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Aristarchus (2) of Samothrace, librarian of Alexandria (1), c. 216–144 BCE  

Francesca Schironi

Aristarchus of Samothrace is the most important Hellenistic philologist. He was head librarian of Alexandria, and produced editions of many Greek authors. Among his most important achievments (the one we have most information) is his edition with commentary of Homer, which had a great impact on the history of the Homeric text.Aristarchus (c. 216–144bce) was born in Samothrace but spent most of his life in Alexandria, where he was a pupil of Aristophanes of Byzantium. Ptolemy VI Philometor (king from 180 to 145bce) appointed him as a tutor to his sons (Sudaα 3892 and POxy. 1241, a papyrus dating to the 2nd centuryce), probably around 155bce. At Alexandria royal tutors often were also the head librarians in the Royal Library. Aristarchus occupied this role as a successor of other important scholars (Zenodotus, Apollonius Rhodius, Eratosthenes, and his own teacher Aristophanes of Byzantium) in the first half of the 2nd century .


Didymus the Blind  

Blossom Stefaniw

Didymus the Blind (c. 313—c. 398) was a textual scholar and ascetic practitioner. He is not associated with any of the major ascetic settlements around Alexandria and appears to have spent his entire life in or near the city. He is most known for his treatises On the Holy Spirit and On the Trinity (although the authorship of the latter is disputed) and for his biblical commentaries.Although the Council of Nicaea in 325 took place when Didymus was still a schoolboy, controversy and competition by the parties involved continued through Didymus’ lifetime. Didymus himself supported the decision of the Council, which the Alexandrian bishop, Athanasius, had promoted. After Didymus’ death, however, he was no longer associated with the orthodoxy of the day and, because of his reception of Origen of Alexandria, was condemned, along with Origen and Evagrius Ponticus, in connection with the 2nd Council of Constantinople in 553.


Canon and Commentary in the Earliest Buddhist Manuscripts  

Stefan Baums

The earliest Buddhist manuscripts were written in the Kharoṣṭhī script and Gāndhārī language, initially on birchbark scrolls and later on palm-leaf pothi-format manuscripts (i.e., bound or wrapped palm-leaf folios). The core area of this manuscript culture was the region of Gandhāra in northern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan, but its influence extended to neighboring areas and, along the Silk Roads, into Central Asia and China. After sporadic finds throughout the 19th and 20th centuries (including one substantial Dharmapada manuscript in 1892), approximately 150 such early Buddhist manuscripts have come to light in the past thirty years. They provide a direct view into a transitional period, ranging from the 1st century bce to the 4th century ce, in which Buddhist literature switched from a primarily oral to a primarily written mode of transmission and underwent a process of canonization. Scholastic texts employing new exegetical procedures were composed and Mahāyāna texts began to appear. The change of manuscript format from scroll to pothi eventually enabled new textualities, in particular the production of very extensive written texts including complete sections of a Buddhist canon that approached the content and form known from other Buddhist traditions. All major genres and divisions of Buddhist literature are attested among these manuscript finds, which are gradually being edited, providing a new basis for scholarly understanding of the early history of Buddhism and the way that texts were used in early Buddhist monasteries.


Victorinus, Marius, c. 285–c. 365 CE  

Stephen A. Cooper

Marius Victorinus is one of the few direct links between the Platonist schools of late antiquity and Latin theology. A professor of rhetoric in mid-4th century Rome, Victorinus is perhaps the only Latin author whose writings, composed before and after his conversion to Christianity, survive. His school works of grammar and rhetoric were used for over a millennium, and he anticipated Boethius in integrating logic and dialectic into the rhetorical curriculum. He also translated the Neoplatonic works that deeply impacted Augustine. After conversion, Victorinus composed theological works of various genres: treatises and hymns in defense of the Nicene Creed and commentaries on the Pauline epistles, the first in Latin. The treatises reveal his chief contribution to the history of Christian thought: a philosophical interpretation of the trinity that drew deeply on late antique Platonist language and conceptuality to formulate a pro-Nicene theology. His commentaries on Paul employ the grammarian’s literal treatment of the text to identify the situational context of the epistles and the apostle’s rhetorical strategy. Victorinus was a pioneer of the synthesis of Christianity and Platonism in the Latin church, which reached its heights in late antiquity with Augustine and Boethius and flowered variously in the medieval Latin church.


Martin Luther’s Biblical Commentary: New Testament  

Erik H. Herrmann

Martin Luther’s exposition of the Bible was not only fundamental to his academic vocation, it also stood at the very center of his reforming work. Through his interpretation of the New Testament, Luther came to new understanding of the gospel, expressed most directly in the apostle Paul’s teaching on justification. Considering the historical complexities of Luther’s own recollections on the matter, it is quite clear that he regarded his time immersed in the writings of Paul as the turning point for his theology and his approach to the entire Scriptures (cf. LW 34:336f). Furthermore, Luther’s interpretation of the New Testament was imbued with such force that it would influence the entire subsequent history of exegesis: colleagues, students, rivals, and opponents all had to reckon with it. However, as a professor, Luther’s exegetical lectures and commentaries were more often concerned with the Old Testament. Most of Luther’s New Testament interpretation is found in his preaching, which, following the lectionary, usually considered a text from one of the Gospels or Epistles. His reforms of worship in Wittenberg also called for weekly serial preaching on Matthew and John for the instruction of the people. From these texts, we have some of the richest sustained reflections on the Gospels in the 16th century. Not only was the substance of his interpretation influential, Luther’s contribution to exegetical method and the hermeneutical problem also opened new possibilities for biblical interpretation that would resonate with both Christian piety and critical, early modern scholarship.



Norihisa Baba

Buddhaghosa was a Buddhist scholar-monk of the 5th century ce who belonged to a branch of the Theravāda school in Sri Lanka known as the Mahāvihāra. He has long been celebrated in the Sri Lankan Theravāda-Mahāvihāra tradition as the paradigmatic saint-scholar. In the first half of the 5th century, Buddhaghosa compiled his most important treatise, the Visuddhimagga (The Path to Purification). Outlining how the practitioner might overcome mental afflictions and attain nibbāna (nirvāṇa in Sanskrit), the Visuddhimagga offers a systematic explanation of Buddhist thought and practice in terms of the triad of conduct, meditative concentration, and wisdom. Buddhaghosa then went on to compile commentaries on the first four Nikāyas, which are collections of the Buddha’s discourses contained in the Pāli canon, and possibly commentaries on other texts too. In these commentaries, he provided exegeses of words and concepts in Buddhist canonical literature. Just after the beginning of the cultural and linguistic hegemony of the “Sanskrit Cosmopolis” across South and Southeast Asia, Buddhaghosa wrote in Pāli, another Middle-Indo Aryan language. According to Buddhaghosa, Pāli was the only language suitable for the transmission of Buddhist scriptures. Buddhaghosa also established the definition of the Pāli canon on the basis of the argument that five hundred elders had fixed the divisions of buddhavacana (which literally means “the word of the Buddha”) at the First Buddhist Council. The oldest extant biography of Buddhaghosa confirms that the Mahāvihāra treated Buddhaghosa’s commentaries like canonical texts.


Close Reading  

Mark Byron

Close reading describes a set of procedures and methods that distinguishes the scholarly apprehension of textual material from the more prosaic reading practices of everyday life. Its origins and ancestry are rooted in the exegetical traditions of sacred texts (principally from the Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, Christian, Zoroastrian, and Islamic traditions) as well as the philological strategies applied to classical works such as the Homeric epics in the Greco-Roman tradition, or the Chinese 詩經 (Shijing) or Classic of Poetry. Cognate traditions of exegesis and commentary formed around Roman law and the canon law of the Christian Church, and they also find expression in the long tradition of Chinese historical commentaries and exegeses on the Five Classics and Four Books. As these practices developed in the West, they were adapted to medieval and early modern literary texts from which the early manifestations of modern secular literary analysis came into being in European and American universities. Close reading comprises the methodologies at the center of literary scholarship as it developed in the modern academy over the past one hundred years or so, and has come to define a central set of practices that dominated scholarly work in English departments until the turn to literary and critical theory in the late 1960s. This article provides an overview of these dominant forms of close reading in the modern Western academy. The focus rests upon close reading practices and their codification in English departments, although reference is made to non-Western reading practices and philological traditions, as well as to significant nonanglophone alternatives to the common understanding of literary close reading.


Bellum Civile  

Christopher Pelling

Bellum Civile (“Civil War”), title of three works.

(1)*Caesar's commentaries on the war begun in 49 bce: Caesar is unlikely to have used the title himself.

(2) Lucan's epic (see annaeus lucanus, marcus): this, or De Bello Civili, is the best-attested ancient title, though the popular alternative Pharsalia (cf. 9. 980–986) is regaining some scholarly fashion.

(3) The poem of 295 hexameters introduced into *Petronius Arbiter's Satyricon (119–124).

Some criticism of Lucan is clearly suggested, especially his suppression of divine machinery; but interpretation is not straightforward, given the satirical characterization of the speaker Encolpius.