Cyril of Alexandria and the Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum

Looking through Quasten’s Patrology, at the works of Cyril of Alexandria, it’s obvious that most of the works relating to the Council of Ephesus in 433 have never been translated into any modern language.

These aren’t just any old texts.  These are the ones that defined the shape of christology from then on.  He wrote a whole series of works to various people, De recta fide — on the correct faith.  After the council he was obliged to write a justification of his actions there to the emperor; Apologeticus ad imperatorem.

That last one isn’t too big and I’ve commissioned someone to translate it into English for about $600.  It’s in the Patrologia Graeca, of course.  But the best text of all these works is a critical edition done by E. Schwartz in a series, the Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum

After a mighty struggle with the interlibrary loan system, today I got a copy of the volume I want — “Tome 1, Volumen 1, Pars 3″ (yes, the series really is subdivided like that).  It contains Greek only, with critical apparatus, of all sorts of letters and documents relating to the council.  Frankly it’s quite amazing what is in there, in only 100 pages.  If I were a millionaire, I think I’d commission a translation of the lot!

Because the schism with the ‘Nestorians’ is not history; it’s been a fact for 15 centuries now.

Of course translating the stuff requires a theological education in all the issues.  You have to understand why Nestorius objected to calling Mary “Mother of God”; and why Cyril considered that objection tantamount to claiming that Jesus was not God. 

But shouldn’t it be in English?

2 Responses to “Cyril of Alexandria and the Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum”


  1. tomcschmidt

    Absolutely! I have always thought this about many ancient texts. It bothers me that some ancient texts have dozens of modern translations, whereas other important texts have none. Keep up the good work.

  2. roger_pearse

    Yes, that’s a good point. The world really doesn’t need thousands of translations of the same handful of texts, so much as it needs the vast array of untranslated texts made accessible.

    This goes double for stuff in languages beyond Latin and Greek; so little of Arabic Christian literature has even been published, never mind translated.

    I appreciate the kind words.