Dreaming of Chrysostom and his works

quastenI often take a volume of Quasten’s Patrology to bed with me.  In times past I tended to turn down leaves where English translations that were not online were marked.  These days I find myself looking at texts and wondering whether a translation of them would be worth commissioning.  Short, obscure, interesting texts are the sort of things I look at.

So I looked, and I browsed.  There are several works by Chrysostom that seem interesting.  I’ve mentioned the missing portion of his Adversus Judaeos — but that was just housekeeping.  It costs $20 to get a translation of a column of Migne’s Patrologia Graeca Greek text, and at that rate there are a number of possible texts of historical interest.

On p. 453 Quasten mentions a discourse In kalendas (PG 48, 953-962, i.e. 9 columns, or 4.5 columns of Greek, i.e. $90) — On the kalends [of January] — in which he discusses and condemns the pagan celebration of the New Year.  That ought to contain quite a bit of historical material.

Also mentioned is his Contra circenses ludos et theatra (PG 56, 263-270, i.e. 7 columns or $70) — Against the circus games and theatre — which he preached on July 3, 399, on finding the church half-empty because everyone had gone off to see the show.  He mentions chariot racing on Good Friday, for instance.  Again, this must give insights into the popular entertainments at the end of the 4th century.

The temptations of the theatre are addressed in Homiliae 3 de diabolo (PG 49, 241-276, i.e. $350, so quite a bit more) — Three sermons on the devil — which must, therefore, describe these events.  At that price, tho, I can probably resist.  The nine homilies on penitence (one in fact by Severian of Gabala) are 80-odd columns, and a bit long for my purse.

Equally interesting are some of the sermons delivered for church festivals.  His In diem natalem Dominus Noster Jesu Christi, (PG 49, 351-362, i.e. $110) was given on Christmas Day 386 and calls Christ Sol Iustitiae, the Sun of Justice.  It is important for the history of Christmas.  A partner sermon (PG 56, 385-396, i.e. $110) is probably spurious, but also interesting historically for what it tells us about the rivalry in that period between the pagan solar cults and the Christians.  None of the other festal homilies grab my eye.

The first sermon that Chrysostom ever delivered (PG 48, 693-700, i.e. $70) ought to be in English, if only as a curiosity.

Two sermons, before and after his first exile (PG 52, 427-430, i.e. $30; and PG 52, 443-8, i.e. $50) are probably just waffle, but it would be good to have them.

One very interesting work is De S. Babyla contra Julianum et Gentiles (PG 50, 533-572, i.e. $390) — On St. Babylas against Julian and the pagans.  When the emperor Julian the Apostate attempted to restore the oracle at Daphne in Antioch in 362 AD, the priests told him that the Christian shrine of St. Babylas — interred at the sacred grove — was interfering with the voice of the god.  Julian ordered the remains removed; but soon after the temple burned down, and then Julian himself was killed in battle.  Chrysostom treats both events as evidence of the power of the saint, and responds to the lament of Libanius on the temple of Apollo by describing it as drivelling nonsense.  I could wish the work was shorter.

Another text of interest is Contra Judaeos et Gentiles quod Christus sit Deus (PG 48, 813-838, i.e. $200) — Against Jews and Gentiles that Christ is God.  I had originally seen this as a natural complement to the Eight Homilies Against the Jews, but it is only so to a limited extent.  Apparently it does mention the attempted rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem under Julian, when the Jewish workers were driven back by subterranean gas explosions.  Again, this seems interesting.

I could carry on.  But what is noteworthy is how little it would cost to translate some of these, and that almost none have ever been translated.  I might commission translations of some of these, just to make them available.

5 thoughts on “Dreaming of Chrysostom and his works

  1. Chrysostom’s De Sancto Babyla contra Julianum et Gentiles is available in two published English translations. A complete translation by Sr. Margaret A. Schatkin is on pp. 75–152 of Saint John Chrysostom: Apologist, Fathers of the Church 73 (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1985). A partial translation (XIV/75–XIX/019) by Marna M. Morgan is on pp. 59–79 of Samuel N. C. Lieu: The Emperor Julian: Panegyric and Polemic, Translated Texts for Historians 2, second edition (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1989). Both volumes are in print, and neither is expensive.

  2. Thank you very much for the update! That saves us having to pay attention to this text, then.

    It is a pity, tho, that no-one is ever likely to see it, being in printed form. This of course applies to a great many modern translations.

    How we get all these translations out of these research-library-only forms and onto the web and visible to the world I do not know. It’s a general issue. But there is no real reason why the taxpayer should continue to fund the current system, so something will have to change.

  3. How is it that each column of Migne costs you $20? Google has digitized several volumes of the Patrologia, has it not? Perhaps you could find a PDF copy. Or you could find someone with university access to the electronic copy of Migne, have it printed for you, and work from it. Or am I missing the problem?

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