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Alea Evangelii – Canon Tables

Here I will give a little introduction to what I believe is a key element of the Alea Evangelii game I’ve been working on as a project. In fact it is crucial to being able to play the game fully at a more advanced level than just by the basic rules which make it a game of pure chance.

The diagram of the game and the description make so much of the relationship to the very first part of the manuscript that it cannot be ignored. This is the Eusebian Canon Tables of which I knew nothing before I started looking into this game. These used to be included in practically every manuscript copy of the Gospels, including for instance the Book of Kells and the Book of Armagh, and were a form of index to the Gospels, what is known as paratextual information. They were originally devised by Eusebius who went through the four books of the Gospel recognisable today and by dividing the text into numbered sections he made a table of the corresponding parts in each book. Thus he was able to show that there was a high degree of conformity between the four books and the first canon itself contains the numbers of the sections which are consistently used in all four Gospels. By looking across the line of the table you can find the sections that are linked to each other. The concept is fairly simple but made more difficult by the fact that most copies of the Gospels don’t make very clear which sections are which and their number in the sequence.

This whole system has been superseded in more recent times by the Chapter and Verse numbering which many more people will be familiar with. However without a grasp of this the game is greatly lessened in its potential. So I eventually found a copy of the New Testament which had an indication of the Eusebian sections, however this was the Greek Nestle- Aland version of the New Testament. My Greek not being very good it also fortunately had the modern Chapter and Verse divisions as well and so I painstakingly worked out the Eusebian sections and related them to the Chapter and Verse. Now it should be possible for anyone with a copy of the modern New Testament to find the relevant passages from the Eusebian Canon Tables and I am making a download of the document available here to anyone who wishes to use it. Thanks must also go to my dad who helped to create the final full PDF out of the individual PDF’s I made. There are some blank pages in there which hopefully should make the pagination work in a much better way if you were to print it all off as one document.

I am quite happy for anyone to give me feedback on this as well because I may have introduced my own human error into the document but also there were a number of discrepancies between the manuscript and the Greek New Testament although in my compilation I have tried to be as true to the tables in the manuscript as possible as it was the source of the original game information.

As far as I can tell this is the only place where you can find this information online. Believe me, I tried!

Also you may have noticed that the table for the first canon is kind of strangely laid out in comparison with the other ones. This is in order to facilitate its use with the game. I will explain more on this later. But for now just realise that the key to the positions of the numbers is given in the top box on the left, i.e. each square of four quadrants is equivalent to one line of the canon tables. And the sequence runs from top left to bottom right in columns. The numbers in each of the Mathew quadrants are roughly in ascending numerical order. All of the other tables should be self-explanatory.

By DrewMcN

Drew McNaughton is a poet and musician with a passion for nature and languages.

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