Dolores Castro & Michael J. Kelly

Isidore’s Sententiae, the Liber Iudiciorum, and Paris BnF Lat. 4667 (pdf)

(*En Portugués aquí; En Español aquí; En français ici)


Isidore of Seville’s three-book theological treatise, the Sententiae, instructs readers in the principles of Catholic doctrine and morality, and on how faith can unite one with the eternal divine. Isidore began composing the Sententiae in the earlier 600s, likely first in the 610s, and edited it into finished form in the 630s.[1] However, like its dating, various aspects of the text still confound scholars and tend to leave us debating more than agreeing. Part of the complexity of studying the Sententiae is that it became a foundational text in medieval Christianity. As such, it enjoyed multiple lives throughout the Middle Ages, just as it continues to find itself in novel contexts today. The two-part aim of this essay is first to elicit more about the symbolic structure of the Sententiae and then to analyze the ontology of one its actualizations, that one found at the start of Paris BnF Lat. 4667, a manuscript otherwise comprised of a version of the Liber Iudiciorum. This complementary approach to exploring Isidore’s aims with those of later copyists will help link the Sententiae – and the Liber Iudiciorum – into the wider historical plateau of Isidorian networks and performative nodal points.


As most works of its inceptive period (early 600s, Visigothic Hispania in the broader world of late antiquity), the Sententiae demonstrates a constant and compound appropriation of biblical and patristic content. These writings were often conceived as florilegia, as collections of authoritative quotations. Far from being mere reproductions of ancient voices of wisdom, though, they bear witness to their writer’s labor, which involved numerous creative tasks, such as the use, selection, combination, and adaptation of discourses. In other words, the systematic use of patristic texts did not automatically imply repetition, but rather the simultaneous appropriation of statements, a well-developed practice at the time.[2]

The bishops of late antiquity inherited the techniques and methods to interpret the sacred scriptures: an exegetical practice with great emphasis on figurative interpretation, which provided much more than just a hermeneutical guidance to the Holy Word. It also enabled the possibility of projecting values, behaviors, languages ​​and limits of power. Christian writers forged in their works – mainly of doctrinal and theological character – their own conceptions about the society in which they lived and preached. They elaborated explanations about the relationship between heaven and earth, between the spiritual and the secular, and with God and mankind. In this regard, they also thought about the prerogatives, duties and responsibilities of each member of the ecclesia. What was the role of the monarchy, the aristocracy, the clergy or even the people within a providential plan created by God for the salvation of mankind?

Answers were sought in the Holy Word. The use of biblical characters as examples and standards of conduct – either to imitate or to avoid – was indeed a common practice among the clergy. Like many Isidorian works, the Sententiae makes extensive use of biblical teachings and models, such as, for example, the Hebrew kings and prophets. It is not intended here to provide an exhaustive analysis of how the bishop of Hispalis adopted these characters, but rather first to present a few key points of his thoughts and then to illustrate how, at least in one post-Visigothic instance, they were employed to endow another text with their meaning and authority.

Saul, David and Solomon functioned as classic biblical models, employed by Isidore from a moral perspective. These figures enabled one to teach, for example, David’s humbleness and mercy,[3] but, at the same time, since these characters – as shown by the examples of Saul’s disobedience[4] and Solomon’s idolatry[5] – had oscillated between faithfulness and sin, Isidore also projected their human side and made the episcopal council a sort of guarantee to avoid contemporary despondency. The bishop (re-) elaborated, thus, behavioral parameters to which every legitimate and true king should aspire. By doing this, he strengthened and consolidated his intended role as royal supervisor: episcopal advice and admonition were necessary elements for guiding the king in the task of leading his people to salvation. Isidore highlighted through these examples the responsibility of the highest political office, a position that at the same time that it was understood in terms of divine election, also carried obligations, risks, and dangers to the king’s soul and so to the community as a whole.

Certainly, these biblical figures could have been used to educate social and political elites by transmitting patterns of moral behavior, values, and roles that were meant to endure. Moreover, as true archetypes of conduct, they also contributed to the definition of prerogatives, limits of power, and margins of action. In this respect, Isidore helped to shape the outline of an ideal king, showing the virtues that every king must attain as well as the sins and vices that every king must face and successfully overcome. Therefore, behind moral exhortation, Isidore suggests that adequate behavior, adjusted to Christian norms, was necessary to maintain a true connection with the divine, an essential requirement for good government. The mythical history of Israel, thus, played a significant role in the way ecclesiastical elites thought of their own practices and institutions, and of the relationship between monarchy and society as a whole. Through typological language, ecclesiastical prelates raised themselves as the privileged spokesmen of biblical knowledge, those who taught lessons and examples, and installed patterns of behavior for the exercise of royal power.

As noted earlier, the royal examples triggered an exhortation aimed directly at the political elites, since they warned against relapsing into sin and its consequences both for the king and the gens Gothorum. Therefore, Isidore attempted to reinforce the episcopal position: the bishop, with his advice and admonition, became a key player in avoiding the fatal destiny shown by the example of Israel. Moreover, the Isidorian message implied that the royal office should be permanently under episcopal supervision, since the observance of Christian precepts did not completely assure, as shown by the David[6] and Solomon examples,[7] that a king would live a life of righteousness at all times. At this point, episcopal advice was meant to be essential: in order to follow the true path, teachings and exhortations of the clergy must not be disregarded.

Isidore made use of the Hebrew kings, but he also appealed to the prophets, especially to Isaiah. Isidore, deeply concerned with ensuring the cohesion of the kingdom and the propagation of Christian society, warned of the dangers of political intrigues, usurpations of the royal throne, and disobedience of divine mandates. From this perspective, Isaiah’s teachings found in Hispania a favorable context for their circulation.[8] A great number of prophetic passages[9] were used to reinforce the moral principles that should guide the Christian in this world, a message aimed especially – but not exclusively – at the shepherds, who were responsible for preparing and accompanying the faithful along the path that led unfailingly to Final Judgment. The ecclesia as a whole must be aware of the punishment that would be unleashed at the awakening of divine wrath. From this perspective, moral exhortations that warned about the consequences caused by disobedience and departure from divine mandate, shaped rather than a discourse based on the imminence of the final consummation, a way to discipline the social body.

As such, Isidore’s Sententiae, with its extensive allusions also to Isaiah (and, of course, its theology implying that every soul will need to mount at least one legal defense), are an obvious way to introduce a law-code, as at least one scriptorium concluded. One of the oldest and most fascinating manuscripts of the Liber Iudiciorum (LI) is Paris BnF Lat. 4667.[10] Most of the codex (fols. 7v-186v) is a copy of the Visigothic King Ervig’s (r. 680-687) version of the LI, but the first seven folios uniquely introduce the code via a selection of chapters from the third book of Isidore’s Sententiae and a version of the Chronica Regum Visigothorum (CRV) that ends with Ardo reigning for seven years (714-721).[11]

Written in Visigothic minuscule in Gerona,[12] Paris 4667 contains two hands and a number of contemporary corrections. These are evident throughout the codex, for example, on folio 164r (fig. 1), the end of LI 9.2.7, and folio 178v (fig. 2), the start of LI 12.2. Folio 7r places the manuscript’s provenance in 827 “(Spanish) Era DCCCLXVI” (fig. 3) in the reign of Louis the Pious (r. 813-840).[13] A marginal notation on fol. 172v, “Addroarius me fecit bona via,” indicates the name of the later ninth-century corrector (fig. 4). Jesús Alturo places the final manuscript corrections to c. 870-880 and concludes that the Sententiae and LI were originally compiled together into one codex, in the same scriptorium.[14]

As it is extant, the first line in Paris 4667, at the top of folio 1r, is from Sententiae 3.49.2 ([…][adversi]tate turbatur […] [fig. 5]), while the final passage in the manuscript is the second part of the twelfth book of the Liber Iudiciorum (LI 12.2). The manuscript begins and ends in the middle of sentences, which is a fine clue that we’re missing a bit. But, what bit? Folio 1r concludes with Sententiae 3.50.2 at “sed probare volens [Deus clementiam…]” (fig. 6). As such, this side of the folio covers around twenty-five lines of the CCSL edition of the Sententiae.[15] If there had been another folio at the beginning, the manuscript would have started around Sententiae 3.48.5b: “Potestas bona est quando Deo donante est, ut malum timore coerceat, non ut temere malum committat.” This would have fit well with the conversation of the law that would follow.

The focus of this analysis of Paris 4667 is on the Sententiae’s framing of the LI, but it is worth noting that the final book of Ervig’s LI is missing. The manuscript cuts off in the middle of Chindaswinth’s constitution “De Iudaizantibus christianis” at “circumcisiones vel quoscumque ritus […].” In that law, anyone who is circumcised or follows any Jewish ritual is to be executed, although the part on execution is not in the manuscript. As such, the final constitution demands generic punishment and rejects the possibility of pardon for the “crime” of “Judaizing.”[16]

This would have presented an intriguing and appropriate conclusion to Paris 4667, given the particular framing of its LI by the Sententiae. However, we can be certain that the manuscript’s LI is an Ervig version and so must have extended into book LI 12.3. This is evident from other extant material in the manuscript. First, the LI’s table of contents, which includes, at folio 9r (fig. 7), Ervig’s final book “De novellis legibus Iudeorum, quo et vetera confirmantur, et nova adiecta sunt.” Second, LI 11.1.1 displays Ervigian editing, reading “[…] excepto si necessitas emerserit egritudinis. Ubi etiam […]” (fig. 8 [fol. 176r]).[17] Third, the manuscript’s version of the code contains laws introduced into the LI by Ervig, for example, LI 9.2.9, the law of Wamba “Quid debeat observari, si scandalum infra fines Spanie exsurrexerit.” (fig. 9 [fol. 162v]). We also can find Ervig’s opening of the second book, LI 2.1, headlined with “Flavius Gloriosus Ervigius Rex” (fig. 10 [fol. 14r]).

Paris 4667 today is missing a bit around the edges. However, we can be confident about most its original content, which included the full text of Ervig’s Liber Iudiciorum and chapters 49 to 57 of Isidore’s third book of the Sententiae. These Sententiae sections encoded Ervig’s LI in a certain way. If the codex also contained portions of Sententiae 3.48, those could have endowed the narrative structure of today’s manuscript with added meaning, but would not have altered what appear to have been the ninth-century intentions. Yet, while we propose a historical reading based on the manuscript’s ninth-century provenance, all that can be certain is a reading of the manuscript as it is, and as it is it still provides an independent and exceptional instance of an Isidorian text effectively re-narrating and de-territorializing the Liber Iudiciorum with the assistance of what is definitely a post-Visigothic, medieval figuration of the authority of Isidore.

The general legal content of the Sententiae passages in the manuscript work perfectly as a potential prologue to its LI. However, it is not only the obvious legal nature of the Sententiae 3 sections that make them appropriate for framing a reading of the LI, it is also both the status of Isidore and his particular use of biblical models to introduce the Ervigian version of the LI. The biblical allusions Isidore employs in his discussion of the law endow the LI, especially its final part, LI 12.3, the Ervig book, with religious authority. The LI is spiritualized, or rather, since the Visigothic kings and the power of Toledo no longer underwrote the validity of the law-code, authority was fully transferred to the religious sphere. Isidore becomes with this framing the spiritual authority of Visigothic law in the ninth century in the way he had hoped to have done inside the Visigothic kingdom of the early seventh century.[18] The prescriptions of the LI are with this opening endowed also with a stark warning to those who may employ them for worldly gain, for temporal authority or the ever-mysterious “power.”

The Paris 4667 manuscript begins in media res in Sententiae 3.49.2 at “[…][adversi]tate turbatur” (fig. 5) with an allusion to Jeremiah 17:5, a passage that criticizes those who seek strength in flesh as opposed to in God (and by implication, justice): “Thus says the Lord: cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord.”[19] The Sententiae portion that opens the codex with this stark reminder from Jeremiah then closes, several folios later, at Sententiae 3.57 (fol. 5v) (Fig. 11), with a quotation of Job 21:13 on the justice to be meted out to the rich who rely on worldly wealth and comfort: “They (the wicked) live out their days in prosperity, and tranquilly go down to the nether world.”[20] These beginning and ending points of the portion of the Sententiae introducing the LI demonstrate clearly the narrative framing for it. However, the body of material within that selection, in its discussion on core legal principles, is also replete with biblical allusions that further substantiate the inspirational and ecclesiastical authority of the law-code.

Ervig had re-narrated Recceswinth’s LI from the start of its second book and by the inclusion of an alternative ending, LI 12.3.[21] The Sententiae section in Paris 4667 augments that Ervigian closing, itself containing numerous biblical allusions. The Sententiae 3.49.2-57.13 opening, also, however, acts as an addendum to the LI’s first book on law, sublimating that book’s voice and re-territorializing its principles of law into the realm of the divinely inspired justice promoted by Isidore in these Sententiae 3 passages. This righteousness is executed through an episcopal political system, a point presented in Sententiae 3.49.3, that is, immediately after the initial passage in the codex.[22] Reinforcing this point, this chapter also contains a vague allusion to the seventy-fifth canon of the Fourth Council of Toledo (633), a canon which decries sedition and rebellion and declares them as sins. Such an admonition warns that real treasure is eternal life with God, but that God has put a system in place on Earth that should be followed while the soul spends its brief moment inside a material entity.

Sententiae 3.49 covers the core principles of justice and its relationship with the divine, the bishops, and the monarchy. The main point of which, Isidore reminds readers, is that what is important in life is the connection with God, with the uncreated not the material, with the eternal not the ephemeral. The next chapters of the Sententiae turn to explaining the tenet of suffering, and for it Isidore provides reference to chapters in Paul’s letter to the Romans explaining the duties of Christians. In Romans 12:17, Paul tells Christians: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all.” One should not seek an “eye for eye” or take justice into their own hands, but leave this to divine judgment and its counterpart temporal law.[23]

Law can provide compensation for misdeeds and it can act as a way to punish, or enact vengeance, on those who transgress society’s mores. It can also be used, as we all know from Foucault, to categorize (and permanently stigmatize) members of a community, e.g. by labelling one as “criminal,” “victim,” “immoral,” and so on.[24] Such a society would be antithetical to Catholicism, which advocates penance and forgiveness through a process of suffering and recovery. God is all that truly matters, God has a divine plan that one cannot ever fully grasp but must respect, and God will heal all those who transgress the law but who seek redemption. These are the opening theses presented in Paris 4667 in its lead up to the Liber Iudiciorum.

A couple of chapters later, in 3.53.1, Isidore moves on to advocating for impartiality in the law, and so in the blindness of salvation – the core theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans – saying that “Non est persona in iudicio consideranda, sed causa.” In defending equity in the law and the potential of redemption for all, Isidore alludes back to Deuteronomy 16:19: “You shall not distort justice; you must be impartial. You shall not take a bribe; for a bribe blinds the eyes even of the wise and twists the words even of the just” and to Proverbs 24:23: “To show partiality in judgment is not good.” The chapter warns against favoritism and in favor of objectivity in legal decisions to the extent that not even the poor are to be treated with special dispensation. Isidore supports this seemingly tough and unfair stance with reference to Ben Sirach 42:1: “But of these things be not ashamed, lest you sin through human respect” and by citation of Exodus 23:3: “You shall not favor a poor man in his lawsuit” (Sententiae 3.53.1: “Non misereberis pauperi in iudicio.”).

Isidore is here promoting the idea of justice as the potential right of all people, regardless of their station in life. Related to this, Isidore is fearful about the corrupting influence of bribes, or gift exchange. The concern is that through gifts Christians could be improperly influenced by non-Christians, namely Jews. Such anxiety in the Sententiae is matched by the closing book of Ervig’s LI. In the LI constitution 12.3.10, by Ervig, Christians are banned from accepting gifts from Jews on grounds that it is a danger to the faith. The law reads Amos 2:6 “Thus says the Lord: For three crimes of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke my word; because they sell the just man for silver, and the poor man for a pair of sandals” as prophecy of the future “selling” of Jesus by Judas: “Then one of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said ‘What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?’ They paid him thirty pieces of silver.”[25]

Sententiae 3.53.1 aptly reinforces the proscriptions of the final book of Ervig’s Liber Iudiciorum, and does so through the authority of Isidore and a well-substantiated paragraph of allusions to and citations of scripture. Yet, Sententiae 3.54.3 makes it clear that bribes are also related to oppression, citing part of the passage of Isaiah 33:15-16 that reads “He who practices and speaks honestly, who spurns what is gained by oppression, brushing his hands free of contact with a bribe, stopping his ears lest he hear of bloodshed, closing his eyes lest he look on evil – He shall dwell on the heights […].” Sententiae 3.54.3 (and the rest of that chapter) ends up taking from this only “Qui excutit manus suas ab omni munere, iste in excelsis habitat.” The concern here is with, as in LI 12.3.10, the preservation of the “truth” and the truth as an objective, universal thing which if defended will categorically lead to good, to salvation – the purpose of the law according to LI 1.1.2 (“[…] sed in exoptata salvatione populi legem”). As Isidore states at the start of 3.54.3, “acceptio munerum praevaricatio veritatis est,” or simply, bribes distort the truth.

This is interesting here because it aligns so well with the meaning behind the concern over bribes and gifts illustrated in Ervig’s law (LI 12.3.10) and its biblical allusions. Yet, it appears somewhat in contrast to the spirit of other, pre-Ervigian, sections of the LI. In the second book of the Liber Iudiciorum, in a law by Chindaswinth (LI 2.3.9), a poor man on trial is given specific privilege as a way of balancing out any inequalities in social power between the two litigants. In this law, the more socially powerful litigant can only hire an attorney of equal position as the less powerful litigant, while the latter can hire one of equal standing as the former. The justification for this constitution, which Ervig’s LI also contains, is not biblical at all, but rather, it derives from two early fifth-century constitutions preserved in various form as Codex Justinianus 2.13-14, Codex Theodosianus 2.13-14, Breviary of Alaric 2.13-14 (with Interpretationes), and Edictum Theoderici 46. That is to say, this law and its spirit of judicial partiality derives from the traditions of the codes themselves, from the legal history of the late Roman world. The authority of the Ervigian law, on the other hand, derives from scripture and is enhanced by further biblical allusion by Isidore and, of course, the lasting ecclesiastical power of the cleric. This further demonstrates the change made by Ervig to the LI,[26] but also demonstrates that his LI narrative fit well with what the Gerona compilers of Paris 4667 appear to have been doing: the Sententiae sections at the start of the manuscript help to strengthen the Ervigian narrative of Visigothic law, not re-narrate it. As such, they also work to re-territorialize the late Visigothic version of the law-code into a post-Visigothic historical situation.

Despite the calls to impartiality in the law, Sententiae 3.57, the final chapter of the Sententiae in Paris 4667, is concerned with the protection of the poor and the issue of oppression. In this, it is consistent with the spirit behind the Chindaswinth legislation, as well as with the spiritualizing of the law-code done with this manuscript, the wider effort to encode the law’s language into the ecclesiastical. The allusion to Isaiah 10 (in Sententiae 3.57.7) helps to enmesh and synthesize the concerns of the other chapters, demonstrating that truth and faith are above all – the Sixth Council of Toledo (638) even declares it inhuman (inhumanum) not to reward fidelity – and that includes God’s command to protect the vulnerable and defend only a political system that does.[27]

It has been argued that Isidore mocked the Visigothic monarchy with the De Origine Gothorum.[28] If that reading is correct, it is even more fitting that the Sententiae selection introducing the LI in Paris 4667 concludes with chapter 57. In that, Isidore further substantiates his running themes, but he uses Isaiah to quite chilling effect. Sententiae 57.2 cites the sardonic song of Isaiah 47 on the fall of Babylon, while Sententiae 57.8 alludes to Isaiah 49, with the Lord saying “Adversos eos, iniquit, qui iudicaverunt te, ego iudicabo; et cibabo hostes tuos carnibus suis, et quasi a musto sanguine suo inebriabuntur,” or, as in Isaiah 49:25-26: “Those who oppose you, I will oppose, and your sons I will save. I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh, and they shall be drunk with their own blood, as with the juice of the grape. All mankind shall know that I, the Lord, am your savior, your redeemer, the mighty one of Jacob.” God, protects but also causes those who transgress to suffer: “If a trumpet sounds in a city, will the people not be frightened? If evil befalls a city, has not the Lord caused it?” God permits mankind the will to commit sin and as such shares the responsibility. By this allusion to Amos 3:6 in Sententiae 3.57.4, Isidore elaborates his warning for the need for justice at all levels.[29] This includes the right for mankind to appeal directly to God to question the validity of a judgment and ensure its truth. Sententiae 57 (3.57.13) closes with the warning from Job 21:13, noted above, about the infernal damnation of the wicked, but it supplements that promise with reference to Jeremiah 12:1, in which God patiently hears the plea of the story’s protagonist.

The Sententiae portion of Paris 4667 contains a number of other pertinent biblical allusions and references to the law, but even from only those discussed here it is evident what the manuscript does to Ervig’s Liber Iudiciorum. Through the ecclesiastical authority of Isidore and his deft employment of biblical allusion, Paris 4667 re-entrenches the Ervigian LI’s narrative, while also further sublimating the Liber Iudiciorum into the nodes of power of the Christian imperial world of the ninth century. In Paris 4667, scripture promotes interpretive boundaries that deepen the ties between theology and law.

Isidore’s Sententiae built archetypes and boundaries of power that were meant to imbue in Visigothic elites and society as a whole select qualities, ones that would find further support through appropriation of the Liber Iudiciorum in a post-Visigothic Iberian situation. The Sententiae emerged from specific contexts motivated by concrete circumstances and objectives, and there is a correlation – although not a determination – between author, scribe, and context. Isidore did not elaborate mere adaptive responses to a given situation; he was a lucid interpreter and a reality maker, like those who later copied his work. Complementary perspectives provide significant insight into Iberia’s complex early medieval political and religious history. In the production of discourses and behavioral models, in the issuance of moral exhortations and advice, in the control of the means of circulation and teaching, specific strategies were forged which appear to be elicited in the Sententiae and its later connection with the Liber Iudiciorum. By using biblical models, the Sententiae continued to intervene in the evolving present, defining and (re-)creating boundaries, relationships, and behavioral criteria. Sacred scripture provided a mode of intervening in reality. Present life was indeed temporary, but for Isidore and his copiers something was to be clear: the Church would perform a decisive role in achieving the glory of future life.

List of figures

Fig. 1 - BNF_4667, f. 164r copy

Figure 1 – BnF 4667 f. 164r

Fig. 2 - BNF_4667, f. 178v copy

Figure 2 – BnF 4667, f. 178v

Fig. 3 - BNF_4667, f. 7r signature copy

Figure 3 – BnF 4667, f. 7r

Fig. 4 - BNF_4667, f. 172v notation copy

Figure 4 – BnF 4667, 172v

Fig. 5 - BNF_4667, f. 1r top copy

Figure 5 – BnF 4667, f. 1r top

Fig. 6 - BNF_4667, f. 1r bottom copy

Figure 6 – BnF 4667, f. 1r bottom

Fig. 7 - BNF_4667, f. 9r copy

Figure 7 – BnF 4667, f. 9r

Fig. 8 - BNF_4667, f. 176r copy

Figure 8 – BnF 4667, f. 176r

Fig. 9b - BNF_4667, f. 162v copy

Figure 9 – BnF 4667, f. 162v

Fig. 10 - BNF_4667, f. 14r copy

Figure 10 – BnF 4667, f. 14r

Fig. 11 - BNF_4667, f. 5v copy

Figure 11 – BnF 4667, f. 5v


[1] In support of the earlier dating see José A. de Aldama, “Indicaciones sobre la cronología de las obras Isidorianas,” in Miscellanea Isidoriana (Rome, 1936), 87-88 (57-89), José Carlos Martín, “Une nouvelle édition critique de la Vita Desiderii de Sisebut, accompagnée de quelques réflexions concernant la date des Sententiae et du De uiris illustribus d’Isidore de Séville,” Hagiographica 7 (2000): 141-45 (127-80), and Michael J. Kelly, Isidore of Seville and the “Liber Iudiciorum”: The Struggle for the Past in the Visigothic Kingdom, The Medieval and Early Modern Iberian World 80 (Boston and Leiden: Brill, forthcoming), ch. 4. For the argument in defense of the later dating see Pierre Cazier, “Les Sentences d’Isidore de Séville et le IV Concile de Tolède. Réflexions sur les rapports entre l’Église et le pouvoir politique en Espagne autor des années 630,” in Antigüedad y Cristianismo, Monografías Históricas sobre la Antigüedad Tardía, 3: Los Visigodos. Historia y Civilización (Murcia: Universidad de Murcia, 1986), 379 (373-86).

[2] On Isidore and the (re-)creation of techniques and methods of reading and understanding the Holy Scripture, see Dolores Castro, “The Bishop and the Word. Isidore of Seville and the Production of Meaning,” in Framing Power in Visigothic Society: Discourses, Devices, and Artefacts, ed. Eleonora Dell’Elicine and Céline Martin (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020), 51-74.

[3] See, for example, Isid., Sent. 3.49.1; Sent. 2.11.12.

[4] On Saul: Isid., Sent. 3.5.5-6.

[5] Isid., Sent. 2.41.

[6] Isid., Sent. 2.33.2; Isid., Sent. 3.39.Ib-3.

[7] Isid., Sent. 2.43.3a; Isid., Sent. 3.19.5.

[8] One of the most significant examples is Isaiah 5, whose references within the Isidorian work are concentrated in Book 2. The sentences in which Isidore introduces the voice of the prophet show an exhortative character where men are warned about sins and the consequences of misconduct (Isid., Sent. 2.41.9; 2.43.3b; 2.43.4-5; 2.23.12; and, 2.29.9).

[9] Examples can be found, among others, in Isid., Sent. 2.13.13; 3.35.2; 3.38.4; 3.45.1; and, 3.46.5-6.

[10] For a short introduction to the Liber Iudiciorum see Michael J. Kelly, “Recceswinth’s Liber Iudiciorum: History, Narrative, and Meaning,” Visigothic Symposium 1 (2017): 110-30.

[11] For an extended paleographical discussion of Paris 4667, including a description of the origins and materiality of the manuscript, see Jesús Alturo, “El Liber Iudicum manuscrito latino 4667 de la Biblioteca Nacional de Francia análisis paleográfico,” Historia Instituciones Documentos 30 (2003): 9-54. For the most recent info on Paris 4667 and other Visigothic-script manuscripts, see Ainoa Castro’s Littera Visigothica, On the LI manuscripts generally, see Yolanda García López, Estudios críticos y literarios de la “Lex Wisigothorum” (Alcalá de Henares: Universidad de Alcalá, 1996), 35-69.

[12] Could the latter point explain the long reign of Ardo in the manuscript’s CRV?

[13] On the reliability of the dating, see Alturo, “El Liber Iudicum manuscrito latino 4667,”13. For more, see Céline Martin, “L’innovation politique dans le royaume de Tolède: Le sacre du souverain,” in Élections et pouvoirs politiques du VIIe au XVII siècle: actes du colloque à Paris 12 du 30 novembre au 2 décembre 2006, ed. Corrine Péneau (Paris: Pompignac, 2008), 298 (281-300).

[14] For Alturo, the texts were produced separately, as the hands demonstrate, but were placed together as soon as the LI portion of the ultimate codex was completed. See Alturo, “El Liber Iudicum manuscrito latino 4667,” 12-13, and pages 39-40 where he confirms this hypothesis in explaining the contemporary and later ninth-century corrections to the manuscript. Manuel C. Díaz y Díaz argues that the manuscript is a composite of three codices. See Manuel C. Díaz y Díaz, “La Lex Visigothorum y sus manuscritos. Un ensayo de reinterpretación,” Anuario de Historia del Derecho Español 46 (1976): 186-191. (163-224).

[15] Isidorus Hispalensis Sententiae, Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 111, ed. Pierre Cazier (Turnhout: Brepols, 1998).

[16] This law is listed as 12.2.17 in the manuscript, but 12.2.16 in Zeumer’s edition (Leges Visigothorum antiquiores, MGH Legum, ed. Karl Zeumer [Hanover and Leipzig, 1902]). Paris 4667 places Recceswinth’s infamous placitum of the Jews before this anti-“Judaizing” legislation by Chindaswinth.

[17] On this editing, see also Zeumer, Leges Visigothorum, 400-01.

[18] On how the promulgation of the initial Liber Iudiciorum by Recceswinth helped to short circuit or suppress this aim see Kelly, Isidore of Seville and the “Liber Iudiciorum”.

[19] Isid., Sent. 3.49.2 “Qui recte utitur regni potestatem, formam iustitiae factis magis quam verbis instituit. Iste nulla prosperitate erigitur, nulla adversitate turbatur, non innititur propriis viribus, nec a Domino recedit cor eius; regni fastigium humili praesidet animo, non eum delectat iniquitas, non inflammat cupiditas, sine defraudatione alicuius ex paupere divitem facit et, quod iusta potestate a populis extorquere poterat, saepe misericordi clementia donat.”

[20] Isid., Sent. 3.57.13: “Ducunt in bonis dies suos, et subito ad inferna descendent.”

[21] On this renarration see Michael J. Kelly, “The Liber Iudiciorum: A Visigothic Literary Guide to Institutional Authority and Self-Interest,” in The Visigothic Kingdom of Toledo: Concepts and Forms of Power, ed. Paulo Pachá and Sabine Panzram (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, in press), 257-72.

[22] Isid., Sent. 3.49.3: “Dedit Deus principibus praesulatum pro regimine populorum, et illis eos praeesse voluit cum quibus una est eis nascendi moriendique conditio.”

[23] Isid., Sent. 3.50.3: “Reddere malum pro malo vicissitudo iustitiae est, sed qui clementiam addit iustitiae, non malum pro malo culpatis reddit, sed bonum pro malo offensis impertit.”

[24] Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Second Vintage Books, 1991).

[25] Matt. 26:14-15.

[26] As discussed in Kelly, “The Liber Iudiciorum: A Visigothic Literary Guide to Institutional Authority and Self-Interest.”

[27] See the opening line of VI Toledo 14.

[28] See Kelly, Writing History, Narrating Fulfillment, ch. 3.

[29] Isid., Sent. 3.57.4: “Malignantium hominum voluntas nequaquam potest impleri, nisi Deus dederit potestatem. Nam dum homines, Deo permittente, malum quod concupiscunt perficiunt, ipse dicitur facere qui permittit. Inde est quod scriptum est per prophetam: si erit malum quod Dominus non fecit. Verumtamen quod iniqui mala ex voluntate quaerunt, idcirco Deus perficiendi dat potestatem per suam bonam voluntatem, quia de nostro malo ipse multa operatur bona.”



Isidorus Hispalensis Sententiae. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 111. Edited by Pierre Cazier. Turnhout: Brepols, 1998.

La colección canónica Hispana 5. Edited by Gonzalo Martínez Díez and Félix Rodríguez. Madrid: C. S. I. C., 1992.

Liber Iudiciorum. In Leges Visigothorum, edited by Karl Zeumer, 33-456. Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Leges 1. Hanover and Leipzig: Hahn, 1902.

The New American Bible. Washington, D.C.: World Catholic Press, 1987. 


Aldama, José A. de. “Indicaciones sobre la cronología de las obras Isidorianas.” In Miscellanea Isidoriana (Rome, 1936), 57-89.

Alturo, Jesús. “El Liber Iudicum manuscrito latino 4667 de la Biblioteca Nacional de Francia análisis paleográfico.” Historia Instituciones Documentos 30 (2003): 9-54.

Castro, Ainoa. Littera Visigothica.

Castro, Dolores. “The Bishop and the Word. Isidore of Seville and the Production of Meaning.” In Framing Power in Visigothic Society: Discourses, Devices, and Artefacts, edited by Eleonora Dell’Elicine and Céline Martin, 51-74. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020.

Cazier, Pierre. “Les Sentences d’Isidore de Séville et le IV Concile de Tolède. Réflexions sur les rapports entre l’Église et le pouvoir politique en Espagne autor des années 630.” In Antigüedad y Cristianismo, Monografías Históricas sobre la Antigüedad Tardía, 3: Los Visigodos. Historia Civilización (Murcia: Universidad de Murcia, 1986), 373-86.

Díaz y Díaz, Manuel C. “La Lex Visigothorum y sus manuscritos. Un esayo de reinterpretación,” Anuario de Historia del Derecho Español 46 (1976): 163-224.

Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison. Translated by Alan Sheridan. New York: Second Vintage Books, 1991.

García López, Yolanda. Estudios críticos y literarios de la “Lex Wisigothorum” (Alcalá: Universidad de Alcalá, 1996), 35-69.

Kelly, Michael J. Isidore of Seville and the “Liber Iudiciorum”: The Struggle for the Past in the Visigothic Kingdom. The Medieval and Early Modern Iberian World 80. Boston and Leiden: Brill, forthcoming.

Kelly, Michael J. “The Liber Iudiciorum: A Visigothic Literary Guide to Institutional Authority and Self-Interest.” In The Visigothic Kingdom of Toledo: Concepts and Forms of Power, edited by Paulo Pachá and Sabine Panzram, 257-72. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, in press.

Kelly, Michael J. “Recceswinth’s Liber Iudiciorum: History, Narrative, and Meaning,” Visigothic Symposium 1 (2017): 110-30.

Martin, Céline. “L’innovation politique dans le royaume de Tolède: Le sacre du souverain.” In Élections et pouvoirs politiques du VIIe au XVII siècle: actes du colloque à Paris 12 du 30 novembre au 2 décembre 2006, edited by Corrine Péneau, 281-300. Paris: Pompignac, 2008.

Martín, José Carlos. “Une nouvelle édition critique de la Vita Desiderii de Sisebut, accompagnée de quelques réflexions concernant la date des Sententiae et du De uiris illustribus d’Isidore de Séville.” Hagiographica 7 (2000): 127-80.