Discovered: A 5-6th century fragment of Methodius’ “Symposium”!

Methodius of Olympus.  5-6th century papyrus fragment of the Symposium.
Methodius of Olympus. 5-6th century papyrus fragment of the Symposium.

I learn from Brice C. Jones that a marvellous discovery has been made: a papyrus leaf, or the remains of one, containing a portion of the Symposium of the Ante-Nicene writer Methodius of Olympus (d. 311 AD, as a martyr):

New Discovery: The Earliest Manuscript of Methodius of Olympus and an Unattested Saying about the Nile

… The only complete work of Methodius that we possess is his Symposium or Banquet—a treatise in praise of voluntary virginity.

Until quite recently, the earliest manuscript of this text was an eleventh century codex known as Patmiacus Graecus 202, which is housed in the Monastery of St. John the Theologian on the island of Patmos.

But a remarkable discovery has recently been made in the Montserrat Abbey in Spain.

Sofia Torallas Tovar and Klaas A. Worp, who have been working on the manuscript collection in the Montserrat Abbey for many years, have just published a fragment of Methodius’ Symposium that they date on palaeographical grounds to the fifth-sixth century—about 450 years earlier than the Patmos codex mentioned above. (On another recent, important discovery by Tovar and Worp, see here.)

Published as P.Monts. Roca 4.57, this fragment is the first attestation of a work of Methodius from Egypt. It is a narrow strip of parchment, with thirty partial lines preserved on the hair side (see image of fragment at right).

The text on this side of the fragment comes from Oratio 8:16.72-73, 3:14.35-40, 8.60-61, and 9.18-19 (in that order).

The flesh side contains thirty-five partial lines of text unrelated to the Methodian text. This is an unidentified Christian text with “Gnomic” sentiments, as the authors explain.

In addition to the wonderful fact that we now have a significantly earlier manuscript witness of Methodius’ text, there is also another remarkable feature in the new manuscript: a previously unattested saying about the Nile. In lines 5-8, the manuscript reads:

“The rise of the Nile is life and joy for the families”
ἡ ἀνάβα̣σ̣ε̣ι̣[ς] τοῦ Νείλου̣ ζω̣ή̣ ἐστι κ̣[αὶ] χαρὰ ἑστία[ις]

As the authors note, this saying does not occur in Methodius. And indeed, it does not fit the immediate context. Where it comes from is a mystery, but the saying is nonetheless very interesting.

Marvellous!  And thank you, Brice, for making this known to the world!  Brice adds that the publication is:

Sofía Torallas Tovar and Klaas A. Worp, ed., with the collaboration of Alberto Nodar and María Victoria Spottorno, “Greek Papyri from Montserrat” (P.Monts. Roca IV) (Barcelona: 2014), no. 57.

What this find also reminds me, is that Methodius is one of the very few ante-Nicene authors whose works have not been translated into English.  This is because they survive only in Old Slavic versions.  I paid some attention to these, in previous posts, and even acquired some texts; but I must hurry up and try to get some translations made!

Did early heretics call themselves “Christians”

I was answering an email in great haste earlier today, which contained the assertion that heretics like Marcionites or Valentinians (there was no specific) referred to themselves as Christians.  I think that I sort of assented, or at any rate did not disagree, in the rush to disagree with other parts of the email.

But I found myself wondering.  Do we know that this is true?  Did they, in fact, using the word for themselves?

We are accustomed to different church groups all identifying themselves as Christians.  We are accustomed to modern heretics — liberal clergy who endorse unnatural vice and don’t believe in God — demanding indignantly to be referred to as Christians (to the amused cynicism of everyone else).  But … do we know that the same was true in antiquity?  For antiquity was a different world, and anachronism is always our enemy.

Modern heretics demand the Name, because the name of Christian has a residual positive image in the modern western world: what was once Christendom.  But in ancient times, was this the case?  After all, “christianus” was the name of an illegal cult: non licet esse vos, — you are not allowed to exist, the pagans jeer in the pages of Tertullian’s Apologeticum.

The heresies essentially were pop-pagan philosophical schools, which is, of course, why the early Christians referred to them by the word “haereses”, used, with no pejorative context, for those schools.  But every philosopher made his living by teaching pupils for pay.  And what he had to teach was his own special teachings.  If he was the disciple of some famous earlier philosopher, he would innovate, unless he inherited the school from his master, in order to attract pupils and distinguish himself from other pupils.  To such people, a fresh source of ideas, such as Christianity, was just grist to the mill.  It is telling that the same is true of gnostic groups.  The disciples of Valentinus, such as Apelles, did not teach classical Valentinianism, but their own flavour of it.

In each case, the members of the heresy were not a church in the way that a modern church is organised.  They were more like “hearers”.  The loose organisation of these groups is commented on by Tertullian in De praescriptione haereticorum, who in chapter 6 lists the old-time philosophies from which the new heretics draw their teaching, and towards the end remarks on this lack of structure and definition.

Someone following a school would usually take, I believe, the name of his master, or of the school.  Thus we have the cynics, the Stoics, the Epicureans, and so forth.

Likewise in Corinth, Paul has to tell the Christians not to do the same.  “I follow Paul … I follow Apollos …” is perhaps the same tendency. 

So … do we know that heretical groups generally did not do the same? 

When I read Ephraim the Syrian’s Madrasha 22 against heresies, I do not find that the Marcionites are saying “We are the Christians”.  What they are saying to the Christians is, “You are the followers of Palut”, an early Bishop.  And Ephraim spends a lot of time telling the Christians of the 4th century NOT to name themselves after anyone but Christ.  Do other patristic writers witness to this sort of thing, I wonder?

Did the Valentinians generally call themselves “Valentinians”, perhaps?  Or the Marcionites “Marcionites”?  What is the data, I wonder?

Of course the heretical groups of this period mainly sought to influence Christians, to persuade them to sacrifice and to take on board pagan teachings of one sort of another.  So perhaps it is possible that they found it useful to claim the Name.  I don’t know.  What we need to see, as always, is evidence.

As ever, we need to be so wary of an unconscious anachronism.

UPDATE: See the comments for a couple of examples.  The most interesting is that in the Life of Persian Syriac saint, Mar Aba.

More on Anianus of Celeda

An email reminded me of this post about Anianus (or Annianus) of Celeda, who flourished ca. 413 AD and translated a number of the works of Chrysostom into Latin, in which form they circulated in the Middle Ages.  I’ve been looking for a bit more information about him.

An index entry for Anianus at CERL is here, which I found by searching for Anianus von Celeda.  A Chrysostom PDF here also refers to his work.  I also found a reference here to “Baur, Chrysostomus.  «L’entrée littéraire de saint Jean Chrysostome dans le monde latin.»  RHEccl.  8 (1907) 249-265.  Anianus of Celeda and Pelagian controversy.”  Another important reference for Chrysostom in Latin and Anianus seems to be “Altaner, Berthold. 1967. “Altlateinische Übersetzungen von Chrysostomusschriften.” Kleine patristische Schriften, 416–36. TU 83. Berlin. Reprinted from Historisches Jahrbuch 61 (1941): 208–26.” 

I learn from here:

In the West a work [supporting Pelagius] was written by Anianus, a deacon of Celeda, of which a copy was sent to Jerome (letters cxliii. 2) by Eusebius of Cremona, but to which he was never able to reply.

This is good news, because it’s the first sign of a primary source.  I find a Russian site with the Latin (why aren’t Jerome’s letters online in English?) here, but I can’t copy from it.  However the same material is on an Italian site (as letter 202 of the letters of Augustine) here.  The letter is from Jerome to Augustine and Alypius, explaining why he hasn’t refuted the books of Annianus “the pseudo-deacon of Celeda”, whom he describes as acting for Pelagius at the synod of Diospolis.


1. Sanctus Innocentius presbyter, qui huius sermonis est portitor, anno praeterito, quasi nequaquam in Africam reversurus, mea ad Dignationem vestram scripta non sumpsit. Tamen Deo gratias agimus quod ita evenit, ut nostrum silentium vestris epistolis vinceretis. Mihi enim omnis occasio gratissima est, per quam scribo vestrae Reverentiae; testem invocans Deum quod si posset fieri, assumptis alis columbae, vestris amplexibus implicarer, semper quidem pro merito virtutum vestrarum, sed nunc maxime, quia cooperatoribus et auctoribus vobis, haeresis Celestiana iugulata est: quae ita infecit corda multorum, ut cum superatos damnatosque esse se sentiant, tamen venena mentium non omittant; et, quod solum possunt, nos oderint, per quos putant se libertatem docendae haereseos perdidisse.

Quod autem quaeritis utrum rescripserim contra libros Anniani, pseudodiaconi Celedensis, qui copiosissime pascitur, ut alienae blasphemiae verba frivola subministret: sciatis me ipsos libros in schedulis missos a sancto fratre Eusebio presbytero suscepisse, non ante multum temporis; et exinde vel ingruentibus morbis, vel dormitione sanctae et venerabilis filiae vestrae Eustochii, ita doluisse, ut propemodum contemnendos putarem. In eodem enim luto haesitat, et exceptis verbis tinnulis atque emendicatis, nihil aliud loquitur. Tamen multum egimus; ut dum epistolae meae respondere conatur, apertius se proderet, et blasphemias suas omnibus patefaceret. Quidquid enim in illa miserabili synodo Diospolitana dixisse se denegat, in hoc opere profitetur; nec grande est ineptissimis naeniis respondere. Si autem Dominus vitam tribuerit et notariorum habuerimus copiam, paucis lucubratiunculis respondebimus; non ut convincamus haeresim emortuam, sed ut imperitiam atque blasphemiam eius, nostris sermonibus confutemus: meliusque hoc faceret Sanctitas tua; ne compellamur contra haereticum nostra laudare.

An English translation of the letter is here (Augustine, Letters 156-210:Epistulae II, New City Press, 2004):

To his truly holy lords, Alypius and Augustine, bishops who are to be venerated with all affection and by every right, Jerome sends greetings in the Lord.

1. The holy priest Innocent, the bearer of this letter, did not take with him my letter to Your Reverence last year, on the grounds he was not going to return to Africa. But we thank God that it turned out that you overcame our silence by your letters. For every occasion on which I write to Your Reverence is most pleasant for me. I call upon God as my witness that, if it were possible, I would take up the wings of a dove and wrap myself in your embraces. This would always be in accord with the merits of your virtues, but it is so now especially because the Caelestian heresy1 has been slain by your cooperation and initiative. It had so infected the hearts of many that, though they perceive that they have been defeated and condemned, they still do not give up their poisonous ideas. And they hate us—the only thing they can do—because they think that through us they lost the freedom to teach heresy.

2. But you ask2 whether I replied to the books of Annianus,3 the fake deacon of Celeda, who dines most lavishly in order that he may serve up the frivolous words of a strange blasphemy. You should know that I received not long ago on little scraps of parchment those books sent to me by my holy brother, the priest Eusebius and then, because of either the worsening illnesses or the death of your holy and venerable daughter. Eustochium,4 I was so saddened that I almost thought that they should be ignored. For he is stuck in the same mud,5 and apart from some ringing and borrowed words he says nothing else. Still we worked hard in order that, when he tries to reply to our letter, he may reveal himself more …

1. Caelestius was am ally of Pelagius; he was condemned at the Council of Carthage in 411. Augustine wrote The Perfection of Human Righteousness against a work of Caelestius entitled Definitions.
2. The letter of Augustine to Jerome is not extant.
3. Annianus was a lesser-known follower of Pelagius.
4. Eustochium. the daughter of Paula, was the first young lady of the Roman nobility to consecrate her life to God as a virgin. Paula and Eustochium followed Jerome to Bethlehem. Eustochium assumed direction of the monastery after the death of her mother; Eustochium herself died in 418 or 419.
5. See Terence. Phormio 780.

(The preview of the translation ends there, and I don’t have time to complete it this evening).

A search by “annianus of celeda” also produces information.  I find a reference to this interesting-sounding paper!

  • Kate Cooper, ‘Annianus of Celeda and the Latin Readers of John Chrysostom’, Studia Patristica 27 (1993), 249–55

It would be good to gather whatever primary sources there are for Annianus.

Eusebius update

I’ve started working through the 6 pages of revisions to proof text the Greek and Latin text of the forthcoming Eusebius Gospel Problems and Solutions.  Most of them are indeed proof corrections, which is something — missing commas or closing quotes and the like.  I’m going to see if I can move this forward in the evenings.

Meanwhile Lightning Source have decided — after a week — that they need yet more signatures from me in order to take my money, bless them.   Apparently some more of the boxes needed them, than the ones I spotted.  You wonder how they continue to exist!  But it isn’t holding anything up.

The cover design is pretty much clear in my mind.  A company logo will appear on it, and the design company has produced some good ideas.  It looks as if a Latin motto will be required, tho.  Anyone any ideas?  Thinking of Lightning Source inevitably leads me to Illegitimis non carborundum, but of course we can’t use that.

UPDATE: I managed to process around 20% of the proof corrections into the PDF tonight.  Better than I had thought!

How to find a lost manuscript of Eusebius

The lost manuscript of the full text of Eusebius’ Gospel problems and solutions was last seen in Sicily five centuries ago.  But it could quite possibly still be there.

It might be nice to search for Sicilian mss.  I was thinking about it last night.  We have a couple of clues.  Latino Latini writes that Sirleto had seen the ms. in Sicily.
1.  We need to work out what Cardinal Sirleto was doing in Sicily, and where he was doing it.  A study of his life should provide clues, and possibly his correspondence is extant (published would be nice, but improbable).  This might tell us where he found the ms.
2.  We need to work out what collections of Greek mss exist in Sicily, and also which were taken elsewhere (to Naples? to Spain?)  An enquiry of specialists like N.G.Wilson should provide clues.  Are there Greek abbeys there?
3.  We know (how) that Aurispa sent a shipment of Greek patristic mss from Constantinople to Sicily a century earlier.  Why to Sicily?  Where to?  Where might they have ended up?  Is this one?
Once we know the answers to these, and have a list of search sites, then it becomes a question of looking in catalogues, and visiting collections.
Might be an interesting project!

And more from the Chronicle of Zuqnin

This continues as follows:

In the year 1057 (745-746), Marwan went out from the Gate of the Turks.

It is written in the prophet Jeremiah: “Therefore thus says the Lord: See I will put pitfalls before this people: fathers and son will fail together; neighbour and friend will perish.”

All these things happened to the Arabs, because brothers and nephews fell into pitfalls because of their ambition.

The supporters of Abbas and those of Hisham, the son of Walid and the supporters of Marwan, who were brothers and nephews, neighbours and friends, threw themselves on one another, perished themselves and perished with them a great many men.

Jeremiah also spoke about the journey even of Merwan: “See a people comes from the land of the north; a great nation comes out of the confines of the earth; they are armed with bows and spears, they are cruel and merciless; their voice is like the sound of a rough sea; they are mounted on horses and are prepared like brave men for battle. We have learned their design and our hands have grown weak; tribulation and pain have seized us, like a woman who gives birth. Do not go out in the fields and do not walk at all in the road because of the sword of the enemy.” And Isaiah also said, speaking of them: “I have raised him up from the north, he will come from the East, he will call on my name; they will take the judges and treat them like the mud that the potter tramples under his feet,” and again: “From the north the evil will spread over all the inhabitants of the earth.”

When Marwan had invaded Mesopotamia and subjected it, he established governors in all the cities, and even in Mosul. Then, having assembled a large army, he made it advance rapidly with workers and engineers.

The supporters of Abbas went to the West. Yazid, who had killed Walid, died after a reign of six months, and [45] his brother Ibrahim took his place.

The latter, on learning that Marwan had crossed the Euphrates with a large army, and that Mesopotamia had submitted, was seized with fear. “They shook and staggered like drunken men.”

He first sent Nouaim Ibn Thabit against Marwan, with a considerable army. It is reported of this man that he had seventy sons.

They then marched against each other and engaged in battle: the whole army of Ibn Thabit was destroyed and cut to pieces in the presence of Marwan.

The supporters of Ibrahim seeing that Marwan had triumphed in this first battle were afraid, and gathered innumerable forces, bringing even the country people to fight with slingshots.

Both armies advanced against each other, and having met, encamped at `Ain Gara.
After numerous engagements, and after many men had fallen continuously on both sides, Marwan finally gained the victory and cut Ibrahim to pieces and his brothers, who had run away, and Soliman, son of Hisham. No similar battle ever happened in the world; never in any place was so much blood as in this place. Even the people of the countryside — more than five thousand men — perished.

Merwan after his victory besieged Emesa, captured it and threw down its walls. He also removed the corpse of Yazid from its tomb and had it crucified head downwards.

He also took, from a certain Jew, four hundred thousand [pieces] of gold.

Back to the Chronicle of Zuqnin

The plague is raging in the East in the 740’s AD.  We’ve already seen quite enough about it, but the chronicler is not finished.  He ends his description of it as follows:

Everywhere, those who remained – a very small-number –removed the dead, and all day without pause carried them away, threw them down as one would throw a stone on a mound, then back, take another, and go out again, to throw it down the same way. Many lacked neighbours: they were seen lying on the streets and eaten by dogs, because there was no one to bury them. Each was only sufficient for his own house: several workers were even hired just to carry the corpses from the house or from public places because of their putrefaction. And so was fulfilled the saying: “I have brought up the smell of their rotting to your nostrils,” and another: “The earth wept and lamented.”

Soon there were no more tears, no sorrow nor pain: because every man was already knocking on the door of the tomb. Gold and silver were despised as dung: so that if on the wives or virgins there was gold, silver or precious ornaments, no-one would stretch out their hand to take anything, not even the parents of their children: because they felt that soon they would come with them into the tomb and their rottenness would mingle with theirs.

And now, my beloved ones, is it not so reasonable that I weep tears? What sobbing can suffice? What breaking of the heart, what grief, what lamentations, what groans, what pains will be sufficient when I see old men, and men of all ages and sizes, slaughtered and lying down like cedar tree-trunks!

The great mercy of God appeared even in this scourge: firstly because it fell first on the poor who were lying in the streets of cities: everywhere it was through them that it began, [42] and when they were all dead, then this terrible rod turned against the rich and the lords of the cities.

These two things happened by the divine mercy, so as to benefit both parties. First for the city-dwellers, because they showed their zeal for justice and gained for their souls great benefit from their care for the poor, while they were taking care of them; they buried them, organised their funerals and buried them with great mourning, with care, with fear and zeal. Then [for the poor], because if the scourge had hit them at the same time as the others, how would it have been possible, because of their stench, for their fleshless bones to be removed from the streets? For they would have lacked those who could deal with them, if it had not first visited them, when everyone was healthy, upright and well: then care was taken to remove them, in order to bury them, those who had no one to bury them. Subsequently, the scourge caused the powerful, who were relying on their tombs and funeral directors, to remain without graves, so that not one of them had a burial service. The scourge, in fact, turned on the great when the poor had been buried, and death overtook them all, from the smallest to the greatest: none of them was left. Even those who escaped this calamity, and did not die, withdrew, as they could, away from the towns. At the end, those who survived were struck with a terrible wound, in the groin: some with one, the others with two. What had happened to the dead took place among the living.  They were suddenly seized with pain [43] in the groin, and soon, by this sign, those who had escaped death acquired the certainty of suffering more severely thus than by the cruel death. Their groins swelled up, became swollen and burst, and it produced large, deep ulcers that produced a flow of blood, pus and water, day and night, like a spring. After that there was a great languor in which they remained, some one month, others two, five, six months to a year, many even two years. Many of them were affected forever.

Then was fulfilled the prophecy which says: “The water will flow from all the knees,” and: “Every human heart will rot.” and another: “On all their heads will be baldness.”

It happened so in the present time. Anyone who had survived his family or tribe would fall into this infirmity. It happened that his two legs were left running with water and even blood and pus, until his head became bald, and because of that, those who survived, few in number, were not recognizable, at least they were not recognized and were distinguished by their clothing. We could not discern the priests and monks: all had become bald. As it was in the groin, so it was at the armpit and neck. Most were quickly released from this evil, others were after some time, others will never fully recover their health.

But, while this calamity was enveloping the region on all sides like the pains of childbirth oppress pregnant women, the Arabs did not cease to fight and injure each other. When Merwan went out from the Gate of the Turks, the whole earth was troubled and agitated. [44]

What happens when the state pulls out of Constantine’s deal with the church?

Phil Snider has (somehow) been reading Ephrem’s Hymns against Julian the apostate.  His summary of what they say is fascinating, and may be very relevant to our world.

I’ve always been interested in these hymns, but as far as I knew, no translation existed in any modern language.  Does anyone know of one?

UPDATE: Apparently there is one, in Samuel Lieu, The emperor Julian: panegyric and polemic, Liverpool 2, 1996.  This contains a panegyric by Claudius Mamertinus; Chrysostom’s Homily on St. Babylas, against Julian and the pagans XIV-XIX (so presumably not complete); and Ephrem the Syrian’s Hymns against Julian.  The latter fills 24 pages of a TTH volume, so is not all that long.

The book also contains the following information on editions and translations:

The HcJul. were first published by J. Overbeck in his florilegium of Syriac writers: S. Ephraemi Syri, Rabulaei episcopi Edesseni, Balaei aliorumque opera selecta (Oxford, 1865) pp. 3-20. They were translated into German with brief notes by G. Bickell in his article: ‘Die Gedichte des hl. Ephräm gegen Julian den Apostaten’, Zeitschrift für katholische Theologie, II (1878) pp. 335-56. Bickell’s translation was republished with fuller introduction and notes by S. Euringer in Bibliothek der Kirchenvater, (Kempten and Munich, 1919) pp. 199-238. The most recent edition and the one on which the present translation is based is that of E. Beck, Des heiligen Ephraem des Syrers Hymnen de Paradiso und Contra Julianum, CSCO 175 (text) and 176 (trans.), (Louvain, 1957). There is an unpublished Oxford B. Litt, thesis on the poems (with translation) by P. C. Robson, A Study of Ephraem Syrus Hymns Against Julian the Apostate and the Jews (Ms. B. Litt. d. 1411, 1969). Hymn IV, 18-23 has been translated into English by Sebastian Brock in the appendix to his edition of the Syriac letter attributed to Cyril of Jerusalem on the rebuilding of the Temple (Brock, 1977,283-4).

I had forgotten that the BKV texts are online, thanks to Gregor Emmeneger, here, which includes the four hymns against Julian, starting here.

I’m going to have a Religionsgesprach

One of the drawbacks of doing too much is that you tend to deal with emails a  bit too hastily.  One of those too hasty “yes that is fine” has come back to bite me.

Regular readers will remember that I commissioned a translation of all the fragments of Philip of Side.  Five of these are taken from a curious text, the Religionsgesprach am Hof der Sassaniden.  This is a fictional 6th century text, purporting to record a dialogue at the Sassanid Persian court between Christians and Jews.  It was edited by  Bratke, and reedited by Pauline Bringel in an amazingly erudite but unpublished(!) PhD thesis.  (All this I have discussed in previous posts tagged “Philip of Side”.)

Unfortunately I had a miscommunication with the translator, who had done some of the RGS for context, and he understood me to be commissioning a translation of the whole text.  It’s 45 pages of Bratke, 1007 lines of about 8.5 words per line, i.e. around 8,500 words.  Not small!  But he’s already done over half of it, and in fact the only question is whether the remaining portion is commissioned or not.  Since that will come out at around $200 — morally I must pay for the rest — I may as well bite the bullet.

Not that I really mind that much.  I suspect it might have been a long time before anyone ever translated the text otherwise!  So  it’s all for the good in the end.  I was hankering to translate it anyway, since I hate do excerpts of things.  But … I must learn to read more carefully.  “Always practice safe grammar” — one of  the rules of Count Yor.

When it is done, like the Philip of Side, I’ll put it in the public domain and make it available online.

Eusebius book to be delayed

I had intended to try to get the Eusebius book out in September.  I have just realised that this must be impossible. 

I have quite a list of things which depend on others.  The Greek can’t be proof-read any sooner than 20 September, and it may be later.  I can’t proceed without the approval of the Sources Chretiennes, who are all evidently on holiday.  Coptic corrections will be needed; and then corrections at proof.  There needs to be a book cover, there needs to be a website, and all manner of other things. 

If I have to hunt for jobs in September, as I do, then that will interfere.  And if I start a job, for the first three weeks I won’t be able to do anything else.  Starting a job is very stressful, without having urgent corresp

So … we may as well all relax.  If it comes out in December, so be it. It will take as long as it takes.