Yesterday and today I have been reading Sisters of Sinai by Janet Soskice, which I bought in Heffers in Cambridge on Saturday. This is a biography of Agnes Lewis and Margaret Gibson, the two sisters who discovered the Old Syriac palimpsest of the gospels at Mount Sinai back in the late 19th century, in company with figures such as Rendel Harris and F.C.Burkitt. It’s a lively, readable volume, thankfully slim on childhood and heavy on the many journeys to the East, and the search for manuscripts.
The central figures illustrate the story rather than dominate it. I owe all my interest in patristics to T.R.Glover’s translation of Tertullian’s Apologeticum, so it is nice to see him step out of the shadows. Harris and Burkitt likewise become people rather than editors. I had not known that the two sisters were based in Cambridge; nor that they were instrumental in the discovery of the Cairo Geniza manuscripts.
One passage has stayed with me, quoted on p.65 from Agnes Lewis. She brings the Areopagus before our eyes, the marvellous creations of Greek art and philosophy – the highest civilisation then known to man. And then she reminds us that a wandering Jew named Paul appeared before that high tribunal, and told them of an unknown god.
His words fell on scornful ears; yet their echo has caused the Parthenon to crumble.
The book is well worth its price.
The new Chronica Tertullianea et Cyprianea 2009 is out, and a copy has reached me thanks to the generosity of the French Tertullian scholar, Pierre Petitmengin. This is an annual section in the Revue des Etudes Augustinennes, which lists all the publications of the year, on Tertullian, Cyprian, and generally on the subject of the Latin Fathers up to the death of Cyprian. Each is listed and reviewed in detail. This year there is comparatively little Tertullianea, in truth, and so the publication is a little dull for me. I will review it in detail on the Tertullian Project site in due course.
I’ve placed an advertisment for typesetters on eLance. I’ve had several replies, although I don’t know about quality. Since I will need to typeset the Origen book soon, it seemed timely to start the process of finding someone who could do it.
I’ve also written to the translator of Michael the Syrian, which I hope to publish, again asking questions about layout and typesetting. Michael’s World Chronicle has quite a few features which will make it a challenge — i.e. expensive — to typeset, and it is as well to enquire.
Today has been a good day, I have to say. It is remarkable how much difference it makes, whether we have a good day at work or not. Mine has been good, and I have reached the end of the day in good shape, for once. An email reaches me from an old colleague, currently working in the City of London for HSBC as a programmer. He’s leaving; the pressure put on the employees there is too much for him. Is it just me, or do employers generally demand more and more these days?