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19.03.08 Patschovsky, ed. Joachim von Fiore's Concordia

19.03.08 Patschovsky, ed. Joachim von Fiore's Concordia

For scholars who work on Joachim of Fiore (ca. 1140-1202) or the subject of medieval apocalypticism more widely, the publication of Joachim's Concordia novi ac veteris testamenti (Concordance of the New and Old Testament), edited by Alexander Patschovsky, represents a landmark event. Abbot, exegete, and apocalyptic innovator, Joachim remains best known for his vision of the future Sabbath age, the third status in his Trinitarian scheme that divided history into an era of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Writing in the closing decades of the twelfth century, Joachim believed that the status of the Holy Spirit, a time of peace and spiritual fulfillment for the faithful, lay just around the corner. In hands of some later Joachites, posthumous adopters of his ideas, the third status took on a more subversive edge, imagined as an earthly period that would dispense with the present-day church's sacraments, offices, and institutions. According to some historians and philosophers (one thinks of Karl Löwith's Meaning in History), Joachim's millennialist projection of a coming third age influenced subsequent thinkers ranging from Vico to Hegel to Marx, assuming a secularized garb in modern totalitarian drives to master history and transform the future.

Needless to say, this brief review is not the place to evaluate such sweeping claims about Joachim of Fiore's legacy. However, an almost exclusive fixation on the abbot's vision of the future often serves to obscure the immense creativity of his overall theology of history, grounded in what Joachim called "concordance"--that is, his claim that the entirety of historical events could be mapped out through concords between the "time of the Old Testament" (tempus veteris testamenti), from Adam to Christ, and the "time of the New Testament" (tempus novi testamenti), from the Incarnation to Final Judgment. Measured by corresponding generations and parallel sets of seven seals, all of time could be charted in the past, present, and future. According to these hermeneutics, Joachim lived just two generations from the final stage of history, on the cusp of horrible tribulations for the faithful under the sixth seal of the New Testament before the opening of the seventh seal. That seventh seal of history formed the same Sabbath age as the third status, a time of rest and peace before the end.

Although the abbot displayed a rudimentary version of his concordance in his earliest work, the Genealogia (edited by Gian L. Potestà in Deutsches Archiv für Erforschung des Mittelalters, vol. 56), he thoroughly developed his theory of concords in the aptly named Concordia novi ac veteris testamenti. Joachim first began drafting his "masterpiece" (Hauptwerk), as Patschovsky rightly calls it (vol. 1, vii), in 1183 after experiencing ecstatic revelations into the meaning of scripture. Around the same time, he finished the first versions of his two other principal works, the Psalterium decem cordarum (Ten-Stringed Psaltery) and the Expositio in Apocalypsim (Exposition on the Apocalypse). In 1188, Pope Clement III mentioned the Concordia among the works that the abbot had submitted to the papacy for approval. Joachim continued to revise his five-book volume for years to come, amending it as late as 1196. In its pages, one finds his ingenious interpretation of biblical history linked through a detailed concordance with the narrative of historical events after Christ, leading up to Joachim's present and beyond. The abbot's well-known model of the three status developed in tandem with the concordance, which aligned the two tempora of the Old and New Testaments with the eras of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As part of his scriptural and historical analysis in the Concordia, Joachim also offered his ground-breaking ideas about the roles of various orders in time: the order of the laity in the status of the Father; of the clergy in that of the Son; and of monks in that of the Holy Spirit, including future "spiritual men" who would arise during the imminent Sabbath age. Among others, certain Dominicans and Franciscans would eagerly embrace his notion of the spiritual men, seen by them as a prophecy of the mendicant orders. The "principle of concordance" thereby represented the ground-breaking insight that enabled Joachim's overall interpretations of history.

For generations, historians have faced challenges accessing the Concordia properly due to the lack of a critical edition. During the middle decades of the twentieth century, foundational figures for the modern study of Joachim, including Herbert Grundmann and Marjorie Reeves, still had to refer the reader to the flawed and crabbed 1519 print edition of the text. (Grundmann did prepare a typescript of the Concordia that he never published, but that informally circulated in academic circles.) In 1983, taking a considerable step forward, E. Randolph Daniel published a partial edition of the text (Liber de concordia novi ac veteris testamenti, in the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society series), based primarily on a single manuscript (Rome, BAV, vat. lat. 4861). Daniel's edition, however, did not include the substantial fifth book of the Concordia. Now, at long last, there is a complete edition of this crucial work available, published in four high-quality volumes with extensive ancillary materials. Vol. 1 offers an extensive summary and analysis of the Concordia, along with the ratio editionis, a bibliography of secondary literature, color-plates of Joachim's genealogical tables from select manuscripts, and a concordance of its own: namely, between the Venetian print edition, the Daniel edition, and Patschovsky's edition (vol. 1, cdxv-cdxxix). For anyone who has carried out previous research on the Concordia using those previous editions, this concordance will be a major time-saver. Vols. 2-3 present the edition itself, amply annotated with biblical and historical references, as well as cross-references to Joachim's other writings and figural designs. Vol. 4 contains an exhaustive index to the preceding volumes.

Ten years ago (2009), the Monumenta Germaniae Historica published the first critical edition of Joachim's Psalterium decem cordarum. Now that the Concordia novi ac veteris testamenti is in print, only the Expositio in Apocalypsim awaits its definitive edition. One should be appearing soon, likewise published by the MGH. With these lavish, carefully prepared versions of Joachim's three principal works finally available, the next generation of scholars working on the Calabrian abbot can take the next steps towards a fuller and deeper understanding of this endlessly fascinating and highly influential medieval apocalyptic thinker.