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, but even the bibliography in this shows that Methodius has been neglected.
One reason for this is that only one of his works survives complete in Greek, his Symposium. A substantial proportion of a second, On Free Will, also exists; and fragments of the other works. However On Free Will exists complete in Old Slavonic, as do four more short works.
I think it would be best to start with a bibliography of editions and translations.
- J.-P. Migne, Patrologia Graeca 18. This reprints a pre-critical edition with an incomplete collection of the Greek fragments, and a Latin translation.
- A. Jahn, S. Methodii Opera et Methodius Platonizans, 1865. Online here. This is a more complete collection of the Greek, and was used as the basis for the 1905 Lovyagin translation into Russian.
- E. Lovyagin, 2nd Edition (1905). Online here. Russian translation of Greek material in Jahn edition. Discussion of contents here and here (with modernised OCR of preface).
- G. Bonwetsch, “Methodius”, in: Griechischen Christlichen Schriftsteller 27 (1917). Online here. This gives the Slavonic material in German translation (only) interspersed with the Greek fragments.
- J. Farges, Méthode d’Olympe. Du libre arbitre. Traduction précédée d’une Introduction sur les questions de l’origine du monde, du libre arbitre et du problème du mal dans la pensée grecque, judaïque et chrétienne avant Méthode. Paris: Beauchesne (1929). French translation of On Free Will.
- A. Vaillant, “Le ‘De autexusio’ de Méthode d’Olympe, version slave et texte grec édités et traduits en français, 246 p.”, in: Patrologia Orientalis 22, 5 (1930), p.631-877. This contains On Free Will, edited from both Slavonic and Greek. Online here.
- M. Chub, in: Богословский труды (=Bogoslovski Trudy) 2 (1961) and 3 (1964). Online here. #2 contains Russian translations from Slavonic of 4 works; #3 contains the passages of On Free Will which only exist in Slavonic translated into Russian, with notes as to how they fit into the Loyagin text. English translation of his useful preface here, with links to two online manuscripts.
- M.Richard, Opera minora 1 (1976). A reprint of M. Richard, “Quelques nouveaux fragments des Pères anténicéens et nicéens”, in: Symbolae Osloenses 38 (1963), 81. This gives a new fragment of De resurrectione.
The works that have reached us are as follows.
1. The Banquet or Symposium (Συμπόσιον ἢ περὶ ἁγνείας), in praise of virginity. (CPG 1810) 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. A modern edition with French translation exists in Sources Chretiennes 95 (1963), ed. H. Musurillo.
The remaining works are extant in an Old Slavonic translation, with sometimes substantial fragments of the Greek.
2. On free-will (Περὶ τοῦ αὐτεξουσίου). (CPG 1811) 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, one by l’Abbe Farges, the other by Vaillant. 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. (CPG 1812) 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. The Greek can be found in PG18, 265-329, and Richard’s Opera Minora.
4. On life and reasonable actions. (CPG 1813) 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. Mikhail Chub gave a Russian translation from manuscript in Bogoslovskie Trudy 2 (1961). Update: English translation here.
5. De cibis (CPG 1814) or On the distinction between foods 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. Again this was translated by Mikhail Chub into modern Russian. Update: English translation here.
6. De lepra or To Sistelius on leprosy. (CPG 1815) 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. Chub translated it into Russian. Update: English translation here.
7. A third treatise, De sanguisuga, (CPG 1816) 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. Chub gives a Russian translation. Update: English translation here.
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 (CPG 1820). Bonwetsch edits a fragment under this title (otherwise unknown) on p.520.
11. On Genesis (CPG 1821). See Studi e Testi 201, p. 54, “Les anciens commentateurs grecs de l’Octateuque et des Rois”, 1959.
12. On the creatures. (CPG 1817). PG 18, 332-344. Bonwetsch p.493-500. There are also fragments in Photius, codex 235.
There is also an Apocalypse of pseudo-Methodius, from the 7th century, with which we are not concerned here.
Bonwetsch’s study on the theology of Methodius is online here. In 1891 Bonwetsch did a Methodius von Olympus. 1. Schriften volume, which contains much the same material as the GCS edition. This may be found here or here. 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 much of his work. 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. However two manuscripts are online now, and Mikhail Chub published translations of a few. The preface to his translation I have made into English here, and it includes links to the manuscripts.
UPDATED June 2015 with Slavonic material info. July 2015 with material from the SC site.