(a chain), in Biblical criticism, is an exposition of a portion of the Scriptures, formed of collections from various authors. Thus we have Catenae of the Greek fathers by Procopius, by Olympiodorus, and by Nicephorus, on several books of the Old Testament. Poole's Synopsis may be regarded as a catena of modern interpretations of the Bible. The ancient catenae seem to have originated in the short scholia, or glosses, which it was customary in manuscripts of the Scriptures to introduce in the margin. These, by degrees, were expanded, and passages from the honiilies or sermons of the fathers were added. The most celebrated catena is the catena aurena of Thomas Aquinas, which was translated at Oxford under the superintendence of Mr. J. H. Newman. The subsequent conduct of Mr. Newman has led those who were willing to attach some authority to that work to examine it carefully, and the result has been the detection that Thomas Aquinas has sometimes modified the quotations he has made from the fathers; and the whole, as a commentary, is inferior to the commentaries of modern theologians (Farrar, Eccl. Dict. s.v.; Hook, Ch. Dictionary, s.v.).
The application of this name to works of this sort has been attributed to Thomas Aquinas in consequence of the above collection on the four Gospels; but that it is of later invention appears from the fact that the older editions of this work bear the title of glossa continua, according to what was the customary phraseology of the time, and that Thomas himself, in his dedication to Pope Urban IV, calls his work continua expositio. The early names for these among the Greeks were ἐπιτομαὶ ἑρμηνειῶν, συναγωγαὶ ἐξηγήσεων, σχόλια ἀπὸ διαφέρων ἑρμηνειῶν, etc., which are more justly descriptive of their contents than the later names χουσᾶ κεφάλαια ανδ σειραι and σειραί. These catenae are of different kinds. "Sometimes the words of the fathers from whom they were compiled are presented in a mutilated state, and not as they were originally written. Sometimes the bare exposition is given, without the reasons by which it is supported. Sometimes we find that the opinions of different writers are confounded, that being assigned to one which properly belongs to another. By far the greater number appear to have been hastily and negligently made, with so many omissions, corruptions, and errors that they cannot be relied on" (Davidson, Hermeneut. p. 156). All are not alike in the method of their arrangement, nor are all equally skillfully or neatly arranged. They vary, also, according as the writers from whom they are drawn were attached to the grammatical, the allegorical, or the dogmatic principle of interpretation; and sometimes the compiler's own inclination in this respect gives a character to his work. The use of these catenae is, nevertheless, considerable, as they preserve to us many fragments of Aquila and the other versions of the Hexapla; as they contain extracts from the works of interpreters otherwise unknown to us, and as they occasionally supply various readings.
The number of these catenae is considerable; many yet remain in MS. Of those that have been printed may be mentioned: Catena Gr. Patrum in beatum Job, collectore Niceta, ed. Pat. Junius (London, 1637, fol.); Symbolarum in Matthaeum tomus prior exhibens Catenam Gr. Patrum xxi, edit. P. Possinus (Tolos. 1646, fol.); Ejusd. tomus alter quo continetur Caten: PP. Gr. xx, interpret. Balth. Corderius (Tolos. 1647, fol.); Catena Gr. PP. in Evang. sec. Marcunm collect. atque interp. P. Possinus, etc. (Romans 1673, fol.); Catena lxv Gr. PP. in Lucam, quae simul Evangg. introducit expicatiorum, luce et latinitate donate, etc. a B. Corderio, Antw. 1628, fol.); Catena PP. Gr. in Joannenm ex antlquiss. Gr. codice in lucern, ed. a B. Corderio (Antw. 1630, fol.); CateneC Gr. PP. in Nov. Test. ed. J. A. Cramer (Oxon. 1844, 8 vols. 8vo). To this class belong. also the commentaries of Theophylact, Euthymius Zigabenus, OEcumenius, Andreas, Arethas, Bede, Aquinas, etc.
The introduction of this class of commentaries has been assigned to Olympiodorus by Wolf and others, but this cannot be substantiated; still less can the opinion of those who would ascribe it to Procopius Gaza. It is probable that the practice of compiling from the great teachers of the Church grew up gradually in the later and less enlightened ages, partly from a feeling of veneration for these earlier and brighter luminaries, partly from inability to furnish anything original on the books of Scripture. It was a season of night, when those who sought after truth felt that even reflected lights were a great blessing (see Simon, Hist. Crit. des princ.
Commentateurs de N.T. 100:30, Ittigius de bibliothecis et catenis patrum ELips. 1708]; Fabricius, Bibl. Gr. 7, p. 728; J. C.Wolfius, Exercitatio in cat. PP. Gr. reprinted in Cramer's Catence in N. Test. 1; Noesselt, De Cat. PP. Gr. in N.T. [Opusc. 3:325 sq.]; Cramer's Praefatio to his edition of the Catenae). SEE COMMENTARY.