PhD research: Darcy Ireland

An 'Irish' Reference Bible: A Source Analysis of Pauca problesmata de enigmatibus ex tomis canonicis

The perception of Ireland as the ‘isle of saints and scholars’ solidified in the context of European monastic culture before and during the so-called Carolingian Renaissance of the ninth century. At that time, Latin was the universal language of the Church in Western Europe, and Irish missionaries excelled in its use for scholarly purposes. But what intrigued these writers? Exegesis – commenting upon the words of Scripture – undoubtedly represents one of the most prominent forms of literature produced by them, thereby emblemising the intellectual legacy of the early medieval Irish literati

Pauca problesmata de enigmatibus ex tomis canonicis, also known as the Irish Reference Bible (PP), is a late eighth-century Hiberno-Latin exemplar of the thriving tradition of Irish exegesis in Latin during the Carolingian period. PP relies upon many sources to elucidate each of nearly all the biblical books in comparatively inconsistent lengths. The lengthy text, extant exclusively on the Continent in two complete manuscripts and several fragmentary witnesses spanning the ninth and tenth centuries, strongly depends upon the intellectual and textual legacy of such esteemed Latin patristic authors as Augustine, Gregory, Isidore, and Jerome. Precisely because PP, an extensive work, is heavily dependent upon other sources by its construction, much remains to be determined about its composition and heritage. 

However, no critical, modern, printed edition of the text has been fully produced, with merely the Pentateuch and Apocalypse sections having been treated so far, which is a deterrent from properly assessing PP. As both Gerard MacGinty and Martin McNamara (who have examined the text at some length in the past three decades) have separately stated in their published research, a full critical edition of the text not only is desired for accessibility but also is vital to fully appreciate and contextualise PP. A significant preliminary step towards realising a modern printed version of PP is a thorough investigation of the work, especially in identifying its sources. 

This project seeks to carry out a detailed analysis of this text—which is so heavily dependent upon the writings of the Church Fathers—to prove that PP is a crucial work of the Hiberno-Latin exegetical tradition that influenced continental Europe during the intellectual revolution of the era of Charlemagne. In turn, this project will provide foundational research vital to the subsequent production of a full critical edition of the remaining unprinted sections of PP.

Supervisor: Dr Jacopo Bisagni
Funding: Hardiman Research Scholarship (2023-2027)

Research area: the Latin tradition