History of the Christian Church, Volume IV: Mediaeval Christianity. A.D. 590-1073.
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§ 174. Patramnus.

I. Ratramnus, Corbeiensis monachus: Opera omnia, in Migne, Tom. CXXI. The treatise De corpore et sanguine Domini was first published by Johannes Praël under the title Bertrami presbyteri ad Carolum Magnum imperatorum, Cologne, 1532. It was translated into German, Zürich 1532, and has repeatedly appeared in English under the title, The Book of Bertram the Priest, London 1549, 1582, 1623, 1686, 1688 (the last two editions are by Hopkins and give the Latin text also), 1832; and Baltimore., U. S. A., 1843. The best edition of the original text is by Jacques Boileau, Paris, 1712, reprinted with all the explanatory matter in Migne.

II. For discussion and criticism see the modern works, Du Pin, VII. passim; Ceillier, XII. 555–568. Hist. Lit. de la France, V. 332–351. Bähr, 471–479. Ebert, II. 244–247. Joseph Bach: Dogmengeschichte des Mittelalters, Wien, 1873–75, 2 parts (I. 193 sqq.); Joseph Schwane: Dogmengeschichte der mittleren Zeit, Freiburg in Br., 1882 (pp. 631 sqq.) Also Neander, III. 482, 497–501, 567–68.

Of Ratramnus13641364    Bertramnus, although a common variant, is due to a slip of the pen on the put of a scribe and is therefore not an allowable form. very little is known. He was a monk of the monastery of Corbie, in Picardy, which he had entered at some time prior to 835, and was famed for his learning and ability. Charles the Bald frequently appealed to his judgment, and the archbishop of Rheims gave over to him the defense of the Roman Church against Photius. He participated in the great controversies upon Predestination and the Eucharist. He was an Augustinian, but like his fellows he gathered his arguments from all the patristic writers. In his works he shows independence and ingenuity. One of his peculiarities is, that like Bishop Butler in the Analogy, he does not name those whom he opposes or defends. He was living in 868; how long thereafter is unknown.

He was not a prolific author. Only six treatises have come down to us.

1. A letter upon the cynocephali.13651365    Epistola de cynocephalis, Migne, CXXI. col. 1153-1156. It is a very curious piece, addressed to the presbyter Rimbert who had answered his queries in regard to the cynocephali, and had asked in return for an opinion respecting their position in the scale of being. Ratramnus replied that from what he knew about them he considered them degenerated descendants of Adam, although the Church generally classed them with beasts. They may even receive baptism by being rained upon.13661366    “Nam et baptismi sacramentum divinitus illum consecutum fuisse, nubis ministerio eum perfundente, sicut libellus ipse testatur, creditur,” col. 1155.

2. How Christ was born.13671367    De eo quod Christus ex virgine natus est liber, ibid. col. 81 [not 31, as in table of contents]-102. In this treatise Ratramnus refutes the theory of some Germans that Christ issued from the body of the Virgin Mary in some abnormal way.13681368    Chap. I. col. 83. He maintains on the contrary, that the birth was one of the ordinary kind, except that his mother was before it, during it, and after it a Virgin13691369    Chap. II. col. 84. because her womb, was closed. He compares Christ’s birth to his issuing from the sealed tomb and going through closed doors.13701370    Chap. VIII. col. 96. The book is usually regarded as a reply to the De partu virginis of Radbertus, but there is good reason to consider it independent of and even earlier than the latter.13711371    See Steitz in Herzog2(art. Radbertus) XII. 482-483.

3. The soul (De anima). It exists in MS. in several English libraries, but has never been printed. It is directed against the view of Macarius (or Marianus) Scotus, derived from a misinterpreted sentence of Augustin that the whole human race had only one soul. The opinion was condemned by the Lateran council under Leo X. (1512–17).

4. Divine predestination.13721372    De praedestione Dei libri duo, Migne, CXXI. col. 11-80. It was written about 849 at the request of Charles the Bald, who sought Ratramnus’ opinion in the Gottschalk controversy. Ratramnus defended Gottschalk, although he does not mention his name, maintaining likewise a two-fold predestination, regardless of the fact that the synods of Mayence (848) and of Quiercy (849) had condemned it, and Gottschalk had been cruelly persecuted by Hincmar of Rheims. In the first book Ratramnus maintains the predestination of the good to salvation by an appeal to the patristic Scriptural quotations and interpretations upon this point, particularly those of Augustin. In the second book he follows the same method to prove that God has predestinated the bad to eternal damnation. But this is not a predestination to sin. Rather God foresees their determination to sin and therefore withholds his help, so that they are lost in consequence of their own sins.

5. Four books upon the Greeks’ indictment of the Roman Church.13731373    Contra Graecorum opposita Romanam ecclesiam infamantium libri quatuor, ibid. col. 225-346. Like the former work, it was written by request. In 967 Photius addressed a circular letter to the Eastern bishops in which he charged the Roman Church with certain errors in faith and practice: e.g., the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, the celibacy of the clergy, the Sabbath and Lent fasts. Nicholas I. called upon his bishops to refute this charge. Hincmar of Rheims commissioned Odo of Beauvais to write an apologetic treatise, but his work not proving satisfactory he next asked Ratramnus. The work thus produced is very famous. The first three books are taken up with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit; but in the fourth he branches out upon a general defense of the ecclesiastical practices of the Latin Church. He does this in an admirable, liberal and Christian spirit. In the first chapter of the fourth book he mildly rebukes the Greeks for prescribing their peculiar customs to others, because the difference in such things is no hindrance to the unity of the faith which Paul enjoins in 1 Cor. i. 10. This unity he finds in the faith in the Trinity, the birth of Christ from a Virgin, his sufferings, resurrection, ascension, session at God’s right hand, return to judgment, and in the baptism into Father, Son and Holy Spirit.13741374    IV. 1. Ibid. col. 303. In the first three chapters of the book he proves this proposition by a review of the condition of the Early Church. He then passes on to defend the Roman customs.13751375    It is instructive to compare the apology of Aeneas, bishop of Paris (reprinted in the same vol. of Migne, col. 685-762), which is a mere cento of patristic passages.

6. The Body and Blood of the Lord.13761376    De corpore et sanguine Domini liber. Ibid. col. 125-170. This is the most valuable writing of Ratramnus. It is a reply to Paschasius Radbert’s book with the same title.13771377    See p. 743. It is dedicated to Charles the Bald who had requested (in 944) his opinion in the eucharistic controversy. Without naming Radbert, who was his own abbot, he proceeds to investigate the latter’s doctrines. The whole controversy has been fully stated in another section.13781378    P. 543 sqq.

The book has had a strange fate. It failed to turn the tide setting so strongly in favor of the views of Radbertus, and was in the Middle Age almost forgotten. Later it was believed to be the product of Scotus Erigena and as such condemned to be burnt by the council of Vercelli (1050). The first person to use it in print was John Fisher, bishop of Rochester, who in writing against Oecolampadius quotes from it as good Catholic authority.13791379    De Verit. Corp. et sang. Christi contra OEcolampad., Cologne, 1527. This called the attention of the Zwinglian party to it and they quickly turned the weapon thus furnished against the Catholics. In the same year in which it was published at Cologne (1532), Leo Judae made a German translation of it (Zürich, 1532) which was used by the Zürich ministers in proof that the Zwinglian doctrine of the Lord’s Supper was no novelty.13801380    Ruchat, Reform. de la Suisse, vol. iv. p. 207; ed. Vulliemin, vol. iii. p. 122. But the fact that it had such a cordial reception by the Reformed theologians made it suspicious in Catholic eyes. The Council of Trent pronounced it a Protestant forgery, and in 1559 it was put upon the Index. The foremost Catholic theologians such as Bellarmin and Allan agreed with the Council. A little later (1571) the theologians of Louvain (or Douay) came to the defense of the book. In 1655 Sainte Beuve formally defended its orthodoxy. Finally Jacques Boileau (Paris, 1712) set all doubt at rest, and the book is now accepted as a genuine production of Ratramnus.

It remains but to add that in addition to learning, perspicuity and judgment Ratramnus had remarkable critical power. The latter was most conspicuously displayed in his exposure of the fraudulent character of the Apocryphal tale, De nativitate Virginis, and of the homily of Pseudo-Jerome, De assumptione Virginis, both of which Hincmar of Rheims had copied and sumptuously bound.

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