, cols. 1019c-1036c.6. Four books Aduersus Arrium 4 ( Ar .), also addressed to Candidus, the books described byJerome as “very obscure”. The most convenient edition, again, is in PL viii, 1039b-1138b(reprinted from Galland).7. A synopsis of the argument of the preceding work, entitled De   Ðmoous…J   Recipiendo ( HR ),in PL viii, I137C-1140d (reprinted from Galland).8. Three Hymns on the Trinity ( Hy .), in the style of the preceding theological works, PL viii,1139d-1146d (reprinted from Galland).9. In Epistulam Pauli ad Galatas libri duo ( Gal .), in PL viii, 1145d-1198b (a reprint of thetext first published by Mai).10. In Epistulam Pauli ad Ephesios libri duo ( Eph .), in PL viii, 1235a-1294d (reprinted fromMai).11. In Epistulam Pauli ad Philippenses liber unicus ( Phil .), in PL viii, 1I97c-1236a (reprintedfrom Mai). Though Phil . is printed before Eph . in Mai and Migne, a back-reference to Eph . in Phil . 1207b shows the true order of writing.Other works attributed to him, with little or no plausibility, are the Liber ad IustinumManichaeum ( IM ), in PL viii, 999 ff. (reprinted from Galland); De Verbis Scripturae :“ Factum est uespere et mane dies unus ” ( VS ) in PL viii, 1009 ff. (reprinted from Galland); DeMaccabaeis Carmen (Herold, Haeresiologia , pp. 241 f., and Bibliotheca ueterum PatrumLugdunensis , pp. 297 f.); and De Physicis ( Phys .), a charming little treatise on the Creationand Fall, and the restoration effected by Christ in the Incarnation and Passion ( PL viii, 1295d-1301c, reprinted from Mai). Considerations of style, vocabulary, thought, and Biblical textforbid us to consider these as works of our Victorinus. 5  [p.137]A full account of Victorinus and his writings from the literary point of view is given in M.Schanz, Geschichte der römischen Litteratur iv, part 1, pp. 149-161 (§§ 828-831), and, better still, in P. Monceaux, Histoire littéraire de l’Afrique chrétienne iii, pp. 373-422.On one important point Monceaux disagrees with Schanz. The bulk of the larger  ArsGrammatica is a metrical treatise, which closes with the words: “Aelii Festi Aphthonii V.P.de metris omnibus explicit liber iiii.” Keil ( GL vi, p. xvii) concludes from these words that all 4 The name of the heresiarch Arius ( Gk. ”Arioej ) is in Latin MSS. regularly assimilated to the Roman name Arrius . 5 Gore ( Dictionary of Christian Biography iv, p. 1130) says that the Liber ad Iustinum Manichaeum “may withreasonable certainty be ascribed to Victorious”; similarly F. Bomer ( Der lateinische Neuplatonismus , pp. 126 f.)regards it as his. But Dom G. Morin attributed it to Pacian of Barcelona (d. 39z) on the ground of similarities of language ( Revue Bénédictine xxx [1913], pp. z86 ff.). J. Wöhrer endeavoured to prove that De herbis Scripturae  and De Physicis were written by Victorious of Pettau; the latter at any rate is not his. Not only is its Latinityquite different from that of the martyr-bishop of Pettau, but it shows an African Old Latin Biblical text, whereasMarius Victorinus has a European one, and Victorious of Pettau seems to make his own translation from theGreek. See T HE E VANGELICAL Q UARTERLY x (1938), pp. 352 ff.
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