Scott Wells

title.none: Wannenmacher, Hermeneutik der Heilsgeschichte (Scott Wells)

identifier.other: baj9928.0609.018 06.09.18

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Scott Wells, California State University, Los Angeles,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2006

identifier.citation: Wannenmacher, Julia Eva. Hermeneutik der Heilsgeschichte: De septem sigillis und die sieben Siegel im Werk Joachims von Fiore. Series: Studies in the History of Christian Traditions, vol. 118. Leiden: Brill, 2005. Pp. xiii, 393. $166.00 90-04-13750-5. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 06.09.18

Wannenmacher, Julia Eva. Hermeneutik der Heilsgeschichte: De septem sigillis und die sieben Siegel im Werk Joachims von Fiore. Series: Studies in the History of Christian Traditions, vol. 118. Leiden: Brill, 2005. Pp. xiii, 393. $166.00 90-04-13750-5. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Scott Wells
California State University, Los Angeles

Joachim of Fiore (ca. 1135-1202)--prophet, innovative Biblical exegete, and founder of his own Florensian monastic order--certainly counts as one of the most intriguing intellectual figures of the medieval Church. He fascinated many of his contemporaries, including the popes and monarchs who sought out his prophetic knowledge, while outraging many others, including Bernard of Clairvaux's former secretary Geoffrey of Auxerre, who accused Joachim of being not a true prophet but a blasphemous and "Judaizing" interpreter of sacred Scripture. Whatever one makes of Geoffrey's charge and his related claim that the Calabrian abbot and renegade Cistercian was a converted Jew, he correctly identified Joachim as not a traditional prophet--a conduit for the delivery of God's revealed word--but as an individual who claimed that divine inspiration opened up to him the true meaning and correct interpretation of Biblical texts. Joachim's three successive experiences of spiritual illumination offered him not a new message from God but a key to decoding messages in already-revealed Holy Scripture that had heretofore been hidden. Specifically, Joachim felt he now understood those concordances between the historical books of the Old Testament on the one hand and the Gospels and Book of Revelation on the other that revealed the very shape of sacred history, organized into an overlapping system of two eras (more or less sub lege and sub gratia) and three ages or statuses (those of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). The interpretation of John's Apocalypse, especially of the Seven Seals and their Openings, featured prominently in Joachim's exegetical work.

Julia Eva Wannenmacher's richly detailed and intellectually engaging study builds upon the commentary and text edition of the same short work by Joachim on the Seven Seals of the Apocalypse published by Marjorie Reeves and Beatrice Hirsch-Reich in Recherches de Theologie ancienne et medievale in 1954, "The Seven Seals in the Writings of Joachim of Fiore. With Special Reference to the Tract De Septem Sigillis." Like that article, Wannenmacher's book contains both a commentary and a text edition. In the intervening years, six additional manuscripts of Joachim's treatise have been discovered to add to the six used by Reeves and Hirsch-Reich for their edition, at least one of which (Paris BN ms. lat. 11864, fol. 152r) constitutes a strong early witness to be placed alongside the Oxford Corpus Christi College ms. 255A, fol. 4v known to the earlier editors. The doubling of the manuscript foundation makes a very strong case for Wannenmacher's new edition, while the commentary she provides not only takes under consideration much of the work published on Joachim in the intervening half century, but also offers a considerably more thorough analysis and contextualization of De septem sigillis than Reeves provided in her twenty-page overview of the work.

Wannenmacher's findings substantially confirm the hypotheses put forward in the 1954 article. She agrees with Reeves and Hirsch-Reich that De septem sigillis is one of Joachim's last works, a consummation and crystallization of his interpretation of divine history through the model of the Seven Seals based on his fifteen years (1184-1199) of reflection and commentary upon John's Apocalypse. The Seals correspond to events under the Old Covenant and Law, from Abraham to the coming of Christ, while their Openings correspond to events in the period of Grace, from the Incarnation to the advent of the gaudium sempiternum. Each of the two eras, sub lege and sub gratia, is structured into eight periods corresponding to the Seven Seals (or Openings) and a final consummation. Joachim then identified the concordances between the historical developments of each Seal under the Old Dispensation with those of its corresponding Opening under the New. For example, the First Seal's Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob accord to the First Opening's Zachariah, John the Baptist, and Christ. The wars of the Israelites with the Canaanites in the period of the Second Seal, from Joshua to David, correspond to the struggles of the martyrs with the pagans in the period of the Second Opening from the death of John the Evangelist to the conversion of Constantine, and so forth. While space does not allow for a full reproduction of the table of correspondences that constitutes De septem sigillis, it almost might. As Wannenmacher observes, again confirming the findings of Reeves and Hirsch-Reich, the tract refers to itself as a carta and was designed to chart out on a single leaf of parchment an overview of Joachim's historical system to those seeking an introduction to his exegesis, listing brief synopses of the contents for each Seal and Opening in parallel columns. Thus the description of the First Seal in the left-hand column is paired with the description of the First Opening (as well as a summary of the corresponding passage in the Book of Revelation) in the right-hand column, and so on down the list. Since Joachim's thought was more spatial than linear, the system is easier to see on the page than describe in writing. Luckily, the Oxford manuscript preserves the tract in something close to its original format and is photographically reproduced by Wannenmacher on page 254 of her book, along with her own schematic reconstruction of the original format on page 253. So, with Wannenmacher's edition, readers can use the reconstructed carta as originally intended, as a map to guide them into the interconnected intricacies of Joachim's historical thought.

The edition of this short treatise prepared by Wannenmacher is a model of its kind. Her descriptions of the twelve manuscripts are clear and well-detailed. Since these codices also contain other works by Joachim, this section of Wannenmacher's work will prove a particularly useful tool for scholars interested in studying the reception of the prophet's works from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries. Her analysis of the relationship between the manuscripts is persuasive, even if (as she acknowledges) that very description makes her efforts to construct a two-dimensional Stemma somewhat counterproductive, simplifying what was obviously a very complex transmission process which, to be fully clarified, would perhaps require textual comparisons of the other works by Joachim (and pseudo-Joachim) in these manuscripts, a major project beyond the scope of the present work. Finally, while the edition can of course be relied upon as an accurate reflection of the original form of Joachim's 'De septem sigillis', it is also designed by Wannenmacher as a guide to working with the original manuscripts, "die eine Edition ja nicht ein fuer allemal ersetzen will. (332)"

The author's extensive commentary could likewise hardly be bettered as a guide in how to approach De septem sigillis. Building on Reeve's hypothesis that this brief tract constitutes a synopsis of Joachim's interpretations of the Seven Seals in the Concordia novi ac veteris testamenti and the Expositio super Apocalypsim, Wannenmacher extensively analyzes passages from these two major exegetical treatises to show how the carta condenses Joachim's thoughts on the structure of sacred history. Secondary works by Joachim, notably the De vita Sancti Benedicti and the Intelligentia super calathis receive extended attention in particular chapters. Wannenmacher also devotes her commentary to contextualizing Joachim's readings of the Seven Seals with those made by patristic authors such as Augustine and especially Gregory the Great (whose use by Joachim she plans to explore at greater length in a future work), as well as medieval authors from Bede to Rupert of Deutz. This enables her to highlight, more particularly than is usually the case in studies of Joachim, precisely where and in what way his interpretations of the Book of Revelation were original and daring while also demonstrating that these interpretations were much more strongly shaped by the exegetical tradition than scholarly admirers of the Calabrian's prophetic vision have sometimes recognized. Indeed, one of the signal strengths of Wannenmacher's work is her extensive and profound familiarity with Joachim's works, which informs every aspect of her commentary. While the carta itself is extremely brief (even without comparison to the long and convoluted nature of Joachim's major treatises), the reader of Hermeneutik der Heilsgeschichte will glean the author's substantial insights not just into De septem sigillis but into some of Joachim's more extended reflections on the contents of the Seven Seals and their Openings, especially those in the Liber introductorius of the Expositio super Apocalypsim.

For Wannenmacher, as for Reeves and Hirsch-Reich, Joachim's thought processes were analogous to those of a composer or painter, structured spatially and visually rather than linearly and verbally. Also, as with such an artist, he constantly refined and reconsidered his creative process, evolving his model of sacred history towards an ever-more perfect final form (for Wannenmacher's thoughts along these lines, see e.g. pages 32-33 as well as her Conclusion). This image of Joachim provides Wannenmacher with a strong basis for interpreting his De septem sigillis as a late work which is "die Essenz dieses jarhzehtelangen Prozesses, Joachims Roadmap zum Heil. (251)" Following Kurt-Victor Selge, who established the now-standard dating of Joachim's principal writings, Wannenmacher identifies the Liber introductorius as the last extended analysis of the Apocalypse that Joachim completed. It is precisely this text that Wannenmacher demonstrates to exhibit the closest parallels with the contents of the carta, thus proving that De septem sigillis exactly follows and accurately reflects Joachim's final thoughts on the Book of Revelation. She also persuasively supports the notion that this tract was designed as a teaching tool to convey the essentials of Joachim's interpretation of sacred history.

Finally, Hermeneutik der Heilsgeschichte instills fresh energy into long-established debates and opens up new fields of inquiry through the very strength with which it draws its conclusions. Where Reeves and Hirsch-Reich described the intended audience of De septem sigillis as those interested in what Joachim had to say about the future, Wannenmacher identifies this form of instruction as growing out of Joachim's role as teacher and guide of monks. This fits with the emphasis Stephen Wessley, for example, has placed on Joachim as monastic reformer and highlights the need for further exploration into this aspect of Joachim's career. Wannenmacher also argues, against Reeves and Hirsch-Reich, that De septem sigillis is an independent work, rather than prepared in conjunction with the Liber figurarum (whose authenticity is still contested). However, she leaves open the possibility of some kind of link, and includes as an illustration an example of the Liber's seven-headed dragon figure from the same Oxford manuscript which contains De septem sigillis. Wannenmacher's diffidence concerning these powerful images reflects not only ongoing concerns over their authenticity, but also a clearly- demarcated position on the relationship between Joachim's two-era and three-status versions of sacred history. The Joachim who emerges in Hermeneutik der Heilsgeschichte is much more Augustinian than the Joachim one meets elsewhere in the literature, and places more weight on the two eras than on the three statuses. The particular problem with the latter, from an Augustinian perspective, is that while the age of the Son overlaps with those of the Father and the Holy Spirit, there is to be a final period governed predominantly by the Holy Spirit to accord with the age governed predominantly by the Father before the Incarnation and its prophetic proclamation. This culminating "age of the spirit" was a concept that especially interested Joachim's followers in the Later Middle Ages. It also, apparently, began to draw criticism from the curia of Innocent III during Joachim's lifetime. But, on this issue in particular, it is difficult to extract the ideas original to Joachim from the elaborations of the enthusiastic "Joachites" of subsequent generations.

Wannenmacher's work makes one aware of the need to read Joachim very closely to measure the precise extent to which he deviated from more conventional interpretations of the Book of Revelation, and to determine how his ideas about the structure of sacred history evolved over the 1180s and 1190s. What were his final thoughts on the relationship between the two eras and the three statuses, and does De septem sigillis completely reflect them, or must one take into account the Liber figurarum as well? Were all the most adventurous explorations of the fully-revealed third status, when the Holy Spirit would predominate, only undertaken by others after Joachim's death or, as commentators such as Herbert Grundmann, Robert E. Lerner, E. Randolph Daniel, and (with significant moderation) Andreas Blank have argued, were they an integral part of Joachim's historical vision? If Joachim moved toward greater emphasis on the two- era model in his final years, as Wannenmacher demonstrates, did he do so as a result of the internal dynamics of his creative vision or in response to external (papal) pressure? Joachim's almost certainly genuine letter of 1200 to Innocent III, in which he proffered the submission of himself and his writings to the Holy See, suggests that the intellectual freedom he had enjoyed under Celestine III did not long survive the accession of a new pontiff in 1198. Finally, even if De septem sigillis accurately reflects the contents of the Liber introductorius and Joachim's other late writings with no spurious components, as Wannenmacher convincingly establishes, that does not definitively mean that Joachim himself prepared the tract. It could have been drafted by a disciple concerned to summarize the prophetic exegete's abstruse writings for other pupils, in a process analogous to one that Reeves and Hirsch-Reich suggested as a possibility for the Liber figurarum. Or perhaps, to speculate on a further possibility, could it have served as an aid (whether during his lifetime or posthumously) in defending Joachim's ideas from the kinds of accusations that would lead to the 1215 condemnation? Whatever position one takes on such questions, it will be impossible for the foreseeable future to engage in debates about Joachim's writings, his activities in his last years, the orthodoxy of his historical imagination, its relationship to patristic and medieval exegesis, the authenticity of the Liber figurarum, or the abbot's role as pedagogue promulgating his ideas to a broader public without taking Wannenmacher's work and its authoritative mastery of the primary sources into account.