Armenian Canon Lists IV – The List Of Gregory Of Tatcew (14th Century)

Michael E. Stone

Harvard Theological Review, 1979, Volume 72, No. 3-4, pp. 237-244.

One of the most inclusive of the Armenian Canon lists is that compiled by Gregory of Tatcew (1346 – 1410 C.E.). He was a man of great and comprehensive learning, head of the monastery of Tatcew, in the province of Siunikc. This was a most important center of Armenian learning, which flourished in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.[1]

The Canon list has been published in whole or part as follows:

TErevan, Matenadaran 351 (1616 – 19 C.E.); complete text, by Ter Movsessian.

MJerusalem, Armenian Patriarchate 1928 (1648 C.E.); by Mourad, who, however, does not indicate whether 11. 13–15, 22, 25, 32, 34, 44 occur in his manuscript.

VVenice, Mechitarist Bible no. 4, from which II. 1 – 3 were published by Zarbhanalian.[2]

The text presented here is T, to which variants of V and M are noted, where extant. It should be observed that the published witnesses are very similar to one another. This list has never been translated into a European language.

Of the Thrice-great Gregory who composed (the Canon) of the Old and New Testaments thus; how many and which are the holy books, the Old and New Testaments.

The Old Testament

The five books of Moses; these are,

5the first one, Genesis,

10 Joshua,
Judges and Ruth,
Four books of Kingdoms,
which are 12.
Of these, the first tells about King Saul, the second – of David, the
third – of

15Solomon, the fourth – of Judah and Ezekiel up to the Exile.
Two Chronicles,
Three Ezra,
which are 20.
Three Books of Maccabees,

25The four Books of Solomon, which are
Song of Songs,
and Wisdom.

which are 30.


The Twelve Prophets, of which
35the first one (is) Hosea,
which are 40.

and last, the Testament,
which is 50 books less one thus remaining.

55But, counting the Twelve as one book and Jeremiah as one book,
there are 36 books of the whole Old Testament.

[The New Testament and New Testament Aprocrypha]

Again it is to be known that the whole Old Testament is divided into three, which is

Law – the 5 Books of Moses, as stated;
and Prophets – 8, of which
the first (is) Joshua,
65the second – Judges and Ruth,
the third – 2 (books of) Kingdoms,
the fourth – (2) (books of) Kingdoms,
the fifth – Isaiah,
the sixth – Jeremiah,
70the seventh – Ezekiel,
the eighth – the Twelve Prophets;
and the third collection – the Hagiographa, of which
the first (is) Job,
the second – David,
75the third – Proverbs,
the fourth – Ecclesiastes,
the fifth – Song of Songs,
the sixth – Daniel,
the seventh – 2 (books of) Chronicles
80the eighth – of Ezra,
the ninth – Esther,
which are altogether 22:

For there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet and 22 chief creations, just like the 22 books of collected, divinely created Scriptures.

85But Sirach and Wisdom and Judith and Tobit and Maccabees and the Testaments are not in this reckoning, but are accepted into the order of inspired Scriptures.

Q: How many stichoi are there in the whole Bible?

A: The whole Old Testament (has) 9,129 stichoi
and the whole New Testament (has) 8591 stichoi
Together Old and New Testaments are 18,720 stichoi

Notes on the Text

L. 1; erameci “thrice-great”: or “trismegistos,” a title expressing the reverence with which Gregory (a saint of the Armenian Church) was regarded.

L. 17; The books are: the Hebrew Book of Ezra, the LXX 1 Esdras, and 4 Ezra. L1. 17-18 reflect the situation found in many MS Bibles.

L. 53; ktakn “the Testament”: plural in M; this apparently refers to the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. This work occurs, in certain MS Bibles, at the end of the Old Testament.

L1. 55-56; “The Twelve” means the Twelve Minor Prophets; “Jeremiah” means the Book of Jeremiah, Lamentations, and Baruch.

L. 57; This list of New Testament books and apocrypha, which is not published here, has been of influence in the Armenian tradition and would merit further study.

L. 67; Apparently a numeral has been lost here. Mourad reads “3-4,” but it is difficult to know just what was in his MS.

L. 74; The name “David” for Psalms is unusual. The word is not in the genitive case, so the obvious hypothesis of the loss of “Psalms” is not readily acceptable.

L1. 89-91; In M the figures are: OT: 19,129; NT: 18,591; Total: 37,720. In the decisions of the Council of Antioch (see HTR 66 [1973] 585 n.) the figures are: OT: 79,129; NT: 18,591; Total 97,720 (variant: 107,720). In the Stichometry of Anania of Shirak (see HTR 69 [1976] 289-300) they are: OT: 79,129 (variants: 79,100 and 9,129); NT: 18,591; which togther make 97, 720. The figures in the text of Gregory’s list draw upon the same stichometric tradition, which has been corrupted in the interim.

General Observations

1. The list may be divided into three parts: a list reflecting closely the reality of Armenian usage (ll.3-56); a list based upon traditions deriving from Jewish usage (ll. 58-87); a stichometric tradition drawing upon sources going back at least to Anania of Shirak.

2. The long list contains books found in Armenian MS Bibles, with no anomalies. 3 (4) Ezra and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs are thus reckoned in Gregory’s Old Testament. The tradition of forty-nine books (see ll. 13, 23,44 and 54) is due clearly to this Armenian usage. That of thirty-six books (ll. 55-56) brings Gregory’s Old Testament into concordance with his New, containing thirty books, to which he adds six apostolic writings.

3. The second list is based upon the Hebrew Canon. The number of twenty-two is ancient in Christian usage, and may be found in very early Greek Canon lists.[3] It brought about the recording of certain books, which were regarded as canonical by Christian usage, at the end of the list. This practice apparently started with Origen, who lists only Maccabees at the end. Often Wisdom, Sirach, Tobit, Judith, and Maccabees, as well as Esther, are listed in this position.[4] Here, the inclusion of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs is presumably due to Armenian usage. The book occurs at the end of the list, as is the case in the first list.

4. The connection between the letters of the Hebrew alphabet and the number of biblical books is known in Greek from the time of Origen (182 / 85 – 251 / 54 C.E.).[5] It also appears in other sources, such as in the Armenian version of the Canon list of Cyril of Jerusalem, and it would clearly have been available to a learned man like Gregory of Tatcew.

[6] The number of twenty-two works of creation is to be found in Jubilees 2:23; Charles thinks that Jubilees was cited by Epiphanius, de mens. 20, who also refers to the twenty-two letters and twenty-two books[7] and it is not impossible that some such source was known to Gregory.

5. Much rarer is Christian familiarity with the tripartite division of the Hebrew Canon. It does not appear even in those Eastern Christian lists which adhere to the twenty-two book Canon. Yet it seems unlikely that Gregory drew directly upon a Jewish source, for Jewish usage does not bracket Judges and Ruth together.

Nor does it break up the Five Scrolls. Here, however, Lamentations is (presumably) included with Jeremiah (a Christian practice) and Esther has been noted to the end (cf. the lists of Origen and Epiphanius given by Swete, Introduction, 203-4). Note also that Gregory does not mention that this is the Jewish Canon.

6. The stichometric tradition in ll. 88-91 was discussed in the notes to those lines.

7. Gregory’s list thus draws clearly on the tradition of Armenian and Greek Canon lists but shows some features which are less common and perhaps derive from written sources known to the learned saint. These enhance its value as a witness not only to Armenian Church usage, but also to otherwise unknown Christian reworkings of Jewish traditions.


[1] See J. Mércérian, Histoire et institutions de l’église armenienne (Beirut: Catholic, 1965) 291-92; M. Ormanian, Azgapatum [National History] (Jerusalem/Constantinople: 1913-17) II, cols. 1981-82. On Gregory, see also N. Bogharian, Hay Grolner [Armenian Authors] (Jerusalem: St. James, 1971) 396-401.

[2] M. Ter-Movsessian, History of the Armenian Version of the Bible (St. Petersburg, 1902) 260-63 (in Russian); F. Murad, Yaytnutcean Yovhannu Hin Hay T`argmanut`iwn [The Old Armenian Translation of the Revelation of John] (Jerusalem: St. James, 1905-11). MLD-MLE; G. Zarbhanalian, Matenadaran Haykakan T`argmanut `eanu` Naxneacc [Library of Ancient Armenian Translations) (Venice: Mechitarist, 1889) 143. The text published by Murad was apparently reprinted, with no indication of source, by D. Šamlian. “Surb Grocc Kanonakan ew Erkrordakanon Girkcerě [The Canonical and Deuterocanonical Books of Sacred Scripture],” Sion 40 (1966) 86-87.

[3] H. B. Swete, Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek (Cambridge: C.U.P., 1914) 218-23.

[4] See lists ibid., 203-14; see also A. Sundberg, The Old Testament in Early Church (HTS 20; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 1964) 132-36.

[5] His list, apud Eusebius, Hist. eccl., 2.72 (translated into Armenian in the fifth century); cf. also Sundberg, Old Testament, 134; Cyril of Jerusalem, catech. 4.33.

[6] The Armenian version of Cyril’s list occurs in Erevan, Matenadaran 1500, fol. 370r,as well as in Armenian version of his Catechisms (a fifth-century translation); see Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechisms (Vienna: Mechitarist, 1832) 70-7l (in Armenian).

[7] R. H. Charles, The Book of Jubilees (London: Black, 1902) 17-l8 and further sources there. There is no complete surviving ancient Armenian translation of de mens., but an undated version of parts of it touching on the development of biblical text has survived; see the preface to the Commentary on Psalms by Vartan Vardapet Arewelc; composed in 125l C.E. It was published in Astrakhan in 1797. Some further portions of the work exist (see forthcoming article in HTR 73:3-4 [1980]).