Boniface, incest, and the earliest extant version of Pope Gregory I's Libellus responsionum (JE 1843)

TitleBoniface, incest, and the earliest extant version of Pope Gregory I's Libellus responsionum (JE 1843)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsElliot MD
JournalZeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte. Kanonistische Abteilung
Start Page62
Date Published2014
AbstractThe Libellus responsionum is accepted by most scholars today as an authentic work of Pope Gregory I, with the exception of its chapter on incest, which is believed to contain a telling interpolation. Doubt concerning the Libellus's incest chapter can be traced back to the mid-eighth century, when it was cited by St Boniface (and by at least one prominent Frankish or Bavarian aristocrat) as allowing marriage between a nephew and his aunt. But Boniface was in fact misreading the Libellus, whose incest chapter clearly prohibits such marriages. Indeed, there is nothing in the incest chapter that is inconsistent with either Gregory's thinking or the legal standards of the time. Boniface was therefore wrong to doubt the authenticity of the incest chapter, as has been most recent scholarship. The incest chapter does not contain an interpolated passage; rather this passage is herein shown to have been present in the earliest extant version of the Libellus, which (contrary to the conclusions of Paul Meyvaert's research) must have been the so-called Capitula version. The early transmission of the Capitula version is traced through two seventh-century Italian canon law collections. It was probably via these collections that the various forms of the Libellus entered England and Francia, where Bede and Boniface finally encountered them. An attempt is made to reconstruct the early transmission of the Libellus within the early Anglo- Saxon church. Boniface is shown to have been familiar with multiple versions of the Libellus, at least one of which omitted the offending passage from the incest chapter; this may explain why Boniface continually expressed doubt about the authenticity of that passage throughout the later years of his career on the Continent.
Reference Points
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