St Victorinus of Poetovio: In Apocalypsin

My next treat on the translation front is the earliest preserved full commentary on the Apocalypse, written in Latin by Victorinus, bishop of Poetovio (now the charmingly named Ptui in Slovenia; also known as Pettau or Pettavium), who was martyred in the Great Persecution of Diocletian in 304. The commentary was composed not long after the Valerian Persecution, so about 260. St Jerome actually found his writings to be of great value, not just for the reason that he produced the earliest Biblical exegetical writings in Latin, but that he considered Victorinus a fine exegete in the tradition of Hippolytus and Origen.

This is a complicated work. Victorinus was of a chiliastic/millennialistic bent, a position which was later decided to be mistaken by the Church at large. Because this chiliasm/millennialism appears especially prominently in the latter chapters of the commentary, Jerome took it upon himself to edit those chapters, including a more orthodox interpretation and introducing some other changes throughout the commentary. So, essentially there are two different versions of the complete work, which are only widely divergent in the material covering chapters 20 and 21 of the Apocalypse, and a short prologue by Jerome. I’ll provide here a full translation of Victorinus’ original, then of Jerome’s chapters 20-21, and then Jerome’s prologue. Jerome’s full version is given a rather old (and not very good, I think) English translation in the widely available Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers collection. So far as I know, this will be the first English translation of Victorinus’ original.

The text I’m using is that of Martine Dulaey, Sources Chrétiennes no. 423 (Les Éditions du Cerf, 1997). I had originally started out (in 1999!) on a translation of In Apocalypsin, not knowing of the textual difficulties, using the Patrologia Latina text, which provides Jerome’s version. Once I learned of those textual difficulties, I started to correct my earlier translation from the Haussleiter edition of Victorinus’ original, but only managed to create a hopeless mess of red ink and scribbles on formerly legible pages. So, I’m starting from scratch. Citations and allusions as indicated by Dulaey in the Latin by bolding will be italic in my translation. Please note that these Biblical quotations are somewhat loose on the part of Victorinus, and also represent a Latin translation similar to the Vetus Latina, a pre-Vulgate version, of the Apocalypse, but not identical. At this stage, I’m not providing the references of the citations, or doing any pretty formatting and whatnot. I’ll do that later.

Here we go!

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