Back to Agapius

Am I the only person who is terribly easily led?  Someone writes to me about a project that I had put to one side, and the next thing I know I’m dusting it off and working on it again.

I’ve started doing a little more on the translation of Agapius.  Specifically I’ve scanned in the remainder of the pages for part 2.2, which takes us to the end of the manuscript, some time in the Abbassid period.  I’ve also run Finereader 9.0 over them — and goodness, isn’t that a fine piece of OCR software!  Beautiful recognition quality.

I need to get back to translating 2.2, and turning more of it into English.  Perhaps I can do some of that in the evenings this week.


I am objective, you are biased, he is a fundamentalist bigot; blogs and the SBL

Bill Mounce runs a Christian blog, Koinonia, and happened to mention that:

ETS is now over and many of the people have move on to Boston to attend IBR (Institute of Biblical Research) and SBL (Society of Biblical Literature), which is the largest of the three organizations.  SBL is the least friendly of the organizations toward evangelicals and therefore perhaps our greatest opportunity for engagement in a non-evangelical theological culture.

For some reason Jim West decided to ridicule him for this, surely fairly banal comment:

So -what can SBL do to be ‘friendly’ to the poor, benighted, oppressed inerrantists?  Formulate a statement of faith asserting biblical inerrancy and force members to sign it or be denied membership?  Deny membership to anyone with a different point of view?  (etc)

Phew! This is the language of hate, not reasoned discourse.  Or is the SBL something Holy That Must Not Be Criticised? 

James McGrath noted this exchange, and it was his comment that I found most interesting:

That post helps clarify what the issue is: at SBL we study the Bible, have to face critical scrutiny of our arguments from others, and cannot get away with simply imposing our presuppositions on the text. So indeed, those who want that should look elsewhere, but the irony is that those who do go elsewhere form sectarian groups that manage to persuade themselves that they are the ones who are treating the Bible with respect by shielding it from the honest critical investigation of mainstream Biblical scholarship.

Those of us with a habit of looking at arguments from all sides will recognise that this is open to the objection that he is merely saying that the views he agrees with are objective, “honest”, “critical”, it seems; those of others are not.  But asserting it does not make it so; indeed usually indicates the reverse.

Isn’t treating the bible as NOT inspired just as much a religious position as treating it as inspired?  Is there any practical difference between treating the bible like this, and treating the bible as uninspired?  The latter is emphatically NOT a value-neutral position, after all. To say that “we cannot get away with simply imposing our presuppositions on the text” is the problem; that is precisely what any such gathering must do, once it decides to reject the Christian perspective as a “presupposition”.

The tendency for those who study the bible from the non-Christian point of view to treat this as if it was objective has gone on for at least a century.  Christians naturally demur, and quite rightly.  It’s time to recognise that, on issues of politics and religion, there is no neutrality.  We Christians notice the animosity — and Jim West will help any who don’t! Instead, wouldn’t it be more constructive to manage the various biases, rather than blandly claiming objectivity for one side?

Postscript: Jim West did not comment on this post.  James McGrath posted three comments, all essentially the same, attacking the ETS instead of addressing the post or engaging in dialogue.  When he posted yet another, I was forced to moderate it, as he knew I would have to – brinking me, in effect (I explain this version of trolling in the comments). Then he posted a further FOUR diatribes; eight in total.  He then scampered back to his own blog and attacked me personally for being “intolerant” in a further three posts.  I admit to being mildly amused at provoking such a vicious rage for merely querying whether the SBL was doing the right thing! 

I’m not a member of either the ETS or the SBL.  But the original query was whether the SBL was as welcoming as it might be to Christians.  The response of its defenders was to viciously attack the Christians in a frankly hysterical manner.  Still, this indicates just why the Christians feel hostility – because, indeed, there is hostility. 


Antioch, Mithras, and Libanius

Christopher Ecclestone writes a very informative post on al-Masudi referencing a possible shrine of Mithras in Antioch next to the Grand Mosque; and follows it up by discussing ancient “universities.”  There is a charming quotation from Libanius, who was unable to get many (paying) pupils until he took over a shop near the marketplace and sat there all day.  “Today’s special offer at the philosophy shop… Libanius!”


Agapius translation – great minds think alike

The Arabic history of Agapius was published with a  very simple French translation in the Patrologia Orientalis.  Since there is no English translation of this interesting work, I’ve been working on making one from the French.  The PO version was made by a Russian, so is not complex French and machine translators can make quite a good attempt at it.

I heard today from another online chap, who has been doing the same!  He’s suggesting we look at collaboration, or at least avoiding doing the same job twice.  That would be sensible, I think.

I never imagined that there was any risk of someone else doing this.  I felt a bit shifty about it; translating a translation is a bit rubbish.  But after a century it is clear that no-one was going to make an English translation of any of the five important Arabic Christian histories.  Maybe my efforts might provoke one!

In a way, we’re looking at a positive spiral here.  An amateur does a rubbishy translation of part of it from French, which provokes another amateur to do a better one, which provokes someone who knows Arabic to improve the situation again, which leads a professional to do an academic version.  That’s what is happening with Eusebius Chronicle (more or less!), and everyone benefits as momentum takes hold.

Of course there is a negative spiral possible, as Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie found out almost a century ago.  He produced some bad translations of Proclus, often from the French.  No-one took any notice.  The only person to take any notice was a now-forgotten academic, who published a review slagging them off as worthless.  So Guthrie was discouraged, no-one else was motivated to do better, and to this day the works he attempted have never received a proper translation.

Let’s hope that everyone who sees efforts like mine will think “I can do better” — and do better; rather than spend time debunking them.  Per ardua ad astra.


Greek words in the first millennium

This post at Vitruvian Design is very timely to a man trying to write some Greek->English translation software.  I can’t comment on it from behind this firewall, so will comment here.

I am delighted to see someone else interested in getting a master list of Greek words and morphologies for the first thousand years.  I must look into this project that is referred to.  The problem, surely, will be patristic Greek; and the answer would be to turn G.W.H.Lampe’s Patristic Lexicon into an XML file, in the same way that Perseus have done for Liddell and Scott.  Someone would have to argue with Oxford, who own the copyright; but for non-commercial use, I expect a license could be negotiated.  Lampe is out of print anyway.

I think that I know why Liddell and Scott give weird accusatives as an extra entry.  The book is designed for manual use, and someone finding an odd word is liable to look for something in that form, rather than the unknown to them base form.  But such things are unnecessary in a digital file, I agree.

Not all of the files mentioned in the post are known to me.  I know that an XML file of L&S exists in the Perseus Hopper, and also in the Diogenes download.  But I’m not clear where to find the “invaluable list” by Peter Heslin resulting from running the Perseus morphologiser over the TLG disk E.  A morphology file greek.morph.xml is part of the Perseus Hopper download.

The issue of mismatches between this and L&S is quite interesting.  I’d like to follow this more.

But one obvious omission is the New Testament.  The morphology list in MorphGNT is also available; and English meanings in the XML file of Strong’s dictionary.  These too need integrating into the project, I would suggest.

All this work is enormously valuable.  The project is also trying to establish something shockingly fundamental; a list of extant Greek literature!

I’m not sure how I feel about this.  I agree that the task should be undertaken — indeed it’s appallingly hard to find out these things, as I found out when I wanted a list of manuscript traditions — , but it seems a digression from the main IT-related task.  They’ve decided to start with poets; again, a minority taste.  I can’t help feeling that this task should be spun off.

The post also introduces me to Epidoc, of which I know little, in the context of converting to and from unicode.  If some way to do this reliably exists, I want it!  More details here.  This is the ‘transcoder’.

All in all, a super post!


Better OCR with Finereader 9

Last night I ran Finereader 9 over a 400-page English translation from 1936 that I had scanned some time ago at 400 dpi.  I then settled down for the onerous task of correcting scanner errors; only to find very few indeed.  There were perhaps a dozen in the whole book!  Probably if I had just exported it to Word and used the spell-checker, I would have found most of them.

I repeated the exercise on another text, with the same result.

FR9 is perceptibly better than FR8 at OCR.  It has some annoyances in the user-interface.  Worse it forces me to use my Plustek Opticbook 3600 at 300dpi or 600dpi, when FR8 allowed 400 dpi (the optimal resolution).  But the fact is that there has been a considerable advance here. 

When I look back ten years to the misery of “99% accurate” recognition (i.e. 6 errors a page), it is truly amazing.  Recommended.


Fixed width Greek unicode fonts

I’ve been trying to work with the latest version of Jim Tauber’s MorphGNT text file.  For those who don’t know it, it contains all the words in the Greek New Testament, one per line, each identified as noun/verb/plural/whatever, with the word itself as found in the text, plus the dictionary form of the word.  No English meaning; but that can be got from using the dictionary form to look up the meaning in the XML file of Strong’s dictionary.

The Greek used to be present in beta-code, but Jim has now converted to unicode.  That’s fine; except that you now need a font in which to work on it.  Like most text files, you want a fixed-width font.

I suspect Jim does his magic on linux, where one is available.  But on Windows there is no such free font.  I understand, tho, that the new version of “Courier New” shipped in Vista will do the trick.

I came across this discussion in a typographic forum, where a Microsoft font-person lurks.  It lists some of the possible commercial fonts you could use.


In whom is our salvation…

Some excellent posts for Christians at Spirit-filled Puritan about the current crises.  The ones that struck me all had to do with placing our trust in God, not in a particular outcome of the economy.  I have been unable to find blogs online where God is at the centre, rather than religion – even if it sounds like ‘our’ religion.  Isn’t that strange?


Harnack talks gospel catena manuscripts – in German

I’ve now discovered that Harnack listed manuscripts of the gospel catenas in Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur, Teil 1, Halfte 2., pp. 838-40.  Here’s what he says (although all those abbreviations make it very hard for any non-specialist not already familiar with the literature!):

VI.       Catenen zum NT. hat J. A. Cramer veröffentlicht (8 Bde. Oxon. 1838 ff.) Aber diese Ausgabe bezeichnet nach jeder Richtung hin nur einen sehr be­scheidenen Anfang, und sie entspricht in keiner Hinsicht den Anforderungen, die man heute an eine kritische Ausgabe einer Catene zu stellen berechtigt ist.  Gegenüber der Catene des Nikephoros bedeutet sie sogar ohne Frage einen Rückschritt.

Eine Catene zu den vier Evv. ist m. W. bisher noch nicht gedruckt S. Cod. Paris. 178 sc. XI. 187 sc. XI. 191 sc XI. 230 f. 41 sc. XI. — Coislin. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. sc. XI. 195 f. 10 sc. X. — Venet. Marc. 27 sc X. — Bodl. Laud. 33 sc. XI. Misc gr. 1 sc. XII (wie es scheint, sind die Namen der excer­pirten Autoren bei den beiden letzten Catenen ausgelassen. Ob auch bei den anderen in den genannten Hss. befindlichen, vermag ich nicht anzugeben. Wäre das nicht der Fall, so würden die Hss. immerhin für die Textherstellung der die Namen nennenden Catenen zu verwerten sein).

Zu Matth. ist eine Catene des Nicetas. in der u. a. Clemens Al., Euseb., Gregor. Thaumat., Irenaeus, Origenes (Marcion, Montanus) citirt werden, von Petr. Possinus (Tolosae 1646) nach einer Hs. des Erzbischofs von Toulouse, Ch. de Montchal, und der Abschnitt eines Cod. Vatic. herausgegeben worden. Eine andere hat Balth. Corderius (Tolos. 1647) nach einem Cod. Monac. edirt (u. a. Clemens Al., Iren.) Cramer benutzte für seine Ausgabe den Cod. Coislin. 23 sc XI und teilte am Ende des Bandes noch die Varianten des Cod. Bodl. Auct T. 1. 4 sc X mit. 

Hss: Cod. Vatic gr. 349. 1423. — Hieros. S. Sab. 232 sc. X. — Matrit. O. 62. 63 sc XIV. — Paris. gr. 188 sc XI f. 1 (unter dem Namen des Chrysostomus) 193 sc. XV. 194 sc. XIII (Mt. u. Mc.). 199 sc. XII (Chrysost.-cat ebenso die flgdd.). 200 sc XI. 201 sc XI. 202 sc. XII. 203 sc XII (Chrysost et Petrus [?] in Comm. Mt). 231 sc XII (Mt. Lc. Joh.) — Coislin. 24 sc XI (Mt. Mc.) (vgl. Bodl. Misc. gr. 30 sc XV, in der nur Autoren citirt werden, die nach 325 fallen). 

Zu Marcus hat ebenfalls Petr. Possinus eine Catene nach einer Hs. des­selben Erzbisohofs (s. o.) herausgegeben; dazu hat er noch eine Catene unter dem Namen des Chrysostomus benutzt, die Corderius einem Cod. Vatic. entnahm, und endlich den Commentar des Victor Antioch., der bereits vorher lateinisch von Peltanus veröffentlicht worden war (Ingolstadt 1580). Der Commentar des Victor Antioch. ist dann griechisch nach Moskauer Hss. von Matthaei (Biktwros presb. A0ntiox… e0ch/ghsij ei0j to\ kata\ Ma/rkon eu0agge/lion, Mosquae 1775) edirt worden. Cramer (Cat in NT. I, Ozon. 1840) benutzte eine längere und eine kürzere Recension, von denen die erste unter dem Namen des Cyrillus Alex. (— Chrysost?), die andere unter dem des Victor steht. 

Die von Cramer benutzten Hss. sind Cod. Bodl. Laud. 33 sc. XII, Coislin. 23 sc X, Paris. gr. 178. Vgl. ferner: Cod. Hierosol. S. Sab. 263 sc. XIII. — Cod. Patm. 57 sc XII (nach Sakkelion, Patm. bibl. p. 46 von Possinus ver­schieden). — Vatic. Reg. 6 sc XVI. — Cod. Paris. 188 sc XI f. 141. 194 sc XIII (Cat in Mt. et Mc). 206 a. 1307 (Victor) Coislin. 24 sc XI (Cat in Mt. et Mc). 206 1. 2. sc XI (Chrysost et alior. patr. comm. in IV evv.). Über einen Cod. Vindob. s. Kollarius zu Lambecius, Comment. III, p. 157sq. (Cod. XXXVIII) — theol. gr. 117? 

Die in der Catene genannten Schriftsteller (darunter Clemens Al. str. XLV [lies V, p. 573 s. Fabricius-Harl., l. c. p. 675], Euseb. dem. ev. III, ad Marin. c XIII, epitom. chron., canon. chronic., Irenaeus, Justin, Marcioniten, Origenes [darunter Citate ans dem VI. tom. in Joh.: s. Cramer p. 266, 12 sqq. — Orig. in Joh. VI, 14 p. 215, 5-14 Lomm., Cramer p. 314 — Orig. VI, 24, p. 239, 6-21 Lomm.], Valentinianer) s. bei Fabr.-Harl., l. c. 675. 

Eine Catene zu Lucas hat B. Corderius Antverp. 1628 nur lateinisch ver­öffentliche nach einem Cod. Venet Marc (er nennt ausserdem einen Cod. [Monac] und Viennensis). Der griechische Text ist leider noch immer nicht veröffentlicht. 

Einen Commentar, der auf den des Titus v. Bostra zurückgeht, veröffentlichte Cramer, Caten. in NT. II, Oxon. 1841 nach Cod. Bodl. Auct. T. 1.4 und Laud. 33.

Die weitaus wichtigere Catene zu Luc. (von Nicetas v. Serrae), für die wir noch immer auf die lateinische Übersetzung des Corderius angewiesen sind, findet sich in folgenden Hss. Cod. Vatic. 1611. 759 (von c. 12 ab) vgl. Cod. Vatic. 1270. 349. 758. 1423. 547. — Casanat. G. V. 14. — Vatic. Palat 20 sc. XIII. Vatic. Regin. 3 sc. XI. 6 sc XVI. — Hierosol. S. Sabae. 263 sc. XIII. — Paris. 208 sc XIV. 211 sc. XIII (Joh., Luc). 212 sc. XIII. 213 sc. XIV. 231 sc. XII. 232 sc XII. — Monac. 33 sc. XVI. 473 sc. XIII (vgl. 208 sc X f. 235). — Bodl. Misc. 182 sc. XI f. 174b. (Vgl. Paris. 193 sc XV, der Fragmente enthalt).

Ein Verzeichniss der Autoren (darunter Clemens Al., Dionys. Al., Euseb., [Gregor. Thaumat.?], Hippolyt., Irenaeus, Justinus, Method., Origenes) s. bei Fabricius-Harl., l. c. p. 687 sqq. 

Zu Johannes ist eine Catene ebenfalls von Balth. Corderius, Antverp. 1630 herausgegeben worden (nach einer Trierer Hs.). Eine kürzere edirte Cramer, Cat in NT II, Oxon. 1841.

Hss: Cod. Matrit O. 10. O. 32. — Paris. 188 sc XI f. 203 (unter dem Namen des Chrysostomus, wie viele der folgenden Hss.). 189 sc XII f. 1. 200 sc XI. 201 sc. XI. 202 sc. XII. 209 sc. XI-XII. 210 sc. XII. 211 sc. XIII. 212 sc. XIII. 213 sc. XIV. 231 sc. XII. — Monac. 37 sc. XVI. 208 sc. X f. 107. 437 sc XI. Laurent. VI, 18. — Vatic. Regin. 9 sc. X. — Bodl. Barocc. 225 sc. XII. Miscell. 182 sc. XI f. 174b. — Berol. Phill. 1420 sc. XVI.

Die citirten Autoren nennt Fabric-Harl., l. c p. 689 sqq. (darunter: Basi­lides, Cerinth., Iren., Marcion, Menander, Montan., Nicolaus, Novatus, Origenes, Papias, Sabellius, Saturninus).


Greek gospel catenas 4: catenas on John

There are six types of catena on John.  The bulk of all of them comes from the same sources:

  • John Chrysostom’s Sermons on John
  • Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on John
  • Ammonius
  • Origen’s Commentary on John; possibly also from the Excerpta in quasdam partes Iohannis which is attributed to him by Jerome (Letter 33, 4).

Type A: This consists of four catenas, starting in the 5-6th century and running down to the 8th century, according to Reuss.

  1. This catena contains extracts by Chrysostom and Hesychius of Jerusalem.
  2. This is an augmented version of #1, which adds extracts from Photius.
  3. This one was compiled by Leo Patricius, and is an abridged version of #1.  It adds a number of extracts without indicating the author, although in fact nearly all of them are by Chrysostom.
  4. The comprehensive version of type A adds extracts by many other fathers, including Ammonius, Apollinaris, and Theodore of Heraclea.

Type B: Two catenas make up this type.

  1. The first catena gives no names of authors for the extracts that it includes.  The compilation is attributed to Peter of Laodicea.
  2. A more complete version of the catena contains more than 800 extracts.  Most of these are by Ammonius, or preceded by the words: ἐκ διαφόρων or ἀνεπίγραφος.

Type C: This catena is mainly from John Chrysostom, and dates from the early 10th century.  The attributions are not always reliable.

Type D: This consists mainly of extracts from Ammonius, Cyril of Alexandria, Theodore of Heraclea and Theodore of Mopsuestia.  It is found in Rome, Biblioteca Vallicelliana gr. E. 40.

Type E: This catena also is mainly from John Chrysostom, and was compiled in 1080 by Nicetas of Heraclea.  Macarius Chrysocephalus’ λογός 16 uses material  from this catena.

Type F: This consists mainly of extracts from Ammonius, Cyril of Alexandria, Theodore of Heraclea and Theodore of Mopsuestia.

Others: There are also catenas on John in the following manuscripts:

  • Athos, Lavra B. 113.  Geerard labels this “Type G”.
  • Munich, State Library gr. 208.
  • Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale Suppl. gr. 1225.
  • Vatican gr. 349.
  • Vatican gr. 1229 (11-12th century)
  • Vatican gr. 1618 (16th century)
  • Rome, Biblioteca dei Lincei A. 300.

 The Curzon Coptic Catena published by de Lagarde and its Arabic descendant also contain a catena on John.

Editions: J. Reuss, Johannes-Kommentare aus der griechischen Kirche, Berlin (1966).

Studies: R. Devreese, Dictionnaire de la Bible, Supplement 1 (Paris, 1928), pp. 1194-1205, on the John catenas.  M. Geerard, Clavis Patrum Graecorum 4, pp. 242-248.  Karo and Lietzman, (as in intro), pp. 143-151.