More on the “Selecta” of Origen in the Migne edition

I’ve been looking around for more information on these mysterious chunks of Greek, found in PG 12 and PG13.  Migne is really very vague about the origins of this material, and it isn’t even mentioned in Quasten.  However at the start of PG 12, where the biblical materials of Origen begin, there is a praefatio (col. 9), which looks relevant.

The second volume of the works of Origen includes many fragments of his exegetical works on Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, …, partly already printed, some made public for the first time.  We have edited whatever remains of the Latin version by Rufinus faithfully from the old manuscripts.  But we have added the Greek fragments in this edition … whatever is collected in the Greek Catenas under the name of Origen.  I have looked at all the fragments ascribed to him, whether those of Combefis from Paris mss, or those which Ernest Grabius copied from English manuscripts.  Those were kindly communicated to me by the learned Fr. Louis de Touremine, SJ … ; but these were transmitted to me by the learned English doctors Walker and Bentley.  I have also seen the fragments which in many places appear in the various Greek Catenae of the Fathers, which were published by Corderius, Barbarus, Ghislerius, Comitolus, Patritius Junius, and others.  But the accuracy of everything in the catenas is uncertain… the names of the writer of the same fragment is given in one catena as Origen, in another as Didymus, or Eusebius, or Theodoret, or others. … [he uses his judgement as to what to include].

So it looks as if the Selecta are essentially extracts from the catenas.  Each extract in a catena relates to a specific bible verse; so the editor has merely compiled these, for each work, extract by extract, in chapter/verse order.  There seem to be Selecta printed for each of the homilies of Origen.

The title page of PG 12 tells me that the works are edited by Charles and Charles Vincent de la Rue, priests and monks of the Benedictine congregation of St. Maur.  So Migne is merely reprinting the Maurist edition, it seems; yours, according to the title page, for 15 francs.


Origen, Selecta in Ezechielem

The translation of Origen’s Homilies on Ezekiel is proceeding well.  But the Migne edition (PG 13) also contains Greek fragments, labelled Selecta in Ezechielem.  The question has arisen as to what to do about these; to translate, or not?

A google search revealed that this is mentioned in E. A. de Boer, John Calvin on the visions of Ezekiel: historical and hermeneutical studies, p.20.

To Origen the whole of Scripture, not only certain passages, has a deeper meaning. In the end, typology in theory as Smalley described it, becomes allegory in practice. Any element in the text that is not at once clear to Origen in its literal meaning, must have a deeper spiritual sense.

Origen’s sermons were taken down by stenographers during the service, written out in full afterwards and later published, the same method that gave us Calvin’s homilies. Origen does not comment on the whole book, but follows the passages agreed upon in the lectionary of the liturgy. The aim of this practice was to cover the main parts of the Bible in preaching in a set course of three years. The texts from Ezekiel came in the second year, about halfway in the cycle. Origen does not treat his whole passage exegctically, but explains it in simple terms of exhortation.5 The sermons that survive were translated by Jerome into Latin.6 When Jerome composed his own commentary (one and a half centuries later), he did not ignore the exegetical tradition.

In the original Greek we also possess Origen’s Selecta in Ezechielem, together forming a small commentary. The more difficult passages are explained in excerpta, exegetical notes or scholia on Ezek. 1-30.7 He not only occupied himself with the texts from the prophet Ezekiel, handed to him by the lectionary, but also studied the book as a whole. His commentary has not survived.8 In his various prefaces Jerome distinguished three categories in Origen’s biblical work: the commentary, the homilies and the notes.” It may be, however, that the notes on Ezekiel, gathered as Selecta, were originally part of the commentary. One thing is certain, Origen was the first Church Father who intensively occupied himself at various times with the hook of Ezekiel and left his mark on the following history of exegesis.

5 The sermons cover the following passages from Ezechiel: sermon 1: Ez. 1:1 6, 2:lff; II: 13:1-9: III: 13:1, 17-22, 14:1-8; IV: 13:14-22; V: 14:13-21, 15:1-4; VI: 16:2 16; VII: 16:16 30; VIII: 16:30 33; IX: 16:45-52; X: 16:45 52; XI: 17:1 7; XII: 17:12-21; XIII: 28: 12-23; XIV: 44:1-3. We use the edition in Sources chretiennes, vol. 352, Homilies sur Ezechiel, cd. M. Bonnet Paris: Cerf, 1989.

6 Jerome did not always translate Origen’s sermons literaly (although against the critique of Rufinus he maintained that he did), but added some material to Origen’s text (cf. E. Klostermann, as quoted by Dennis Brown, o.c., 110).

7 Selecta in Ezechielem in: Patrologiae Graecae, vol. 13 (Origenis Opera omnia), 767 -826 which cover only Chapters 1 30). These fragments were collected from the catenae.

8 A tiny parcel (on Ez. XXXIV. 17) of a commentary in twentv five books survived (PG 13, 663-665).

In searching I found a footnote in one of the somewhat dubious mythology books of J.G.Frazer, telling us that Tammuz and Adonis are identified as the same god in the Selecta in Ezechielem PG 13, col. 797.  Another page of atheist polemic states:

Origen discusses Tammuz (whom he associates with Adonis) in his “Comments on Ezekiel” (Selecta in Ezechielem), noting that “they say that for a long time certain rites of initiation are conducted: first, that they weep for him, since he has died; second, that they rejoice for him because he has risen from the dead (apo nekrôn anastanti)” (cf. J.-P. Migne, Patrologiae Cursus Completus: Series Graeca 13:800).

This is apparently the only reference in antiquity to the resurrection of Tammuz, so beloved of a certain sort of Jesus=paganism polemicist.

David W. Chapman, discussing Ancient Jewish and Christian perceptions of crucifixion, tells us that the only link between crucifixion and the Tau cross is found in Tertullian, Adv. Marc. iii, 22:5-6, and in the Selecta, 9 (PG 13, 800d-801a) on the lips of a Judaiser.

In short there are interesting snippets in the text; which suggest that translating them will be time well spent.


Origen on Ezekiel homily 7

I’m just reading through the draft translation of this homily that I’ve been sent.  It is full of good stuff.  Indeed it could probably be preached today with advantage.  The sermons of Origen are highly accessible; indeed it is extraordinary that they have not been translated before now.

It looks to me as if sermon 7 is incomplete in the form in which it has reached us; Origen says he is going to expound something; and the sermon ends two lines later!


I would like to go to bed tonight…

… but clearly everyone is busy, and just as I think I’ve done another email arrives! 

I’ve just had delivery of the first draft of the English translation of Origen’s Homily 7 on Ezechiel.  Great news, actually, and I am really looking forward to letting everyone loose on that.

 And that arrived just as I finished replying to the chap who has done another chunk of the treatise by Hunain ibn Ishaq. It’s a pretty interesting text, actually, which I’ll probably post here; stuff on how you tell a true religion from a false one, by an Arabic Christian working for the Abbassid Caliphs in the high old days of Haroun al-Raschid and the Arabian Nights.

Nice to get the stuff coming in so fast! 


Nabateans in Saudi Arabia

This post (via here) reminds us of the existence of Nabatean ruins very much like Petra in the remote north of Saudi Arabia, at Meda`in Saleh.  Once no tourists were allowed; but these days you can take an organised tour (only) to Saudi.  At least in theory; I’ve just spent 10 minutes trying to find any such tours on the web and failing!


Another Classical Armenian history goes online

Robert Bedrosian writes to let us know that another history in classical Armenian has now gone online in English:

This is to let you know that a 10th century History of Armenia written by  Yovhannes [John] Drasxanakert’c’i, Catholicos of the Armenian Church  (898-929) is now online in English translation.

The translation and study was done by Rev. Fr. Krikor Maksoudian as his Columbia University Ph.D. dissertation (1973), and later expanded and published as in book form (Atlanta, Georgia, 1987). It was Maksoudian, then a deacon and Assistant Professor at Columbia, who taught me Classical Armenian in the early 1970s.  Since then he has achieved the high rank of vardapet (Doctor of the Church), and is perhaps the most erudite of clergy in the Armenian Church in the United States.

Father Maksoudian has graciously allowed me to webify his work.  It may be downloaded, copied, and distributed freely.

Robert Bedrosian has done more than anyone else in a century to make the riches of Armenian literature available to us all in English.  Someone who can translate from classical Armenian is rare; someone who will do so even rarer; and someone who will then make the results widely available… well, Robert is unique in this.  In the pre-internet era he used to publish his translations in book form, where they enrich many a library.  These days he runs his own website and distributes them freely and generously.

An Armeniologist writing in a century will consider all of us as living in the times of Robert Bedrosian.  That’s how much what he does matters.


Update on Chrysostom Project

I’ve readvertised that I want to hire someone who will translate the recently rediscovered 60% of Chrysostom’s Oratio II adversus Judaeos into English. 

This time I tried CLASSICS-L and got quite a bit of interest. Three people responded, one of whom can’t be available for 3 months, and I was forwarded to someone else who would be interested to do it as a project non-commercially (but I really need to find a Greek translator I can hire). 

So I’ve sent out the text to those interested, and we’ll see how they respond.  If they like it, I’ll choose one and ask for a sample of the first page, as I always do, and pass that to someone I already know and trust for checking.  The others will go into the “possible” tray, and I may use them for something else patristic or Chrysostomical.  Looking good.


More on Eutychius

I’ve now worked out why the Italian translation is so much longer than the critical edition and translation.  It seems that Louis Cheikho published the text in 1906, and the Italian translation was made from that.  At any rate, it doesn’t mention the 1985 CSCO 471-2 edition.  The editor of this new text, Michael Breydy, introduces it thus:

In the course of the last thousand years there has often been a temptation to attribute to Eutychios of Alexandria – also known as Sa`id ibn Batriq – various works, including a World Chronicle adorned with all sorts of titles: The Annals, The String of Pearls (= Nazm al-Jawhar), Collected Stories (= at-Tarikh al-Magmu`), etc.

Ibn Batriq was a doctor, who lived from 877 to 940 AD in Egypt and was one of the arabic speaking Melkites.

Of the many works attributed to him, the World Chronicle is the only one that can be attributed to him with certainty, albeit with certain qualifications. This world history has been published in the bilingual edition of Selden-Pocock (London, 1642; Oxford, 1654-59) in a form containing many interpolations, material which may not come from the pen of Ibn Batriq. The other anachronisms and historical errors that occur all too often in this world chronicle may, therefore, be attributed only with great reservations to that author.

Until now it was impossible to distinguish Ibn Batriq’s own mistakes from those of the interpolators because we lacked any criteria and touchstone for verifying the authenticity and age of suspicious passages.

With the recognition of the manuscript Sinaiticus Arabicus 582, containing a chronicle previously considered anonymous, I have managed to find a copy of this world history, which is regarded as the starting point of all the other copies.

The Sinaiticus Arab. 582 has, in fact all the characteristics of an autograph by Ibn Batriq and gives us the most important criterion by which we can define the real passages of Ibn Batriq, to delimit precisely later added interpolations, and thus to distinguish from his own mistakes or merits those of subsequent copyists and interpolators.

The current issue [of CSCO] – although also missing the beginning and the end – give us back the bulk of the world chronicle by Ibn Batriq, which he wrote in his own time, or rather copied from older sources.

I give hereafter a summary of his biography with the description of the various manuscripts of his world history that I have taken into account in this edition.

A detailed study of the problems and corrections, which had resulted from the fact, I have carried out in a special volume of “subsidia”.

It looks as if the very popularity of Eutychius’ text led to it being augmented with extra material, to bring it up to date, make it more useful, etc.  No doubt those who added this material merely intended to do for their own use.  Quite possibly the concept of interpolation would have struck them as curious, and their actions undertaken in a spirit more like those today who scribble a note in the margin of a torn-out newspaper article.

Eutychius mentions his own birthday in his chronicle – 877 AD. His chronicle was continued by Yahya ibn Sa’id al-Antaki, in his “Kitab ul-Dayul”, who says that Eutychius died on 11th May 940.

With his elevation to the patriarchate of Alexandria arose a great controversy in the Melkite Church. The chronicle of his successor, Yahya ibn Sa`eed reported that his fellow physicians in his home town of Fustat and the faithful of other Melkite dioceses had rejected him, wanted him to removed from office, and that this attitude continued until his death. It is therefore assumed that his elevation was viewed as illegal because he was raised directly from the laity as patriarch, though he had previously working with everything other than with clerical tasks.

In his Annals he refers to himself in a comment as a “Mutatabbib”, not as a qualified physician, but as a “practitioner”.

 He shows no sign of using Greek sources; but references to Syriac and indeed Syriac words are everywhere.  His base in Fustat and various details in the Chronicle suggest that he may have owed his elevation to the patriarchate to his Moslem contacts.

All the manuscripts other than the Sinai ms. go back to a copy reworked by Yahya ibn Sa`id in Antioch in 1014.  This was at that time in the Byzantine empire, and the text was augmented with a large amount of historical material from other sources.

The appearance of the edition of Pocock around 1655 set an end to the manipulations in the annals work of Ibn Batriq. The rare manuscript, which is found after this date, repeats the typical text version of Aleppo, which had Selden/Pocock published with smaller word variants. In the older handwriting this conformity is absent, and important and considerable excerpts are missing here and there, whose research in the manuscript concerned can lead to a rather exact dating of the questionable interpolation.


Deviations in my copies of the Annals of Eutychius (ca. 900)

I’ve started to look at the second big Arabic Christian history, the Annals of Eutychius, or Sa`id ibn Bitriq as he was known to taxi-drivers.  I have the CSCO edition and translation here, and also an Italian translation. 

The thing is, the Italian translation is a lot bigger than the German one.  For the section that starts with the 11th year of Heraclius, the German runs out after a dozen or two pages.  Most of it is concerned with the early days of Islam; then there is a sudden jump without explanation and two pages on events a century later.  By contrast the Italian has section after section on the period in between.  Which is right?

Only one way to find out; hunt through the verbose introductions.  Hate that.


No Eustathius at the BN in Naples

I’ve today had an email from the Biblioteca Nazionale in Naples.  As far as they can tell, they do not have any manuscripts of Eustathius of Antioch.  The last ever copy of Eusebius Gospel Questions and Solutions was attached to the back of a Sicilian manuscript in the 16th century, and I wondered if it might be there.  Oh well.