Archive Page 2

Spamming to promote the NIV bible?

I have written a couple of times before about the collapse in confidence in the New International Version (NIV) of the bible.  This happened after Zondervan, the publishers, decided to revise it to be “gender neutral.”  As I wrote in my last such post:

… “gender neutrality” is not a principle of text criticism, nor of biblical theology, but a principle of the modern political movement referred to as “political correctness”.  So the publisher has acted to corrupt the translation in the interests of a modern political lobby – an incredible thing to do.

It is now the 50th anniversary of the publication of the NIV.  It is, of course, a sad anniversary, considering what has happened.  Zondervan have been trying to boost the “translation” by having a website, thenivbible.com, which is of course their right.  The site is conspicuously silent about the controversy, I note, which is not so acceptable.

They have also, even less forgiveably, employed a PR industry firm to pester bloggers.

A few months ago I received a communication from a PR flack, via my contact form.  The message professed to be all excited about how wonderful my site was, and then seamlessly went on to say how I might like to engage with their new site, etc etc.

In other words, they sent me a spam email.  The content suggested to me that they had mined the lists of top 50 biblioblogs, and spammed the lot.  I deleted it, and thought no more of it.

Today I received another one, from the same PR flack, with the same dishonest message, professing again to be giving feedback and actually trying to get me to visit etc that sad old website.  I must confess to feeling contempt for such attempts to gain my support by such threadbare flattery.

I fear that Dante would have assigned an imaginative fate, for those who brought this about, in the Inferno. Perhaps he would have depicted them being endlessly sodomized by (gender neutral!) demons.  But then I am less imaginative than the Florentine master.

Methodius, On Life and Rational Action – online in English

Today I am quite pleased to be able – at long last! – to upload the first English translation of De Vita, On Life and Rational Action, by Methodius of Olympus.

The translation was made by Ralph Cleminson, from the unpublished Old Slavonic text, which alone has survived.  This was accessed using the online images of manuscript 40 of the Holy Trinity-St Sergius Lavra in Russia.

Here it is:

I have also made the files available at Archive.org here.

As usual, I make these files and their contents public domain.  Do whatever you like with them, personal, educational or commercial.

We all owe Dr Cleminson a debt of thanks.  I have also asked him to translate some more Methodius, and he has agreed in principle.  The next one is likely to be De cibis.

From my diary

I hope to upload Methodius On life and rational activity soon.  The translation is done, and paid for (as of today), and only needs a tweak to my introductory footnote.

Less good news: the Trinity-St Sergius Lavra site,  which hosts the Old Slavonic manuscripts that we are using, is offline.  Fortunately I did download the images of the two Methodius manuscripts so we are not completely stuck.  I will pop them onto a keydrive and post them to the translator.

This is a warning, tho, that these online collections of manuscripts are very fragile.  In the case of most such sites, I wouldn’t even be able to download the images.

I’ve seen the list of papers for the quadrennial Oxford Patristics Conference, 2015, which is due to start on 10th August.  Invitations went out last year, and I looked at the price for the week, and I looked at the cost of staying in the accommodation (which you do want to do), and I thought about the financial loss involved in being away from work for a week.  I also thought about the problem of car parking, which they make so difficult and expensive, and the lousy quality of the accommodation.  And … I decided not to go.

In truth I didn’t enjoy my conference all that much.  Booking late, I ended up in a poor room in Queens College, which undoubtedly affected my mood rather.

Having made that decision, I looked at the papers with some trepidation.  Would it be full of items that I would ache to be present at?  Things that I would really want to be present for?

In fact, and I hate to say it, the papers look very dull.  An awful lot of them seem to be by Americans, on the sort of topics that might be given to an undergraduate.  So few of these papers looked interesting!

I don’t know whether it is just me, or whether there is a genuine diminution in quality.  The answer is probably a bit of both, in truth.  There will be 900 people there.  I’d like to mix with patristics people, it is true.  But … I think I’ll be happier not to attend.

Works of Fulgentius the Mythographer now online in English

I learn via AWOL that the Ohio State University Press is sensibly placing online older volumes, of no conceivable commercial value.  Among these is the 1971 translation of the complete works of the 5th century Roman author Fulgentius Mythographicus.  He lived in Vandal Africa and composed a handbook of ancient mythology and other works.  The translation is in PDF and is here.  Well done, OSUP.

A little more Asterius

Blogger Albocicade has very kindly sent me some excerpts from Asterius the Homiletist’s 31 homilies on Psalms, which he has culled from a French book.  Let me give them here; I’m sure we can all use Google Translate.

Sur l’arbre verdoyant:

“Le Verbe est le bois planté au bord des eaux, que le Père a engendré sans séparation, chargé de fruits, à la sève vigoureuse, à la cime élevée, aux belles pousses. C’est de cet arbre qu’Adam ayant refusé le fruit est déchu en son contraire. En effet, le Christ est l’arbre de vie, le démon l’arbre de mort.”
—  Homélie I.5, sur Ps.1, traduction Daniélou : “Les symboles chrétiens primitifs” p 40

Sur la crucifixion du Sauveur:

“Durant la Passion, le monde était secoué comme un navire, le pilote était cloué à la croix, le voile du Temple se déchirait comme une voilure ; alors le choeur des apôtres, privé de pilote et secoué par la tempête s’écrie : Délivre-moi, Seigneur, car le juste fait défaut !”
— Homélie XX.17, sur Ps.11, traduction Daniélou : “Les symboles chrétiens primitifs” p 71

Sur la trahison de Judas:

“Le juste a fait défaut. Il a abrégé l’horloge des Apôtres. Du jour de douze heures des disciples, il a fait un jour de onze heures. Il a montré l’année du Seigneur privée d’un mois. Et c’est pourquoi est onzième le psaume où est rapportée la lamentation des Onze sur le Douzième”
— Homélie XX.14, sur Ps.11, traduction Daniélou : “Les symboles chrétiens primitifs” p 131

Sur la fuite des apôtres:

“Avec les trois heures, les autres heures des Apôtres ont fui le jour. Les heures du jour sont devenues heures de la nuit, lorsque le jour lui-même, qui nous présente en lui l’image des Apôtre, a été changé.”
— Homélie XX.15-16, sur Ps.11, traduction Daniélou : “Les symboles chrétiens primitifs” p 131

Asterius on Matthew 27:25

My original reason for interest in Asterius the Sophist, and the collection of 31 homilies that bears his name in Richard’s edition, is the reference to Mathew 27:25 – His blood be upon us and upon our children – in homily 21.  Of course we must now recognise that this is by Asterius the Homiletist, and written around 400 AD, as has emerged from the series of posts on Asterius.

I’ve got the text of Homily 21 from Richard’s edition, and I’ll post it here, for those without access to the TLG:

The passage of interest to us has very generously been translated by “Inepti graeculi” for us all.  The file is here, with copious and useful notes:

But let me give just the raw translation here:

13. On the eighth day he was raised from the dead. For the end, upon the eighth, when the end of the world became the beginning of the world and since death was cut off on the eighth. For the end, upon the eighth, when also on the second eighth he appeared to Thomas and cut off his disbelief by belief. For the one who said ‘unless I put my hand in his side’, used the sight alone of Christ as a knife and cut off disbelief, and believing in him he said, ‘my Lord and my God.’

14. Eight days after the resurrection Jesus came to the disciples when the doors were shut and stood among them and said: ‘Peace be with you.’ For the enemy death, by [his] death had been put to death. Then he said to Thomas: ‘Put your hand in my side, not to pierce my side with a spear as the soldier, but (so that) you may receive the blood and water from my side in your mind, and learn why the blood and water came out, the two witnesses of the Lord-killers: the blood in order to convict the Jews who said; ‘His blood be on us and on our children’; the water, in order to accuse Pilate, who taking water and washing his hands, as innocent an innocent and righteous [man] scourged and crucified. Put your finger, Thomas and put your hand, first your finger and thus your hand. First taste that the lord is good, [he] who while [you were] disbelieving did not beat you, and so receive the bread of life. And so Thomas had not yet tasted, and immediately blurted out the confession: ‘And Thomas replied, saying to him: “My Lord and my God”’.

Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Isaiah, on Matthew 27:25

I learn from the TLG (4090.103) that there are two references to this verse of scripture in Cyril of Alexandria, Commentarius in Isaiam prophetam (Commentary on Isaiah). It is not mentioned in BiblIndex.

Here is the TLG results:

PG 70 col 52 line 18: τλήκασι γὰρ τῆς ἑαυτῶν κεφαλῆς τὸ τίμιον αἷμα Χριστοῦ, Πιλάτῳ λέγοντες· «Τὸ αἷμα αὐτοῦ ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ τέκνα ἡμῶν.» Ἀνῃρήκασι δὲ καὶ προφήτας ἁγίους· καὶ τοῦτο αὐτοῖς ὁ μακάριος Στέ-

PG 70 col 824 line 17: οἵ τε τῶν Ἰουδαίων καθηγηταὶ, καὶ ὅσοι τετολμήκασιν εἰπεῖν· «Τὸ αἷμα αὐτοῦ ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ τέκνα ἡμῶν·») διδοὺς λύπην, συμφοραῖς αὐτοὺς καὶ

Inspection of the PG edition tells me that these are comments upon Isaiah chapter 1, verse 21; and chapter 40, 29-31.

An English translation in 3 volumes exists by Robert C. Hill for Holy Cross Press, which translates the commentary as far as chapter 50 of Isaiah.  This morning I have written to the press to suggest that they commission someone to complete the translation.  But I have obtained copies, and located the relevant passages (it would have been far easier to do so, had I the work in PDF form!)

Here is the first passage.  I thought it best to give the context, as this work is nearly unknown to most people, and the translation likewise.  I’ve omitted the footnotes tho.

From vol. 1, p.48-50, on Isaiah 1:21:

How did she become a whore, the faithful city of Sion, full of justice? Righteousness came to rest in her, but now assassins (v.21). He is struck, as it were, by the degree of decadence of the assembly of the Jews and its ready transformation —deterioration, I mean—and its change from better to worse. After all, it had been instructed by the Law of Moses in the knowledge of what was useful, possessed the word of God that conveyed everything it had to do, was splendid, esteemed, and praiseworthy, celebrated by people far and wide in whom the fruit of righteousness abundantly flourished, and was acceptable to God. It possessed, in fact, both prophets and priests, keepers of the works of righteousness, leaders of the people to maintain justice, recite the Law, and be models of all aspects of good and upright behavior. Later it lost all this—or, rather, it chose to spurn that former goodness, and set no store by reverence and love for God; before the coming of our Savior, it worshipped what were by nature not gods, flagrantly insulting the one and only true Lord by such a degree of infidelity, and, like a promiscuous and swaggering woman, it offended in many ways. It attached itself to a range of guides at different times, who were in the habit of introducing every kind of practice abhorrent to God.

The God of all accuses it, for example, in the words of Jeremiah, “See what she did to me, the house of Israel: she played the whore on every high mountain and under every leafy tree, and was unfaithful there.” And again in words addressed to her, “If a man divorces his wife, and she leaves him and attaches herself to another man, surely she will not return to him again? Would not such a woman be greatly polluted? You have played the whore with many shepherds, and are you returning to me? asks the Lord. Direct your eyes straight ahead and see how could it be you were not sullied; you took your place in the very streets, like a crow in a solitary wilderness. You have polluted the land with your whoring and your wickedness, you had many shepherds as a stumbling black to yourself. You had the face of a whore, being shameless before everyone.” In other words, you despised service of God, as I said, took the path of apostasy, and had recourse to unclean spirits and the worship of idols as shepherds and teachers.

These were the crimes of the assembly of the Jews, as I said, before the coming of our Savior. But when Christ shone upon the people on earth (the Lord God appeared to us, Scripture says), it preferred not to apply to him as teacher, preferring instead the teachings and commandments of men. Bypassing the good shepherd, (52) who could supply it with the best of all teaching, it attached itself to the chief priests and Scribes, and even to the Pharisees. Now, by this means it played the whore, despite both Law and Prophets prophesying to it the mystery of Christ and promising that he would come in due course. How did she become a whore, the faithful city of Sion, full of justice? It is like saying, What opportunities did she take to understand—or, rather, how did she run headlong into apostasy after being enriched with spiritual aids, this formerly faithful agent of righteousness, where righteousness dwelt, that is, the Law abided? In other words, the multitude of its students were a kind of domicile for it, but now murderers live there. Do you recall his passing over many other crimes to charge it with murder? They brought upon their own head the precious blood of Christ, remember, in saying to Pilate, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.” They also did away with holy prophets; blessed Stephen reproached them with this, “You stiff-necked people, unbelieving in heart, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not kill? You are like your ancestors.”

Now on to the other passage, in vol. 3, p.19-22:

Are you not now aware? Or is it possible you have not heard? God is eternal, God, who formed the ends of the earth, will not hunger or grow weary, nor is investigation possible of his understanding (v.28). Of old, O Israel, you were taught by means of the Law, and in some way through the prophets you gained knowledge of the divine plan coming after the Law. The Law acted as an oracle, in fact, containing shadows and types of the good things to come, and possessing in the text in pregnant fashion the force of the mystery to do with Christ; in a variety of ways Christ was prefigured through the commandment in the Law, and in obscure fashion the mystery to do with him was sketched. (821) He personally confirms this to the people of Israel who chose to disbelieve: “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me.” Since he had leveled the accusation, he is saying, he does not consider my ways in accordance with the Law (the meaning of My way is hidden from my God, God has disregarded my right or Law and departed). He says the following as though quite ignorant of the one trusting in God: Are you not now aware? Or is it possible you have not heard?—that is, could you not have heard? It would be like saying, I accept the pretense as part of your plan: you would not have known unless you had discovered it or had been told. Listen, then: God is eternal, God, who formed the ends of the earth, will not hunger or grow weary, you offered (he means) sheep as bloody sacrifices, and recited prayers by immolating oxen, you paid homage with incense and smoke, crops and doves. But you should know, and not be unaware, that God, who formed the ends of the earth, is eternal (meaning by ends of the earth the whole of it). He will not hunger or grow weary, which resembles what is said to them in the words of the psalmist, “Surely I do not eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?” How is it, in fact, that you make offerings? Surely I am not hungry or wearied under the effects of famine? Perish the foolish thought: God, who is eternal, is not subject to wasting, or being hungry or weary, or any human need.

Nor is investigation possible of his understanding; he sometimes gives the reason when he asks, If as things are you rendered unacceptable the Law given through Moses, or the shadow contained in the Law, why at all did you pass laws in the first place? If the new oracles— that is, those in the Gospels—are preferable to the old, why were they enacted in addition to the Law? Do not ask this question, he is saying; you will not succeed in discovering God’s incomprehensible reasoning or wisdom. The Law, for its part, was given through Moses, remember; why was it, then, and for what reason will Paul teach in these terms, “The Law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied,” and again, “Scripture imprisoned all in disobedience so that he might be merciful to all”? It was therefore established as an indicator of sin, and, as it were, proof of everyone’s weakness, so that since it was incapable of justifying sinners, and instead it condemned them, the grace of liberality through Christ had then to be introduced to justify the impious and free from sins those guilty of them. Accordingly, investigation is not possible of the understanding of God, who plans all things wisely, on the one hand giving the Law so as to offer condemnation of sin, and on the other sending the Son from heaven so as to justify by faith those in sin.

Giving strength to the hungry and grief to those not mourning. After all, younger people will hunger, youths will be weary and the elite will be powerless, whereas those who wait for the Lord will have renewed strength, they will grow wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will march and not hunger (vv.29-31). Take as a given, I ask you, (824) that God, who is eternal, God, who formed the ends of the earth, gives strength to the hungry; being eternal, God is not in need of food. Or, rather, he it is who gives righteousness, spiritual vigor, to those who hunger for it; yet he likewise gives grief to those not mourning. You should take this two ways. As a result of deep insensitivity and failure to know what is pleasing to God, to people unaware that they are gravely offending him and becoming liable to intolerable penalties he finally gives as an aid grief for what they have committed. Grief of a godly kind, you see, brings about repentance that leads to salvation which requires no repenting, or brings grief to those who crucified Jesus, and even perhaps rejoiced in it (the leaders of the Jews were so disposed, remember, and all who were so presumptuous as to say, “His blood be upon us and upon our children”), causing them to be involved in the misfortunes and evils of war.

Because they forfeited their relationship with him, they were deprived of all strength and spiritual nourishment; consequently, as though in comment on the statement, he proceeds, younger people will hunger, youths will be weary and the elite will be powerless. In other words, as far as the nations’ deficiencies and weakness are concerned, their being subject to the devils’ power and doing what the unclean spirits decided, some were stronger and younger in an intellectual and spiritual sense, and were in the grip of hunger and weariness. On the other hand, those with habits of good behavior as a result of instruction in the Law, and discharging the commandments once given them, will hunger and be weary, that is, lack strength for any kind of good works; should they be affected by being starved of the divine sayings, it will render them completely weak, limp, and incapable of effort for good deeds. Now, the fact that the nation of Israel fell victim to famine when those who believed in our Lord Jesus Christ were rescued from trouble, God foretells in saying of old through one of the prophets, “Lo, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I shall send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the word of the Lord. They will wander from east to west in search of the word of the Lord, and will not find it.” After all, how were they not destined to feel weakness and weariness, and to be wasted by spiritual famine, clearly because of their not welcoming Christ despite his saying clearly, “I am the living bread who has come down from heaven and gives life to the world; if anyone eats this bread, he will live forever.” Since in their grievous folly they did not accept the word of life, despite being able to partake of it, they were wasted by famine while the nations found it to their liking; it is true that, as Solomon says, “The Lord does not let the righteous die of famine, but he undermines the life of the impious.” It was the fate of the Jews, however, for they showed impiety toward the author of life. (825)

Interesting: but the reference to Jewish sacrifices shows that none of this has anything to do with contemporary Jewish observance.  It is, in fact, discussing the fate of the people of God.

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
OBITUARY
06/05/2007

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.


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