Best metaphor for textual crosspollination EVER

OK, some of you are interested in peasants, I retract that. For those of you who are more interested in the life of the mind, here’s a titbit. I had to look up some old notes, because apparently I had them but no recollection of what the article concerned said, and I found something I liked so much it seemed worth finding and transcribing the original for you. This comes at the end of a long and thorough description of the relations of the various Hieronymian and later Latin texts of the Bible to each other and their immediate antecessors, and I love it:

It may be helpful to visualize the history of the Latin bible with the help of a sustained astronomical metaphor, Hebrew and Jewish monotheism being pictured as the centre of a solar system. Around it moves a planet, the Hebrew bible, possessing its own moon, the Grek translation. Under the impact of Jesus and Paul the central object erupted, to throw off Christianity as a second planet, charged with sufficient energy to generate its own atmosphere of patristic tradition, and possessed of sufficient gravitational pull to attract the Grek bible—the ‘moon’ of the Hebrew bible—into orbit around itself. Christianity also acquired a second satellite in the shape of the Latin bible, compounded as it were out of the interplanetary dust of the Latin-speaking world. The Latin bible—which, down to at least the age of Charlemagne, often amounted for practical purposes to the Gospels, with perhaps the Pauline epistles and the Psalms—has from time to time been exposed to the gravitational pull of other objects that form part of the cluster that includes Judaism, Christianity, Greek philosophy and European humanism; and the outcome has been sundry attempts at improving the language by Roman classicism or by Hebraic realism in diction. Yet the patristic tradition that had nurtured the specialized vocabulary of early Latin Christianity has enveloped the Latin bible with an air that Christians could breathe: so that such waves of hebraization, or of classicism, that have affected the atmosphere of the Church have given it but a transient negative charge. Thus it has come about that the Vulgate has always been held fast to its own orbit, whereas some of its own vernacular and other satellites have been captured, especially in the countries of the Reformation, by the gravitational pull of the original Hebrew of the Old Testament, and the Greek of the New.

(Raphael Loewe, “The Medieval History of the Latin Vulgate” in the Rev G. W. H. Lampe (ed.), The Cambridge History of the Bible Vol. II: the West from the Fathers to the Reformation (Cambridge 1969, repr. 1989), pp. 102-154 at pp. 153-154.)

I think the astrophysics is more than a bit wonky but the metaphor functions fine, in a brass-instrument H. G. Wells kind of way, and it is an awful lot clearer than the stemma diagram pp. 104-105…


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