Archive for the 'Announcements' Category

Some translations by Anthony Alcock from Syriac, Coptic and Arabic

Anthony Alcock has been busy on a number of texts, creating new translations.  He has kindly sent a number of these to me for upload here, although I think that they are also available on Academia.edu and perhaps on Alin Suciu’s blog also.

In each case he provides a useful introduction.

Here they are (all PDF):

  • Chronicle of Séert I – A rather important Syriac chronicle, written by a Nestorian writer in the 9-11th century.  A detailed study of the text by Philip Wood (Oxford, 2013) is accessible on open access (yes!!!) here.
  • Chronicle of Séert II – Part 2 of the same.
  • Preaching of Andrew – A fresh translation of one of the Christian Arabic apocrypha from Mount Sinai.
  • Sins1 – A Coptic text on the Sins of priests and monks, by ps.Athanasius.  An Arabic version also exists.  This is the first English version, so is very welcome.  The text is interesting because of the interaction with Islam, and may be one of the sources used by the Apocalypse of Samuel of Kalamoun.  However I wasn’t able to locate this text in either the Coptic Encyclopedia or Graf’s GCAL – does anyone know where it is?
  • Sins2 – Part 2 of the same.

It is profoundly useful to have this kind of material available in English and online, and our thanks to Dr Alcock.

Severian of Gabala – On the Holy Spirit, now online in English

Severian of Gabala (ca. 398 AD) was a member of the Antiochene school of biblical interpretation.  In consequence his sermons tend to be expository, and consequently still of value today.  Regrettably they have not been translated into English, for the most part.  Regular readers will be aware that I have commissioned translations of a number of them.

Bryson Sewell has just finished wrestling with Severian’s sermon De Spiritu Sancto (CPG 4188), as printed by Migne in the Patrologia Graeca 52, cols.813-826.  This makes it one of the longer works preserved.

The text gets obscure at points.  Severian has a bit of a tendency to address his audience; then switch to address some imaginary Arian or Macedonian; then back again.  I’m not sure that either of us quite followed him at every point!  On the other hand it has some very useful arguments from scripture for the divinity of the Holy Spirit (as well as some less good ones).

Here it is:

These may also be found at Archive.org.

As usual I place these in the public domain; do whatever you like with them, personal, educational or commercial.[1]

There will now be a pause in translating Severian’s works, but I hope that we will return to him sometime.  However the next translation that we do will be something else.

A translation of another early sermon – not by Severian – is in flight, and should appear in the next few days.  But that will be it for a little while.  Fear not; there will be more!

  1. [1] Just don’t claim exclusive ownership, tho!

Managing the photocopies!

Alright.  Confess.  Is there anyone who does NOT have a large pile of photocopies of articles, book excerpts, and even complete books, somewhere in their house or study area?  No?  I thought not. Dratted nuisance, aren’t they?

Clearing the decks!

Clearing the decks!

Years ago I used to file them, in hanging folders in filing cabinets.  This week I have been emptying a drawer of such copies.  Most of these were on A3 paper, so very hard to scan; but I simply drew a trimmer down the middle and scanned them in anyway.  And then, most importantly, I threw away the paper.  And the hangers.

At this moment I am going through a pile of off-prints, and guillotining the spines and shoving them through my document scanner.  They scan beautifully.  And … I am throwing the paper away.  The PDFs that I get from the scanner I make searchable, and then, for once, I can use them.

It’s a bit nostalgic, in a way.  I’m finding papers that I ordered in 2001, via my local library.  This was before PDFs existed.  The library charged a substantial sum per paper, and it arrived in weeks, not days.  In those days it was the only available method to obtain a copy of anything.  Now … we have electronic methods.  It’s not so long ago, and yet it’s a different world.

Most of the papers relate to my interest in Tertullian.  I’m scanning in a bunch of copies of the Chronica Tertullianea et Cyprianea as I type – the key bibliography for Latin ante-Nicene patristics.  They will be far easier to search in PDF form!

Also found were a bunch of papers by Canadian academic James Carley, about the English antiquary John Leland.  Leland lived in the times of Henry VIII, when the monasteries were being suppressed, and inspected their libraries.  Many volumes from English monasteries went overseas; most were destroyed.  A post on his work might not go amiss, perhaps.

Meanwhile, I need to scan some more stuff and declutter!  It’s a good task for a rainy day.

Have you purged your filing cabinet lately?

The Green collection founder and his bible museum

A commenter draws my attention to a most interesting article in the Washington Post:

Hobby Lobby’s Steve Green has big plans for his Bible museum in Washington

The Bible museum taking shape in the building over the Federal Center SW Metro station started out in a very different location and with a very different message.

The project was planned for Texas in the late 2000s. Green told reporters he intended to put it in Dallas because so many church-going Christians live there. The mission statement on its initial nonprofit filing documents was clear: to “bring to life the living word of God … to inspire confidence in the absolute authority” of the Bible’s words. Green wanted to hand out Bible tracts to visitors, who would exit the museum singing “Amazing Grace,” said Scott Carroll, a specialist in biblical manuscripts who advised Green’s Bible-collecting and museum efforts from their start in 2009 through 2012.

Today, the message has undergone a drastic revision. The Web site for Green’s traveling Bible exhibit, “Passages,” says the museum “will be dedicated to a scholarly approach to the history, narrative and impact of the Bible.” Green says he now supports a museum approach that is nonsectarian and non-proselytizing.

The skeptics have another reason to embrace this new museum. Substantive funding for Bible scholarship and exploration is scarce. At a time when polls show that Americans are increasingly ignorant about the Bible and religion, the Greens are happily pouring hundreds of millions into preserving, researching and taking public what’s called the Book of Books.

… things turned sharply in 2009, as Green worked with Carroll to start building his collection.

The economy crashed, and several private donors and major institutions started dumping assets. Green went on a three-year buying spree. “We were looking at good buying. We thought: ‘This is worth much more than they’re asking. Let’s buy it.’ ”

Green bought Dead Sea Scroll fragments, Babe Ruth’s Bible, the Codex Climaci Rescriptus — a bundle of manuscripts from the 5th to the 9th centuries that includes the phrase that Christianity teaches Jesus uttered on the cross: “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani” (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). Green owns the world’s largest collection of Torah scrolls.

As word spread of the Green Collection, some scholars panted at the possibility that items long held in completely private collections might be available for study.

It’s an interesting article on an interesting subject.

In the ruling class of the USA there seems to be a terrifying degree of bigotry towards their own backwoods Christianity, from which Green has emerged.  I have already seen vituperation from scholars which I can only characterise as motivated by the idea that “this is our space” and based purely on religious animosity.  But it would be a great pity if this antipathy was allowed to derail a project that should be of universal benefit.

H.V.Morton on Gregory the Great and the deserted Palatine

This morning I read these words:

I descended the noble steps [from the church of St Gregory on the Caelian hill].  Every day of his life, I reflected, St Gregory while in Rome, and before he went to live at the Lateran Palace as Pope, must have seen the Colosseum; a few paces would take him past the Circus Maximus, already weed-grown and deserted, above which rose the imperial palaces, unoccupied for centuries but still capable of housing a stray Exarch from Ravenna.  The last time they received an emperor was twenty-five years after Gregory’s death, in 629, when Heraclius visited Rome and was invested with the diadem in the throne room on the Palatine.  What a ghostly moment that must have been; for the middle ages were ready to be born.

These words are from H.V. Morton, A Traveller in Rome, published in 1957.[1]

I know nothing of that visit to Rome by Heraclius, I must say, but that portrait in words moves me to find out.  Which, in a way, says that the book is doing its job!

I’m reading the book because it’s a gentle, restful book to read.  For those unfamiliar with them, Morton’s books are a mixture of personal observation and material rewritten from books such as the popularisations of Lanciani, and are perfectly targeted at the educated but non-specialist reader.   They are uneven; but the best are very good indeed.

But it is a wistful experience, reading Morton’s Through Lands of the Bible, where he travels through Palestine and Iraq in the 1930’s.  It is a portrait of a peaceful, quiet world.  Under the rule of the honest, efficient colonial powers, the region knew the first enlightened, progressive, civilised government that it had ever had.

How sad that it was also the last.  I am by no means anti-American, but America has been the dominant power in the region since WW2, and the policies pursued by its ruling class, often well-intentioned but invariably counter-productive, have condemned its inhabitants to ceaseless, pointless strife, poverty and misery.

Let us take up the books written in better days, and dream of a better world than our own.

UPDATE: Later in the book Morton refers to a visit by Constans II to stay in the Palatine, some 20 years later than Heraclius.  I have a feeling that his books were serialized, which may explain how episodic they sometimes can be; and mistakes like this!

  1. [1] By Methuen; In the 1984 paperback reprint this is p.208

From my diary

The first complete draft of Severian of Gabala, De Spiritu Sancto, has arrived.  More to the point, I have now read through it all and given feedback.  One section of it is distinctly hard to follow in the original, because Severian is not being as clear as he might be.  In consequence he has to keep asking his audience to concentrate!

But it’s an interesting sermon.  Once we’ve added enough words in brackets so that the reader can follow the thought, I think that it will be of general interest to modern readers who would like to understand the basis from scripture for some of the church’s statements about the Holy Spirit.

I’ve continued working on the Mithras site.  This week I located pictures of two lost reliefs, and added them to the index of monuments.  It is a very great privilege to live in the internet age, when we can locate relatively easily materials that would have been quite impossible to access, back in 1997, when I started Tertullian.org!

I’ve also had an update on a Greek homily that I commissioned; work is in progress.  There is also hope of a translation of the Syriac remains of Theodore of Mopsuestia on Genesis.

Autumn has now definitely arrived here, and this leads me to think of Christmas, and so of Santa Claus.  It seems to be a fact that the hagiographical Lives of St. Nicholas have never been translated into English, or indeed any modern language.  Unfortunately they are late, and exist in multiple versions.  It might be fun to select one or two and commission translations, tho.  Mightn’t it?!

Origen on Ezekiel: yet another translation has been made!

A correspondent writes:

Just wanted to alert you that John Sehorn successfully defended his PhD dissertation on Origen’s Homilies on Ezekiel 1–14 not long ago (link). Apparently it includes a translation of the text. He’s been at it for over three years now – I guess working parallel to you[1] and Scheck.[2]

I don’t know.  You wait four centuries for a translation of Origen’s homilies on Ezekiel, and then three come along in a period of 24 months!  But the more the merrier!

The Mischa Hooker translation, however, is more complete than either the Scheck or Sehorn versions, since these only translate the 14 homilies from the Latin version made by Rufinus, while Hooker also translates a vast array of Greek fragments from all the works of Origen on Ezekiel, and includes a facing Greek and Latin text.  But then, since I published this version, perhaps I am biased!

It is still my intention that Hooker’s text and translation will appear online, freely accessible, once sales trickle to nothing much.  I’d just like to recoup at least some of the investment first.

  1. [1] Mischa Hooker, Origen of Alexandria: Exegetical Works on Ezekiel, In: Ancient Texts in Translation 2, 2014.Amazon.  Please buy a copy!
  2. [2] Thomas P. Scheck, Origen: Homilies 1-14 on Ezekiel, in: Ancient Christian Writers 62, 2012. Amazon.

If you have access to HathiTrust, can you help me with a 1913 article?

I’m trying to access an article from Italian journal Ausonia, from 1913.  Unfortunately, while many volumes of the journal before and after are accessible at Archive.org, the particular issue I want is not.

The article I want is C. Huelsen, “I lavori archeologici di Giovannantonio Dosio”, in: Ausonia: rivista della Società italiana di archeologia e storia dell’arte, vol. 7 (1913), p.1 ff.

The volume is online here, apparently:

http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015039706737

Well, it is if your institution is in the USA, anyway.  But I am overseas and can’t access it.

Can anyone access this?  If so, please use the contact link at right and talk to me.  It seems silly for me to make a library trip for something already freely accessible online.

Many thanks!

UPDATE:  Thank you to the gentleman who sent me a copy of the article, and the other gentleman who made the whole volume available.  I am very grateful!

Sever J. Voicu’s 1990 article on Severian of Gabala

It is hard to do much work on Severian of Gabala for lack of access to the basic materials; texts, translations and studies.  The list of works in the Clavis Patrum Graecorum is useful, but hard to access and split across various entries and sub-sections.  The most important article on the subject is, and remains – after 24 years –  Sever J. Voicu, “Severien de Gabala,” Dictionnaire de spiritualite 14 (Paris, 1990), 752-63.  Fortunately Dr Voicu has given permission for a transcript, made by a correspondent, to appear here.[1]  Here it is, in Word .doc format:

Dr Voicu adds, “It is rather outdated, but no other comprehensive entry about Severian of Gabala has been written since.”  Any errors are, of course, my fault and nobody else’s.  I note that a certain amount of reformatting was introduced, but it seems to make it clearer.

I hope that this will be readable via Google Translate even for those without a command of French.  I hope to prepare an English translation of at least some of it.

  1. [1] I am not entirely certain as to the ownership of this article – if anybody believes that they have property in it, please contact me.

Severian of Gabala news

A couple of updates on the Severian of Gabala work.

Firstly, Bryson Sewell has sent me a first draft of his English translation of De Spiritu Sancto (PG 52 813-826). It still needs heavy revision, and I haven’t commented on it yet, but it is there in skeleton at least.  It looks interesting, for the most part.  Apparently Severian’s style is not always of the clearest, tho!  As ever, when it is done, it will appear here.

One of the problems in studying Severian is that none of his works were online in any modern language – or at least, none in English, and the one or two, that did exist in French etc, were basically in a dark hole somewhere online.  The translations that Bryson is making will fix some of this.

But just getting a list of works is difficult.  Regular readers will recall that I have been driven – unusually – to compiling some kind of bibliography myself, as a basis for commissioning translations.

In general, studies on Severian are few, and hard to access.  The prince of all the articles on Severian is one by Dr Sever J. Voicu, who is the world expert on Severian: Sever J. Voicu, “Severien de Gabala,” in: Dictionnaire de spiritualité 14 (Paris, 1990), pp.752-63.

This is the most comprehensive introduction to the subject, with a detailed bibliography, and it supersedes all previous work.  Of course it is now 24 years old, so it is now somewhat outdated.  But it is impossible to access, and the Dictionnaire itself seems almost unknown to patristic scholars in general; certainly to most anglophone scholars.

Fortunately I obtained a copy of this article some time ago, which led me to realise how essential it was.  Soon afterwards, a correspondent emailed me a Word document of it, which he had scanned.  Dr Voicu has very kindly granted his permission for this transcript to appear online on this blog.  This will happen, probably in the next week.  I want to check it over first, and to make sure that, in whatever format I upload it, it can be handled by Google Translate.

I may also translate portions of it into English.  I’ve been unwell with a virus for a week, but I must return to work on Monday.  Much will all depend on how busy next week is!



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