Archive for the 'Announcements' Category

Notes on Andrew of Crete’s Encomium on St Nicholas of Myra

In all the Methodius stuff, I have not forgotten that there are many untranslated hagiographical texts about St Nicholas of Myra, or Santa Claus, which are still on my hit list.  A correspondent has written to offer help with translating Greek texts, and I recalled that the Encomium by Andrew of Crete (BHG 1362, CPG 8187) might be a possible starting point.  The work dates to the beginning of the 8th century, so might be a little early for that translator.  But we will see.

Since I have to look this up, here’s some bibliography.

Greek text:

G. Anrich, Hagios Nikolaos, der Heilige Nikolaos in der Griechischen Kirche; Texte und Untersuchungen, 2 vols, Leipzig: Teubner, 1913-17. Volume 1, p.419-428.

Patrologia Graeca 97, col. 1192-1205, where the work is given as “oration 18” of Andrew of Crete.  With Latin translation.

Translations:

German translation:  L. Heiser, “Die Festrede des Andreas von Kreta,”  in idem, Nikolaos von Myra. Heiliger der ungeteilten Christenheit, Trier, 1978, p.80-89.  I do have a copy of this, it turns out.

Partial English translation: I find by looking online that someone has made an English translation of a slab of it here, although who and from what is not clear.  There is a link at the end to the PG text, so presumably that was used, or the Latin of it.

Let’s see what comes of this.

UPDATE: I came across a useful article on Andrew of Crete this morning, which gives us a little more information.[1]

The best study of Andrew and his work is apparently S. Valhé, “Saint André de Crete“, Echos d’Orient 5 (1902), 378-87.  There are some modern articles in Greek also.  Also M.-F. Auzépy, “La carriere de André de Crete”, BZ 88 (1995) 1-12.

The Encomium may not, in fact, be by Andrew of Crete.  It seems that Anrich expressed doubts on this (154-60, 339-56) which were endorsed by N. Sevcenko in The Life of St Nicholas in Byzantine Art, Turin, 1983, p.26.  Apparently Auzépy fails to mention this question, tho.

  1. [1] Mary B. Cunningham, “Andrew of Crete: a high-style preacher of the eighth century”, in: M. Cunningham and P. Allen, Preacher and His Audience: Studies in Early Christian and Byzantine Homiletics, 1998, 267-294.

From my diary

I have just spent four hours on an application for grant funding.  I ache as much as if I had been doing manual labour!  Why is this process so awful?  I did smile, though, at the assurances that the process is not intended to be a barrier to applicants – an assurance contained in a PDF guide to applying which was itself 57 pages long!

The application is for money to translate from Old Slavonic Methodius’ De resurrectione and De autexusio, plus the Greek fragments of each, plus whatever remains of other works in Greek.  The price tag is a lot more than I can afford to spend, and the work does need doing.

After all, nobody is ever likely to translate Methodius into English again.  An academic would need Greek and Old Slavonic, and that isn’t such a common combination.  And, as we all know, the way that research funding is set up, just making a translation is not “research”.  So how does it ever get to happen?

Anyway I thought I’d see if anyone might fund the work.

It’s slightly daunting to realise that the timescale for the project is 18 months of my life!  Ouch!  I just wish I could think of some way to get some money out of it myself.  A good project is one that profits everyone.

I’ve produced a combined version of De Lepra, and I’ve today had back some comments from Ralph Cleminson on the differences between the Old Slavonic and the Greek.  I hope to work on this later today, and I hope to get it out of the door.

I rather grudge the time on that application.  I had so much useful to do, and that time is all gone.  Rats!  And I know that I need to reread that application and make sure it explicitly answers the questions asked, rather than rambling.

It’s probably all time wasted.  But I do have to try.

Thinking about Methodius, De resurrectione and De autexusio

This evening I combined the English translation of the Old Slavonic text of De Lepra with the translation of the Greek fragments of the same work.  The latter were considerably fuller, where I had both, and sometimes with startling differences.  However I hope to have this completed before too long.

This will complete the four short works of Methodius, leaving some Greek fragments, but also two large works: the De resurrectione and the De autexusio (On Free will).  The latter has a French translation by Vaillant.

I’ve worked out the price of translating both, and it is far beyond my means.  If it is to be done, it must be done by a grant.  Fortunately I have such a body in mind, so this evening I have been doing some calculations.

It is relatively straightforward to work out a price for the Old Slavonic of both works, based on the page count of the manuscript.  That said, Vaillant did edit the Old Slavonic text, so in this case we do have an edition to work from.

But working out a price for the Greek is much harder.  It turns out that there is an awful lot of Greek extant for these works.  The total for the Greek is 50% of the total for the Old Slavonic!

A further issue came to my attention when skimming through Vaillant’s preface.  It seems that the Old Slavonic translation is often almost unintelligible.

The reason for this, says Vaillant, is that the translator simply substituted for each Greek word the equivalent term in Old Slavonic, without bothering much about whether the resulting sentence made sense!  In fact he says that often the best thing to do is to reverse the process – to work out what Greek word lies behind each Slavonic word, and then see what the sentence actually originally meant in the Greek!

If we are to take this seriously – and translators are known to exaggerate the difficulty of their achievement sometimes, at the behest of their publishers – then this would mean that only a translator fluent in both Greek and Old Slavonic could make a translation of Methodius.  Only a native English speaker fluent in Greek and Old Slavonic could make an English translation.  Does anyone know of such a prodigy?

But I suspect that this is a tall tale.  Doubtless this may sometimes be the case; but I don’t think that I should abandon the effort of getting a translation made for such a reason.

It is late now, tho, so the application process will have to wait until another day.

One other point caught my eye.  Interestingly Vaillant refers to an unpublished French translation of an Armenian recension of De autexusio.  I wonder where that is now?

Methodius of Olympus, On the Leech – now online in English

The third of the short works by Methodius of Olympus, On the leech (De sanguisuaga) is now available online, thanks once again to Ralph Cleminson who has translated it from Old Slavonic for us all.  It’s an explanation of a couple of passages from the Old Testament.

Here are the files:

I have also uploaded them to Archive.org here.

As usual, I make these files and their contents public domain.  Use them in any way you like!

A list of translations of the Orations of Libanius, at Antiochepedia

Libanius lived in 4th century Antioch, and he knew everyone who was anyone.  His very voluminous works have not received much attention from translators.  This is probably because his works are rather dull.  Nevertheless they contain valuable data on late antique culture.  But even finding what translations exist can be a challenge.

A useful item, this, at the Antiochepedia website:

Listing of sources for translations of Libanius’ Orations

A very thorough summary of the translations of the Orations by Libanius has been prepared by Christine Lund Koch Greenlee, a graduate student at St Andrews University.

The pdf is available here.

Grab it while it’s hot!

UPDATE: The link seems a bit unreliable: here’s a mirror:

From my diary

Work is continuing on Methodius of Olympus.  There has been no progress for just over a week, thanks to a contaminated sandwich purchased at a garage, and then some other trivial but time-consuming difficulties.  It would be nice, sometimes, to be a man of independent means!

However a translation of Methodius “On the Leech” has arrived, and will appear as soon as I can edit it.

The translation of De Lepra was done a little while ago, but we have been waiting for a translation of the Greek fragments of this work.  This has arrived, but I have not been able to look at it yet.

I’m hoping that I shall be able to deal with both soon.

Before I fell ill, I had located a possible source for a grant to translate the two major works of Methodius extant in Old Slavonic.  These are sufficiently lengthy that the price is a little beyond my own purse, but it looks highly likely that a grant may be possible.

The last gladiatorial show

In 325 AD Constantine passed an edict against gladiators (Codex Theodosianus book 15, title 12, leg. 1).  The version in Cod. Just. XI. 44 runs[1]:

Bloody spectacles in a time of civil peace and domestic quiet do not meet with our favor, wherefore we absolutely prohibit the existence of gladiators.

But clearly nothing happened.

In 403, Prudentius in Contra Symmachum book 2[2] appealed to the emperor Honorius to abolish the gladiatorial games:

Then on to the gathering in the amphitheatre passes [the vestal virgin] this figure of life-giving  purity and bloodless piety, to see bloody battles and deaths of human beings and look on with holy eyes at wounds men suffer for the price of their keep. There she sits conspicuous with the awe-inspiring trappings of her head-bands and enjoys what the trainers have produced.

What a soft, gentle heart! She rises at the blows, and every time a victor stabs his victim’s throat she calls him her pet; the modest virgin with a turn of her thumbbids him pierce the breast of his fallen foe so that no remnant of life shall stay lurking deep in his vitals while under a deeper thrust of the sword the fighter lies in the agony of death.

Does their great service lie in this, that they are said to keep constant watch on behalf of the greatness of Latium’s Palatine city, that they undertake to preserve the life of her people and the wellbeing of her nobles, let their locks spread nicely over their necks or nicely wreathe their brows with dainty ribbons and lay strings on their hair, and below the ground in presence of ghosts cut the throats of cattle over the flames in propitiatory sacrifice, and mutter indistinct prayers?

Or is it that they sit in the better seats on the balcony and watch how often the shaft batters the bronze-helmed face with blows of its three-pronged head, from what gaping gashes the wounded gladiator bespatters his side of the arena when he flees, and with how much blood he marks his traces?

That golden Rome may no more know this kind of sin is my prayer to you, most august Head of the Ausonian realm, and that you would command this grim rite to be abolished like the rest. See, has not your father’s merit left this space unoccupied, and God and your sire’s kindly affection kept it for you to fill up? So that he should not take for himself alone the rewards of his great goodness, he has said “I keep back a portion for you, my son,” and left the honour for you undiminished and unimpaired.

Grasp the glory that has been reserved for your times, our leader, and as your father’s successor possess the credit he has left over. He forbade that the city should be wetted with the blood of bulls; do you command that the dead bodies of wretched men be not offered in sacrifice. Let no man fall at Rome that his suffering may give pleasure, nor Virgins delight their eyes with slaughter upon slaughter. Let the ill-famed arena be content now with wild beasts only, and no more make a sport of murder with bloodstained weapons. Let Rome dedicate herself to God; let her be worthy of her great emperor, being both mighty in valour and innocent of sin; let her follow in goodness the leader she follows in war.

Then the following incident, described in Theodoret, Church History, book 5, chapter 26, took place:

Honorius, who inherited the empire of Europe, put a stop to the gladiatorial combats which had long been held at Rome. The occasion of his doing so arose from the following circumstance.

A certain man of the name of Telemachus had embraced the ascetic life. He had set out from the East and for this reason had repaired to Rome. There, when the abominable spectacle was being exhibited, he went himself into the stadium, and, stepping down into the arena, endeavoured to stop the men who were wielding their weapons against one another. The spectators of the slaughter were indignant, and inspired by the mad fury of the demon who delights in those bloody deeds, stoned the peacemaker to death.

When the admirable emperor was informed of this he numbered Telemachus in the array of victorious martyrs, and put an end to that impious spectacle.

This seems to have taken place in 404 AD, although I don’t know on what that date is based.[3]

The ban of Honorius, naturally, only applied in his presence.  I don’t know if we have evidence for later gladiatorial combats.  But Salvian tells us in De gubernatione Dei, book 6, that men were still being eaten by beasts in the arena in his day.

  1. [1] Via here.
  2. [2] vol. 2 of the Loeb Prudentius,  after line 1095, p.92.
  3. [3] I owe the reference to Gibbon.

From my diary: Gentlemen say “Old Slavonic”, Yankee; the latest on Methodius; plus the Oxford Patristics Conference 2015. All in your soaraway blog!

Sometimes, it’s just a very good idea to go offline! —

sounds_to_me_like_you_just_need_to_unplug
I’m back after a very pleasant week of holiday, and I’m starting to pick up the threads once more.  I’m still feeling somewhat frivolous.

While I was away, Ralph Cleminson sent over a fresh version of Methodius’ De Lepra (a text which gives an allegorical interpretation of Leviticus 13) in which we discussed various issues.  Part of the problem is that it opens in what is clearly the middle of a passage, and the two lines in question are inscrutable.  It is also in the form of a dialogue, but then one of the “speakers” starts quoting two other people.  So it is nearly impossible to label the speakers, as one might otherwise do.  I’ve had a go at producing a semi-final version, and we’ll see how it looks.

In addition, Andrew Eastbourne has accepted a commission to translate the fragments of the Greek version of De Lepra, preserved in a medieval florilegium, and printed in the GCS 27 edition.  These are fairly extensive, but Dr Cleminson has already indicated that they differ quite considerably from the Old Slavonic text.  We’ll include both.  Not sure how to format that – I do hate the idea of parallel columns.

In the meantime I have commissioned Dr C. to translate the next work by Methodius, “On the Leech”, which I imagine is another piece of biblical interpretation.  Thankfully there is no Greek in this.

Meanwhile I have made an important discovery or two.

The first discovery is what is the difference between “Old Slavonic” and “Old Slavic”.  Around the web, the latter is very common; but the former is the one that I know from literature.  It turns out that they mean the same thing – the very early literature of the Slavs in Bulgaria just after the creation of their alphabet – but that Old Slavonic is the form used in Britain, while “Old Slavic” is the form used in the USA.

At least I now know, when I refer to Old Slavonic, what I am talking about.  Sort of.

Well, I do have a French volume, produced by the Cerf, which has an introduction to that literature.  But somehow I forgot to look for it last week.  I’d read it this week, except that it is at home, and I am back in the hotel.  One day I will remember to read it.

My second discovery is that the English word for slave is indeed connected to “Slav”, via Greek.   I read it on a web page, so it must be true.  But it sounded plausible over lunch.

What they said is that the Greek word for slave was doulos.  But the medieval Greeks captured so many Slavs during the wars against the Bulgarians, that they based a Greek word specially on that.  This of course became known in Sicily, then under Byzantine rule; and, after its conquest by the Normans, around the same time as the Normans conquered England, the term became part of old English.

It sounds plausible.  I haven’t checked.  Believe at your own risk!

Meanwhile this week, the Oxford Patristics Conference 2015 has started – started on Monday, actually.  I’m not attending.  This is because it looked dashed expensive when I looked at it, last November or whenever.  I have to pay for it myself, after all – no grants for me.  I also lose the money I’d earn by working. Also I’m a bit bored with conferences, in truth.  I’m probably just a bit jaded.  And I am not a patristics professional, so I don’t need to be there for career reasons.

Anyway, I hope they all have a super time.  There are some interesting events, notably the launch of the new edition of Cyril of Alexandria against Julian the Apostate.  And of course there are lots of interesting people there.

A visit to a church building in the weekday

We all need holidays.  I’ve been on holiday for a week, and I’ve largely stayed away from the computer, and instead I have just enjoyed the weather, neither too hot nor too cold.

On Friday I decided to do a trip out, and I went up to the Peak District.  This is quite a run, a round-trip of some 400 miles; but in fact I never saw what I went to see, which was the Peaks.  Instead I saw something much more important.

I was nearly there when, while driving along a dual-carriageway, I saw a sign that indicated that I was very near to the location of a church that I follow on Facebook, but had never seen.  This, I thought, it might be nice to look at.

Not quite sure where I was going, I indicated and came off the dual carriageway, and sought out the area where it meets.  I thought perhaps that there might be a church office open, and maybe some literature about the history of the church.  I was in for a surprise.

I’d never attended the church.  It’s far too far from home, and in addition is attended by a family of good people whom, for personal reasons, it would be embarassing for me to meet.  In fact I’d never even been to that town before.

But I knew that the church must have been very alive when it was founded.  Someone from my younger days, a very enthusiastic Christian, had attended it, almost from its foundation in the early 80s right through to recent times, so it could hardly be a dead loss.  It came out of the restoration/charismatic movement of that period.  After I became aware of it,  I made it one of the churches that I follow on Facebook, for encouragment and a source of topics for prayer.  But it is very hard to get any impression of what God is doing from internet pages.  And I thought that it might be interesting to see the location itself with my own eyes.

A few wrong turns later, I found myself there, in an industrial unit, wondering where on earth the church was.  I got out of my car, and was accosted by a man who asked if I was looking for the building.  It was, in fact, right in front of me, but unsigned because of renovation work in progress.  The building is a small converted warehouse.

The man who spoke to me was working there.  During the week the building (and an adjoining one, also owned by the church) hosts conferences and meetings, so apparently there are always staff there during the week.  Unfortunately the church office was closed.

But this worker belonged to the church, and told me about it, showed me the auditorium, and indeed prayed with me.  In short he did a fine job of welcoming a casual visitor, and had I not been a believer, I am quite sure that he would have shared the gospel with me too, in a wholly unembarassed fashion.  In short I felt that I came into contact, not just with the building, nor even with church officials; but with the church itself, and God within it.[1]

I drove away, rather impressed, and profoundly encouraged.  Clearly the church is busy, and doing what God wants it to do.  Hundreds of people belong to it, and it is, as the name implies, a thriving community of people dedicated to God and his work.

Very little of this could be known to anybody who didn’t go there.  I didn’t know it, despite taking an interest in the church for the last three years.  You could only learn any of this by meeting those involved.

In fact it became clear from what I learned that the work of God is very much alive and making progress in these northern towns, in a way that does not seem to be the case in my own town.  Praise God for this!

God is at work among us now.  We won’t hear this unless we are actually in touch with it.  But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening.  God is not interested in making a media splash, but in converting ordinary people like ourselves from our pointless lives, and leading us to accept Jesus as Lord.

This is important for believers to remember.  Many of us on the web live rather isolated lives.  That means that, in truth, we don’t really know what is going on.  Never rely on what the media or the web say.  God’s work has always taken place, sub rosa, away from the publicity.  It is still the case now.

So if you were in the middle of God’s work when you were younger, when everything seemed to be happening; and then found yourself in a desert, do not be discouraged.  Jesus also went into the desert.  It is a normal thing, in a Christian’s life.  Just remember that the absence of life in the desert does not mean that there is no life anywhere.  The silence and absence forces you to work out what you really rely on.  We have all known people, apparently believers, who turned out only to be going along with the crowd.  God takes us into the desert, I believe, that we may grow reliant on Him directly.  Some of us will live our lives in the desert.  But we must never forget that He is alive!

In countless lives, in ordinary people, in ordinary places, the kingdom of God is at hand, and people work out their salvation, trusting in God and blessing as many as come within the circle of their lives.  It was rather humbling to see this.

Praise God for that church.  I pray for its leaders and its people, that they may be blessed, and bless others; and that many may come to know Christ through its ministries.  Amen.

UPDATED: I’ve removed details of which church this was: it’s not important to the article.

  1. [1] Mind you, he also managed to introduce me, before I could prevent him, to precisely one of the people that I was eager to avoid!  Ouch.  Luckily I was able to keep a straight face and escape without being detected.  I’d expected to be safe during the week!  Oh well.

The man who wrote the creed of Nicaea

I always learn something from T. D. Barnes’ books.  While looking for something online, I happened across these remarks:[1]

Much will always be obscure about the Council of Nicaea. No stenographic record of the proceedings was taken and no minutes were produced by anyone.

It is true that we have reports of different parts of the debates from four men who attended the council – Constantine himself, Eustathius the bishop of Antioch (frag. 32 Spanneut = Theodoretus, HE 1.8.1-5, cf. Barnes 1978a: 57-59), Eusebius of Caesarea (VC 3.6-22) and Athanasius, who attended as the deacon and assistant of Alexander of Alexandria and composed a very selective account of the council nearly thirty years later in a long letter which he probably addressed to Liberius, who became bishop of Rome on 17 May 352 (De decretis Nicaeni synodi [CPG 2120], cf. Barnes 1993a: 110-112, 198-200).

And later writers who were not at the council provide isolated snippets of information about it. such as that the creed was actually written by the Cappadocian priest Hermogenes (Basil of Caesarea, Epp. 81, 244.9, 263.3). But neither singly nor collectively do any of these provide more than discontinuous glimpses of the course of the debates.

Hang on … the creed was actually written by a Cappadocian priest named Hermogenes?  Of course I had to look this up!

The reference is to letter 81 of the letters of Basil of Caesarea.  This is online in several translations.  It is, in fact, a letter of recommendation for a job, for the son of this Hermogenes.  Here’s the NPNF version:

Not then to be at issue with you, but rather to have you on my side in my defence which I make in the presence of Christ I have, after looking round in the assembly of the presbyters of the city, chosen the very honourable vessel, the offspring of the blessed Hermogenes, who wrote the great and invincible creed in the great Synod. He is a presbyter of the Church, of many years standing, of steadfast character, skilled in canons, accurate in the faith, who has lived up to this time in continence and asceticdiscipline, although the severity of his austere life has now subdued the flesh; a man of poverty, with no resources in this world, so that he is not even provided with bare bread, but by the labour of his hands gets a living with the brethren who dwell with him. It is my intention to send him.

Here’s the version from the Loeb edition:[2]

In order, therefore, that I may not come into litigation with you, but rather may find in you an associate in my defence before Christ, having looked about in the assembly of the presbyters belonging to this city, I have chosen that most worthy vessel, the offspring of the blessed Hermogenes — who, in the great Synod, wrote the great and invincible creed.

DeFerrari, the translator, adds the notes:

* He was the spiritual offspring of Hermogenes, having been ordained by him. Hermogenes was bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia and predecessor of Dianius. Cf. Letters CCXLIV, CCLXIII.

* I.e., at Nicaea. Basil seems to forget that it was Leontius who was present at Nicaea as bishop of Caesarea, although Hermogenes may have been present in lower orders, and may have written the creed.

Neither note seems necessary, tho.

But what does the phrase “wrote the creed” (πίστιν γράψαντος) signify?  It can’t mean “composed”, but rather “write down”, “note down”, i.e. from the discussion.

All the same, it is interesting to learn of this little piece of information!

If we followed the letter of Eusebius, preserved by Athanasius in De synodis Nicenis, we would suppose that the creed was the same as that which Eusebius offered to the council as his own confession, with only the addition of the word “homoousios” proposed by Constantine himself.  But this never sounded very likely.  I suspect that the text of Eusebius’ letter has suffered in transmission – probably some paragraphs have been omitted – and consequently misleads us.

  1. [1] Timothy Barnes, Constantine: Dynasty, Religion and Power in the Later Roman Empire, Wiley, 2013.  Sadly page numbers are not displayed.
  2. [2] Basil, Letters vol. 2, pp.92-93.  Loeb vol. 215.


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