Severian of Gabala

I had an email today enquiring about editions of the works of Severian of Gabala.  This chap was a bishop from Syria who became well-known as a preacher in Constantinople at the end of the 4th century AD, despite a heavy Syrian accent.  Unfortunately he fell out with John Chrysostom, and became involved in the evil proceedings that led up to the deposition of the latter.  He belonged to the Antiochene school of biblical exegesis, and took a  very literal approach to everything, sometimes to the point of absurdity.

A bunch of his sermons are extant, mostly in Greek, but some in Armenian, Syriac and Coptic.  In addition fragments of his work appear in the catenas.  Writers who treat the text literally inevitably tend to be useful to people compiling catenas and other forms of commentary.

I have been unable to discover any edition of his works more recent than Migne in the Patrologia Graeca 66.  This itself is a reprint of an edition by the 18th century French Benedictine editor Montfaucon, the man who invented Greek paleography.  It looks as if there is an edition by a certain Savile which is also around, but again elderly and not mentioned by Quasten (although it is noted by the Clavis Patrum Graecorum — and why is that essential list of patristic texts not online?).  I’ll also ask in LT-ANTIQ whether anyone is working on an edition.

The query related to a possible interesting quotation from Mark in the homily de sigillis librorum.  A while ago someone wrote to me offering their services for translation, and I declined, being fully busy right now!  But I see that the homily is only 15 columns of Migne — 531-544 — or rather 7-8 once we ignore the parallel Latin translation.  So I have offered a commission on it to her, and we’ll see if (a) she accepts and (b) can deliver a good translation.  Why not?  I’ll give it away free online, of course. 

It will be the first translation of any of the Migne collection of sermons.  The Migne covers cols. 411-590 or around 200 columns; 100 columns of Greek, or about $2,000 at  my usual rate for such things.  How little money that is, to any institution!  But it’s more than I have kicking around at the moment!

UPDATE: An email has pointed out that ‘Savile’ must be the 17th century editor of the 8-volume complete works of Chrysostom, Henry Savile.  A meeting room at Merton College Oxford commemorates his name even now, although when I was there I certainly didn’t associate “the Savile Room” with 17th century editors!

10 thoughts on “Severian of Gabala

  1. Mark 1:1. The text (in Migne) is the short version without “Son of God”, but the context seems to presuppose the long version.

  2. It doesn’t seem as though cols. 411-590 of Migne PG 66 contain any sermons by Severian of Gabala; what I find there are commentaries by Theodore of Mopsuestia on the prophets Zechariah and Malachi. And, although PG 65 contains some notes on Severian, cols. 9-16, the only actual work by him there published is an oration on the Theophany. Are you perhaps referring to the sermons (most of them listed as spurious works of Chrysostom’s) published in cols. 411-590 of Migne PG 59?

    I have been working on the medieval writer John Bekkos. I find that most of his Chrysostom citations actually derive from Severian of Gabala, so I would be very interested to learn what editions of Severian’s works may have appeared since the publication of the Clavis Patrum Graecorum.

  3. You must be right — the PG volume is wrong, then. The sermons certainly appear among the works of Chrysostom.

    As for more recent work, you know what I know! There is a dearth of work on Severian.

    I was this evening looking at an Arabic catena, which quotes material from Severian of Gabala. I don’t know what John Bekkos uses, but is it possible that he is working from a catena, rather than directly? (The material you have in mind may quite preclude this, of course).

  4. It is of course possible that he is citing from a catena, but my guess is that he is not, given the fact that he prefaces his citations with the opening words of the sermons he is quoting from. A catena would probably not supply that information.

    In §28 of his work De unione ecclesiarum, at PG 141, 81D-84A, Bekkos gives a string of four Chrysostom quotations. Of these, the first is from Ps.-Chrysostom (=Severian of Gabala), In nativitatem Christi, et quod unicuique climati angeli præsunt, a work found in PG 59; the second is also Severian’s, from a homily In psal. xcii, 1, found in PG 55. The fourth is from an unpublished work of Severian’s, the Sermo prophylacticus I (CPG 4912). As for the third citiation, I haven’t been able to find a reference to it anywhere, but, given what surrounds it, I would guess that it is Severian’s, too; Bekkos cites it as Chrysostom’s Discourse on the Two Covenants, ὁ περὶ τῶν δύο διαθηκῶν λόγος, which begins with the words, “From the beginning, the Law and the Prophets have shown forth one and the same God” (Θεὸν δὲ ἕνα καὶ τὸν αὐτὸν δεδηλώκασιν ἐξ ἀρχῆς νόμος καὶ προφῆται).

    If Bekkos cites these passages from Severian, it is for the purpose of showing the Eastern and Western theological traditions to be in harmony on the subject of the Holy Spirit’s procession. Severian is an Eastern writer who states this teaching in ways that approach the Augustinian notion of a procession from the Father and the Son. This makes me wonder about what you say above, that Severian belongs to the Antiochene exegetical school. It may be that you are right about this, but, on this one issue at least, he seems closer to St. Cyril of Alexandria, and clearly differs from Theodore of Mopsuestia and Theodoret of Cyrrhus, who opposed any notion of a procession from both. I don’t know if this difference had anything to do with Severian’s opposition to St. John Chrysostom at the Synod of the Oak; probably it didn’t, since, if I remember correctly, the whole thing was largely an unfortunate clash of egos.

  5. Thank you for this, which is really interesting. That does not sound like catena material; more like something culled from a collection of sermons.

    I don’t know anything about Severian’s theology, but your reading is the same as mine; that the disputes were really personal and little attempt was made to cloak them in theology at that date. I don’t see why Severian shouldn’t have Augustinian views.

  6. Cramer published his catena in 8 volumes, covering the whole of the NT. I imagine it would be in the volume on 1 Corinthians, rather than the one on Matthew. Do a search for Cramer Catenae in Archive.org.

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