Oxford Patristics Conference – Friday

Breakfast at Queen's college

I made to breakfast this morning in Queens College.  This is from 7:45-8:45.  Rather foolishly I presumed that no-one would be there at 7:45, and arrived just after 8.  I had difficulty getting seated!

Then off to the Examination Schools, and into the South School, an immense area with a handful of people.  But the lecturer did not turn up, so I ended up wandering into the exhibition area and chatting to George Kiraz of Gorgias Press about the vagiaries of large corporations, for whom both of us have worked at one time or another.

Then off to Room 1, to the George Bevan Interpolations in the Syriac translation of Nestorius’ Liber Heraclidis.  I arrived just in time to catch the end of the preceding paper by Ken Parry, Rejoice for me, O desert: fresh light on the remains of Nestorius in Egypt.  It seems that he has discovered a local tradition in the Kharga oasis in the western desert that this is where Nestorius was exiled, which identifies some church there as the “church of Nestorius”.  I wish I had heard this paper.

The Bevan paper addressed allegations of large scale interpolation in the Bazaar of Heracleides, Nestorius’ defence of himself, which is preserved only in a Syriac translation which survived to 1843 in the Nestorian patriarchal library at Kotchanes in Persia, when the place was sacked by the Kurds, and the ms. was damaged.  Dr Bevan showed that the allegations are mostly unfounded.  It seems that, according to Evagrius Scholasticus, Nestorius was invited to defend himself at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, but died before he could attend.  I suspect that, had he been able to attend, the Nestorian schism would have been healed, for Nestorius approved of the Tome of Pope Leo, sent to that conference and approved by it. 

The paper also discussed a confusing passage in which Nestorius describes how Cyril bribed the emperor, and the emperor then demanded a further 2,000 pounds of gold in bribe money, believing there was more to be got out of the Alexandrian leader.  We’re all familiar with letter 91 in the letters of Cyril of Alexandria, which consists of a list of bribes to be paid at Constantinople.  Such was the decay in the politics of the Eastern Empire.

Finally Dr. B. pointed out that a chunk of pages that clearly don’t belong may instead belong to another now lost work of Nestorius, and hypothesised that a copy also existed at Kotchanes, and was destroyed by the Moslems in 1843, leaving only a few leaves which someone stuffed into the manuscript of the Bazaar.  It could be so.

I followed Dr. Erica Hunter into the North school book exhibition – who taught me what Syriac I know, and helped with the Eusebius project – and she introduced me to Majella Franzmann of Curtin University in Australia, who has discovered Syriac gravestones in China.

I talk to a lonely-looking lady manning one of the stalls, and ask her how business is.  It’s the same for her as for me – people come and look, and pick up flyers, but they don’t buy many copies.  What I should have done, I think, is produce a freebie extract of a dozen pages or so and include it in the conference pack or give it away at the stall. 

Then on to hear Charles Hill at 10am, talking about ‘The scripture that says’: the status of the Shepherd of Hermas in the writings of Irenaeus.  This was an interesting and convincing analysis of the passages in which Irenaeus talks about “graphe” or “scriptura”.  He concluded that Irenaeus only uses one passage from the Shepherd, and always uses words that he also uses to refer to Justin and other non-scriptural works.

I had to sprint out of there, and across to my room to collect the laptop.  Then down to the marquee at 10:20, to mind the stall.  This has been a social experience (it is now 11:54), as a series of people arrived here.  So I have been typing this almost the whole time!

First to arrive at the stand was Michael Glerup of the Centre for early African Christianity.  His interest is getting patristic texts into the hands of Christians in black Africa.  But he also is interested in Ethiopian texts, and so in Arabic texts.  He knows about the translation of Severian of Gabala on the Creation, which is being published by IVP.  It sounds as if he is involved in that set of translations.  I offer to help with Arabic Christian stuff.  I also impressed on him the real need in Arabic Christian studies, which is for a single volume handbook of Arabic Christian literature, with a limited biblio of editions and translations and studies, Quasten style.  This alone would revolutionise the field by making it more accessible.

Next was Clayton Coombs, who delivered a paper on Eusebius ad Marinum.  We’re going out to the Kings Arms at 3pm for a drink.

Next Erica Hunter appeared again, and we had a long discussion about matters connected with Syriac and the Turfan find of Syriac manuscript (many of which are Christian, rather than Manichaean).

I also sold two copies of the hardback of the Eusebius book, and quite a few people expressed interest.

Christophe Guignard, who was also giving a paper, and was a friend of Claudio Zamagni – whose Greek text I used for the Eusebius book, but had been unable to get a place for the conference, having left it too late – came along and told me about his own edition of the fragments of the Letter of Julius Africanus to Aristides – quoted in my Eusebius book – where he had discovered a further portion of unpublished material by Africanus in the catena of Nicetas, under the name of Gregory.  This catena is important, yet it remains unpublished; and this failure to publish it is a scandal.  Christophe mentioned that to edit it would probably be a 20 year task, yet without security of tenure, who could start on such an undertaking.  He had worked from an image of the manuscript.  There is a case, I suppose, for simply printing the manuscript with a translation, to kick things off.

Along comes Morwenna Ludlow of Exeter University, and hands me a poster for the British Patristics Conference in 2012 (5-7th Sept).  Mailing list for it is britishpatristics@gmail.com.  I impress on her the importance of car parking.

12:17 David Greenwood looks in, and reminds me that we corresponded about R. Joseph Hoffmann some time back.  He turns out to be a Christian too, and went to the Wycliffe thing and left during the break so didn’t get the revealing question and answer session.  I clue him in on that.

12:24 As I sit here, someone else comes to the stall and I talk to them about the works of Augustine.  Everyone seems to admire the cover of the book.

Well it’s nearly 12:30, and I’m well over my time.  The marquee has emptied, and I think I shall take the main box of books back to my room, since I doubt I will sell many more.  And I would really like to upload all this!

4 Responses to “Oxford Patristics Conference – Friday”


  1. jo rosenblum

    Great to get something visual,

    (although I would have loved to see what you actually had for breakfast, or who you sat next to , or even ,God forbid where you fitted into the whole scene…. never mind.)

    Seems as though things have taken a positive turn,
    and it sound as though you have found things that you can more easily connect with.

    Hope you get lots out of the rest of your time in Oxford.

  2. Maureen

    Well, aside from Oxford not being very quiet anymore and most of the bookstores seeming to be disappearing, I have to say it still sounds like a pretty nifty experience.

    I also think you really need to buy some of those cheapie memory foam earplugs and learn to sleep in them. They make a big difference when traveling; and a little bag of them won’t take up much space in your dittybag or dop kit or whatever you call your little travel bag of usefuls. :)

    [This unsolicited advice courtesy of Poking My Nose Into Other People's Business, LLC.]

  3. Roger Pearse

    Maureen, I don’t think all the bookshops have vanished. The buses were always a problem, and there are more of these than ever; and the noise is mainly a problem of the accomodation that I am staying in, I think. But yes, Oxford is lovely as ever. I hope to get tomorrow morning to enjoy as well, before returning home.

    Thank you for your thoughts on earplugs; but sadly I don’t get on with them.

  4. Roger Pearse

    Thank you Jo for your good wishes! No photos of me will appear, tho — ID theft, you know, is always an issue.



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