Archive for the 'From my diary' Category
July 18th, 2014 by Roger Pearse
It is now a year since I wrote four posts examining the first chapter of Walter Bauer’s Orthodoxy and Heresy, and others on points of detail. All the posts may be found here.
I had intended to write a further post, summing up what I had found. But in the end I never did. Because by that point I had already lost confidence in Bauer; and the labour involved in dealing with his book was greater than a blogger like myself can spare from real life.
Rather than let the series dribble out, I would like to summarise the lasting impression that this chapter of his book left upon me.
Bauer constructed a weird picture of events in which the Marcionites were the original Christians in the Syriac-speaking region centred on Edessa, and remained so until the 4th century.
The ancient sources do not say this, so he debunked sources selectively – not without ad hominem arguments. One particularly unpleasing element was that he started with the Abgar literature, accepted by all as unreliable, in order to cast doubt by association upon the accepted sequence of events. At the same time he stated his aversion to actually collecting the data at all. While casting doubt upon every source that told the standard story, he expressed no such doubts about any element within them that could be used for his novel narrative.
Now this is bad scholarship, but of course may merely indicate incompetence. We should never presume that a writer is dishonest, merely because he talks nonsense. It is tedious when people do this, isn’t it?
Bauer’s thesis is contradicted by a list of bishops preserved in Eusebius’ Church History (5.23.4) indicating explicitly the presence of a bishop in Edessa – Osrhoene – in the 200′s. Bauer points out that the Latin translation of Eusebius omits this bishop, and suggests that because the Greek manuscripts are later, then the Latin is more reliable. How much later he does not say.
This is the key nexus for understanding Bauer’s work.
How did Bauer know what the Latin and Greek said? Undoubtedly as a German scholar he consulted the standard GCS text by Schwartz, the Berlin series, which contains both. We can do the same, and more readily in these days of the internet. It is rather misleading not to tell the reader that the Latin manuscripts are 7-8th, and the Greek a mere 9-10th. That is not a great gap. The text implies a considerable gap.
But what Bauer does not tell us is that the GCS edition records the existence of a very ancient Syriac translation. Copies of it must have existed in whatever library Bauer used. Syriac scholars are legion in Germany. So how could Bauer not have looked at this? It requires almost no effort to discover that the manuscripts of this are 5th century; or that it, like the Greek, contains the name of the bishop in question. How could Bauer have honestly not looked at this? Had it too supported his claim, this would have been damning indeed. But, as it does not, this ends the whole argument there and then.
For, if we use Bauer’s own argument, in his own terms, the Syriac translation disproves his claim that Eusebius is interpolated; if Eusebius is not interpolated then there was a Christian bishop at Edessa in communion with Christians elsewhere in the 200′s; and his best evidence for Marcionites is a century later. The argument is over. Bauer is wrong.
So … how could Bauer not know this? How could he not mention it?
Many will remember Dorothy Sayers’ Gaudy Night, a novel that turns upon the disgrace and death of an academic for concealing evidence when writing his PhD thesis – evidence that he knew disproved it. Sayers’ novel is not that remote in time from Bauer.
It was this discovery that sickened me of Bauer. I can find little joy in reading work by an author whom I know that I can’t trust to be honest with me. Does anyone?
Other points, not themselves final, then crowded in. The manipulative-seeming presentation of the data takes on a sinister status after this.
Worse yet, Bauer wrote in 1934. He was employed by the Third Reich. The state church was eagerly subservient to the contemptuous Nazis. Promoting the Marcionites as the original Christians was very congenial to the fetid attempts in the period to rewrite history, produce an Aryan Jesus, get rid of the Old Testament and remake the church subservient to the swastika.
I have not picked up Bauer since. It isn’t worth my time. Nor yours.
July 18th, 2014 by Roger Pearse
A couple of weeks ago Ste. Trombetti posted on Twitter another couple of finds about the Septizonium. This was a facade in front of the Palatine hill in Rome, erected at the end of the Appian Way as a kind of formal entrance to the palaces, by Septimius Severus. It was pulled down in the 16th century, at which time only one end was still standing, and the materials used for various building projects.
The first of these is a guidebook to the wonders of Rome, Francesco Albertini (1469-1530?), Mirabilia Romae, 1520.
A rough translation: “About the Septizonium, and some epitaphs. The Septizonium is between the palace and the church of St. Gregory, of which there are standing three orders of columns high, not far from the Circus Maximus. Near this they say is the place of the tomb of the emperor Severus the African: concerning whom see Julius Capitolinus writes in the life …. (?) … Spartianus says the same” (not sure about the rest).
Another item by Sebastiano Serlio, “Il Terzo Libro delle Antichità di Roma”, 1544, p.82. This has a diagram of the vaulted inside of the roof of the Septizonium, and measurements of the extent of the building then standing, made by the author, so is very valuable indeed. The south end is at the top:
Finally – and nothing to do with the Septizonium – here on Twitter is a drawing of the Meta Sudans fountain, also now vanished, by Giacomo Lauro, “Splendore dell’antica e moderna Roma”, 1641:
I think we may all be grateful to Mr. Trombetti for the time spent in these online archives, locating these.
July 14th, 2014 by Roger Pearse
A slim undated hardback of an old English translation of the “meditations” of the emperor Marcus Aurelius came into my hands last week for a couple of pounds in a seaside second-hand bookshop. The long preface by the unnamed translator -who proves to be George Long, a 19th c. scholar - was a bit odd, but contained some definite gems such as the following:
A man’s greatness lies not in wealth and station, as the vulgar believe, not yet in his intellectual capacity, which is often associated with the meanest moral character, the most abject servility to those in high places and arrogance to the poor and lowly; but a man’s true greatness lies in the consciousness of an honest purpose in life, founded on a just estimate of himself and everything else, on frequent self-examination, and a steady obedience to the rule which he knows to be right, without troubling himself, as the emperor says he should not, about what others may think or say, or whether they do or do not do that which he thinks and says and does.
Is this not well said?
But it left me wondering, as I always do, how the often-translated thoughts of Marcus Aurelius in 12 books came down to us. A search for an edition proving fruitless, I eventually found a JSTOR article that enlightened me.
The manuscripts are:
An edition is referred to as well – that of J. Dalfen, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus: Ad se ipsum libri XII, Teubner: Leipzig, 1979; 2nd revised ed. 1987. But of course this is not online. An earlier edition of I.H. Leopold, 1908, ought to be accessible online somewhere?
July 10th, 2014 by Roger Pearse
The second book in Ancient Texts in Translation is now available. This is a translation of all that Origen wrote on Ezekiel, together with the original text. The work was translated by Mischa Hooker, who has gamely worked away at this for five years. The results are really quite satisfactory.
I’m not sure that I actually announced this when it was released, so here’s an overview.
Origen wrote three works in which he commented on Ezekiel. He wrote sermons, composed a commentary (almost entirely lost) and also scholia.
The series of fourteen expository sermons is lost in the original Greek, but the content is preserved in a Latin translation. The most recent critical text, and a new English translation, are printed here.
Following these is a long section containing the fragments of his work in Greek. This comprises the fragments of the original Greek of the sermons, together with the remains of the scholia and the single remaining fragment of the commentary. The fragments are ordered by the chapter and verse of the bible to which they relate.
The fragments are all derived from medieval Greek bible commentaries, known as catenae. These consist of “chains” of quotations from earlier authors. The text as printed by Charles Delarue is used, together with other fragments given by W. Baehrens. As an appendix a series of fragments from the Onomasticon Marchalianum are given.
The volume has been produced in order to make the translation more readily available. The original language text is reprinted from the best available critical edition and appears on facing pages.
Somewhat annoyingly, while the project was in-flight, a rival translation appeared in the ACW series, by Thomas Scheck (who has done sterling work on the homilies of Origen). But that is now some years ago, and his volume only contains the homilies and not the vast array of fragmentary material.
The book is available in hardback and paperback at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. Here’s the links:
Hardback (ISBN 978-0956654021): $80 (Amazon.com), £50 (Amazon.co.uk)
Paperback (ISBN 978-0956654038): $45 (Amazon.com), £30 (Amazon.co.uk)
I – or rather Chieftain Publishing – can also accept purchase orders from institutions.
It is actually selling reasonably well. I’d be grateful for your support, as it did cost rather a lot of money and life-energy to produce! The sales help to make it possible for me to commission further translations.
The intention, as with volume 1, is to place the book online once the sales drop to nothing. We’re nearly there with volume 1 now, in fact. So this is not a hard money-making scheme, but a way to get a translation made that will not be kept offline by greedy publishers. I expect to lose money on it. Your purchases reduce the amount I lose!
It’s 742 pages, by the way. Don’t buy it expecting a slim volume!
July 4th, 2014 by Roger Pearse
Quite by accident these evening I discovered a photograph of the Meta Sudans which is different to the rest. It shows what look like troops marching past a half-demolished Meta Sudans. Presumably these are some of Mussolini’s black-shirts.
Here it is (from somewhere on this site - I got it via Google Images):
Fascists assembled around the half-demolished Meta Sudans.
Here is another shot again showing the Arch of Constantine, from here:
Fascists assembled near the Arch of Constantine in Rome. 1936.
Was the Meta Sudans demolished, simply and solely because it was so positioned as to block the blackshirts from parading up the road and through the Arch of Constantine, to the Colosseum, then left along the Via del Foro Imperiali to his office?
July 4th, 2014 by Roger Pearse
Ste. Trombetti has turned his attention to the Dutch Rijksmuseum in his search for old etchings and drawings of Rome. The search for this museum is here.
The first image is of the vanished Septizonium, from 1550, a drawing by Hieronymus Cock (Antwerpen c. 1518-1570). The majority of the image consists of some unfamiliar-looking ruins on the Palatine hill – are these really in the right place? -, but the Septizonium is on the left, although masked by yet another unfamiliar ruin. The image is online here:
Septizonium, 1550, by Hieronymus Cock. Via Rijksmuseum
Another image from 1551, by the same gentleman, is at the same site. But this makes me deeply wary. For although it is definitely the Septizonium, end-on, to the left, the stuff to the right must be the Colosseum, and it certainly isn’t that far forward! These are not photographs, and it bears remembering. Anyway the image is online here:
Septizonium: Septizonii Severi Imp. cum continguis ruinis. Hieronymus Cock, 1551. Via Rijksmuseum
At the Biblioteca Digital Hispania, search page here, we find a rather more convincing drawing of the ruins on the Palatine hill, with the edge of the Septizonium at right: “Palatini monti prospectus” (1560-1612?) by Hendrick van Cleve (d.1595) & Philippe Galle (d.1612)”. It’s here:
Ruinarum varii prospectus ruriumq. aliquot delineationes. By P. Galle and Hendrick van Cleve. 156-1612? Via BNE.
Meanwhile back at the Rijksmuseum, Dr Trombetti has unearthed another photograph of the Meta Sudans, the ruined Roman fountain next to the Colosseum that was demolished by Mussolini. It’s here:
1860-80, attributed to Giorgio Sommer.
But while searching for the item at the Rijksmuseum, I stumbled across this 1666 prospectus of the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine, and … the Meta Sudans, twice the height of the photo and complete with a bulbous top. It comes from here:
Lievin Cruyl, 1666. Via Rikjsmuseum
If I extract the detail, it can be seen clearly:
Meta Sudans, 1666.
A google image search for “View of the Colosseum and The Arch of Constantine – Antonio Joli” brings up a great number of paintings and other artworks, many featuring the Meta Sudans. Let’s end with a Canaletto, no less, from here:
Canaletto – Colosseum and Arch of Constantine, Rome. 18th c.
July 1st, 2014 by Roger Pearse
Ste. Trombetti has had more luck today, this time finding images of the vanished fountain that stood between the arch of Constantine and the Colosseum.
The first item is an undated photograph on a German site – the “- here. It’s quite a splendid image. The site owners seem to be demanding money, the thieves. So I won’t upload it here.
At Cultura Italia here is an interesting image of people digging around the base of the fountain. It’s by Pinelli Bartolomeo, “Escavazioni alla Meta Sudante”, and made in 1831. Unfortunately the site only makes this small image available, and I’m not at all sure about the accuracy of anything in the sketch:
1831 – Excavations around the Meta Sudans
Next, a photographic negative! Also at Cultura Italia, here. It was taken between 1880-1910:
Negative of Meta Sudans, 1880-1910
And here, courtesy of Paint.Net, is a reversed, flipped, and auto-leveled version of the same:
Meta Sudans, image from negative, colours reversed, flipped vertically and auto-leveled in Paint.Net.
It shows the water channel in the heart of the fountain.
June 30th, 2014 by Roger Pearse
Ste. Trombetti has been busily searching the online site of the Spanish National Library, and posting the results on Twitter.
First of these is a view of the Septizonium, the vanished facade of the Palatine, built by Severus at the end of the Appian Way and demolished in the 16th century for materials to build New St Peter’s basilica. This shot is particularly valuable, as it is more or less end-on, from the south, and shows the main structure consisted of two parallel walls, connected at intervals, with the facade on the front. It can be found here (click to enlarge):
Italian, Anon. 1530-40?
Next up is an old photograph of the Colosseum, with a particularly nice image of the Meta Sudans, the fountain just inside the arch of Constantine. Its from here:
Vista Panoramica (1858-65)?
A detail shows the fountain clearly:
The same view is shown in an older drawing by Isidro Velazquez, made between 1792-96. Note that in this drawing the Meta Sudans is perceptibly taller, and appears to have a second stage atop the first. It’s from here:
Velasquez, Colosseum with Meta Sudans
Another image from the same period is an anonymous Spanish painting, “Anfiteatro Flavio, detto il Coloseo”, 1790-99. Here too the Meta Sudans appears taller, and with a bulbous top. From here:
Amphitheatro Flavio (1790-99)
Very interesting to see and compare!
June 26th, 2014 by Roger Pearse
Severian of Gabala is best known, if he is known at all, for his six sermons on Genesis 1-3. His fame, or notoriety, is because he expounds a curious flat-earth theory in them. This opinion, very rare among early Christian writers, is enough to stigmatise him in modern eyes, and his work has consequently received far less attention than it deserves. As a result, his work has never been translated into English, until the work of R.F. Regtuit on a single homily in 1992, and, this year, the translations of Bryson Sewell.
So it is a pleasant surprise to learn that a translation of these six sermons In Cosmogoniam - plus, unexpectedly of the Quomodo animum acceperit Adam – appeared inn 2010, from IVP Academic. It was translated by the late Australian scholar Robert C. Hill, who died in 2007, so this must have been one of the first volumes to be commissioned.
The physical shape of the book is tall and slim. It shares the format of the Ancient Commentary on Scripture series exactly, being about 50% taller and wider than a Sources Chrétiennes volume, but much slimmer. This makes sense only in the context of the ACS volumes, which were tall, wide and necessarily thick, and it is clearly intended to stand on a shelf with them. The manufacturing details are also the same, and the print and typesetting also.
The translation of Severian is literal rather than popular, but perfectly serviceable and fulfils admirably the brief to produce a scholarly translation of service to all sections of the academic community. The style is very literal, as most translations are today, without sacrificing readability too far. On occasion the text does slip over the line into translationese, but these points are thankfully few and very rarely obscure the sense.
In the sermons, Severian tends to wander all over the subject, but his comments will be interesting to students of biblical studies, precisely because they are expository. The translator compares the Antiochene approach with that of Chrysostom, from the same school; and also with the more allegorical style of Didymus the Blind. He notes that Severian is by no means the dull literalist that he is sometimes supposed to be, resorting to typology without a qualm.
On the other hand the approach that Severian takes to Cosmology, interpreting stray phrases from the scriptures in order to build up a weird picture of the universe unlike that held by anyone else, either then or now, will endear itself to few. Such people have always existed, of course: indeed I read today on Paleojudaica a post in which some Jewish scholars attempted to perform a geographical calculation of the size of the Garden of Eden using as a basis a rabbinical claim that “the entire world drinks from the runoff of the Garden of Eden.” It is welcome to be able to judge the merits of the case in Severian’s own words.
The book is lacking in one respect, in that the translator does not seem to have appreciated that the reader may find it difficult to visualise the picture of the world in question. This is surprising; and an unfortunate omission. The English translation of Cosmas Indicopleustes (online here) thought it worthwhile to reproduce some illustrations from the manuscripts. It would be interesting to know whether the medieval manuscripts of In Cosmogeniam are illustrated.
All the same the publisher should have included a diagram in homily 3. Essentially Severian suggests that the world is in the shape of a tabernacle (presumably square, with a dome atop it, the sides and roof being the “firmament” of Genesis 1-3); and that the sun does not go underneath the earth, but round to the north side where it is hidden by a “wall”. You will have to read the book to see his list of proof-texts for this!
One point will certainly strike the reader – the repeated appearance of phrases such as “pay attention please”. The translator seems to have understood these as indicating boredom by the audience, and the reader may suppose this. But Regtuit points out that these phrases appear elsewhere in Severian’s output and may indicate something more like “please concentrate – this bit is difficult”. Severian was a popular preacher, and it is unlikely that sermons which nobody found interesting would be copied. There is a paper to be written, I think, on the use of such phrases in Severian.
The homilies are printed without any divisions other than paragraphs. The chapter numbers found in Migne are not indicated, nor the column numbers. I do not know what the policy of IVP is, but it is unfortunate for the reader. Readers will quite often come to read this book when following a reference in a footnote somewhere; and these are always to either the chapter or the PG column. Indeed Hill uses the latter system himself in his introduction. Many will ask which bit of the text is “homily 3, chapter 5″!
The footnotes are mainly biblical references, combined with comparison of Severian’s exegesis with other commentators of the period. The sole index is an index of biblical passages.
As one of the first volumes to appear, there is a series introduction, directed mainly at institutional subscribers. This tells us inter alia that the intention is not to produce material aimed at a particular constituency but rather to produce scholarly translations that would be useful to everyone; and quite right too. In this case the translator was a liberal Australian Catholic, I think. The volume is certainly not directed to IVP’s usual constituency, which does not seem to feature at all in the volume. The general standard is certainly as good as the Fathers of the Church volumes.
The translator’s “introduction” is an interesting but frustrating piece of work, especially to myself, since I am in the habit of reviewing such things from the translations that I commission, and fixing some of the problems that appear. This “introduction” does not actually introduce Severian or his works! That’s a fairly basic failure, albeit hardly an important one. The text is instead a rather unfocused and sometimes repetitive discourse about Severian. It makes hard reading, even for someone as familiar with Severian and his work as myself. Regtuit is a better model for the reader, and likewise Aubineau in his edition and translation of De centurione. However this problem could be fixed rather easily by prefixing a couple of pages to this portion of the book, outlining what we know about Severian, his life and his work, and the reception of it by scholars.
The introduction also doesn’t explain very well just why the reader should want to spend his time reading Severian or his works; Hill writes as if he disliked his author – one can only sympathise with the task of translating someone you dislike! – and the sniping is irritating after a while.
However the persistent reader will find some useful points are made. While Hill clearly can’t understand why anyone ever listened to Severian, he still quotes enough to make the latter’s charm quite clear. He rightly highlights the word-pictures that Severian paints, and his flair for dramatisation, when describing biblical scenes, although Hill meanly questions whether Severian borrowed these from somewhere else, despite an utter lack of evidence for this. We learn that it is possible that Severian delivered Quomodo animum immediately following the six sermons, during Lent in 401. Severian’s interest in a scientific approach to the text receives mention – as does the complaint of his audience that it wasn’t theological enough! Montfaucon’s dislike of Severian comes through – the monk was doubtless influenced by the enmity between St John Chrysostom and Severian here – and a few snippets of this are translated. The discussion of different approaches to exegesis is interesting, but diffuse.
The defects of the introduction, and indeed the lack of reader-focused explanatory comments in the translation, are probably the result of two factors. Firstly this was the last work by Dr Hill, who died soon afterwards. Secondly the series editors were just beginning their task, and were probably too inexperienced or unable to exert much control over the translator.
But these criticisms are minor points, easily fixed by consulting other books on Severian. The core of the book is a very solid, academic translation of the key works of Severian of Gabala. IVP are to be commended on making it accessible to us all.