Don’t buy that textbook, download it for free

An interesting article in the NY Times on the problems caused by very high textbook prices, and a revolt against traditional academic publishing:

I suspect the very low quality of many textbooks — compared to commercial products operating in a free market — is also a factor.


“αιρετικον ανθρωπον” (Titus 3:10)

How should we translate “αιρετικον ανθρωπον”, in Titus 3:10?  Looking at the Bible Gateway site, I find an interesting range.  Greek;

  • KJV: “A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject”
  • NIV: “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.”
  • NASB: “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning”;
  • ESV: “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him”;
  • Darby: “An heretical man after a first and second admonition have done with”
  • NRSV: “After a first and second admonition, have nothing more to do with anyone who causes divisions
  • Vulgate: “hereticum hominem post unam et secundam correptionem devita”

The term here is “hairetikon anthropon”, singular and masculine and accusative. 

The most natural English usage would appear to be ‘heretic’ or ‘heretical man’.  Why don’t we say so?  How would we translate this in a patristic text? The Vulgate does not hesitate to say “haereticum hominem” – “heretic man”.

A heretic is not necessarily a “divisive person”, after all.  The Greek word, surely, will relate more to the variety of belief in the philosophical schools (haereses) than to modern ecumenism, or indeed even to 4th and 5th century doctrinal debates?

Perhaps someone with the relevant tools at hand would care to do a word-study on this.  What really is meant here?


First English translation of Hippolytus “On the Song of Songs”

Yancy Smith writes as a comment on this post

I have recently completed a rough draft of a Ph.D. dissertation that includes an English translation of the Georgian text and Greek epitome (as well as other fragments and florilegia extracts) of Hippolytus “On the Song of Songs.” I am looking for a potential publisher once the dissertation gets passed. Any suggestions?

This is excellent news, to get a translation from so marginal a language of an interesting Ante-Nicene text!

Anyone got suggestions for Yancy? Ideally ones that mean that the text (a) gets published somewhere prestigious and (b) the raw translation at least appears online somehow so people actually read it.


Taking my machine translator to Agapius

The Kitab al-Unwan (World History) of the 10th century Arabic Christian writer Agapius runs from creation down to his own times, divided into two halves by the birth of Christ.  It was published a century ago in the Patrologia Orientalis, in 4 chunks, and three of those are online at  They were published by a Russian, with a French translation.

In my hotel room in the evenings, I’ve been translating the French into English.  It’s very simple French, as might be expected.

Last weekend I scanned the first half of the second part (PO7) into my PC, ran Finereader 8 optical character recognition (OCR) software, and proofed the results (which took very little work).  I did find that the online PDF’s are at 200dpi or less — almost unusable for OCR –, so I had to buy a copy and scan it at 400dpi. 

I then ran the French text through a little utility to split it up into sentences with newlines.  I then ran that through my elderly desktop copy of Systran 3.0.  The quality of translation was really very good indeed!  I then ran both the input and the output through another little utility to interleave the sentences of French and English, thereby making it easiest for me to produce the final version.

This week I’ve been working on the output file on a little hand-held personal digital assistant.  The latter is pretty much useless, even though I bought a keyboard for it.  But I’ve been able to work, and make quite a  bit of progress.  The result will appear online eventually (I already posted the French into some French-language newsgroup online, in case it might encourage them).

I suggest that we need to consider whether some of the older Patrologia Orientalis translations may merely be awaiting someone with a minimal level of knowledge of French to be made more widely available.

I’ve also been trying to get hold of a copy of the Italian translation of the Annals of Agapius’ contemporary historian, Eutychius.  No copy of that book exists in any UK library!  I’ve found a bookseller in Jerusalem who says he has one (isn’t the web wonderful!).  It will be interesting to see if there are any good machine translators of Italian!


The September 2008 Bloodsucker Award: the John Rylands Library

The digital camera is a blessing!  Suddenly it has become possible to take cheap good quality colour digital images.

But you wouldn’t know it, judging from the response of some libraries.  Bear in mind that a microfilm of an entire manuscript used to cost about £30 ($60).

At the moment I’m wandering around looking for manuscripts of the World Chronicle of Elmacin (Al-Makin ibn-Amid) which are complete and of which I can obtain a copy at a reasonable price.  The latter is proving a challenge!

So I’m going to institute the Bloodsucker Award.  I will award it, ad hoc, to institutions in receipt of state funding which in order to make money violate their primary directive; to make books available and promote learning.

The first recipient is the John Rylands Library in Manchester.  A truly sterling effort this one.

“We do hold the MS you enquire about Rylands Arabic MS 239 (43), The History of Ibnul-Amid, 131 leaves, 17 lines to the page. For a complete copy of this item you would need to order 132 openings to be scanned and we could provide the entire item as either jpegs or PDF. The costs for each option are below. “

Note that the PDF means low-grade scans. 

Jpeg                       PDF

132 x £3.00 = 396.00       132 x £1.50 = £198.00

Plus postage = £4.50       Plus postage = £4.50

Plus VAT of £70.09         Plus VAT of £35.44

 Total cost = £470.59       Total cost = £237.94

Double these figures for dollars.

What a fantastic effort!  For the equivalent of a £50 microfilm, charge 5 times that.  For snapping the shutter on a digital camera 113 times — perhaps 3 hours work for a technician, say £20 per hour — charge almost £500!!

Well done the John Rylands for obstructing the cause of research!  Of course the cream of the joke is that these prices don’t actually make them any money; because if you ask a million dollars, and no-one pays it, you don’t get a million dollars, you get nothing.


Link to Ezra Levant

This is not a political blog and will not become one.  But I have chosen to link this weblog to what is definitely a political blog, that of Ezra Levant, in order to indicate my support for him and his campaign. 

For those who have not heard of him, he is being persecuted by the Canadian Human Rights Commission for daring to express some thoughts that that government organisation thought were unacceptable.  He published the Danish cartoons on Mohammed in Canada, in fact. 

Canada has no legal right of free speech.  In fact it has so-called “anti-hate” laws — the government deciding what views it calls ‘hate’! — designed to stifle free expression.  In Canada, the HRC is the organ of enforcement, and it has got very greedy with its powers. 

This weblog is focused on antiquity, not political or religious controversy.  There must be few weblogs likely to attract the ire of the professionally offended than this one. 

But on the other hand, when a state creates a body designed to ‘chill’ discussion, to enforce a programme of Right Thinking, I fear that we are all at risk.  This is why I have decided to indicate my support for Ezra, and I hope that you will all do likewise. whatever your politics or religion.  His blog makes chilling reading. 

I won’t repeat it all here.  Ezra expresses the problem with wit and charm, and I can safely leave you in his hands.

The rise of the internet has meant a general increase in personal freedom for ordinary people.  As might be expected, there is no lack of greedy businessmen or politicians or pressure groups who would love to take it over.  To do so, they will claim to ‘protect us’ against something; even if they have to manufacture that threat.  The Canadian HRC’s were brought into existence after Neo-Nazi’s appeared in Canada in the 70’s.  Yet it turns out that these Neo-Nazi’s were trained and organised by an agent of the Canadian Jewish Congress, precisely to stir up enough anger that “hate laws” to stifle free speech might be enacted.  This was unwise; and now it is Islamic extremists making use of the same precedents to stifle Jews who criticise Islam.  The list of “things that may not be thought” grows longer every year, of course, as every pressure group naturally rushes to try to get itself added to the list of privileged groups who may not be criticised.

All this is a  nasty, Nazi business.  I do not want to write this blog in fear that I will be treated as Ezra has been.  If I publish a translation of Michael Paleologus, Dialogue with a learned Moslem — as quoted by Pope Benedict XV — I don’t want some civil servant hauling me in for “a discussion.”

Do we want that sort of censorship?  Let’s support the man, and express our contempt for any government that can abolish free speech in response to a dishonest campaign by a self-interested pressure group.


Eusebius, Quaestiones 1: Summer recess update

Earlier this year I commissioned two translators to produce an English translation of a previously untranslated work.  The work is the Quaestiones of Eusebius of Caesarea.  It’s an FAQ on differences between the gospels. 

The work itself is lost, but a long epitome of 16 questions was discovered by Angelo Mai in a Vatican manuscript.  In addition bits of the full text exist in medieval Greek commentaries made up of chains of quotations (catenas).  The commentary on Luke by Nicetas has quite a number.  So far I have 40 Greek fragments.  In addition the work was translated into Syriac, and fragments from Syriac catenas also exist.

At the moment the Greek translator is on Summer recess.  The Syriac grinds slowly forward; of the 12 fragments, 1-5 and 12 are done.  But I have discovered that quotations also exist in Coptic gospel catenas.  I have a copy of one, published by de Lagarde, and this definitely contains quotations from Eusebius.

I’ve advertised for someone with knowledge of Coptic to translate these passages also.

I’ve also begun to think about the physical manufacture of the book, design, layout etc.  I wish I knew more about these things.


Pinakes – Database of Greek Manuscripts online

The IRHT have placed their database of manuscripts of Greek texts online.  Named ‘Pinakes’, it can be accessed at:

The interface is a bit unusual.  You go to ‘Recherche’, where you are invited to enter the name of the author.  You do this in upper case, Latin-type names, with ‘u’ as ‘V’.  So EVSEBIVS, not Eusebios.  If you give it a chance, as you type you’ll get a list of suggestions appear.  You also have to choose from a drop-down list of works.

The database contains 200,000 entries.  It’s very minimal; just the library, shelfmark, and maybe folios for each work.  But it’s tremendous to have this online!

The IRHT invite comments indicating where it needs to be supplemented.  I’ve already seen the Eusebian entries are very incomplete.  I might just send in a few!


Manuscript catalogues online at

Do a search in for “manuscrits” and you will find very quickly catalogues of all the French public libraries, in very many volumes.  Repeat the search as “manuscripts” and you will find catalogues of holdings at Cambridge colleges, the Bodleian, Cambridge University Library, and many western and oriental collections.  Truly this is a precious resource!