What happens when the state pulls out of Constantine’s deal with the church?

Phil Snider has (somehow) been reading Ephrem’s Hymns against Julian the apostate.  His summary of what they say is fascinating, and may be very relevant to our world.

I’ve always been interested in these hymns, but as far as I knew, no translation existed in any modern language.  Does anyone know of one?

UPDATE: Apparently there is one, in Samuel Lieu, The emperor Julian: panegyric and polemic, Liverpool 2, 1996.  This contains a panegyric by Claudius Mamertinus; Chrysostom’s Homily on St. Babylas, against Julian and the pagans XIV-XIX (so presumably not complete); and Ephrem the Syrian’s Hymns against Julian.  The latter fills 24 pages of a TTH volume, so is not all that long.

The book also contains the following information on editions and translations:

The HcJul. were first published by J. Overbeck in his florilegium of Syriac writers: S. Ephraemi Syri, Rabulaei episcopi Edesseni, Balaei aliorumque opera selecta (Oxford, 1865) pp. 3-20. They were translated into German with brief notes by G. Bickell in his article: ‘Die Gedichte des hl. Ephräm gegen Julian den Apostaten’, Zeitschrift für katholische Theologie, II (1878) pp. 335-56. Bickell’s translation was republished with fuller introduction and notes by S. Euringer in Bibliothek der Kirchenvater, (Kempten and Munich, 1919) pp. 199-238. The most recent edition and the one on which the present translation is based is that of E. Beck, Des heiligen Ephraem des Syrers Hymnen de Paradiso und Contra Julianum, CSCO 175 (text) and 176 (trans.), (Louvain, 1957). There is an unpublished Oxford B. Litt, thesis on the poems (with translation) by P. C. Robson, A Study of Ephraem Syrus Hymns Against Julian the Apostate and the Jews (Ms. B. Litt. d. 1411, 1969). Hymn IV, 18-23 has been translated into English by Sebastian Brock in the appendix to his edition of the Syriac letter attributed to Cyril of Jerusalem on the rebuilding of the Temple (Brock, 1977,283-4).

I had forgotten that the BKV texts are online, thanks to Gregor Emmeneger, here, which includes the four hymns against Julian, starting here.


Patristics Conference – a grumble

I’m off to Durham tomorrow to attend the patristics conference on Wednesday.  So I’ve been going through the emails, printing off copies, printing out a map of what and where.

One thing that strikes me strongly is that the conference is not being organised very well.   My experience has been quite negative. 

For instance, when I booked I found that the online payments did not work.  I booked anyway, but received no acknowledgement.  I sent off a cheque, but was not informed when it was received, nor cashed.  A provisional programme was sent out — but not to me.  When I asked about it, I was told it was on the website — but I still never got to see the email.  Emails were replied to late if at all.  Questions about check-in time have not been replied to.  If there is any question about my booking, when I arrive, with car in a restricted area, I have almost nothing in writing.

Staying away from home is a stressful experience.  Leaving these sorts of things in doubt makes it worse.   This is a great pity.

What I am going to do tomorrow — today is bank holiday so no-one will be around — is to telephone the college directly, and check what they have by way of a conference booking, car parking, etc.  I wish I’d thought of this last week, and I offer the suggestion to others.  Because I suspect the college will be better organized, and they, after all, do the hard work.

Still, the programme suggests it will be a good conference.  And if it isn’t, I have my car and will just go home.


I’m going to have a Religionsgesprach

One of the drawbacks of doing too much is that you tend to deal with emails a  bit too hastily.  One of those too hasty “yes that is fine” has come back to bite me.

Regular readers will remember that I commissioned a translation of all the fragments of Philip of Side.  Five of these are taken from a curious text, the Religionsgesprach am Hof der Sassaniden.  This is a fictional 6th century text, purporting to record a dialogue at the Sassanid Persian court between Christians and Jews.  It was edited by  Bratke, and reedited by Pauline Bringel in an amazingly erudite but unpublished(!) PhD thesis.  (All this I have discussed in previous posts tagged “Philip of Side”.)

Unfortunately I had a miscommunication with the translator, who had done some of the RGS for context, and he understood me to be commissioning a translation of the whole text.  It’s 45 pages of Bratke, 1007 lines of about 8.5 words per line, i.e. around 8,500 words.  Not small!  But he’s already done over half of it, and in fact the only question is whether the remaining portion is commissioned or not.  Since that will come out at around $200 — morally I must pay for the rest — I may as well bite the bullet.

Not that I really mind that much.  I suspect it might have been a long time before anyone ever translated the text otherwise!  So  it’s all for the good in the end.  I was hankering to translate it anyway, since I hate do excerpts of things.  But … I must learn to read more carefully.  “Always practice safe grammar” — one of  the rules of Count Yor.

When it is done, like the Philip of Side, I’ll put it in the public domain and make it available online.


Not going to church (even though you want to)

A post on an important subject:

For the first time in our Christian lives we experienced the total despair of essentially giving up and not going anywhere for almost six or seven months. And I didn’t miss it. I didn’t miss the clueless worship, lack of Bible, historical ignorance, Great Commission absence or lack of community. If your church has no community, then staying home on Sunday isn’t much different from going on Sunday morning except for the lack of driving and going through the motions in a service that grates on you from beginning to end as people ignore you on the way in and the way out. I can’t justify not going – I know the commandment and I know I was not keeping it, but I didn’t see any way to keep it and stay sane.

This is very well put.  I myself had that experience 25 years ago, after a serious illness.  I have never been a regular church-goer since, although I remain a committed Christian.  Not because I do not want to be; but because I could not afford the drain of strength from non-church any longer.  I would gladly support a church  that supported me.  As it is, my giving goes to St Andrew the Great in Cambridge, where I received the only help that I have received in all that time since.

This experience must be commonplace.  Is there some way, I wonder, for all us Christians who can’t face the non-churches, yet remain faithful, to link up somehow?


9 literary sources for Tiberius before AD 187?

I came across an interesting claim online yesterday:

…[there] are 45 ancient sources of Jesus within 150 years of His death. Nobody even comes close to this. Tiberius who died just 4 years after Jesus did only had 9 sources within 150 years of his death.

This seems to be based on this:

Dr. Gary Habermas and Michael Licona write:

“What we have concerning Jesus actually is impressive. We can start with approximately nine traditional authors of the New Testament. If we consider the critical thesis that other authors wrote the pastoral letters and such letters as Ephesians and 2 Thessalonians, we’d have an even larger number. Another twenty early Christian authors and four heretical writings mention Jesus within 150 years of his death on the cross. Moreover, nine secular, non-Christian sources mention Jesus within the 150 years: Josephus, the Jewish historian; Tacitus, the Roman historian; Pliny the Younger, a politician of Rome; Phlegon, a freed slave who wrote histories; Lucian, the Greek satirist; Celsus, a Roman philosopher; and probably the historians Suetonius and Thallus, as well as the prisoner Mara Bar-Serapion. In all, at least forty-two authors, nine of them secular, mention Jesus within 150 years of his death.” 6

“…Let’s look at an even better example, a contemporary of Jesus. Tiberius Caesar was the Roman emperor at the time of Jesus’ ministry and execution. Tiberius is mentioned by ten sources within 150 years of his death: Tacitus, Suetonius, Velleius Paterculus, Plutarch, Pliny the Elder, Strabo, Seneca, Valerius Maximus, Josephus, and Luke. Compare that to Jesus’ forty-two total sources in the same length of time. That’s more than four times the number of total sources who mention the Roman emperor during roughly the same period. If we only considered the number of secular non-Christian sources who mention Jesus and Tiberius within 150 years of their lives, we arrive at a tie of nine each 7 .” 8

6. Gary R. Habermas and Michael Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Grand Rapids MI : Kregel Publications, 2004) 127.
7. Tiberius’s number reduces from ten to nine since Luke is a Christian source.
8. Gary R. Habermas and Michael Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Grand Rapids MI : Kregel Publications, 2004) 128.

By “sources” the authors mean “literary sources”, of course.  Emperors have their heads and names on coins and inscriptions.  Jesus, on the other hand, is known to us only from literary sources.  But unless we propose to take the position that there only people whose existence is certain are those important enough to appear in inscriptions, we must compare like with like, and ask, “If this person was known only from literary sources, how many such sources would there be?”

I admit I was astonished by the low number for Tiberius.  Can it be right? 

Cassius Dio, writing after 193 AD, is excluded by the 150 year window.  I presume the authors must also mean “sources that name Tiberius”, for Juvenal, in his 10th satire, refers to him, although not by name. 

I suspect that if we searched a bit further, we might find a few more.  In the great mass of Greek technical and medical literature, untranslated and inaccessible to most people, which makes up a much larger proportion of extant literature than most of us suppose, there is probably something.

But of course all the references to Jesus, however obscure, have been pulled into the light.  Jesus was probably the most important figure of antiquity to those in modern times.  Tiberius was only an emperor.

It is quite something when the master of the Roman world in the time when Jesus walked on earth is “only an emperor”, known from a handful of sources.  If it’s true, of course.

UPDATE:  Aulus Gellius, in book 5 of the Attic Nights, mentions Tiberius by name, so this list by Habermas etc is indeed not a complete one.  Indeed the list of authors seems lacking in second century sources.

UPDATE:   I’m looking at the old TLG E disk, using Diogenes, and doing a search on TIBERI (not checked dates on all these).  I get 1015 matches, but most are Byzantine and so much too late.

  1. Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, book 2, paragraph 39, 20.
  2. Philo, In Flaccum, in quite a few places.  Also Legatio ad Gaium.
  3. Galen Medicus, De compositione medicamentorum per genera libri vii Volume 13, page 836, line 8
  4. Lucianus Soph., Macrobii Section 21, line 10
  5. Strabo Geogr., Testimonia Volume-Jacobyʹ-T 2a,91,T, fragment 1, line 1
  6. Acta Alexandrinorum, Acta Alexandrinorum Chapter 5b, column or fragment 1, line 17  (I think we will accept this)
  7. Flavius Josephus Hist., Antiquitates Judaicae Book 19, chapter 303, line 2, book 20, c. 159
  8. Claudius Aelianus Soph., De natura animalium Book 2, section 11, line 28
  9. Clemens Alexandrinus Theol., Stromata Book 1, chapter 21, section 145, subsection 2, line 3
  10. Publius Aelius Phlegon Paradox., De mirabilibus Chapter 13, section 1, line 1, ch. 14, and in the fragments of his works.
  11. Justin Martyr, Apologia c. 13
  12. Vettius Valens Astrol., Anthologiarum libri ix  Page 32, line 25 – an astrologer d. 175 AD.  There is a translation project for him here.  Book 9 is here but incomplete.

I’m ignoring the ps.Clementine literature as too late.

UPDATE: Quintillian, Institutio Oratorica, book 3, mentions Tiberius.  Phaedrus, Aesop’s Fables, book 2, poem 5, mentions him.


Miscellaneous projects update

I’ve been really unwell this week, so all my projects are on hold.  Fortunately, for most of them, the ball is in someone else’s court.

One project has been abandoned.  The translation of the remains of Polychronius’ commentary on Daniel will not go ahead.  The translator has decided to write an academic article around what he found.  I am entirely in favour of academic publication, and I never had a strong attachment to this one anyway.

The translation of letters of Isidore of Pelusium is proceeding.  I still need to pass the translation of the first 14 letters in front of  a reviewer’s eyes, but this will happen when I feel somewhat better.

There’s a bit of confusion about how to handle one set of fragments of Philip of Side, coming from the Religionsgesprach text, a fictional dialogue set at the court of the Sassanids.  It turns out that more than half of it has been translated.  This raises the question of whether we may as well translate the lot anyway, and then make that available (plus excerpts to complete the Philip text).  I need to do some calculations to work out what that should cost, but I’m not fit to do so just yet.

The British Library Catalogue-in-Progress book block for the Eusebius book arrived today.  Also a note from the Coptic translator that corrections from that source will be delayed. 

Next week I am due to go to the Patristics Conference in Durham.  I’d like to meet potential customers for the book, and also potential translators for future projects.  But of course I need to be fit, which at the moment I’m not.  And after that, I do need to go and find a job that earns money.  Not for the first time, I could wish that I had been born wealthy. 


Freedom of speech ten miles away from me

This post is written under UK government restrictions on discussing homosexuality.

Premier Christian Radio reports today:

Preacher’s trial over homosexuality comments adjourned.  While standing as an independent election candidate in Colchester Paul Shaw distributed leaflets on which he stated homosexual acts should be made illegal.

Christian Quoter tells us:

Colchester Magistrates today agreed to adjourn the case of Christian brother, Paul Shaw, … [who] said:

“I believe for example that homosexual and lesbian acts are immoral and that the law should reflect that; by making them unlawful as they once were; and so acting as a deterrent to such behaviour. The concept of homophobia is nonsense and a play on words; it is not and has never been a phobia! A phobia is an un-natural fear; whereas a rejection of perverse behaviour; is a righteous godly fear; that fears to do wrong because it knows that there are consequences and punishment otherwise! This is the most pronounced example of a nation that has lost its way …”

It was the Crown Prosecutor who applied for an adjournment. This was in order, he said, to consider the case in the light of freedom of speech. The Magistrate, District Judge David Cooper, agreed.

A further article in Pink News (why is there no Christian comment on this?) says he was arrested on June 11th, and is known around the town as a street preacher.  eChurch Christian Blog tells us that Shaw was denounced to the police earlier in the year.  The Chelmsford Weekly News has the same story:

District judge David Cooper told him: “You said you were spreading God’s word and when interviewed you said children needed to be protected and basically, homosexuals and lesbians should repent and ask for God’s forgiveness.”

Mr Shaw claimed that there would be “terrible consequences” if homosexuality was not made illegal again soon and warned that God’s judgment was “not very far away”.

He refused to be bound over to keep the peace, which is a criminal conviction. Instead, he said: “In four years, I’ve only dealt with homosexuality about twice. I have to act in good conscience, I’m afraid, and I think [homosexuality] is a particularly significant thing for this nation at this time.” The case was dismissed as the prosecution could offer no written evidence from complainants and Mr Shaw argued his right to free speech.

Mr Cooper warned him that further complaints could land him back in court and said: “There are other sorts of ‘sins’. Do you think you could concentrate on those for a bit?”

Shaw is now due for trial on 23rd September. 

I suspect from all this that Mr Cooper is a sensible chap who finds himself wondering why on earth he is being asked to decide what people are allowed to say, and why people can’t just get along.   But of course this is the front-line of a political war, and not a court matter at all.  One side has managed to get a law passed, allowing it to lock up the other for expressing an opinion.  So it was in the days of the State Trials, of evil memory.

At the bottom of the Pink News article is another article on a preacher arrested in May 2010.  And on March 18th an American preacher in Glasgow was arrested.

I finish this account of religious persecution and interference with free speech with a link to a columnist for the Independent, one of the major UK national newspapers, on The Slow Whining Death of British Christianity, abusing Christians in the most hateful terms possible, for daring to complain of persecution.  It reads like something from Der Sturmer.

Let us pray for the United Kingdom, for God’s mercy upon it, and also upon the persecutors, maddened by their vice and swollen with the arrogance that comes from believing oneself powerful.  No good consequence comes of such things, except for the church itself.  We might also read what Tertullian wrote to Scapula, in time of persecution.

UPDATE: Stephen Green notes in the comments that apparently the prosecution of Paul Shaw has been dropped by the CPS.  Good news!  Christian Quoter has the story.


How to sell your unwanted books online

I have quite a few academic books, mostly about Tertullian, which I know that I will never look at again.  I’d like to sell these off and get rid of them — they’re occupying space I require for other purposes — but how?

Suggestions welcome!


Sentimental about old technology

HP ScanJet 6350C

Old computers never die — they just get shoved to the back of the cupboard, and gather dust.  Old peripherals are much the same.

I thought it would be nice to put online a picture of my scanner.  Not the one I use today, but the one I bought more than 10 years ago, when I started getting serious about scanning material to place online. 

I bought it on 2nd October 2000, on the web.  It cost £328.93 — about $500.  It had a sheet feeder, which would take a wodge of photocopies.  It was fast, being a SCSI  unit — most cheap scanners used the parallel port.  I used a PC Card on my old laptop to connect to it.

In those days there were no PDF’s online.  What I used to do was travel up to Cambridge University Library, and photocopy whole books, at 7p a sheet.  I’d come back with a couple of inches of paper, and I would then feed them into this thing.  Or I’d take a book, borrowed by inter-library loan, away with me during the week.  One evening I would go to a Staples, and stand there for an hour while the copier whirred.  As I write this, I remember driving down past Gatwick airport to some such establishment, back in 2004.  I remember doing the same in Harlow in 2006. 

The OCR technology of the day was primitive.  But the better quality scanner — I’d been using a $70 piece of rubbish before then — instantly reduced the number of corrections I had to make by hand.  The latter was always the slow part of OCR.  The sheet-feeder made it possible to run a book into the PC.

It’s a month short of 10 years ago that I bought it.  It has served me very well.   It’s the scanner that built the Tertullian Project, especially once I acquired Abbyy FineReader 5.0 and started getting good quality OCR results.

But I haven’t used it for a few years now.  It started to develop problems with the sheet-feeder, which left a vertical mark down the scanned page images and so made OCR more difficult.  The glass grew slightly scratched.  I was starting to do less OCR anyway.

Then I bought a Plustek OpticBook 3600, which was better for doing books.  But the death-knell was when I bought a Fuijtsu scanner with sheet feeder that took up a fraction of the space and was far faster.  I can’t remember where the SCSI card is any more.  All the Scanjet is doing is occupying space.  For years now I’ve used it as the place on which I stack my laptop when it’s not in use, which is a bit silly.

I think it is time to throw it away.  I’ll take it down the dump this afternoon.  I live in a small  house, after all.  It is of no use to anyone, after all, unless they have a SCSI card.  No-one does, these days — they were rare even back then.

But … it will be a wrench, somehow.  It’s like leaving a bit of yourself behind, something that helped define my identity for some of the most productive years of my life. 

Good-bye, old friend.