The COMPAUL project was funded by a European Research Council Starting Grant awarded to Dr Hugh Houghton, and investigated the role played by early commentaries in the transmission of the text of the New Testament.
The project ran at the University of Birmingham's Institute for Textual Scholarship and Electronic Editing (ITSEE) in the School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion between 2011 and 2016. The budget of €1,499,233 was provided by the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under grant agreement 283302. The original description of work outlined three objectives:
- An analysis of the biblical text and its treatment in the earliest surviving Greek and Latin commentaries on the Pauline Epistles.
- An investigation of the manuscript tradition of Pauline Commentaries.
An exploration of the re-use of early commentaries on Paul in later writings.
Building on the procedures established by Dr Houghton in his doctoral work (published as Augustine's Text of John), the COMPAUL project developed a methodology for analysing the biblical text preserved in early commentaries. Two particular applications of this from the course of the project stand out: the recovery of additional Old Latin readings from the manuscript tradition of Jerome's Commentary on Galatians likely to represent the text used by the author, and the demonstration that the biblical text in the Commentary on the Gospels by Fortunatianus of Aquileia, only rediscovered in 2012, preserves a form consistent with the origin of this work in mid fourth-century Italy and can shed light on this previously unexamined author and his working practices. The project's work on Greek manuscripts resulted in the identification of no fewer than 100 witnesses to the catena form of commentary which had hitherto not been included in the official list of New Testament manuscripts, as well as developing a standard terminology in English to describe the format of these witnesses. The significance of the layout of early Latin commentaries, and the impact this may have had on the transmission of the biblical text, was presented by Dr Houghton as a plenary lecture at the Seventeenth International Patristics Conference in Oxford. The project also created extensive databases to trace the history of the text of the Pauline Epistles and the role played by commentaries in preserving non-standard early readings.
In addition to numerous presentations at academic gatherings, the COMPAUL project hosted two international conferences at Birmingham. The first, in March 2015, brought together a range of world-leading text-critical and commentary specialists in order to focus on the significance of commentaries for the biblical text. This led to the publication of a landmark volume, Commentaries, Catenae and Biblical Tradition, which not only presents ground-breaking original research on Greek and Latin commentaries but also considers the only known commentary to survive in the Gothic language and provides an initial checklist of Coptic and Ethiopic catenae. The second conference associated with the project was the Sixth British Patristics Conference, held in September 2016. More than one hundred scholars of early Christianity, from sixteen countries, gathered in Birmingham in the last month of the project for the final presentations of research by members of the project team as well as many other papers on related themes.
The outputs of the project include over eighty electronic transcriptions of biblical books from New Testament manuscripts and databases containing 38,150 quotations of all fourteen Pauline Epistles in Greek and 99,790 full-text references to Romans, 1&2 Corinthians and Galatians in Latin. These are being made available through the website www.epistulae.org. Two doctoral students were also supported to work on theses related to the project's goals, namely an examination of the Pauline text of Origen and an edition of the catena on Galatians attributed to Oecumenius. The project's publications, many of which are available under Open Access initiatives, are as follows:
- H.A.G. Houghton, C.M. Kreinecker, R.F. MacLachlan and C.J. Smith (edd.), The Principal Pauline Epistles: A Collation of Old Latin Evidence. NTTSD 59. Leiden: Brill, 2019. (xii+440pp.) ISBN 987-90-09-39049-2. Open Access.
- H.A.G. Houghton, Fortunatianus of Aquileia, Commentary on the Gospels. English Translation and Introduction (with Lukas J. Dorfbauer). CSEL extra seriem. Berlin & New York: De Gruyter, 2017. ISBN 978-3-11-052420-8. Open Access.
- H.A.G. Houghton (ed.), Commentaries, Catenae and Biblical Tradition. (Texts and Studies 3.13). Piscataway NJ: Gorgias, 2016. (xxii+350pp.) ISBN 978-1-4632-0576-8.
- H.A.G. Houghton, The Latin New Testament. A Guide to its Early History, Texts, and Manuscripts. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. (xx+380pp.) ISBN 978-0-19-874473-3. Open Access.
- H.A.G. Houghton, M.L. Davies and Markus Vinzent (edd.), Studia Patristica Vol. C. Including Papers Presented at the Sixth British Patristics Conference, Birmingham, 5-7 September 2016. Leuven: Peeters, 2020. (xvi+388pp.) ISBN 987-90-42-94041-3.
Journal articles and chapters in edited volumes
- Matthew R. Steinfeld, "The Text of Romans, Second Corinthians, and Galatians in the writings of Origen of Alexandria." PhD Thesis, University of Birmingham, 2016. Open Access.
- Theodora Panella, "The Pseudo-Oecumenian Catena on Galatians." PhD Thesis, University of Birmingham, 2018. Open Access.
Twenty people contributed to the project during its five years:
- Principal Investigator: Dr Hugh Houghton
- Consultant: Prof. David Parker
- Research Fellows: Dr Rosalind MacLachlan, DDr Christina Kreinecker, Dr Catherine Smith, Dr Susan B. Griffith, Dr Amy Myshrall
- Doctoral students: Theodora Panella, Matthew Steinfeld
- Data collection: Jonathan Day, Robin Diver, Alan Taylor Farnes, Samuel Gibson, Dr Rachel Kevern, Christopher Knibbs, Amanda Myers, Holly Ranger, Thomas Ruston, Georgia Tsatsani and Angeliki Voskou.
Further information and official reports about the project can be found on the European Commission's CORDIS website.