The works of Methodius

Methodius of Olympus is one of those patristic authors who tends to be rather forgotten.  He died in 313 as a martyr, and wrote a reply to Porphyry’s Against the Christians.  There is one recent English study of his works,[1] but even the bibliography in this shows that Methodius has been neglected. 

Quasten[2] lists the following editions of his work:

  • Patrologia Graeca 18
  • GCS 27 (1917), ed. G. Bonwetsch
  • Patrologia Orientalis 22, 5 (1930), ed. A. Vaillant

The works that have reached us are as follows.

1. The Banquet or Symposium (Συμπόσιον ἢ περὶ ἁγνείας), in praise of virginity.   Edited by Bonwetsch, p.1-141, and translated into English as part of the Ante-Nicene Fathers here.  This is the only work for which we possess the complete Greek text.  An edition exists in Sources Chretiennes 95 (1963), ed. H. Musurillo.

The remaining works are extant in an Old Slavonic translation, with fragments of the Greek.

2. On free-will (Περὶ τοῦ αὐτεξουσίου).  The work seems to be directed against the Valentinians and other gnostics.  Edited Bonwetsch, p.146-206, and by Vaillant, Le De autextusio de Methode d’Olympe, version slave et texte grec ed. et trad. en franc. p.631-889.  A short chunk — probably from Greek — is translated into English in the ANF here, and there are two French translations.  It is extensively quoted by Eznik of Kolb in his 5th century Armenian work On God.

3.  Aglaophon or On the resurrection (Ἀγλαοφῶν ἢ περὶ ἀναστάσεως), in three books.  It refutes the idea of a purely spiritual resurrection.  The Greek is extant in fragments, including a long quotation from book 1 by Epiphanius in the Panarion.  The Old Slavonic version includes all three books, but abbreviates book 3.  Ed. Bonwetsch, 217-424, giving a German translation of the Old Slavonic.  A small piece is translated in the ANF here.

4.  On life and reasonable actions.  This encourages us to be satisfied with what God has given us in this life and to place our hope on the world to come.  Quasten says that this appears in the Old Slavonic version between On free will and On the resurrection, but none of the Greek survives. Bonwetsch gives a German translation of the Old Slavonic on p.207-216; the text does not seem to have been edited, nor translated into English.

After On the resurrection in the Old Slavonic, there follow three exegetical works.  I infer from Quasten’s description that Methodius is preserved in a single Old Slavonic manuscript.

5.  De cibis or On the discrimination of food and the young cow mentioned in Leviticus. (actually Numbers 19).  This follows On the resurrection in the Old Slavonic and is exegetical in nature.  It is addressed to two women, Frenope and Kilonia, and gives an allegorical interpretation of the food laws.  Bonwetsch gives a German translation of the Old Slavonic on p.425-447.

6. De lepra or To Sistelius on leprosy.  On the allegorical sense of Lev. 13.  Bonwetsch, German translation on p.449-474.  But there are some Greek fragments of this work, in addition to the Old Slavonic.

7. A third treatise allegorises the leech, described in Proverbs 30, 15f. (De sanguisuga: p.475-489) and Ps. 18:2 ‘The heavens show forth the glory of God’ (De creatis: p.491-500).  Bonwetsch gives a German version of the Old Slavonic.

8.  Against Porphyry.  Jerome tells is that Methodius wrote a well-received refutation of Porphyry (De vir. ill. 83; Epist. 48:13; Epist. 70:3), but it is entirely lost.  Bonwetsch edits some Greek fragments on p.501-507.

9.  On Job.  Bonwetsch edits some fragments on this subject, doubtless from catenas, on p.519.

10. On the martyrs.  Bonwetsch edits a fragment under this title (otherwise unknown) on p.520.

There is also an Apocalypse of pseudo-Methodius, from the 7th century, with which we are not concerned here.

Bonwetsch’ study on the theology of Methodius is online here: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=INcAAAAAYAAJ

Sadly the GCS volume is not online.  But in 1891 Bonwetsch did a Methodius von Olympus. 1. Schriften volume, which contains much the same material.  This may be found here: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Xk2kRtuaC1AC&oe=UTF-8&redir_esc=y or here http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=BJAKAQAAMAAJ.  The latter copy is better quality, I think.

I can find no trace that the Old Slavonic text has been published at all, which seems remarkable to me, as this alone preserves most of his works.  This consists of a Corpus Methodianum of the 11th century, evidently translated from Greek but no longer extant in that language.  The existence of the Old Slavonic first became known via Cardinal Pitra in 1883.[3] 

I will delve a bit further into Bonwetsch and see if we can discover the whereabouts of the Old Slavonic!

  1. [1] Patterson, L. G., Methodius of Olympus : Divine Sovereignty, Human Freedom, and Life in Christ, CUA 1997
  2. [2] J. Quasten, Patrology, vol. 2, p.129 f.
  3. [3] Analecta sacra spicilegio Solesmensi parata.  t. III.  Patres antenicaeni.  Venice, 1883, p.612 ff. (Bonwetsch Schriften p.vii and n.5.)

24 Responses to “The works of Methodius”


  1. adshkute

    A quick look into the matter suggests at least one possible reason for which this Methodian corpus hasn’t been wholly published yet: Slavists, it seems, were more interested in a seventh-century Apocalypse falsely attributed to Methodius, translated several times in Slavonic and then extensively used by East Slavic chroniclers. And, of course, Fathers weren’t studied as they deserve during Soviet times.
    I’ll see if, as a Slavist, I can find out more on this interesting topic.

  2. Roger Pearse

    Thank you very much for this. I don’t have much idea about Old Slavonic studies. If you can discover whether this material by Methodius has been published, that would be helpful. I have not had much luck so far.

    I’d be interested to know of any academics in England or the US who work in this field. Do you know of any?

  3. stephan

    I immediately thought of Henry Leeming but alas that boat has long sailed

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/henry-leeming-486137.html

  4. Tom

    I believe that Methodius and then Origen are the two main authors of the ante-Nicene church fathers who have a substantial amount of material that has never been translated into English (or into any modern language). Slavonic is understudied, I’m sure there is a lot of good stuff around, I think I recall a fragment from Melito of Sardis in Slavonic, but I’m not sure. Slavonic is the only language which contains the complete Commentary on Daniel by Hippolytus, the Greek has some gaps.

  5. lordskylark

    Does anyone know if anyone plans on doing a translation of Commodianus – Carmen Apologeticum ? I am *really* surprised that no one has translated this into English in the last 100+ years…

  6. Tom

    Its on my “to translate” list!

  7. stephan huller

    Tom, what about all the works ascribed to pseudo-Cyprian? Is that a possibility too?

  8. Maureen

    The Symposium is super-sweet. It was tons of fun to record, what with the frame story and all the female characters, both virtues and saints.

  9. Maureen

    What I meant to say, before I had an attack of fannishness, is that he seems a very mellow sort of teacher, and he seems to have a good opinion of both men and women, as well as a sense of humor. So I would be very interested in reading more of his works.

    I’ve been known to translate Russian with the help of audacity and a dictionary; but Old Slavonic is not exactly a walk in the park, by all accounts. It might be easier to find Old Slavonic translations in Russian and go from there, although that would be cheating. (And probably not terribly accurate, which is more to the point.)

  10. Maureen

    Oh, man. In Russian, they usually call him “Мефодий Патарский”, Methodius of Patara. No wonder I wasn’t finding anything.

  11. Maureen

    This Russian Orthodox bishop/prof seems to have done a lot of work on this. (In Russian, but Google Translate will give you the idea.) 1961 seems to be the year he did a lot of work on the Slavic versions of these things.

    http://www.spbda.ru/academy/r-118.html

  12. Roger Pearse

    @lordskylark, Commodian’s Instructiones are in the ANF, but it seems that the Carmen apologeticum is not. Quasten lists a 1977 Italian edition and translation, but that’s the only translation.

  13. Roger Pearse

    @Maureen: Well done!!! You’re a hero! Do you suppose that these are editions, or just studies? It looks, tentatively, as if he did all the minor works. These are the ones that I was going to start with, if I could find someone who would translate them for us. I think “Theological works” (Богословские труды ?) must be the journal name.

    1961

    Предисловие к извлечению из славянского сборника творений св. Preface to the recovery of the Slavic collection of works of St. священномученика Мефодия // Богословские труды. the martyr Methodius / / Theological Works. М., 1961. M., 1961. №2. Number 2. С. 145-151. S. 145-151.

    Мефодий Патарский, священномученик. Methodius of Patara, martyr. К [С]истелию о проказе (к Истелию о прокажении) / пер.: Михаил (Чуб), архиепископ // Богословские труды. K [G] isteliyu of leprosy (To Istelius about lepers) / lane. Michael (Chub), archbishop / / Theological Works. М., 1961. M., 1961. №2. Number 2. С. 173-183. S. 173-183.

    Мефодий Патарский, священномученик. Methodius of Patara, martyr. Молитва (из сочинения “О воскресении”) / пер.: Михаил (Чуб), архиепископ // Богословские труды. Prayer (from the essay “On the Resurrection”) / lane. Michael (Chub), archbishop / / Theological Works. М., 1961. M., 1961. №2. Number 2. С. 152-153. S. 152-153.

    Мефодий Патарский, священномученик. Methodius of Patara, martyr. О жизни и о разумной деятельности (слово второе “О житии и деянии разумъне”) / пер.: Михаил (Чуб), архиепископ // Богословские труды. The life and activities on a reasonable (second floor “of the life and deeds of razumne”) / lane. Michael (Chub), archbishop / / Theological Works. М., 1961. M., 1961. №2. Number 2. С. 154-159. S. 154-159.

    Мефодий Патарский, священномученик. Methodius of Patara, martyr. О пиявице, о которой говорится в книге Притчей, и о (словах) “Небеса проповедуют славу Божию” (О пиявици сущии в притчах и о Небеса исповедают славу Божию”) / пер.: Михаил (Чуб), архиепископ // Богословские труды. М., 1961. №2. С. 184-205. About piyavitse referred to in the book of Proverbs, and the (words), “The heavens declare the glory of God” (On piyavitsi suschii in the parables of heaven and confess the glory of God “) / lane. Michael (Chub), archbishop / / Theological Works. Moscow, 1961. № 2. S. 184-205.

    Мефодий Патарский, священномученик. Methodius of Patara, martyr. О различении яств и о телице, упоминаемой в книге Левит, пеплом которой окроплялись грешники (о разлучении яди и о юници менимеи в левитице еяже пепеломь грешнии кропяхуся) / пер.: Михаил (Чуб), архиепископ // Богословские труды. On distinguishing dishes and heifer, mentioned in Leviticus, which is sprinkled with ashes sinners (on the separation of UNIC yadi and is applicable to levititse eyazhe pepelom sinners kropyahusya) / lane. Michael (Chub), archbishop / / Theological Works. М., 1961. M., 1961. №2. Number 2. С. 160-172. S. 160-172.

    1964

    Предисловие к диалогу св. Preface to the Dialogue of St.. священномученика Мефодия “О свободе воли” // Богословские труды. the martyr Methodius “On Free Will” / / Theological Works. М., 1964. M., 1964. №03. № 03. С. 187-191. S. 187-191.

    Мефодий Патарский, священномученик. Methodius of Patara, martyr. О свободе воли / пер.: Михаил (Чуб), архиепископ // Богословские труды. Freedom of will / per. Michael (Chub), archbishop / / Theological Works. М., 1964. M., 1964. №03. № 03. С. 192-208. S. 192-208.

    And as you say there are more studies and so on. The Google translate version is here.

    The thing to do is to get hold of copies of the journal articles. (That would be a challenge for my local town library!) I can see that I need help from Slavicists…!

  14. Hunting for publications of Methodius in Old Slavonic and Russian at Roger Pearse

    [...] comments to my article yesterday on the Works of Methodius are very useful.  Commenter “Maureen” has tracked down what look very like [...]

  15. Roger Pearse

    According to this transliteration site, Богословские труды = “Bogoslovskiye troodi”. A Google search finds no matches, but turning “troodi” into “trudi” brings up results for “Bogoslovski Trudi (Lavori teologici)”, although not many. Wonder how it is usually transliterated? If I need to search library catalogues such as http://www.COPAC.ac.uk, I’ll need to know what to look for!

    UPDATE: Not much joy. But the journal has a home page here (Google translate version here. From this there is a link to a Norwegian site that provides the following details:

    Bogoslovskie Trudy
    ISSN: 0320-0213 ( BIBSYS )
    ITAR kode: 1019504
    URL: http://www.rop.ru/article.php?1003
    Publiseringsutvalgets faginndeling: Teologi og religionsvitenskap
    Vitenskapsdisiplin: Teologi (151)
    Fagfellevurdering: Fagfellevurdert
    Behandlingsstatus: Satt ved årsskiftet
    Nivå: Vitenskapelig nivå a
    Startår: 1960
    Forlag: Izdatel’stvo Moskovskoi Patriarkhii
    Land: Russland

    The ISSN should help, I imagine.

  16. adshkute

    “Bogoslovskie trudy” (Theological Studies) is the theological journal of the Moscow Patriarchate.
    Thanks to Maureen!
    I think I can get hold of these articles through my university library and then scan them, if you are interested.
    I haven’t been able yet to locate other works on Methodius in Slavonic (except Vaillant’s translation), which seems to me quite surprising.

  17. Roger Pearse

    “Bogoslovskie Trudy” seems to be the right anglicisation! I have found entries under that name in COPAC and indeed on Amazon and Abebooks. There are copies in various UK libraries, including a set in Cambridge University Library (order in West Room, shelfmark L66.c.28.1-), which is accessible to me (or will be shortly).

    I shall try there first. ILL is a last resort, for I remember that, if I order it — at immense expense — by inter-library loan, the British Library will scan the page into digital form, stamp it with loads of bogus copyright claims of their own, and then, incredibly, print it out on A4, at low, grainy resolution, and send you the paper print-out, retaining the digital copy for themselves.

  18. Roger Pearse

    @adshkute, if you can get hold of these articles and scan them, I’d be very grateful! It would save me fumbling with volumes and page numbers in a language I don’t understand.

    The ones that I want are those listed in my comment earlier.

    I don’t mind what image format they come in — I can create PDF’s from .PNG or .JPG or whatever.

    Thank you again!

  19. Mikhail Vedeshkin

    http://mystudies.narod.ru/name/m/methodius.htm
    Here you can find a few works of Methodius translated into modern Russian.

  20. Mikhail Vedeshkin

    “The feast of 10 virgins or about virginity”
    http://mystudies.narod.ru/library/m/methodius/virgins/000.htm
    “About the freedom of will or against the Valentians”
    http://mystudies.narod.ru/library/m/methodius/advalent.htm
    “About Resurrection or against Origen”
    http://mystudies.narod.ru/library/m/methodius/resurr.htm
    “About creation or against Origen”
    http://mystudies.narod.ru/library/m/methodius/creation.htm

  21. Mikhail Vedeshkin

    Engish translation of Methodius:
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/

  22. Roger Pearse

    @Mikhail: Thank you very much! This is great, and very useful to have! Do you know what the original published source for these is? (I’m hoping to find an Old Slavonic text, you see)

  23. More on Methodius at Roger Pearse

    [...] posts on the works of Methodius in Old Slavonic here and here have attracted a wealth of learned comment, for which many [...]

  24. History of Millennialism and Chiliasm in the Patristic Age « A Knight of The Word

    [...] Roger Pearse, “The works of Methodius,” http://www.roger-pearse.com/weblog/2011/10/28/the-works-of-methodius/ Accessed [...]