English translation of Fortunatianus of Aquileia commentary released

I came across this today, and thought it might be of interest:

The earliest Latin commentary on the Gospels, lost for more than 1,500 years, has been rediscovered and made available in English for the first time. The extraordinary find, a work written by a bishop in northern Italy, Fortunatianus of Aquileia, dates back to the middle of the fourth century.

In this substantial commentary, Fortunatianus is reliant on even earlier writings which formed the link between Greek and Latin Christianity. This sheds new light on the way the Gospels were read and understood in the early Church, in particular the reading of the text known as “allegorical exegesis” in which elements in the stories are interpreted as symbols. So, for example, when Jesus climbs into a boat on the Sea of Galilee, Fortunatianus explains that the sea which is sometimes rough and dangerous stands for the world, while the boat corresponds to the Church in which Jesus is present and carries people to safety.

This article is by the translator. For comic relief, I’ll include the Telegraph article I first saw about it. They took some liberties with the headline :slight_smile:


When the New Testament talks about the number of fish they caught in a net… do you really think those numbers are about fish?

Sorry, what? What I meant was that the scholar didn’t say “Don’t take the bible literally” that I saw. Maybe it’s implied but I still think they took liberties.


Are you familiar with the fishing met texts of the New Testament?

Sure! I remember reading about the meaning of the numbers of baskets, in Mark in particular.


“Numbers of baskets”? I mean the text about the exact number of fish caught:

John 21:5-6
Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No. And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.

John 21:8, 10-11
And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes. . . Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three [153 fishes]: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.

Do you think the number 153 is really about fish?

Perhaps this is a bad example. It seems nobody has come up with a generally acceptable interpretation:

"The precision of the number of fish as 153 has long been considered, and various writers have argued that the number 153 has some deeper significance, with many conflicting theories having been offered (see the discussion on the number 153 in the Bible). Discussing some of these theories, theologian D. A. Carson suggests that “If the Evangelist has some symbolism in mind connected with the number 153, he has hidden it well…”

Ah, I was thinking of the feedings of fish and bread in Mark with 12 and 7 baskets remaining. I didn’t recall the story in John. 153 is an odd number. I’d be inclined to guess the intended meaning has been forgotten, but who knows.

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