John Ward

title.none: Newton, Radding, Theology, Rhetoric, and Politics (John Ward)

identifier.other: baj9928.0405.008 04.05.08

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: John Ward, University of Sydney,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2004

identifier.citation: Newton, Francis, and Charles M. Radding. Theology, Rhetoric, and Politics in the Eucharistic Controversy, 1078-1079. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003. Pp. xi, 197. ISBN: $18.50 0-231-12685-9.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 04.05.08

Newton, Francis, and Charles M. Radding. Theology, Rhetoric, and Politics in the Eucharistic Controversy, 1078-1079. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003. Pp. xi, 197. ISBN: $18.50 0-231-12685-9.

Reviewed by:

John Ward
University of Sydney

This is an enthusiastic, scholarly and adventurous book which provides a handy digest of literature on the celebrated eleventh-century eucharistic controversy as well as an annotated text and translation of an anonymous "Adversus Berengarium Diaconum de corpore et sanguine Domini" (their title, called in the original MS "Domino sancto ac venerabili. G. summo pontifici. Berengarius servus eius") which the authors wish to ascribe to the celebrated Monte Cassino dictator, Alberic of Monte Cassino, and date to the years 1078-79 ("between Berengar's arrival in Italy during the summer of 1078 and the decision of the synod in Lent 1079," 41). The volume also contains seven pages of "proof texts" apparently supplied for but in the end rejected by the author of the treatise, an index and bibliography (lacking a reference to Margaret Gibson's paper, "The Case against Berengar of Tours," in Studies in Church History 7 (1971) 61-68), four introductory chapters and three B & W plates.

This reviewer is prepared to go along with the authors in regard to most of their novel claims. It does indeed seem likely that the formerly "anonymous" treatise, edited by G. Morin in RTAM 4 (1932) 109-33, was written by the celebrated rhetor Alberic of MC, that the text was meant to relate closely to the papal and general stance against Berengar that characterized the Roman Councils of All Saints 19 November and the Lenten synod of early February 1079, that it was dedicated to Abbot Desiderius of MC, but intended for Pope Gregory VII himself. The arguments in favor of this reading are circumstantial and not always compelling: the stylistic arguments, enthusiastically put forward, are no more than probable (many of the techniques alleged would--one feels--characterize any half-competent rhetor or monastic writer of the period, and there is no analysis of the use of the cursus [see Murphy, Rhetoric in the M.A., p.203 n.19 and pp.209-10] an essential aspect of the prose style of the time). The stylistic merits of the treatise in question do not in this reviewer's view quite merit the praises lavished upon them by the authors ("such simplicity is the achievement of a master of the arts, an expert prose stylist at the height of his powers," 43-44); much is made of the author's apparent knowledge of Cicero's Topica, and of his mastery of "rhetorical tropes and figures," but this does not seem to be sufficiently intensive to warrant the necessary conclusion that the author was Alberic himself; the interpretation requires us to believe that the scribe who added the Beneventan title (33, figure 1) was an ignoramus who did not trouble to read any of the treatise itself (38); the authors claim there are some discrepancies between the Monte Cassino Chronicle's account of Alberic's role in the eucharistic debate, with its assertion that Alberic drew up a "librum adversus eundem diaconem" [Berengar, deacon of the church of Angers] "ebdomade unius accepta licentia" (48, 120), and the preface to the treatise itself (126-67) which makes no mention of any commission from or participation in the Lenten (or any other) synod (52). Indeed, the preface, addressed probably to an abbot ("beatissime pater"), ascribes the impetus towards the compilation of the treatise to the strength of street rumor (compare Abelard's concern at the belligerent attitude of the people and clergy of Soissons to the allegation (by some) that Abelard believed in three God's--HC ed. Monfrin 725, 745), anxiety on the part of both clergy and laity and the advent of Berengar to Rome. In these circumstances, the monks and their neighbors asked their teacher to write down his views on the subject of the eucharistic transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. The teacher then did but offered it first to his "pater" to be considered before it went to the people who had requested it. All this suggests to the present reviewer that our treatise is indeed NOT the work compiled for the synod (though the dossier at the end of the present volume may be): it seems clear that one of the Roman synods actually commissioned Alberic's work (the authors suppose it was the Lenten synod [52] but it could as easily have been the All Saints' synod [90ff]) and specifically suspended the action against Berengar for one week to allow him to compile it (Bernold of Constance actually states that the All Saints Council "conceded a delay to Berengar," (95)). The MC chronicle describes Alberic's commissioned work in these terms: "librum ... edidit sanctorum patrum testimoniis roboratum." The term "edidit" seems to imply that on this occasion Alberic merely produced, or "published" or "made public" a collection of texts, which may have been gathered beforehand (48). It is quite possible that Alberic had answered his brethren's request for a treatise on the subject somewhat earlier than the date of the All Saints synod of 1078, and the present treatise does seem to be in large part a collection of patristic auctoritates / sententie (especially the dossier pp. 171-80). The most likely proposition, therefore, would be that Alberic did compose a treatise in response to a request from his brother monks and their neighbors but this composition predated the All Saints synod. It presumably left the not-used extracts (cf. p.126 line 15) together at the end of the treatise or in some other place and the scribe of MS 106 of the University Library, Aberdeen (the unique MS of Alberic's treatise) copied them (in the first half of the twelfth century) into the place they now occupy as an integral part of the treatise in question (50-52). The All Saints synod perhaps commissioned a dossier of extracts (our dossier or some similar collection from this dossier and the treatise itself) from Alberic, because it knew he had such a work already in hand (?). The authors of the present volume do not go this far and remain content with a date for the treatise somewhere between B's arrival in Rome and the Lenten synod (41). They provide no close analysis of the relationship between the dossier extracts and those used in the body of Alberic's treatise.

The authors claim (90) that the text provides "the only direct evidence of what actually was said against Berengar in 1078-1079." This may be, but it depends to some extent on the links between the libellus and the councils themselves, and these are left vague. As things are, we are left with the surmise that Monte Cassino played a role in protecting Gregory VII from the charge of being "soft on Berengarianism" (95) and that Desiderius and Petrus Neapolitanus (who had paid a call to Berengar) summoned Alberic to assist with the public debates against Berengar (96). Perhaps, but it is not what the preface to the libellus actually says. In fact, as the authors admit, we have no idea what Alberic did in regard to the councils or Monte Cassino's campaign against Gregory (109ff).

On the relationship between Alberic's treatise and the liberal arts of the trivium, a few points should be made. Firstly, concerning the reference to intrinsecus / extrinsecus (60), if these terms were used by Alberic they would certainly indicate a rhetorical knowledge (cf. Victorinus, Commentary on the 'De inventione' ed. C. Halm Rhetores Latini Minores [Leipzig 1863] p.170). In fact, however, they do not appear to be the terms used in the treatise. As for the "soberer" tone of p.65, what is the relevance here of the tria genera dicendi / figurae of Ad Herennium 4.8.11 et seqq. which Alberic would have known very well? The authors exaggerate the significance of some of the minor phrases in the treatise (e.g. p. 68). I am not so impressed by the evidence of "structure" within the treatise (71ff): it seems primarily a collection of extracts with paraphrases and connecting passages according to a homiletic kind of arrangement (an exploration of the possible links between the libellus and contemporary homiletic / sermon practice might have been interesting). On p.68: a link is demonstrated between the cultured Roman villa of antiquity and contemporary Monte Cassino. This is very interesting and would help explain role of rhetoric in the abbey's culture--a role so stressed in the present volume. Elsewhere the authors speculate that MS Vatican Ottob. lat. 1406, "a collection of classical dialectical texts" was in fact a celebratory "thank-you" volume prepared with the finest materials and craftsmanship for Alberic on his supposed triumphant return from the Lenten synod of February 1079 (fig.3, p.111 & p.112). In fact, they argue, Alberic is pictured in the MS (figure 2, p.67). This is a daring suggestion, but since there is so little evidence in the libellus of any use made of the texts contained within this fine MS (as the authors admit (113!))--although there is a tiny and ornamental use of Cicero's Topica (148, lines 360-61)--that one wonders how appropriate it would have been as a presentation volume. The dominant "tone" of Alberic's treatise is indicated at p.166.655-56: "noli interrogare, si non vis errare" ("do not ask if you wish to avoid error")--hardly the conclusion of one anxious to plumb the depths of the ancient treatises on the trivium! Certainly the present reviewer is unconvinced "that the author of the Libellus learned the art of organizing stages of an argument verbally from studying the treatises of Aristotle, Porphyry, Cicero and Boethius as preserved in a collection like that of the Ottobonianus" (68). More needs to be done to make this point, and without it, one is uncertain about any particular link between Alberic and the Ottobonian MS.

The weakest aspect of this volume, in fact, in the view of the present reviewer, is its handling of the influence of the three trivium arts. Previous scholarship has accustomed us to the view that Berengar or Lanfranc or both, were experimenting with novel applications of grammatical and dialectical rules to the eucharistic problem. Thus, in a celebrated article, R.W.Southern ("Lanfranc of Bec and Berengar of Tours," in R.W. Hunt, W. Pantin and R.W.Southern [eds], Studies in Medieval History presented to F.M.Powicke (Oxford, 1948)) acquainted us with a variety of trivium arguments, relating to the use of the pronoun versus the noun (hoc / hic panis) and to the relationship between the predicate and the subject, whilst even a standard history of philosophy (E.Gilson, History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages (N.Y. 1955), p.615) tells us that Berengar argued "that accidents cannot subsist apart from substance; since the accidents of bread subsist after the consecration, its substance must needs remain." What has happened to all this in the present volume? Briefly, they have disappeared, to be replaced by the atmosphere of the Libellus which is the subject of the volume (p.28,113, 119: "We have also seen that the Berengarian controversy in fact owed very little to new studies in logic and grammar"; p.101: "The auctoritas of the fathers is everywhere crucial"). Alberic himself, in the present treatise, owes little to grammatical and dialectical studies (p.152.421-22, and p.156.504ff are tokenistic only), but is this enough to dismiss Berengar and Lanfranc's appropriation of angles derived from these "new" studies? I think not, and the failure to provide an examination of this aspect is a weakness of the book, even though, properly speaking, it is not part of the subject matter of the book. However, by attempting an overall review of the whole subject and offering such opinionated views as are to be found on pp.119-120, the authors open themselves up to my criticism. Rhetoric they handle well enough, but grammar and dialectic are sidelined.

The translation seems conscientious, readable, and accurate where checked. One marvels at "who (so to speak) often set me above myself" for "qui me ut ita dixerim saepe mihi praeponunt" but without changing the text ("sibi" for "mihi"?) it is hard to know what else to make of it. The translation is inventive in expanding the original to make better English sense (cf. p.132 line 116 "si manet, et manetur" [Augustine]: "if he remains and one remains in him"). The "dossier" (173-80) is not translated.

This is an exciting book, then, by two scholars who have already made many major contributions to our understanding of eleventh- and twelfth-century culture and society (well beyond the modest number of items cited in the bibliography). It adds substantially to our profile of Alberic of Monte Cassino and it contributes a good deal to our understanding of Cassinese intellectual life and the campaign against Berengar's eucharistic views in the 1070s. While some readers may not be particularly impressed by every reason adduced for the authors' conclusions, and some will not want to follow the authors into every conjecture they make, no one will feel bound to reject their major conclusions. They are all more than probable in the circumstances. This is a fine piece of medieval detective work.