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Do we live in the age of Robert C. Hill?

Few will ever have heard of Robert Charles Hill, sometime professor at an Australian Catholic university.  Indeed his name was unfamiliar to me also, until the last few weeks.  But in that time I have been looking for translations of ancient biblical commentaries.  And anyone who does so will swiftly realise the debt that we all owe to him.

Dr Hill passed away in 2007.  But the translations he made are everywhere.  I myself recently obtained the three volume Commentary on Isaiah by Cyril of Alexandria: translated from Greek into English by none other than Robert C. Hill.  In fact the translation stops at Isaiah 50, leaving the remainder untranslated.  It sounds as if the publisher – Holy Cross – has no plans to commission a translation of the remainder, which is a pity.  Someone should do it.

He also translated Theodoret on the minor prophets, Jerome on Jeremiah, and a host of other works.  I wish that I had known him.

I thought that I would give thanks for what he did – which has eased my life considerably recently – by writing this post, and reproducing some of the already scanty material online about him. After all, translations hang around for centuries.  They get used by generations as yet unborn and unthought of.  In future ages, will people ask, “Did he live at the same time as Robert C. Hill”?  Maybe they will.

The following obituary appeared here at the University of Sydney site.   This is the only obituary known to me that mentions his translation work.  If ever I saw an ephemeral link, that is one; and indeed it is already inaccessible on mobiles, and the photo is missing.  So I thought that I would reproduce what is left here.

Charles Hill: A Church Scholar and Teacher

Dr Charles Hill (BA ’58, MA ’68) 1947 – 2007

Dr Robert Peter (Charles) Hill, who was one of Australia’s leading Patristic scholars, died recently in his home in the Lower Blue Mountains after a short illness.

He lectured in theology and Biblical Studies in both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in the School of Theology at Australian Catholic University, and in the postgraduate programme of the School of Divinity at the University of Sydney. Among his many biblical books were The Scriptures Jesus Knew: A Guide to the Old Testament (1994) and Jesus and the Mystery of Christ: An Extended Christology (1993).

He gave regular papers at the International Association for Patristics Studies (IAPS) at their four-yearly conference in Oxford as well as at the annual conference of the North American Patristic Society (NAPS) at Loyola University, Chicago – thus helping to fly the flag of Australian scholarship on the international scene. Within Australia he was a member and past-president of the Australian Catholic Biblical Association. Among his many academic qualifications were a Licence in Sacred Scripture (LSS) from the Biblicum and a doctorate in theology (STD) from the Angelicum in Rome.

Born in Auckland, New Zealand, he came to Australia in 1947 and, after completing high school he trained as a Christian Brother at Strathfield, and then completed an MA at the University of Sydney. During this latter degree he studied Greek – a skill he nurtured throughout his life (with Hebrew and Latin) and which enabled him to pursue his translation of the Greek Fathers. He spent some years in Rome where he studied and acquired professional qualifications. He left the Christian Brothers in 1980 and joined the staff at Australian Catholic University as a fulltime lecturer. In 1986 he married Marie Deveridge and settled in the Lower Blue Mountains.

Not only was he involved in regular teacher education, but he also has a solid record of involvement in catechetics, particularly in the ongoing training of catechists who teach in government schools. After twenty-five years of such involvement he was awarded the Papal Cross (Croce pro Ecclesia et Pontifice) in 2003.

He retired from Australian Catholic University in 1993 and spent the next fourteen years in translating the works of many Greek Fathers from Greek into English. During this time his workload was prodigious: he produced twenty-seven volumes of translations, introductions, and commentaries on leading Church Fathers. He initially concentrated on St John Chrysostom, translating his Homilies on Genesis 1-67, on the Pslams, Old Testament Homilies, commentaries on the Sages, and then some of the works of Theodoret of Cyrrhus (Psalms, Commentary on the Prophets, The Question of the Octateuch, Commentary on the Song of Songs), then Theodore of Mopsuestia (Commentary of the Twelve Prophets) and Diodore of Tarsus. His latest book, which came out days before his death, was Of Prophets and Poets: Antioch Fathers on the Bible (2007).

The Holy Cross Orthodox Press in Brookline, Massachusetts, USA, published many of his books; others were published through The Catholic University of America Press and the Pontifical Biblical Institute Press, Rome. He was finally honoured in 2007 by the Greek Orthodox School of Theology at Holy Cross, with the award of the Three Hierarchs Medal. He is the first layperson to receive this award for his “superb patristic translations” and his contributions “to global scholarship”. His writings did much to promote good Orthodox-Catholic relationships. His expertise in matters patristic represented a lifetime of professional dedication, and he will be missed by scholars and all those who read the Church Fathers.

Charles Hill was a committed scholar, a great teacher and a Christian imbued by the bible. He died surrounded by his wife and a close circle of friends at his home in Warrimoo. He leaves his wife, Marie and two brothers, Bill and Brian.

Written by Associate Professor Gideon Goosen, School of Theology, Australian Catholic University

The Sydney Morning Herald wrote as follows:

Scholar promoted good Orthodox-Catholic ties
May 15, 2007

Charles Hill, 1931-2007

CHARLES HILL was one of Australia’s leading biblical and theological scholars. He specialised in the writings of the church fathers during the early Christian centuries known as the Patristic period, a time characterised by the larger-than-life figures of bishops such as Ambrose, Augustine, Basil, Gregory and others, who were multiskilled – great orators, innovative theologians and compassionate pastors.

Hill’s particular favourite was St John Chrysostom (347-407), sometimes known as “the golden mouth”, who was one of the greatest preachers of the age. The Patriarch of Constantinople, he was deposed because he was prepared to forgive sinners more than once.

Not only was he eloquent, he was also a fearless preacher, not slow to castigate heretics, the licentiousness of the imperial court and the idleness and vice of many monks in the city of Constantinople. He had many friends but also many enemies. By today’s standards, his writings would be considered anti-feminist.

Dr Hill, who has died in his home in the Blue Mountains after a short illness, aged 75, shared some of St John Chrysostom’s commitment to scholarship, teaching and faith. Nor was he a great supporter of feminism; when one of his evening students rolled up with a baby on her hip, he was not well pleased.

Robert Peter Hill was born in Auckland, New Zealand, the son of Robert James and Agnes Mary (née Sheehan) Hill. His father, a public trustee, died when his son was eight years old; his mother, of Irish Catholic background and piety, lived to be 75. He lost his only sister, Mary, at a young age.

Hill came to Australia in 1947, aged 16, completed high school and trained as a Christian Brother at Strathfield. The brothers gave him the name Charles, which stuck. He earned a BA and MA at Sydney University, where his courses included Greek – a skill he nurtured throughout his life. In the 1960s, he spent some years in Rome studying and acquiring professional qualifications such as a licence in sacred scripture (LSS) from the Biblicum and a doctorate in theology (STD) from the Angelicum.

He left the Christian Brothers in 1980 and joined the staff at the Australian Catholic University as a full-time lecturer. In 1986 he married Marie Deveridge and settled in the Blue Mountains.

Hill taught at Waverley College, in both undergraduate and postgraduate programs in the Australian Catholic University’s school of theology and in the school of divinity, Sydney University. He also spent many years in teacher education at ACU and will be especially remembered by many mature-aged teachers in Catholic schools who returned to university life and evening classes to complete a master’s qualification. He impressed students with his great scholarship, thoroughness of presentation and attention to details.

As well, Hill was involved in catechetics (religious education), particularly in the continuing training of catechists who teach in government schools. After 25 years of such involvement he was awarded the Papal Cross (Croce pro Ecclesia et Pontifice) in 2003.

He also gave regular papers at international conferences such as the International Association of Patristic Studies, helping to fly the flag of Australian scholarship on the international scene.

Hill retired from the Australian Catholic University in 1993, but spent the next 14 years translating the works of many Greek fathers into English. His workload was prodigious: he produced 27 volumes of translations, introductions and commentaries on leading church fathers. He was finally honoured last month by the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts, with the Three Hierarchs Medal, for his “superb patristic translations” and his contributions “to global scholarship”. His writings did much to promote good Orthodox-Catholic relationships.

Hill never bore fools gladly. However, his great ability with the English language could be incisive and his highly developed sense of humour often went unnoticed when delivered with a straight face.

Personally, he was frugal in almost everything, although he enjoyed a good red wine. Bushwalking was a favourite hobby and he knew only one radio station, ABC Classic FM. He was a keen follower of rugby union – and one-time coach – and remained an avid supporter of the All Blacks, although he could not bear the emotional tension of watching them play.

Always self-effacing, Hill asked that no eulogy be given at his funeral. He died surrounded by his wife and a close circle of friends at his home in Warrimoo. He leaves Marie and two brothers, Bill and Brian.

Gideon Goosen

The Catholic Weekly wrote as follows:

Noted scripture scholar dies, 75

ROBERT Charles Hill died, aged 75, at his home in Warrimoo on April 11, 2007, having suffered from cancer for the last twelve months.

Charles was born and educated in Auckland. He came to Australia in 1950 to join the Christian Brothers and graduated from Sydney University with a Master of Arts. He taught at Strathfield and Waverley and worked in the field of catechetical education.

Charles was one of that unique group of men who studied at Jesu Magister in Rome where he took out his licentiate in Religious Education (Lateran) and then his licentiate in Sacred Scripture (Biblicum). Subsequently, he received his Doctorate in Theology at the Angelicum Rome.

After he left the Brothers, Charles entered on a wider apostolate of lecturing on Scripture and Theology at the Australian Catholic University, the University of Sydney (Divinity) and various catechetical groups.

He contributed articles to several biblical journals and entered on the translation and publication of the writings of the Greek Fathers on the Scriptures, particularly the works of St John Chrysostom, 27 books in all, the latest published this year on the Greek Fathers of Antioch in the fourth and fifth centuries. For his work in this field, Charles was this year awarded the Three Hierarchs Medal by the Orthodox Church. He was the first lay person and the first non-Orthodox to be given this honour.

Four years ago, Charles received the Papal Cross (pro Ecclesia et Pontifice) from Cardinal Pell for his significant involvement in catechist programs over 25 years.

Charles was buried from St Finbar’s Church, Glenbrook, where Frs John McSweeney and Max Barrett celebrated the Mass of Christian Burial in the presence of a large gathering of Brothers and parishioners. There was a short eulogy given by Gideon Goosens.

Charles is survived by his wife, Marie, his brothers, William and Brian and his nieces.

“Faithful to God’s Wisdom”, accepting with equanimity whatever his will, Charles has entered the house of the Father to receive the reward of his manifold works, illuminating the Word. RIP.

There have been many who lived and died as Robert C. Hill did.  But to make a translation of an ancient text is to benefit all of us, so long as the English language lasts, or longer, if the original perishes.  This he did.

From my diary

Some of the works of Methodius of Olympus (d. 311 AD) no longer exist in Greek.  But an unpublished Old Slavonic version of a few does exist.  Recently a couple of manuscripts of this appeared online on a Russian site; and a little while ago I commissioned a translation of “On life and rational activity”.

Last night I received the translation and it seems fine.  I have sent off a cheque for it today – unusually, in these days of instant funds transfer – but of course I shan’t put it online until the money has reached the translator, and it becomes mine and, therefore, public domain as usual.

The sermon – for such it is – is well adapted to these present days of uncertainty.  The actual Slavonic is rather corrupt, and somewhat awkward at points, but the work is still comprehensible.  The translator has stated as his opinion that the corruption is probably older than all the exemplars.

This evening I shall look at the other sermons by Methodius, and do some calculations of word counts, and see if perhaps we can get some more of these translated too.

I wonder if there is an index or clavis of Old Slavonic literature, like that for Greek in the Clavis Patrum Graecorum?  I always like to reference such indices if they exist.

A few more notes on Asterius the Sophist, Asterius the Homiletist, and the Commentary on the Psalms

After my post yesterday, I did a google search and found a number of useful items of bibliography.  It seems that there was further work on Asterius, after Marcel Richard’s edition.  In particular there is a rather excellent work by Wolfram Kinzig[1], whose conclusions about this collection of 31 homilies on the Psalms (which he referred to as HomPs) were as follows:

We are now in a position to collate all the evidence which has emerged from our study and to sum it up in five points:

  1. The ‘repair’ of the damaged text in 27.9-15 notwithstanding, the HomPs. as edited by Richard, form a unity. They were written by one single author.
  2. The author’s name is Asterius.
  3. He is not identical with either Asterius the Sophist or Asterius of Amasea.
  4. The author is not an Arian, but an adherent of the Nicene Creed.
  5. The HomPs were composed in Palestine or, more likely, in western Syria (Antioch), probably between 385 and 410 A. D.

Hence Richard’s hypothesis that AS is the author of the HomPs must be considered as having been refuted.

However, the positive evidence for a different authorship is somewhat poor, especially if one considers the number of bearers of this name. Unfortunately, there is among them no bishop of Asterius of Antioch in the later fourth century.

 Kinzig’s work seems very thorough, and I think we may take his word for it.  In a later article, he designated the author as “Asterius the Homilist”, which seems as good a designation as any.  Aloys Grillmeier discusses Asterius, and gives a useful bibliography of articles around the subject, and the collection of homilies, here.[2]

A number of selections from the collection of sermons were included in the IVP academic volume of ancient commentary on Psalms 1-50 (Preview here).[3]

In 1993 Markus Vinzent collected the fragments genuinely by Asterius the Sophist, and edited them with a German translation.[4]

Last, but by no means least, blogger Albocicade has been at work on Asterius in French.  He added a couple of useful links to the French Wikipedia article on Astérios le Sophiste, which I reproduce here because Wikipedia is so ephemeral:

He has gone further: in fact he began his blog, Les Cigales éloquentes –  The Eloquent Cicadas? * – with a translation by Fr. Joseph Paramelle, SJ, of a portion of Asterius on the Psalms; specifically from the 1st homily on Psalm 8.  It is here; and has appeared elsewhere also.  Here is my rendition from the French:

“Lord, our lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

Christ, who is the divine vine, the vine before all ages, has sprouted in the tomb and born fruit, in the newly baptised, like clusters of grapes in this church.  Let the visible reality clarify for us the song of the wine-press.  The vine has been harvested, and, like a wine-press, the church is full of grapes.

Operators of the wine-press, pickers at the harvest, cicadas perched on the trees, we are – by their songs – again shown today the paradise of the church, shining with grace.

Who are the operators?  The prophets and apostles, who intone for us the song of the wine-press which has for title, “Unto the end, for the presses”[5]

Who are the cicadas?  The newly baptised who, soaked with dew as they arise from the font, sit on the cross like a tree, warmed by the Sun of Justice, bathed in the light of Spirit, echoing the words of the Spirit:

“Lord, our lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

They are beautiful with their white wings, the eloquent cicadas, surrounding the font.  Yes, their wings are white because they are endowed with speech.  The cicadas feed on dew, the newly baptised are strengthened by the Word; what the dew is to the former, the celestial Word is to the latter.

I’ve probably mangled that badly: but the eloquence of the homilist certainly shines through!

UPDATE:  Wolfram Kinzig kindly writes (see comments to this post) to say that he has in fact translated the entire corpus of 31 homilies! This is a translation into German, and priced for libraries, but at least it exists.  For some reason it is rather locate to find using Google, even if you know what to search for, although you can find it on Amazon.  Here are the details:

Asterius: Psalmenhomilien. Eingeleitet, übersetzt und kommentiert von Wolfram Kinzig. Stuttgart: Anton Hiersemann (2002). 2 vols; Erster Halbband: ISBN 978-3-7772-0201-3, Zweiter Halbband: ISBN 978-3-7772-0202-0 (here). Series: (Bibliothek der griechischen Literatur 56, 57).

He adds:

I produced a new edition of Homily 31 in Vigiliae Christianae 50 (1996), p. 401-415

In a small monograph I studied Asterius’ peculiar theology of inheritance: Erbin Kirche. Die Auslegung von Psalm 5,1 in den Psalmenhomilien des Asterius und in der Alten Kirche, Heidelberg: Carl Winter Verlag, 1990 (Abhandlungen der Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften, phil.-hist. Kl. 1990/2)

As regards other publications you may also want to consult my list of publications which you find here.

This also lists the reviews of each work, so is very useful!

* In my first version of this post, I was confused between grasshoppers, crickets, and cicadas.  See the comments for more details on this!  Asterius is referring to cicadas.

  1. [1] Wolfram Kinzig, In search of Asterius: Studies on the authorship of the Homilies on the Psalms, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1990.  Google books preview here.
  2. [2] A. Grillmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition, p.206.
  3. [3] Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture VII: Psalms 1-50. Ed. Craig A. Blaising, Carmen S. Hardin. IVP, 2008.
  4. [4] M. Vinzent, Asterius von Kappadokien: Die theologischen Fragmente.  Brill, 1993. Google books preview here.
  5. [5] This seems to be the LXX title for Psalm 8, and appears in the Vulgate, and Douai English translation.

Some notes on the commentary on the psalms by Asterius the Sophist

This morning a Greek text of the remains of Asterius the Sophist’s Commentary on the Psalms came into my hands.[1]  The editor’s preface is quite interesting on this obscure writer, and I thought that I would transcribe a few remarks from it.

But who was this fellow?  Asterius was a pupil of Lucian of Antioch, but during the Great Persecution, led by Maximinus Daia, Lucian was martyred, and Asterius agreed to sacrifice to the pagan gods.  He was never ordained, in consequence, but after the Council of Nicaea, he seems to have come to support the Arian party.[2]  In consequence he wrote a booklet, the Syntagmation, promoting Arian ideas and circulated it industriously.[3]  He also wrote a now-lost refutation of Marcellus of Ancyra, who defended the Nicene definition ineptly, plus some commentaries, of which only material on the Psalms has been recovered.   He died around 341 AD.

Jerome thought him important enough to be listed in his De viris illustribus as follows:

He wrote during the reign of Constantius commentaries on the Epistle to the Romans, on the Gospels and on the Psalms and also many other works which are diligently read by those of his party

In Letter 112:20 Jerome adds that Asterius of the Sophist was one of the writers known to him who had written a commentary on all of the psalms.

Marcel Richard discovered that there are considerable remains of this commentary in the catena of type VI on Psalms 1-50.  This catena was composed in Palestine in the 6th century, and the selections from Asterius cover various verses of Ps. 1, 4-7, 10, 14-20, 34, 36 and 38.

In addition, in many of the manuscripts which transmit to us the homilies of John Chrysostom on the psalms, there is also a collection – in whole or in part – of 31 homilies on the psalms which are clearly not by Chrysostom.  Excerpts from some of these homilies also appear in the catena type VI, and are there labelled as being by Asterius the Arian.  There seems no pressing reason to reject the identification made by the catenist to seven of these homilies.  The homilies show no sign of Arian ideas, and doubtless belong to the ante-Nicene phase of Asterius’ life.  Other homilies in the same collection fit less well with Asterius, but Richard thought it best to edit the whole collection, plus the catena fragments, and let others decide which homilies were authentic.  In his edition, which follows the order of the manuscripts, homilies 4 and 5 (on Ps.4), homily 6 (on Ps.5), homily 12 (on Ps. 6), homily 13 (on Ps. 7), homily 19 (on Ps. 10), and homily 29 (on Ps.18) are definitely authentic.  Richard suggested that homily 10 may be by Origen; while homily 22 perhaps from an Apollinarist writer, while he notes that 26 actually attacks Arius and Eunomius; but his co-worker made a case that all the homilies are Asterian, and the attack is merely an ancient interpolation.

A number of the homilies are plainly intended for delivery as panegyrics on the eight days of Easter.  These are homilies 8, 9, 11, 14-16, 22, 30, and 31.

Asterius was an orator, and his style is “very exuberant”.  Richard suggests that, among the uncounted mass of pseudo-Chrysostomica, there are probably further examples of his style, perhaps in material on Romans, or on the Gospels.

The manuscripts of the collection mentioned by Richard are as follows:

A = Athos Magna Laura Θ 210, 17th century (Richard thinks 14-15), paper.  Complete, but missing homilies 1-2 and first part of 3.  The only witness to homilies 30 and 31, and the last few folios of 31 are lost because of damage to the manuscript.  The ms. has suffered from damp at the top, affecting the first 3 lines of the text.  The text contained in it is of good quality.

B = Paris suppl. gr. 266, f. 93-155v, 17-18th century.  The Greek text is followed by a Latin version of homilies 4-18, and 20:7-23:5.  Referred to by Montfaucon as “my manuscript, copied at the Escorial”.  It seems to be a copy of a manuscript with Latin material, made by a certain Fr Gabriel of St Jerome, which itself was copied from ms. Scorialensis I.Δ.11 (previously II.K.13), destroyed in the fire of 1671.  The Escorial ms. contained homilies of Chrysostom, and homilies 1-29 of this collection, and was “very ancient” according to surviving descriptions.

This Fr. Gabriel belonged to the monastery of the Escorial.  He intended to publish an edition of unpublished works of Chrysostom preserved in the mss of the Escorial, and submitted his work to the printer Cotelier.  The submitted text was in two parts; the first containing 23 homilies on the psalms, while the other contained the remaining 4 homilies, plus a commentary on Daniel.  However Cotelier was interested only in the second part, which he had purchased by Colbert, and published in 1661.  The manuscript of Fr Gabriel’s second part passed into the Bibliotheque Nationale, where it is today Ms. Paris gr. 659.  None of this material is related to our collection.

The manuscript of the first part contained 23 of the 27 homilies from Scorialensis I.Δ.11.  The Escorial ms. in fact contained still more homilies; but Fr Gabriel was naturally interested only in material which was unpublished.  Consequently he omitted the authentic homilies of Chrysostom on Ps.4-12, and also the Asterian homilies 1-3 and 25-27, because these 6 homilies were translated into Latin and printed in that form by G. Hervet, in 1549, and so were frequently reprinted with other translations of Chrysostom.

The manuscript of Fr. Gabriel’s edition ended up in Rome, where Montfaucon saw it, and made a copy.  Richard was unable to locate Fr. Gabriel’s manuscript in Rome, but Montfaucon’s copy was found at the BNF by R.P.A. Wenger, and Richard inspected it the very next morning!  The ms. is unbound, and has lost folios from the front.  But the text in it is important.

P = Paris gr. 654, a luxury manuscript from the second half of the 10th century.  It contains the end of homily 1 and homilies 2-18.  A couple of folios were lost from the front before the 13th century. The current first folio is a 13th century leaf, a palimpsest, which contains the whole of homily 1, but copied from another manuscript.  This leaf is labelled Q.

V = Vatican gr. 524, 11th century.  It only contains homilies 12-22, 25, 26-27, and 28.

C = Caesenatensis Malatestianus Plut. D XXVIII, 2.  Copied by a monk named Leo who finished on 4 September 1027.  Parchment.  Homilies 1-3, 25-27.

The 5 other manuscripts listed by Richard only contain selected homilies.  Interestingly, some of these come via copies of a manuscript once annotated by Photius.  There are also 4 mss which are only copies of other manuscripts, and 1 which is a copy of the text in Savile’s edition.  Richard also discusses the catena fragments.

The early editions naturally reflect the manuscripts.  I will only give selected details here, but Richard details the lot.

G. Hervet, D. Ioannis Chrysostomi vere aureae in psalmos homiliae…, Venice, 1549, prints a Latin translation of homilies 1-3 and 25-27, made from Ms. Vat. Ottob. 95, itself a copy of C.  This was reprinted at Anvers in 1552 and 1582, and then in all the general Latin editions Chrysostom from that of Venice, 1549, until that of Anvers in 1614.

Henry Savile’s 1612 edition of Chrysostom also included the first Greek edition of homilies 3 and 5 (in vol. 8, 1, and vol. 7, 431).  These he based on various late copies.

Homilies 6-13 were first printed with a Latin translation by J.B. Cotelier in Ecclesiae Graecae Monumenta, vol. 2, Paris, 1681, p.1-81.

Montfaucon’s edition of Chrysostom includes 3, 5 and 25, based on preceding editions, somewhat corrected.

The Patrologia Graeca reprinted Cotelier as vol. 40, col. 389-477, and Montfaucon in vol. 55, col. 35-39 (hom. 3), 539-544 (hom. 5), and 549-558 (hom. 25).

There was then no interest until Richard and Skard started work in 1949.  Richard also lists editions of the catena fragments, and a mess they are too.

My own interest in all this is concerned with homily 21, and its mention of Matt.27:25.  Sadly it looks as if it is neither Asterian, nor published other than by Richard in Greek (without a translation of any sort!)

UPDATE: See a few more notes in my next post, here.

  1. [1] Asterii Sophistae.  Commentariorum in Psalmos quae supersunt. Accedunt aliquot homiliae anonymae. Ed. Marcel Richard. In: Symbolae Osloenses fasc. suppl. 16, Oslo: Brogger, 1956. P.3-245.
  2. [2] Indications to this effect may be found in Philostorgius, HE, book 2, 15; and book 4, 4; so Richard, p.iii.
  3. [3] Athanasius, De synodis 18, and De decret. 8.

From my diary

I am still collecting references to Matthew 27:25 in the fathers, and still encountering interesting and unusual texts that are unfamiliar to me.  The major chunk of material still in my hands is a bunch of references in the commentaries of St Jerome, and a library visit is going to be necessary to finish them up.

Another project of mine has sprung back into life this week.  I’ve wanted to do something about Methodius of Olympus for a while.  I was resigned to paying for translations from Russian; but I was never very happy about that.  Rather to my surprise, a kindly colleague has found for me a gentleman who knows Old Slavonic!

Today I have agreed with him to translate into English some of the works of Methodius of Olympus, found only in that language.  Thankfully there are a couple of manuscripts online, and he is able to work from these.  For the text itself has never been published.  The text is rather corrupt, apparently, but probably as a result of some earlier accident.

The sample of the first page of one of them arrived today, and looks excellent.  Unless there are any mishaps, I am confident that we’ll get at least one work of Methodius online from this.

Working with anyone that you haven’t worked with before always involves a settling-in period.  He doesn’t know my quirks, copious as they are, and I don’t know his.  But it usually works out OK with goodwill on both sides.

Mind you, I still cherish the memory of one chap who withdrew in a fit of political correctness almost before we started.  I had explained to him that I’d want to see a sample page of translation without obligation, because of a bad experience in the past with some Lebanese translators.  They’d produced gibberish, which I felt obliged to pay for, but was unusable.   This apparently was a major solecism.  He informed me that I shouldn’t have said that they were Lebanese – he didn’t say why – and he threw all his toys out of the cot, refused to proceed, and never corresponded with me again.  That the project was of benefit to the world was of less importance than ideology, I fear.

I tend to look for a couple of things in every translation that I’m involved with.

Firstly, the result must always mean something in English.  There should never be any doubt, in my opinion, what the translator thought the author was saying, and that something should be in the translation.  This principle protects one against producing gibberish, which is always a risk when a translation becomes too literal.  I feel that one should never shy away from paraphrasing when the alternative is unintelligible, but always include a footnote.  The footnote preserves us both from the carping reviewer, of course.

Secondly, I think we ought to remember that, in these days of the internet, material in English may be read by those for whom it is a second language, or indeed only barely so.  There’s several billion people out there, who might potentially wish to read what the author had to say.  Let them do so!  But we can effectually stop this, if we use obscure or archaic language.  In particular the “language of Zion” is a chancy business: in some ways, it can be a universal language.  In other times, it can be a complete barrier.

The influence of the Authorised Version of the Bible lives on.  Most of us at some time have struggled with some translation of a patristic author, and found ourselves mentally retranslating each sentence out of stilted wording into the English we would actually use, simply so that we can work out what is being said.

I’m not intending to commission any other projects at the moment, as my industry is in the doldrums right now.  But I still have various Greek and Latin texts that I want to do.  There are still more texts about Nicholas of Myra to attack.  I’d like to get a work against the Jews by Maximinus the Arian into English.  But for now, let’s concentrate on Methodius.

Some more from St. Jerome on Matthew 27:25

Last week, using the Brepols Library of Latin Texts Series A database (formerly Cetedoc), I was able to increase my list of references to Matthew 27:25 in patristic authors.

It is slightly curious to discover that the results from a search of the database change, if I include a comma, but they do.  The search that gives most results is for “Sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros”, and specifying a date range up to the end of the 5th century AD.

I will integrate the outcome into the main post in due course; but as that post is getting very long, and somewhat hard to work with in WordPress, I thought that I would do some of the work here.  I shall add English translations as I get them, and eventually merge the two posts.

For now, here are the chunks of Latin.  I think all of them now are by St Jerome.

  • Hieronymus (Jerome), Commentarii in Isaiam (Commentary on Isaiah) (CPL 0584).  English translation ACW 68.  TODO: get this.

SL 73, lib. : 2, cap. (s.s.) : 4, par. : 4, linea : 3.   tunc saluabuntur reliquiae de israel, quando in baptismate saluatoris eis fuerint peccata dimissa et ille sanguis ablutus, quem super se errans populus imprecatus est: sanguis eius super nos et super filios nostros.

SL 73, lib. : 8, cap. (s.s.) : 27, par. : 9, linea : 11.   propterea, inquit, dimittetur iniquitas domui iacob et auferetur peccatum eius, ut mereatur benedictionem dei, qui sibi maledictionem fuerat imprecatus, dicens: sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros, quia per apostolos de stirpe israel in toto orbe euangelium seminabitur, et destruetur idololatria, et comminuentur arae usque ad puluerem, succidentur luci, delubra corruent, et dei unius sub mysterio trinitatis notitia praedicabitur

SL 73A, lib. : 16, cap. (s.s.) : 57, par. : 3+, linea : 26.   et rursum: sanguis eius super nos et super filios nostros.

SL 73A, lib. : 16, cap. (s.s.) : 59, par. : 3+, linea : 16.    et quamquam ipsi manus non miserint in dominum saluatorem, tamen consona impietatis uoce clamantes: sanguis eius super nos et super filios nostros, mortis eius rei sunt, et habent pollutas manus.

SL 73A, lib. : 17, cap. (s.s.) : 63, par. : 17+, linea : 83.  dicentibus enim illis: sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros, manet maledictio sempiterna, et non dominatur eorum deus, neque inuocatur nomen illius super eos, dum nequaquam dei populus nuncupatur.

  • Hieronymus (Jerome), Commentarii in Ezechielem (Commentary on Ezekiel) (CPL 0587).  lib. : 14, cap. (s.s.) : 47, linea : 1187.  quare non ascendit sanatio populi mei? -, et ipse hieremias uociferatur et dicit: sana me, domine, et sanabor; saluum me fac et saluus ero, denique angeli – qui praesides erant iudaeorum eo tempore, quando clamauit multitudo insipiens et ait: sanguis eius super nos et super filios nostros, et uelum templi scissum est et omnia hebraeorum sacramenta reserata – responderunt praecipienti domino, atque dixerunt: curauimus babylonem et non est sanata; relinquamus eam, urbem uidelicet confusionis atque uitiorum – unde et iosephus in sua narrat historia, quod, postquam dominus crucifixus est et uelum templi scissum, siue liminare templi fractum corruit, audita sit uox in adytis templi uirtutum caelestium: transeamus ex his sedibus -. hoc totum non superfluo sed necessario dictum sit, quia mare mortuum influente in se flumine domini dicitur esse curatum -. super hoc mare – ab ‘engaddi’, ‘oculo et fonte haedi’ qui pro peccatis semper offertur, usque ad ‘engallim’, ‘fontem uitulorum’ qui mactantur domino et imitantur uitulum cornua efferentem et ungulas, qui in typo saluatoris ad altare mactantur – erunt piscatores, quibus loquitur iesus: uenite ad me et faciam uos piscatores, de quibus et hieremias: ecce ego, inquit, mittam piscatores; et plurimae species immo genera piscium erunt in mari quondam mortuo, quos pisces ad dexteram partem iubente domino extraxit petrus et erant centum quinquaginta tres ita ut prae multitudine eorum retia rumperentur – aiunt autem qui de animantium scripsere naturis et proprie qui ἁλιευτικά tam latino quam graeco edidere sermone – de quibus opianicus cilex est poeta doctissimus -, centum quinquaginta tria esse genera piscium; quae omnia capta sunt ab apostolis, et nihil remansit incaptum, dum et nobiles et ignobiles et diuites et pauperes et omne genus hominum de mari huius saeculi extrahitur ad salutem – quod autem sequitur: in littoribus eius et in palustribus (siue his quae ex littora egrediuntur) aquae non sanabuntur, illud latenter ostendit quod qui in noe arca non fuerit pereat regnante diluuio, et quos iste fluuius non attigerit non suscipiant sanitatem: sed in salinas, inquit, dabuntur, iuxta illud quod scriptum est: pestilente flagellato, stultus sapientior erit – erudiunt enim bonos exempla peiorum -, siue: in salinas dabuntur, iuxta illud quod in euangelio scriptum est: bonum est sal; si autem sal infatuatum fuerit in nihil est utile, ut in perpetuum frugibus careant et uirore – quod et urbs post ruinam sale conspersa demonstrat -. super torrentem uero (siue fluuium) orietur in ripis eius ex utraque parte lignum omne pomiferum (siue, ut omnes uoce consona transtulerunt, βρώσιμον ‘quod cibum et escam tribuit’ et ‘quod mandi potest’, appellatur que lingua hebraea ‘machal’).
  • Hieronymus. Commentarii in prophetas minores (Commentary on Hosea) (CPL 0589) SL 76, In Osee, lib. : 1, cap. (s.s.) : 1, linea : 276.   iuxta typum dicimus, eos qui propter sanguinem seminis dei uocantur: absque misericordia, et dicere ausi sunt: sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros, hucusque seruire romanis.
  • Hieronymus (Jerome), Commentarii in prophetas minores.  (Commentary on Joel) (CPL 0589) SL 76, In Ioelem, cap. (s.s.) : 2, linea : 721.  sol quoque est uersus in tenebras, quando pendentem dominum suum uidere non ausus est, et luna in sanguinem, quod aut iuxta historiam factum esse credamus et ab euangelistis silentio praetermissum, neque enim omnia quae fecit iesus, scripta referuntur; quae si scribantur per singula, ne ipsum quidem arbitror mundum capere eos, qui scribendi sunt, libros, aut certe quomodo sol uersus in tenebras est, non quod ipse sit mutatus in tenebras, sed quod tenebras mundo induxerit; sic et luna non est uersa in sanguinem, sed iudaeos blasphemiarum et negationis in christum horrore coopertos, aeterno testimonii sui sanguine condemnauit, dicentes: sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros.
  • Hieronymus (Jerome), Commentarii in prophetas minores (Commentary on Amos) (CPL 0589) SL 76, In Amos.

lib. : 2, cap. (s.s.) : 5, linea : 773.  quorum deus odit et proicit festiuitates, et non capit odorem coetus eorum, quando congregati dicunt: crucifige, crucifige talem, et: sanguis eius super nos et super filios nostros.

lib. : 3, cap. (s.s.) : 9, linea : 23.  quod que iuxta lxx legimus: ut dissecaret in capitibus omnium, pulchre eorum capita diuiduntur, qui ab eo, qui caput est omnium, sua sponte diuisi sunt atque dixerunt: non habemus regem nisi caesarem, qui uoce impia clamauerunt: crucifige, crucifige talem, et: sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros.

  • Hieronymus, Commentarii in prophetas minores (On Jonah), chap. 1. Via Cetedoc.[1]

LXX: And they shouted to the Lord, and they said: “By no means, Lord, may we perish because of the soul of this man, and do not hold over us the blood of a just man; for you, Lord, have done just as you wished.”

Great is the faith of the sailors, who are themselves in danger, yet they pray for the soul of another: for they know that death from sin is worse than physical death. “And do not hold over us”, they say, “the blood of an innocent man.” They call God to witness that whatever they would do should not be reckoned against them, and in a way they are saying: “We do not wish to kill your prophet, but he himself has admitted your wrath, and the storm tells us ‘that you, Lord, have done just as you have wished’– your will is being fulfilled through our hands.”

Does not the voice of the seamen seem to us to be the confession of Pilate, who washes his hands and says: “I am clean from the blood of this man.” (Mt. 27:24) The gentiles do not wish Christ to perish; they protest that this is the blood of an innocent man. But the Jews say: “His blood be upon us, and upon our children.” (Mt. 27:25) Therefore, if they lift up their hands in prayer they are not heard, since they are full of blood.

  • Hieronymus, Commentarii in prophetas minores (On Habbakuk) (CPL 0589)

SL 76A, In Abacuc, lib. : 1, cap. (s.s.) : 2, linea : 270.  sed et terrae impietas, id est iudaicae, et ciuitatis hierusalem, et omnium habitatorum eius; qui dixerunt aduersum creatorem suum: crucifige, crucifige eum; sanguis eius super nos et super filios nostros, reuertetur in caput tuum, et exspoliationis tuae causae erunt.

SL 76A, In Abacuc, lib. : 1, cap. (s.s.) : 2, linea : 507.  et quae dicit in domini passione: sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros.

  • Hieronymus, Commentarii in prophetas minores (On Zephaniah) (CPL 0589)

SL 76A, In Sophoniam, cap. (s.s.) : 1, linea : 421. multi putant iuxta historiam quod ad babyloniorum tempora retulimus, intellegendum esse de primo saluatoris aduentu, quando propter peccata nimia, et clamorem populi concrepantem: sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros, circumdata est ab exercitu hierusalem, et a duobus ursis, uespasiano uidelicet et tito, irridentium puerorum turba consumpta est.

SL 76A, In Sophoniam, cap. (s.s.) : 1, linea : 645.  uere enim expetita uindicta est a sanguine abel iusti usque ad sanguinem zachariae, quem occiderunt inter templum et altare, et ad extremum de dei filio, dicentes: sanguis eius super nos et super filios nostros, experti sunt diem amaram, quia ad amaritudinem dominum prouocauerant; diem a domino constitutam, in qua non imbecillis quilibet, sed fortissimi uiri deprimentur, et ueniet super eos ira in finem.

  • Hieronymus, Commentarii in prophetas minores  (On Haggai) (CPL 0589) SL 76A, In Aggaeum, cap. (s.s.) : 1, linea : 45.  porro ubi manus sanguine plenae sunt, et interficitur iesus, et audet populus dicere: sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros ibi non fit sermo dei.
  • Hieronymus, Commentarii in prophetas minores (On Zachariah) (CPL 0589) SL 76A, In Zachariam.

lib. : 3, cap. (s.s.) : 11, linea : 191.  et hoc de uno iudaico populo dicere uidebatur, quod interfectis prophetis, etiam in filium dei misissent manus, et uoce temeraria conclamassent: sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros.

lib. : 3, cap. (s.s.) : 12, linea : 362.  igitur et nunc tribus domus David, et tribus domus Nathan, et tribus domus Levi, et tribus domus  semei, a suis uxoribus separantur, ut plangant unigenitum et primogenitum dominum iesum, de quo dixerat: sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros.

  • Hieronymus, Commentarii in iv epistulas Paulinas (Commentary on 4 letters of Paul – Titus) (CPL 0591).  Ad Titum, col. : 628, linea : 35.  postquam uero populus conclamauit: crucifige, crucifige eum; non habemus regem nisi caesarem: et: sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros, et ablatum est ab eis regnum dei, et traditum genti facienti fructus eius: ex eo tempore, qui in christum non credidit, fuit stultus, errabundus, incredulus, et seruiens uariis uoluptatibus.
  1. [1] (CPL 0589).  CCSL 76, In Jonam, cap. (s.s.) : 1, linea : 415.  et iudaei dicunt: sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros. English translation T. Hegedus, Jerome’s commentary on Jonah: Translation with introduction and critical notes, thesis, 1991, p.24.

Anthony Alcock – text and translation of the Life of Barsuma the Naked

Another translation from the Coptic by Anthony Alcock, this time of a medieval saint who emulated Job.  Here it is:

A little after our time-frame, but always good to make literature accessible online!

Translations of the biblical commentaries of St Jerome

St Jerome produced a significant quantity of commentaries on the bible, and translated still others.  These last were mostly by Origen.  Yet his commentaries have remained untranslated until recent times; and it is actually surprisingly difficult to discover what has, and has not, been translated.

I thought that I would give what information I have available, if only for my own use.  Contributions are welcome; I have little information about French translations, for instance.

There are modern critical editions of the text of most of these in CCSL vols. 72-76, and no doubt older, punctuated, and more readable ones in the Patrologia Latina.

Quaestiones Hebraicae in Genesim. Ed. PL23, col. 983-1062 (better than CCSL) Tr. C.T.R. Hayward, St Jerome’s Hebrew Questions on Genesis, Series: Oxford Early Christian Studies, Clarendon Press (1995)

Notes on the Psalms.  Isolated scholia, printed in CCSL 72.  [No translation.]  German: Siegfried Risse, Hieronymus: Commentarioli in Psalmos – Anmerkungen zum Psalter, Series: Fontes Christiani 79, Brepols, 2005.

Commentary on Ecclesiastes.  Tr. Richard J. Goodrich, ACW 66 (2012).  Tr. Robin MacGregor, ed. John Litteral (2014, but made earlier).  Amazon.  French: Commentaire de l’Ecclésiaste / Jérôme ; trad., introd., annot., guide thématique de Gérard Fry,…, Migne (Paris) 2001.  Spanish: Comentario al Eclesiastés / Jerónimo ; introducción, traducción y notas deJosé Boira Sales, Ciudad Nueva (Madrid) 2004.

Commentary on Isaiah.  Tr. Thomas P. Scheck, ACW68 (2015).  Italian translation by  R. Maisano for Citta Nuovo, 2014.

“Adbrevatio” on 1st five verses of Isaiah.  [No translation.]

Commentary on Jeremiah.  Tr. Michael Graves, 2012, for IVP Academic.

Commentary on Ezekiel.  [No translation.]

Commentary on Daniel.  Translated by Gleason L. Archer, 1958, and online.  Italian translation: S. Cola, S. Girolamo: Commento a Daniele, Rome 1966.

Commentary on Hosea.  [No translation]

Commentary on Joel.  [No translation]

Commentary on Amos.  [No translation]

Commentary on Obadiah.  [No translation]

Commentary on Jonah.  Tim Hegedus, thesis, 1991.  Online here.  Tr. Robin MacGregor, ed. John Litteral, 2014.  ISBN: 978-1500784935. (Amazon)  French: SC 43.

Commentary on Micah.  Anthony Cazares, “A Translation of St. Jerome’s Commentary on Micah.” MA thesis, Ave Maria University, 2013. This translation is contracted to be published by Intervarsity Press (Ancient Christian Texts). [1]

Commentary on Nahum. Sr. Albert Marie Surmanski, OP, “A Translation of St. Jerome’s Commentary on Nahum.” 2011. This translation is contracted to be published by Intervarsity Press (Ancient Christian Texts).  [2]

Commentary on Habakkuk.  [No translation]

Commentary on Zephaniah.  [No translation]

Commentary on Haggai.  Daniel M. Garland, St. Jerome’s Commentary on the Prophet Haggai” in St. Jerome’s Commentaries on the Twelve Prophets, vol. 1, Ancient Christian Texts, IVP Academic (forthcoming).  Info from

Commentary on Zechariah.  [No translation]

Commentary on Malachi.  [No translation]

Commentary on Matthew.  Tr. Thomas P. Scheck, in FOC 117, 2008.  Preview.  French: SC 242 & 259.  Italian: S. Aliquo, Rome, 1969.

Commentary on Galatians.  Ed. PL 26.  Tr. Andrew Cain, St Jerome: Commentary on Galatians, series: Fathers of the Church 121 (2010): Preview.  Also tr. Thomas P. Scheck, St Jerome’s Commentaries on Galatians, Titus and Philemon, Notre Dame (2010).  Italian: Commento alla Epistola ai Galati / Girolamo di Stridone ; introduzione, traduzione e note a cura di Giacomo Raspanti, Brepols, 2010.

Commentary on Ephesians.  Ed. PL 26.  Tr. Ronald E. Heine, The Commentaries of Origen and Jerome on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, OUP 2002.

Commentary on Titus.  Ed. PL 26.  Tr. Thomas P. Scheck, St Jerome’s Commentaries on Galatians, Titus and Philemon, Notre Dame (2010)

Commentary on Philemon.  Ed. PL 26.  Tr. Thomas P. Scheck, St Jerome’s Commentaries on Galatians, Titus and Philemon, Notre Dame (2010)

Commentary on Revelation.  A revision of the commentary of Victorinus of Pettau.  Ed. CSEL 49 (1916).

There’s quite a lot more extant in English than I had realised, in truth.  It looks very much as if Thomas P. Scheck has the remainder in hand, possibly in cooperation with IVP’s Ancient Christian Texts series of translations purely of ancient commentaries.  If so, then we should all be grateful.

  1. [1] Translation directed by Thomas P. Scheck: see CV here.
  2. [2] Translation directed by Thomas P. Scheck: see CV here.

New Latin-Italian edition of the collected works of St Jerome from Città Nuova

It is really remarkable that the works of St Jerome have never been translated in their entirety into any modern language.

But the Italians are good on this kind of thing, and while searching for whatever exists, I learned of a project to do just that.  It is being directed by the excellent Claudio Moreschini, and I see other familiar names like Angelo di Berardino and Sandra Isetti are involved.

Here is the home page, at the publisher, which lists all the works that will be included and how they will be divided up.  (Use Google Translate to read this)  Fifteen volumes are projected.

The volumes will be Latin and Italian on facing pages.

Some volumes have already appeared.  A search on reveals that volume 15 (Historical and Hagiographical Works) is out; and also the Commentary on Isaiah, in 4 volumes, translated by R. Maisano.  Each volume is about $70, so not cheap; but no doubt libraries can afford them.

This is a welcome initiative, and one can only wish that a similar project could be undertaken in English – and, ideally, without enriching some publisher along the way.

Some notes upon Apponius and his commentary on the Song of Songs

It is rare that I come across a wholly unfamiliar patristic writer.  But among the results of a Cetedoc search on Matthew 27:25 was a quotation from “Apponius”:

Apponius – In Canticum canticorum expositio (CPL 0194) lib. : 12, line: 1136
Quos omnes non est dubium manibus aures oculos que clausisse, ne tam horridam uocem audirent dicentium: Crucifige talem, et: Sanguis eius super nos et super filios nostros, aut ne tantum nefas intenderent, quod etiam sol et astra absconsa sunt ne uiderent.

Erm … who?!  There is not even a Wikipedia article for him.  Philip S. Alexander rightly states:

Apponius is a very shadowy figure.[1]

So I thought that some notes might be useful.  My first port of call was Quasten’s Patrology[2]  Here is the entry:

An Expositio in Canticum Canticorum, generally held to have been written in Italy and probably at Rome between 405 and 415 has been transmitted under the name of Aponius, who is considered to have been a Roman, perhaps of Eastern origin. Some, however, judge it to be the work of an Irish author from the seventh century (cf. CPL, p. 43). The earlier date is nevertheless to be preferred because of the author’s delight in combatting the heretics of the fourth century, his interest in the Church of Rome, and, above all, because of the fact that he makes no reference to the Pelagian Controversy, although his favorite theme, the church without stain, would have had to have led him to deal with the Pelagian question (Riedlinger).

The twelve books of the Explanatio are written in a somewhat rough but always vivid Latin and are based on the text of Jerome’s Vulgate. Aponius, who is also acquainted with the commentary on the Canticle attributed to Hippolytus of Rome, follows the Origenist tradition and presents a Christological exegesis of the Canticle, considering it entirely from the spiritual point of view in connection with the history of salvation. He therefore seeks to emphasize the relation between Christ and the church from the very beginning of this history. Under the evident influence of the Jewish exegesis taken up again by Hippolytus, he also takes an interest in the destiny of the Jews within the scope of divine providence and the continuity of Old Testament forms in the Christian world. Just as the Jewish exegetes had recognized in the Canticle the historical vicissitudes of their people, so Aponius finds in it the history of divine revelation from creation until the last judgment, concluding with the conversion of Israel (12, 277: PLS I, 1023).

Aponius furthermore sees in the Canticle the representation of the union between Christ and the faithful soul and, not infrequently, of the intimate union between the Word and the human soul of Jesus.

Recent scholarship has shown a special interest for the way in which Aponius uses the idea of representation, for he designates both the sacerdotes et doctores (bishops or others) and in particular the bishop of Rome as vicarii of God, of Christ, or of the Apostles.

No less interesting is the Christological orientation of Aponius’ Explanatio, undoubtedly due to Origen, his principal example. Indeed, in the West at that time, no other author dealt to such an extent and in such detail with the human soul of Christ (Grillmeier, 385). Aponius insists on the role of this soul and makes the work of redemption depend on its free decision (11, 179: PLS I, 961 f). Although taking up the Origenist idea of the perfect union between the Word and the soul of Jesus, he, nevertheless, does not place the accent on the Christus gloriae but rather on the Christ of the cross since, according to him, that union became indissoluble at the moment of the death on the cross (12, 242: PLS I, 1020f), when Christ, i.e., his elect soul, brought peace into the world by reconciling it with God (12, 236f: PLS I, 1015). Thus Aponius’ Christology, inspired to a great extent by Origen but influenced likewise by Western traditions, anticipates in some way the Cur Deus homo of Anselm of Canterbury (Grillmeier, 388). Furthermore, Aponius displays a theological and philosophical culture based on the confluence of secular philosophy with exegesis of a Neoplatonic type (cf. Courcells).

The Explanatio of Aponius does not seem to have exercised extensive influence. Nevertheless, Gregory the Great and Bede the Venerable were acquainted with it and it appeared again in the ninth century in an abridged form of twelve homilies (Bellet).

Editions: (Cf. CPL 194) PLS I, 800-1031 (H. Bottino and J. Martini, 1843).

There is some additional bibliography giving studies, which I have omitted.

A Google search revealed an editio princeps, of only 6 books, in 1538, which also includes the medieval epitome by Luke the Abbot.[3]

The edition listed by Quasten, of Bottino and Martini (1843), is a little difficult to track down, but seeing that it is listed in a catalogue as “Aponii scriptoris vetustissimi in Canticum Canticorum explanationis libri 12 / Quorum alias editi, emendati et aucti, inediti vero hactenus desiderati e codice Sessoriano monachorum Cisterciensium S. Crucis in Jerusalem Urbis nunc primum vulgantur. Curantibus Hieronymo Bottino [Bottino, Gerolamo], Josepho Martini [Martini, Giuseppe]. Romae 1843: Typ. S. Congregationis de propaganda fide. XIX, 256 S., 1 Taf.”, I was able to find an online copy at here.

The “PLS” edition, the Patrologia Latina Supplementum, is impossible to locate online.

A new edition exists, in the Corpus Christianorum Series Latina, vol. 19 (1986), edited by B. De Vregille and L. Neyrand.  It is 658 pages.

Thankfully the same editors also produced a Sources Chrétiennes edition, with French translation, in 3 vols.[4].  There is also a German translation of books 1-3 and 12.[5]

Let us return to Philip S. Alexander, and see what he says about Apponius’ commentary on the Song of Songs:

This states that the Song of Songs speaks of quidquid ab initio mundi usque in finem in mysteriis egit acturusve erit Dei Sermo erga Ecclesiam. This enigmatic commentary, in its full form, is large, and as a result its historical schema does not, perhaps, emerge all that clearly from the mass of detail. But that Apponius offers a historical schema cannot be denied. Thus Cant. 1.1-2.6 covers Israel under the old dispensation; 2.7-15 refers to the incarnation; and 2.16-3.11 to the crucifixion, the resurrection, the conversion of the Church of Jerusalem and the bringing in of the Gentiles by Paul. Chs. 4-6 rather lose the chronological thread but they do speak of a time of persecution and martyrdom, and of a fall into heresy by the Church. The thread is picked up again strongly in 7.1-9, which is seen as referring to the conversion of Rome to Christianity. 7.10-8.4 deals with the barbarian invasions of the Roman Empire which are looked upon in a rather positive light, since they allowed the barbarians to be converted to Christ. This leaves only the conversion of the Jews outstanding, and Apponius anticipates this event in the exposition of Cant. 8.5-14.

Apponius is a very shadowy figure. De Vregille and Neyrand are inclined to accept Johannes Witte’s view that he wrote his commentary on Canticles (his sole known work) in Rome between 405 and 415 CE.  They are less certain that he was a converted Jew, and with good reason: there is little in his commentary to suggest a Jewish origin. His occasional sympathetic references to the Jews and his interest in Israel’s place in the divine scheme of things prove little. The persistent suggestions that he drew on Jewish Bible exegesis and perhaps even directly on the Targum of Canticles are unsubstantiated.

Alexander also states that Witte’s 1903 volume on Apponius is still the most important study.[6]

I also found on Google Books a preview of The Voice of My Beloved: The Song of Songs in Western Medieval Christianity, by E. Ann Matter (2010), which was rather interesting.  After discussing the commentary of Gregory of Elvira, she goes on (p.89-91, footnotes omitted):

The Tractatus de epithalamio of Gregory of Elvira thus provided a model for exegesis of the Song of Songs which made the narrative of God’s love for the Church into a polemic for orthodoxy. This is also true to some extent though not exclusively, of other commentaries from the age of the great councils. The influential commentary of Apponius, for example, while relying on the same sources as Gregory of Elvira, makes a striking contrast to this strident exclusivity. Apponius is an obscure author whose major (and perhaps only) work, In Canticum Canticorum expositionem was not printed until 1843, and has only recently appeared in a critical edition. As Grillmeier has shown, this interpretation of the Song of Songs presents itself squarely within the Christian polemics of the age: it argues Christ’s divinity against the Arians and Christ’s humanity against the Gnostics, and echoes Origen’s stress on the soul of Christ and the human soul.

Apponius emerges from the difficult pages of this work as a complicated and rather cosmopolitan figure. His attitude towards the disputes of fourth-century Christianity is far more tolerant and sophisticated than that of the Bishop of Elvira, yet the reasons for this tolerance are obscure. In fact, many things about Apponius are obscure. He has been credited with knowledge of Greek and several Semitic languages, but this has been disputed.  He has been described as a native of fifth-century Syria or of seventh-century Ireland, or as a converted Jew, all with little evidence. Recent scholarship has suggested that the Song of Songs commentary of Apponius was written between 398 and 404, perhaps in Italy, or among an Italian literary circle. His commentary on the Song of Songs seems to show knowledge of Jewish biblical interpretation, but this may be secondary, as he is heavily dependent 011 Jerome. Apponius also cites from the Latin translations of Origen on the Song of Songs, and a number of grammatical and scicntific texts of late antiquity.” Like Jerome, Apponius may be most accurately described as a Christian who lived and studied in Italy and/or Palestine, and perhaps had some connexion with an intellectual center such as Caesarea, where many worlds—East and West, Christian and Jewish, Semitic, Greek, and Latin—came together.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Apponius’s work on the Song of Songs is most widely known in the Latin Middle Ages in the form of an adaptation into twelve homilies attributed to Jerome. This version, known by its incipit, “Veri amoris,” is found in twice as many manuscripts as the original, significantly, in copies associated with monastic houses in France and the Low Countries.   …

At the beginning of the commentary, Apponius promises to show the hidden wit of the rough text of the Song of Songs, “following in the tracks of ancient teachers,” and “by using the examples of the Hebrews.” The latter may refer to rabbinic interpretation, or it may indicate use of the Vulgate Bible translation of Jerome, which Apponius consulted along with other Latin translations.” Whether or not Apponius actually knew Hebrew, there are hints throughout of his awareness of the Jewish tradition of Song of Songs interpretation. Near the beginning of Book I, he recalls Akiba’s defense of the Song of Songs, stating that it speaks not at all of carnal love (“which the Gentiles call cupidity”) but is “totally spiritual, totally worthy of God, and totally the salvation of souls;” just below is a remarkably clear reference to the commonplace of rabbinic interpretation that the Song of Songs “was shown in figura to Moses on Mount Sinai so that he could make the Tabernacle of like beauty and measure.” At Song of Songs 1:7-8, Apponius gives an elaborate (though trinitarian) exegesis of Deuteronomy 6:5, part of the central
Jewish prayer known as the Sh’ma.

This knowledge and acceptance of Judaism is in striking contrast to the vituperations of Gregory of Elvira, and indeed, to other contemporary Christian authors. Clark rightly claims that Apponius even “outstrips Origen in his positive evaluation of ancient Israel.” But Apponius’s most frequent type of reference to Judaism is not to contemporary Jews, but to the role the Hebrew people played in keeping the Law before the proclamation of the Gospel. The entire commentary is structured around the ultimate triumph of the Church, against great odds, as the people of God. Apponius praises the ancient Hebrews as forerunners of the Church: they were, for example, the only ancient people to anoint with oil, and they anticipated the coming of Christ, who was praised by God’s faithful servant, Moses. The triumphalism of this message must be
stressed, for to contemporary Jews, Apponius preached conversion. However more cosmopolitan and tolerant Apponius may have been, he is most like Gregory of Elvira in his firm defense of the Church militant. He shows the highest regard for both the secular and religious power of the Roman Empire, which he links to the triumph of Christianity. Like contemporary Syrian authors, but unlike the Roman Church of the fourth century, Apponius understood the Feast of the Epiphany as the birthdate of Christ; using a tradition dating from Tertullian, he emphasized the congruence of the Nativity and the foundation of the Empire under Augustus, both evidence of divine providence. This variant on Roman liturgical customs thus paradoxically serves to emphasize the importance of Rome for Christian leadership.

The first job of the literary critic, is to cause the reader of the critic to desire to read the author criticised.  Dr Matter has achieved this well.  Incidentally “Clark” is Elizabeth A. Clark, “The Uses of the Song of Songs: Origen and the Later Latin Fathers,” in Ascetic Piety and Women’s Faith: Essays on Late Ancient Christianity, 1986, pp. 386-427.

Perhaps it is time that somebody translated Apponius (or Aponius) into English!  I was able to find a couple of passages that have been translated.

First of these is a passage in the IVP Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture volume on Isaiah 1-39.  On p.142-3 is a passage from Apponius:

19:18 Five Cities in Egypt.

Hebrew, Greek, Coptic, Latin and Syriac: Five Cities. Aponius: Like one body has five senses and five movements by which all of its works are performed, so also are five different personas typified in this Canticle, each through the image of a spouse. not counting the “sixty queens’and “eighty concubines”and ‘adolescents without number,”or”daughters,”and “the only child of her mother,” who calls herself a “wall,”
and she who “has no breasts.”

These five personas, I believe, denote five languages. Hebrew, the first of all languages, was the language of those from among whom the church was first assembled at the coming of Christ and to whom the first Gospel was addressed in Hebrew through the apostle Matthew. Greek is the language of those collaborators of the apostles, the Evangelists Mark and Luke, who are shown to be the first after the Hebrews to have gone on their missions. Egyptian, with which Mark the disciple of the apostles was not unfamiliar, is the tongue of those to whom he was sent as a teacher; the example he left them flowers still today with holy piety. Latin, which the ancients called Auxonian after King Auxonius, is the language of the one who has Peter, prince of the apostles, as its teacher and patron; decorated with the jewels of his doctrine, it is united by participation in Christ. It is to it, we believe, that it was said, “How beautiful are your feet in sandals, daughter of the prince!”  Fifthly, Assyrian, also called Syriac, is the tongue of the country to which the nation of ten tribes, the kingdom of Ephraim, was led away captive. By proclaiming the merit of its religion through this tongue, the people were made one body. Assyrian, then, represents the nation which was led by the Word of God “out of the wilderness” where Christ was not honored and out of the thorny conduct of humanity, to be settled in the delightful garden of sanctity.

After or apart from these languages, all the others under heaven, once converted to Christ, will be grafted into them like a limb onto a body. For everyone who believes in one omnipotent God and confesses one Redeemer, Christ, the Son of God, and receives the one Holy Spirit who proceeds from both, together constitutes the one body of the church, which is unified. as we have said. as though by the five senses. And it was prophesied quite clearly in mystery through the prophet Isaiah, I believe. that these five languages would become one language rejoicing in the praises of its one Creator by holding firm to the one faith. The coming of such a time was predicted when he said, ‘There will be in that day,” the day when the Lord will break the chains of his people, “five cities in the land of Egypt speaking the language of Canaan, one of which will be called the city of the sun.”

We know that “Egypt”means “obscurity”or “darkness,” which characterized the entire world before the incarnation of Christ, as blessed John the Evangelist taught when he said, ‘The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness has not overtaken it.” Zechariah also taught that Christ came “to illuminate those who were sitting in darkness and the shadow of death.” And the Savior himself declared, ‘I am the light of the world.’ “Canaan,” on the other hand, means “glowing chalice.” Who else are we able to understand as a glowing chalice except the Holy Spirit, who, after the ascension of the Lord, was first sent by the Father and the Son to the apostles while their faith was still cold? Of him it is said in the Acts of the Apostles that “he rested upon each one like a flame.” He filled those who spoke the one praise of the one God in the tongue of every nation, such that they appeared intoxicated to the unaware. Having received from this chalice. the five prophesied cities now speak the marvels of the omnipotent God with one mouth or one tongue, ‘that our Lord Jesus Christ.” as Paul, teacher of the Gentiles, shows, ‘is to the glory of God the Father,’ and that “no one can say that Jesus Christ is Lord except in the Holy Spirit.’ The name ‘city of the sun’ designates the one Hebrew language itself, whose kingdom is seared in Jerusalem. There is the throne, there is the temple, the holy place of worship, and there is the kingdom of Judah, whence came Christ, the Sun of justice. It is from Jerusalem, which was previously called Heliopolis, meaning “city of the sun,” that light is shed throughout the entire, darkened body of the world. From it, a healing balm is applied to every member of the church. And it was of this sun that the prophet predicted, “For you who fear the Lord, the sun of justice will rise, and healing is in its rays; and you will leap like young bulls in the middle of the herd, and you will trample your enemies until they become like the dust under your feet.” — Exposition of Song of Songs, Epilogue 89-93.

Now that is indeed very Origenian and allegorical, isn’t it?  There are two further short passages given in the same ACC volume.  Incidentally why don’t we hear more of these exceedingly useful IVP volumes of ancient commentary?

Another couple of passages appear in translation in a volume of Biblical and Near Eastern Essays[7]

… (God) enriches his Church with ‘the flowers of heavenly wisdom and the lilies of integrity’. He (Apponius) then explained that Christ became ‘the Lily of the valley’ when he took on a human body and entered the thorny world of idolaters and sinners:

“When, through the mystery of the Incarnation, he came down into this valley of tears (Ps. 83.7; Vulg) to live in the midst of the thorny thicket of sinners he declared that he had become ‘the lily of the valleys’. In this valley nothing flourished but the filthy practice of idolatry, nothing but the thorny thicket of hatred, theft, murder, divination and soothsaying, fornication and the magic arts.”[8]

The idea that Christ became ‘the lily of the valleys’ on his incarnation is from Origen[9].  Maher continues, however, thus:

The words ‘As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters’ (Cant. 2.2) allowed Apponius to develop the idea that the Church in the world is always subject to the attacks of gentiles and heretics of different kinds. These are children of the devil who do their father’s work and whose teaching poisons the atmosphere in which the faithful must live. Of these Apponius says;

“Although we are not actually told whose ‘daughters’ are those souls among whom the Church exists as ‘a lily among thorns’, nevertheless from the fact that they are compared to ‘thorns’ we can conclude that they are called ‘daughters’, not of God, but of the devil, brought to birth by his most wicked doctrines. For the Church dwells in this world in the midst of as many poisonous thorns as there are people who attack the Church with the doctrines of pagans, or with the many and varied rites of the heretics…in defence of their father (the devil)… In this way the Word of God has clearly shown that the souls of the just dwell in this world in the midst of sharp ‘thorns’. So the Christian need not be surprised when his or her body is pierced by the various thorns of the wicked.”[10]

And one final passage:

Apponius continues with a statement to the effect that Christians, who are citizens of a world in which the virtuous and the wicked live together, must avoid the company of sinners and reject their teaching. Since this is not easy one can see that the text which describes the Church as ‘a lily among thorns’ is an expression of generous praise of the faithful who refuse to be deceived by the attractions of the wicked:

“It is not so much by living in this earthly life—where the innocent and the wicked live together— but by fellowship with unbelievers that the souls of the faithful are wounded… That is why the Scriptures warn us in many places to avoid associating with such people… When Scripture says ‘As the lily among thorns so is my love among the daughters’ it is not for the purpose of finding fault with the righteous who are members of the Church but to praise them. This she does in order to teach us that it is highly praiseworthy to live devoutly among wicked and perverse people and not to conform in any way to their thorny conduct. Among such people the upright person shines like a light in the darkness’ (cf. Jn 1.5).”[11]

UPDATE: The passage referencing Matthew 27:25 may be found on p.246 of the 1843 edition.  I have also added extra material, after further searching.

  1. [1] Philip S. Alexander, “The Song of Songs as Historical Allegory” in: Kevin J. Cathcart & Michael Maher (eds), Targumic and Cognate Studies: Essays in Honour of Martin McNamara, 1996, p.25.
  2. [2] Vol. 4, p.565-6, where he is named “Aponius”.
  3. [3] Aponius: Commentariorum … in Cantica Canticorum Solomonis libri sex … Ad haec epitome commentariorum D. Aponij in eadem Cantica per Lucam Abbatem … Praeterea D. Cassiodori Abbatis … commentaria … in eadem Cantica, etc.  Issued by Johannes Faber Emmeus, Freiburg im Breisgau, 1538.  Online here.  There are many reprints.
  4. [4] Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 1997. SC 420. , tome I. Livres I-III; SC 421. tome II. Livres IV-VIII; SC 430. tome III. Livres IX-XII
  5. [5] Hildegard König (ed), Apponius. Die Auslegung zum Lied der Lieder: Die einführenden Bücher I-III und das christologisch bedeutsame Buch IX, Freiberg: Herder, 1992.
  6. [6] Johannes Witte. Der Kommentar des Aponius zum Hohenliede. Inaugural-Dissertation,  Erlangen: K. b. Hof- und Univ.-Buchdruckerei von Junge & Sohn, 1903.  I don’t know if US readers may be able to obtain it from Google Books here.
  7. [7] Michael Maher, “A Lily among Thorns: Canticles 2:2 in the Latin Exegetical Tradition” in: Kevin J. Cathcart &c (ed), Biblical and Near Eastern Essays, 2004, 227-239.  P.232-3.
  8. [8] Apponius 3, 26; CCSL 19: 75.
  9. [9] Homiles on Canticles 2.6, Baehrens edition of 1925, 49-50.
  10. [10] Apponius 3, 29; CCSL 19: 77.
  11. [11] Apponius 3, 30; CCSL 19: 77-78.