Archive for June, 2008

A lost English translation of Chrysostom’s Letters?

My interest was sparked by a sentence in Richard W. Pfaff, The Library of the Fathers: The Tractarians as Patristic Translators, Studies in Philology 70 (1973), p.329f.  This paper discusses the history of the Oxford Movement series of English translations.  On p.335-6 he says:

Two of the envisaged volumes of Chrysostom never appeared: a selection of letters and the treatise On the Priesthood.  The translation of letters had been undertaken before the series began by John Jebb, bishop of Limerick (d. 1833) and was completed by his son, also John, by at least 1852, but for some reason was never published.

Now this is exciting stuff!  For there is no English translation of the letters of Chrysostom, even now.  Just imagine if this manuscript were still around. 

No reference for this claim is given. I asked Dr. Pfaff, but after 35 years, quite naturally he can no longer remember where he got this information.  It’s not in H.P.Liddon’s biography of Pusey, which is the main source for the history of the ‘Library of the Fathers’.   The Dictionary of National Biography has an entry for Bishop John Jebb, and also indicates that the younger Jebb was a nephew, not a son.

I then asked Alan Acheson, biographer of John Jebb.   He referred me to the collected letters of John Henry Newman, volume 5:

Among these (Vol. 5, p.380) is a letter of J.H.Newman. My note on that reads thus: ‘On Jebb’s translation of De Sacerdotio [N. of Chrysostom] – in his nephew’s possession’. Newman then wrote: “Will write to Jebb tonight…connect the name of so popular a writer with our undertaking”. The year, by the way, was 1836 – after Bishop Jebb’s death in 1833 – so Newman was referring to the younger Jebb.

I’ve not yet checked the text in Newman.  But that is the answer, isn’t it?  Clearly Jebb had worked on “On the priesthood”, and somehow when Pfaff was editing his piece he didn’t have his notes before him (hence the lack of reference), moved the phrases around and inadvertently attributed the wrong work to him. 

There have been several translations of “On the priesthood”, including one in the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, so it then becomes clear enough why it was never published.

Corpus Parisinum of the Greek Gnomologia finally published

Collections of sayings by philosophers and other bums are known as gnomologia – the idea being that they contain gnomic wisdom.  These things exercised quite a bit of influence in antiquity.

One of the most famous collections of these is the Corpus Parisinum, so called because it is preserved in a massive manuscript (Ms. Paris graecus 1168) in the French National Library.  It’s never been published, but it’s a central witness if you are trying to trace the history of a saying.

 Well, it has now been edited!  Dennis Searby has made a critical edition, with English translation, and Dimitri Gutas supplied a preface.  I only wonder how I can get a look at a copy!

PS: There’s a table of contents here.  One section (CP2) is pagan prophecies of the coming of Christ which didn’t make it into Maximus the Confessor.  Dr Searby kindly sent me his intro to that section.  The book is 1,000 pages, in two volumes, and looks like a treasure trove of valuable information.

Another collection of classical texts in English translation

Delighted to find this site, Theoi, contains a lot of translations of obscure classical authors. The site is New Zealand based, and most of the translations are from the Loeb library. Lots of these are actually out of copyright in the USA because the copyright was not renewed as the law required. I’m not sure of the details of NZ copyright law, but plainly it makes some good stuff available!

It’s great news to have all this online.  For instance, the Library of Apollodorus is a 2nd century handbook of Greek mythology, and so is one of our best primary sources for this subject.  The only thing that I found to regret is the copyright notice at the bottom, which claims copyright of the HTML formatting.  Whether this claim is legally valid I do not know (although it would seem untested at best); whether the site owner could really defend it I don’t know either (although that seems doubtful); but it’s ungenerous.  Freely you received, freely give.

On another note, we need to take the time to support the Loeb library, I think.  As a rule I have refrained from scanning material from it.  Hey, some of these volumes sell less than a dozen copies a year!  That won’t pay for storage even.

The Loeb series is our only popular series which prints both the Latin or Greek alongside the English.  The volumes have got cheaper over the years and now cost very little.  They are a treasure.   Let’s appreciate them.

Cramer’s “Catenae in Evangelia S. Matthaei et S. Marci” online

I have accidentally found this volume online at Google books from a search on “cramer catena”.  It is here.  I could wish that I had known this before seeking out physical copies and paying for photocopies.  The authors used in the catena are listed at the back, with page references.  It contains a number of passages from the “Quaestiones ad Marinum”.

The other catenae published by John Cramer are listed at Google books, but with no content.  Let’s hope that they come online too.

PS: I have just found the catena on 1 Corinthians online too here.  Also his Anecdota Graeca from various manuscript collections.  As ever, a list of authors quoted and page numbers is at the back.

Eusebius “Quaestiones” progress 13

I’ve been gathering more materials.   The medieval Greek commentaries on the bible (catenae) are made up solely of chunks of quotations from earlier authors.  The catena published by John Cramer is particularly good for material by Eusebius, and has a nice index at the back of which pages to look at,  unlike another catena by Possinius that I had to leaf through.  I obtained photocopies of the Eusebius pages of the volume on Luke/John.  Using the TLG, I found that many of these quotations do indeed turn out to be from the “Quaestiones”; some look as if they might be new fragments.

It’s interesting that so many catenae do exist in publication, and all in very old editions.  Cramer, being 19th century, is the most modern of them.  I can’t help feeling that someone should translate Cramer.  It could not fail to be interesting.

Eusebius Chronicon book 1 now online in English

The excellent and industrious Andrew Smith has completed a translation into English of the Latin translation of the Chronicon of Eusebius of Caesarea!  He has also made this available as a public domain text, which is how it should be, of course.  It’s here.

Note that information on the manuscripts should be checked against a recent article by Dr. Drost-Abgarjan, here.

Eusebius “Quaestiones” progress 12

The revision of the ‘ecloge’ (the collection of selected extracts) of the work is in progress, and it sounds as if it’s thoroughly worthwhile.  I’ve also compared the fragments of the full text found in catenae which Angelo Mai published in his first edition to that which he printed in the second.  The main difference is that he added a load of material from a Vatican ms. (Vat. gr. 1611) of the catena of Nicetas (a still unpublished text, as far as I know).  But he also omitted fragments published in the first edition.  I’ve compiled a concordance of the two and sent it to Mr. A.  I’ve also found some fragments in Cramer’s catena on Matthew/Mark.

I’ve been looking for a text by Francois Combefis, which seems to contain more fragments.  A trip to the Bodleian one Saturday was in vain; apparently they don’t bother to fetch books from the stacks on Saturdays!  I also need to try to track down the letter of Latino Latini in which he refers to the full text existing in Sicily; increasingly I get the impression that no-one has consulted this in centuries, and everyone has just reprinted Fabricius via Migne.

Meanwhile I’ve finally fired Mr. C, the Syriac translator.  He’s ignored all my emails for two months now.  I received no reply to my email of enquiry, so I really had little choice. It’s a little hard to understand why anyone would just fall silent and leave someone hanging.  Couldn’t he imagine that it might be very inconvenient for someone to have no idea if he ever intended to do more?  Still, he did two fragments which is more than anyone else has done. 

Fortunately Dr. E. has agreed to translate more of the Syriac for me.  Fragment 3 has arrived today, and is very literal and very good.  She hopes to do a fragment a week, which would be ideal.  It is curious how difficult I have found it to find Syriac translators.