Is Christianity actually legal in modern Britain, for practical purposes?

Something really horrible is happening in the United Kingdom.   The mass media are nearly silent.  No politician dares do more than mumble a few hesitant queries.  When I look at my TV, at my newspaper, I see mostly silence.  Bloggers are silent, with the exception of the mighty Cranmer here and here.

The story is simple.  A Christian couple, Peter and Hazelmary Bull, let out rooms in their home for “Bed and Breakfast” accomodation overnight, which they advertise under the name of the “Chymorvah private hotel” in Penzance in Cornwall.  B&B’s are not as popular as they were, but many older people find it a useful way to supplement a meagre income.  They advertised, but indicated that unmarried couples would not be accepted for double rooms.  They were targeted by a gay pressure group, Stonewall, which wrote to them, as if it was a government body, and ‘warned’ them to desist.  When they failed to do so, it sent two sodomites as agents provocateurs.  These made a booking, without indicating that they were a gay couple, and turned up hoping to be turned away.  In fact they were offered two rooms, but instead scampered off and denounced the Christians to the police.  The couple were duly prosecuted under the 2007 Equality Act (Sexual Orientation Regulations), by Stonewall, funded by the government quango the Equalities Commission.  The couple, being old and poor, could not afford to defend themselves but a small Christian charity called the Christian Institute funded the defence. 

They were convicted.  The judge jeered at them as “out of touch”, or so I am told, in phrases that might have come straight from the crooked and bullying trials of the Restoration period, and fined them savagely.   The atheist British Humanist Association shrieked with triumph, of course — the idea that atheists favour liberty of conscience is also “out of date”, it seems.   The establishment media dutifully followed the party line.  The victims have appealed, of course, but since the establishment chooses the judges, and demands that they favour “diversity” — i.e. enforce political correctness — they are unlikely to win.  Meanwhile, I learn from Cranmer, that loads of gays have been trying to book accomodation at that B&B, not to support the victims, but in order to drag them into court again and again until they go bankrupt. 

This is a horrible story.  It’s like reading something from Soviet Russia, or Nazi Germany.  It’s sickening in its contempt for others, its hatred of right, its cynical choice of the weak and poor as victims. 

You can find plenty of “comment” online “justifying” this evil.  But the excuses for interfering with this poor old couple dishonour those making them.  Most of them sound like the sort of self-excusing rhetoric that Goering trotted out at that hideous meeting after Krystallnacht, as “justification” for stealing the insurance payouts.  The basic moral principle — do not do to others what you would not like done to you — is violated again and again.

Curiously, I myself have a story to tell, although I have not been involved.  But I happened to notice an article Should Christian B&Bs accept gay couples on the BBC website (25th Jan. 2011).  Leaving aside the question — surely in a free country, Christians should decide for themselves! — I happened to look at the “comments”: “Below is a selection of your comments”.

To my surprise, not a single comment of those chosen supported the B&B owners.  Each and every one attacked them.  One even pretended to be from a “conservative Christian” — and looked to me as if it had pretty clearly been faked by the editorial staff.

The BBC has a statutory duty of balance.  So I wrote and complained:

The article follows up the case: ” Should Christian hoteliers be forced, by law, to offer hospitality to a gay couple?”  The “selection of comments” posted is 100% in favour of the gays’ rights overriding those of the Christians.

In view of the relative numbers of each in our society, it seems incredible to me that this can possibly reflect either the number of comments made, or public opinion in general. It’s bias, in short.

In view of the bias, I suggest that it would be best to reupload the article minus all comments, with an apology to the public for this behaviour added to the end of the article. The name of the editor who did this should also appear in the apology.

It doesn’t matter what the issue discussed is, or what view we hold on it. What we expect, surely, is honest reporting. This cannot be such.

I got back an anonymous email:

Thank you for your message. The comments posted below the article are a representative sample of the opinions expressed by the many respondents, with nuanced views on the rights of the respective parties.
Bruno Beloff, for instance, points out that both the gay couple and the Christian hoteliers “gain by protecting each other’s rights”. Rachel says “it seems only fair that a B&B can state this in their terms and conditions, and it not be seen as infringing upon people’s rights”. And Karen adds that “The guesthouse owners have been judged unfairly”.
Several point out that they themselves are Christians, such as Joe, who says: “I disapprove of same sex relationships. If put in the same situation, I’d let them share the bed, and leave it to God to decide if it is right or wrong.”

Readers can look at the comments for themselves and see that not one of them backed the victims.  They can form their opinion about this response.  What honest man would respond like that?   But the BBC too, is part of the establishment.

What is happening here?  It can be summarised simply, as far as I can see: that, with the backing of the judicial system and the establishment, organised gay groups are running a campaign to force Christians out of public life and out of business.  It sounds extraordinary when you say it like that, but what else can it mean? 

It is probably relevant that last year all the Catholic adoption agencies in Britain were forced to close, because they would not undertake to place children with “gay couples”.  Effectively, in modern Britain, Christians cannot run adoption agencies, nor run B&B’s.  That is the law, it seems.  What other businesses will it be found to be illegal for Christians to run next, I wonder? 

Like Jews in medieval Europe, Christians in modern Britain are not allowed to run certain types of business unless they violate their religion.  That’s the law, we are told. 

Isn’t that incredible?

The answer to the question with which I started this post, unbelievably, is “About as legal as it was in Soviet Russia.”  That is, if this really is good law.

The tool used is a law which was passed in 2007.  The then Labour government, which had already passed a series of pro-gay laws, enacted an ‘Equality Act’ known as the Sexual Orientation Regulations.  These made it an offence to “discriminate” against gays.  They were drawn very widely, in order to affect as many people as possible, and equipped with savage penalties. 

This law, like most of the rest, was not a random thing.  Gay actor Ian McKellen openly boasted about a meeting he had with Tony Blair, 3 months before the latter’s election in 1997:

I reeled off Stonewall’s demands, and he nodded, wrote them down and put a tick by them all. Then he said we will do all that.

The scope of this law was so great, and their drafting so intentionally ambiguous, as to stir the torpid mainstream churches to protest, even archbishops, but in vain.  Nor was this the limit of their ambitions: a law criminalising “incitement to religious hatred” which would have destroyed free speech was neutered by a campaign led by stand-up comedians, or it too would have been used against Christians who dared to criticise Islam. One minister boasted that the churches would have to hire lawyers — in a country where no-one can afford to do so.

The law is passed, and the stormtroopers are knocking on the doors.  No doubt there is a list, a plan for all this.  I wonder where bloggers come in that list?  Soon, I would guess, soon.

And the silence is deafening.  Cranmer has spoken up, but I haven’t seen another blogger express any criticism of this appalling business.  No doubt many are too scared.  Tory bloggers fear intimidation, or being accused of “tainting the brand” — as if there was any point to politics when you can’t criticise your foes.  Those who do criticise these evil-doers do indeed risk losing their careers, their jobs, their livelihoods, risk being reduced to beggary.  No campaign of hate is too mean to be directed against those who say The Thing That Cannot Be Said.

I hate having to write this piece.  This blog is not about politics.  But will it be said that “when they came for the Christians who ran hotels, I said nothing because I did not run a hotel”?  Not here it won’t.    It doesn’t matter that it is gays who are running this fascist campaign.  It would be wrong whoever did it, and whoever the victims were.   It is a sick, evil business.

Let us pray for the victims, that God may give them grace, and financial and other support, and deliver them.  Let us also pray that Christians awake, and prepare for persecution.   And let us also pray for the persecutors, that God may have mercy on them too.  For, of course, no good end, even for themselves, is served by such evil.

UPDATE: See also eChurch Christian blog

UPDATE: I note that some of the apologists for this evil try to claim “well other Christians think it’s OK”.   The “other Christians” turn out to be heretics, of course, and the ploy is intended merely to confuse Christian attempts to defend themselves.  The same tactic was used by the KGB when abusing Russian Christians.

UPDATE (28/1/11): The Daily Mail highlights continuing harassment of the Bull’s here.

Standing up for their beliefs has already brought them a hefty fine, a court battle and a string of abusive phone calls.

Now it could cost Christian hoteliers Peter and Hazelmary Bull their business as tormentors take to the internet to scare off customers.

They are apparently posting bogus reviews on travel websites to take revenge for the pair’s stance on gay couples.

The messages claim the hotel is dirty, unfriendly and infested with cockroaches – with one so-called reviewer even comparing it with a Thai prison cell.

The comments were exposed as lies after Mrs Bull, 66, found those who posted them claimed to have stayed in the winter – when the hotel was closed. …

By their fruits ye shall know them.  And sadly even Cranmer has put out a post “it’s not for the believer to impose his morality on the unbeliever”, making the classic debating error of conceding to the enemy what should not be conceded for temporary advantage. 

UPDATE: Cranmer’s Curate faces up to the next question — will Christian bloggers have to risk jail in order to preach against vice?  And if so how?

if the UK segues into a politically correct dictatorship and it becomes illegal for Christian bloggers to denounce false religion, false teaching, idolatry and immorality in the robust way in which the New Testament does, what then? …

How would Christian pirate blogging work out in practice? Presumably it would not be necessary to resort to blogging from ships a la pirate radio in the 1960s or would it?

Furthermore, is it worth risking jail for the sake of blogging? Should Christians engage in illegal internet activity whether as writers or readers?

The answer, of course, is to ask God what we should do.

Curious Presbyterian gives the business its real name: “the gay sting against Christian Bed & Breakfast owners Peter and Hazelmary Bull” and reproduces remarks by Peter Hitchens from the Mail on Sunday:

As I suspected they would, the Christian hotel owners, Peter and Hazelmary Bull, came off worse in their courtroom struggle against Politically Correct Britain.

The law believes such people have no right to follow their own morals, except in private.  The law also now states that homosexual partnerships are equal to heterosexual marriage, which New Labour tried to pretend was not the case.

Perhaps most importantly, the homosexual couple had their action paid for by us.  Britain’s embryonic Thought Police, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, provided the money on your behalf and mine, whether we like it or not.

This is not the end of the revolution we are passing through.  By the time it is finished, I will not be allowed to write or say this.  Don’t believe me?  Wait and see.

Curious Presbyterian is monitoring the stories, and, my, aren’t there a lot of them!  All these from the last few days:

Well done, that man.


Adonis and the scholia on Theocritus

The 15th Idyll of Theocritus describes a festival of Adonis in Alexandria in Ptolemaic times.  A commenter has suggested that the ancient scholia on Theocritus might contain more information.

I was not aware of the scholia, but a Google search quickly finds a reference to “Scholia in Theocritum vetera by Carl Wendel”.  According to the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, here, Theocritus actually is extant in papyri of the 2nd century and the 5th, as well as the medieval copies, and there are important scholia in the best manuscripts such as Ambrosianus 222.  This all leads me to Eleanor Dickey’s Ancient Greek Scholarship, which is the guide to the scholia.

What does she say about Theocritus (p.63)?:

The old scholia, which fill a volume much thicker than that of Theocritus’ own work, derive from a massive composite commentary assembled from at least two earlier works. One was a scholarly commentary dating to the Augustan period, composed primarily by Theon but also incorporating the work of Asclepiades of Myrlea (first century bc); in addition to many of the scholia, the surviving prolegomena and hypotheses have their bases in this commentary. The second major source of the composite commentary appears to be a work independently composed by Munatius of Tralles in the second century AD and containing a number of gross errors. …

These two commentaries were later combined, along with the work of the second-century commentators Theaetetus and Amarantus; it is likely but not certain that the compilation was done by Theaetetus in the second century. From the fourth to sixth centuries a revival of Theocritan studies resulted in some further alterations to the commentaries, but since no scholars later than the second century are named in the old scholia it is likely that no significant additions were made at that period. The scholia as they have come down to us represent a severely abridged version of the original commentaries, which were used by a number of early scholars in their fuller forms. There is thus a significant indirect tradition for the Theocritus scholia, involving Eustathius, Hesychius, various etymological works, and especially the scholia to Vergil. …

The standard edition of the old scholia is that of Wendel (1914 =TLG), which includes material derived from the indirect tradition and the Technopaegnia scholia but omits the papyri and the Byzantine scholia. The latter can be found in earlier editions of the Theocritus scholia, preferably that of Ahrens (1859), in which they are marked with “Rec”; the papyri must be consulted in their original editions. The definitive discussion of the scholia is also by Wendel (1920, with further references)…

and the references to Wendel are:

Wendel, Carl (1914), Scholia in Theocritum vetera (Leipzig; repr. 1966). Standard edition, excellent.  [Google books here]
——— (1920), Überlieferung und Entstehung der Theokrit-Scholien (Berlin; Abhandlungen der königlichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, philologischhistorische Klasse, NF 17, Nr. 2). Indispensible study of Theocritus scholia, including their origins, the indirect tradition, and the Byzantine scholiasts.  [Does not seem to be on Google books]

This is why I like this book.  It gives you the orientation you need, and tells you where to find the text.  What more could an introduction do? and it should certainly do no less.

The Wendel edition of the Scholia thankfully has an index at the front — so many continental editions of that period make you hunt around –, and the scholia on Idyll 15 are on p.305-317.  This material is on the TLG CD, under “Scholia in Theocritum”.

Whether it contains anything of interest to us, tho, my Greek is inadequate to say!


Serapio’s book of definitions

In the updates to my last post, I stumbled across a translation of Porphyry’s introduction to Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos that included an interesting-sounding work by a certain Serapion Alexandrinus, consisting of a short explanation of terminology. 

A Google search brings me to this page, which gives the text of the work (from CCAG vol. 8.) plus a translation, all done by Eduardo Gramaglia.  That is very useful to have!

We really need a list of astrological writers, with bibliography of editions and translations, online.  The nearest we have is this, from Project Hindsight.  This tells us about Serapio:

Serapio of Alexandria (of uncertain date, but probably B.C.E.). Not explicitly mentioned by Firmicus, but perhaps belonging to this period. The few surviving fragments of Serapio mostly deal with inceptional or katarchic astrology (that is, electional issues); there is one important fragment that sets out a general strategy for doing such katarchic investigations, and Serapio may have been one of the earliest systematizers of this theory.

Interesting, but a bit short of detail and indications of sources.  But in the RealEncyclopadie, vol. 51, cols. 1666-7, I find him as Serapion of Antioch, known to Pliny the Elder (NH ind. IV, V) and Cicero (Att. II. 4, 1).  According to the RE, the list of definitions apparently tells us (p.227, l.32) that Serapion wrote in Egypt.

UPDATE:  The CCAG vol. 8, part 4, gives Serapionis Alexandrini excerpta on p.225, from codex 82 (i.e. Paris. gr. 2425).

For Sarapion or Serapion Alexandrinus, who perhaps is the same as Serapio of Antioch, a disciple of Hipparchus, or so it would seem, who taught at Alexandria, see Boll, Byzant. Zeitschr., VIII, 1899, p.525.  The work from which excerpts are presented here was indeed written at Alexandria, as appears from p.227, l. 32, where he calls the sea as subjected to Aquarius th\n kaq’ h9ma~j qa/lassan; for Egypt according to the most ancient “chorographia”, as it is called, i.e. astrology, is under the dominion of Aquarius (Vettius Valens, p.12, 15, ff, Kroll, etc).

The anonymous work of 379 says that Serapion was before Ptolemy wrote about the appearance of the stars (CCAG, V, 1, p.205, l.17).  Other fragments of Serapion may be found in CCAG 1, p.99, p.101; CCAG 5, 1, p.179-180; CCAG 5, 3, p.96. 

Not a lot; but something.


Porphyry’s introduction to Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos

I’m thinking of commissioning a translation of Porphyry’s Introduction to the Tetrabiblos of Ptolemy.  It’s 44 pages of the CCAG volume 5, and I estimate it’s worth $1,000 to me.  The work will require knowledge of the technical vocabulary of ancient astrological texts, so I’ve asked a scholar with knowledge in this area whether he knows anyone who’d be interested and competent.  It will be interesting to see if there is.

The point of the translation is to reduce by one the number of untranslated works of Porphyry.  I have some doubts whether the content will be of much interest, but the sum is relatively small, and the enquiry is worth making.

UPDATE: A commenter tells me that it was translated last year by Andrea Laurel Gehrz, An Introduction to the Tetrabiblos of Ptolemy, Moira Press, 2010, here.  So I will cancel this commission.

UPDATE: And a second commenter tells me that it was translated again (!) last year by James Holden and published by the American Federation of Astrologers, together with a lexicon of technical terms by Serapio (who?) here:

This book contains a translation of the Introduction to the Tetrabiblos written by famous third century philosopher Porphyry. It is a sort of Astrological Dictionary, defining most of the technical terms used by the Greek astrologers of the Classical Period. The volume also contains a translation of the short treatise on astrological technical terms by Serapio of Alexandria.

About the translator: James Herschel Holden, M.A. is the Research Director of the American Federation of Astrologers and has been especially interested in Classical and Medieval astrological works.

Usefully the comment also gives this list of translations of ancient astrologers, which reviews both volumes:

Holden is technically more correct than Gehrz. The Greek original in fact flows (or so I presume) more or less as Holden has rendered it.  … Holden’s translation is not idiomatic to modern English speakers. With Holden’s translation we struggle to understand what Porphyry has (presumably) stated clearly. We are additionally hobbled by Holden’s refusal to fully translate. We are left with “kollesis” as well as the presumably atypical use of the word, “application“. Much of what Holden has translated is very nearly gibberish. We come now to the Gehrz translation, which rings with clarity.

The site is a non-scholarly one.  But it is useful to know that a translation exists of Firmicus Maternus’ Matheseos.  It is interesting to learn of Dorotheus of Sidon, a 1st century AD verse astrologer, whose work exists in Persian translation!  Rhetorius is then listed:

Rhetorius the Egyptian seems to have lived around 505 AD; he compiled a valuable compendium of the works of Antiochus & Porphry, with excerpts from Vettius Valens & some other earlier writers. His book seems to have been entitled, From the Treasury of Antiochus, an Explanation & Narration of the Whole Art of Astrology. A number of chapters are nearly identical to chapters in Porphyry’s Introduction. This probably indicates that both Rhetorius & Porphyry independently borrowed those chapters from Antiochus of Athens.

For Serapio, we get this:

The identity of Seraphio, his dates, are unknown. It is speculated he lived in the first century BC or AD, which is rather vague, and that his book (more like a monograph) was compiled around 1000 AD, perhaps, again, by Demophilus.

Which is a little baffling.  Then there are a couple of translations of Manilius (1st c. AD) including the Loeb, and then of Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos, one of which is also a Loeb.


Porphyry, Ad Gaurum

In my last post I mentioned some works by Porphyry which have not been translated into English.  One of these was the Ad Gaurum, on how the soul enters the unborn child.  The text was edited: K. Kalbfleisch, Abhandlungen der königlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin; Philosophische-historische Klasse, 1895 p. 33-62.  That is one of those infuriating German series which have both a scientific and a scholarly sub-class.  Even in paper form, it tends to be hard to find the right volume!  Inter-Library Loans get it wrong.  And so forth.

Since it was published in 1895, it should be out of copyright.  But I cannot find it online.  (UPDATE: It’s here)  But I then found this page from the IRHT in France.  Apparently the text is preserved in a single manuscript, Cod. Supp. gr. 635, Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale.  And there have been three translations, one in French and two in German:

  • À Gauros. « Sur la manière dont l’embryon reçoit l’âme », par A. J. Festugière, La Révélation d’Hermès Trismégiste, t. III, Les doctrines de l’âme, Paris, 1953, Appendice II, p. 265-302.
  • Porphyrios, Die Beseelung der Embryonen, par K. Limburg, Diss. Köln, 1975.
  • Grundfragen der Embryonalentwicklung aus der Sicht eines Neuplatonikers : Übersetzung und Bearbeitung der Schrift des Porphyrios « Über die Beseelung der Embryonen », par U. Jurisch, Diss. med. Erlangen-Nürnberg 1991.

The German translations were both in dissertations.  I’m not sure how to access continental dissertations, I must say.

The page refers to the need to examine the manuscript under ultra-violet light because of water damage.  It all seems to be notes for a forthcoming text and translation, directed by Luc Brisson, which will be more extensive than the Festugière translation (which they refer to as excellent).

Apparently Porphyry makes use of material from Genesis in the book.  If so, it is really remarkable that the work has escaped attention.

UPDATE: The Festugiere book is still for sale.  Three volumes, $150.  Now that’s what I call a barrier to learning!


From my diary

So much literature remains inaccessible.

Last night I was thinking about the works of Porphyry.  He is a well-known figure, the arch-enemy of the Christian writers of the early 4th century, and the hero of those moderns who share his animosities.  Most of his output is undoubtedly lost. 

Yet more survives than we might suppose.  One reason we tend to think only of a handful of texts — the Letter to Marcella, the 4 books On Abstinence, the fragments of Against the Christians, the Life of Plotinus, the Life of Pythagoras, the Isagoge — is that these are what exists in English.

The other night I became aware that his Introduction to Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos existed, and had even been printed, in the Catalogus Codicum Astrologorum Graecorum V.4.  I quickly found that no English translation existed.  Last night I set out to explore what existed in other modern languages.

A German text and translation of his commentary on Ptolemy’s Harmonics does exist.  How interesting a work on ancient musical theory might be I do not know — although we might guess!  But in the process I came across a page on my own site, which I had long forgotten — Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie’s list of Porphyry’s works.

The list is not  much good — no bibliography — except that it does give a good idea of what did exist and what does.  The extant works are marked with an asterisk.  But what about all these extant works? —

  • Question and Answer to the Aristotelian Categories.
  • To Gauros Concerning the Way in which foetuses are Animated.
  • Concerning Prosody (modulation in pitch).
  • On the Harmonics of Ptolemy.
  • An Introduction to The Astronomy of Ptolemy — the CCAG text

The list gives no indication as to where the texts might be found, nor whether any translations existed.  Two of the works are plainly about music, and so probably of limited interest.

I wondered whether there was anything online at, that marvellous collection of French translations.  They did indeed have quite a few French translations of “Porphyre“.  But it seemed to be much the same selection as I have.

Even the fragments of the books Against the Christians are not really online.  My own attempt at this was never completed.

Porphyry is very popular with the sort of writer who doesn’t like Christianity.  But I could wish that these writers praised him less, and translated him more.  It is rather absurd, after all, that the best collection of his works is held on a site dedicated to patristics!   I’m sure Eusebius and the others who wrote Contra Porphyrium would be amused, and gratified to see their enemy embalmed amongst the footnotes of the church.  Porphyry himself, I suspect, might utter a phoenician curse!


A new apocryphal gospel in Coptic

I’ve just discovered a blog by Alin Siciu which will be of interest to those interested in papyrology and early Christian texts.  One post caught me eye in particular:

An Unknown “Apocryphal” Text From the White Monastery

I recently edited together with Einar Thomassen a parchment folio owned by the Norwegian collector Martin Schøyen. The Schøyen leaf (MS 1991) was immediately followed in the codex by another dismembered fragment which ended up in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. They seem to belong to an unknown apocryphal writing.

Excerpts from A. Suciu & E. Thomassen, “An Unknown “Apocryphal” Text From the White Monastery,” in P. Buzi & A. Camplani (eds.), Christianity in Egypt: Literary Production and Intellectual Trends in Late Antiquity (Studia Ephemeridis Augustinianum) forthcoming 2011.


The link is to a PDF, which  gives a translation of at least part of it.  I wish the whole article was there! 

If one leaf of the codex is in the Schoyen collection, and another in the BNF, then we are dealing with a find of a codex in Egypt which has passed through the tender hands of the antiquities trade, and been cut up for maximum profit in the process.  One wonders whether any other leaves are out there.

This sort of thing tends to make me annoyed.  A book survives for centuries, only to be ripped apart by greedy men to make a buck.  This sort of thing leads people Paul Barford to demand that the trade is banned.  Barford, indeed, is so vehement on the issue that he sounds rather demented to normal people.  Much of what he says is plainly wrong.  But the sentiment is genuine enough, and arises from a real desire that we don’t destroy our heritage in order to enrich sleazy Swiss or Arab middle-men (no names, no libel actions).

On the other hand, I sometimes reflect, we don’t ever seem to get papyrus discoveries from countries like Morocco and Algeria any more, not since the French handed over these countries to their traditional oppressors.  We do get them from Egypt, a country in which the most ignorant peasant knows that antiquities mean MONEY, and where Cairo dealers keep agents in rural areas.  We get them because only a fool would destroy such a find.  We get them precisely BECAUSE they are worth money to the peasants who find them.

And then we get them cut into pieces, because the middle-men who buy them find that they can get twice the price for two separate leaves, than for one item of two leaves.  We get the awful destruction visited upon the papyrus manuscripts (including the ps.gospel of Judas) left in a moist bank box for twenty years by a Coptic emigre because scholars wouldn’t meet his price.

It’s not at all clear what to do about this.  Stuff that is worth money will be sold.  Stuff that is not worth money will be thrown away or burned.  That’s the way of the world.  That’s human nature. 


Is there any point in translating ancient texts

All of us know that the internet has revolutionised our access to ancient texts. 

First sites like CCEL came into being, back in the mid-90’s.  This made the Ante-Nicene, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers accessible to us all.  Indeed I remember, long ago, seeing a bound set in 38 volumes of that collection, in Mowbrays Bookshop in Kings Parade in Cambridge.  I was interested in the Fathers even then, but such a thing was far beyond my slender financial means.  But with the internet came CCEL, and suddenly we took it for granted. 

Google books came along a few years ago.  I don’t even remember when it arrived, so much do I take it for granted, but after 2005, certainly.  That gave us access to vast amounts of older literature, of scholarly series such as the PL, PG, the Bonn series of Byzantine texts and much, much more.  All this was given freely, and with the generous aid of American universities like Harvard.  European publishers poisoned the gift, and by their bleating for money made it largely inaccessible; but Google meant us all to have it.

Manuscripts are coming online as well, despite much resistance.

Now we have Google translate.  This improves constantly.  For French it is now very good indeed, and doubtless other languages will improve over time.  Latin has been added already.  All this would have been unimaginable as recently as 2005.

Now let us look into the future; a future that may be no further away than a handful of years.  As translate improves, will there be any purpose in providing hand-made translations?

When I first came on the web, CCEL was all there was.  I sought to help, by scanning more translations and placing them online.  Then Google books came along, and made much of this work redundant.  If you go to, or Google books, an OCR of these older translations is generated automatically.  The books are searchable.  Yes, it’s not perfect; but we can always get the text, and often it is very, very good.  So there is now very little purpose in my duplicating this effort, I sometimes feel.

Instead I have been translating stuff, commissioning new translations, and so forth.

But will this go the same way?  Will it too, one day soon, be pointless.

I’m not sure, I admit.  For one thing, digitising texts is still worthwhile.  When I want a text, I rejoice if I find it at Lacus Curtius, accurately typed in and easy to search.  I look there in preference.  Probably other sites like mine are also used in this way.

Will it be the same for man-made as opposed to machine translations? 

Note: I have several interesting emails in my inbox awaiting answers.  Unfortunately I have gone down with the headache bug, so it will be a day or two before I can reply.


Porphyry on astrology

I’ve become aware that the 3rd century anti-Christian writer Porphyry of Tyre wrote at least some work on astrology.  This seems to be very obscure, tho, and I’m not quite sure what exists.  Nothing seems to exist in translation.  I did come across a reference to Porphyry, Introduction to Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos (CCAG vol. 5 part 4, 212); but there may be others.  The CCAG is the Catalogus codicum astrologorum graecorum — a catalogue of astrological manuscripts, in which the editors have helpfully printed excerpts.

Vol. 5 part 4 is online, and the index at the back reveals what looks like a full text — pages 185-229, no less, 44 pages in 55 chapters.  It’s been edited from half a dozen manuscripts, and had been published before back in the renaissance.  5 lines is 43 words = 8.6 words/line, 31 lines a page = 267 words/page, 44 pages = 11,748 words, which at 10c a word comes out at $1,175 to translate … if I knew anyone who was interested and capable in what must require a serious understanding of Greek astrological terminology.

Tempting, tho!


Eusebius project update

We’re getting very close.  This morning I sat down with the Latin section in the new proof and checked that the typesetter had applied all of the enormous number of revisions made to this section during the main proof-reading.  Only seven glitches, all tiny, compared to the army of changes, additions and deletions of footnotes (all done correctly).

I’ve decided not to fiddle with the font size of the Syriac.  It seems a little small to me, but then my eyes get very tired and I am not a good guide.  What we will do, when we release the printed book for sale, is make the Syriac text available freely online for download.  Then anyone who finds it small can just print it in whatever size they like.  But the last time I looked, it seemed quite readable to me as is.

There were a couple of tweaks to the Coptic as well.

But we’re getting very close.  The only bit I haven’t seen since proof is the Greek fragments.  The Latin was the bit that took a beating, and it was partly my fault and partly the translator’s fault. 

Originally I only intended to print the translation.  But I was seduced into printing a text.  Since that wasn’t part of the deal with the translator, preparing a text fell on me.   The translator of the Greek and Latin rightly considered that revising the text was no part of what he was paid to do, and since he was busy with another project, I couldn’t pay him to do it either.

So I set out to produce a text, but without realising that I do not have enough time these days to do such a thing properly.  We’re all older than we were!

Now I was fortunate with the Greek, in that I was able to negotiate the use of the Sources Chretiennes text (mainly because they were kind to me, rather than through any skills of my own), and also to obtain an electronic version of the fragments.  I paid the translator of the Syriac to prepare a text as well, at something of a premium, and twisted his arm until he vocalised it as well.  He also did the Arabic text.  The Coptic text I had entered by a contact, but we ended up with a load of grave accents not found in the original, which had to be corrected by myself and the typesetter. 

But the Latin text I created myself.  I used my scanner as a basis, and then proofed it.  It was a great strain to do.  It took forever because I have no spare time, I find, and I was stealing an hour here or there in the evenings.  Of course a man tired from work does not proof very well!  So the result was bad, frankly, and that was my fault.  The translator then rescued me, at the proof stage, by correcting all my errors and licking it into shape.  We also switched Latin texts in this process, from Mai’s Latin over to Schenkl’s CSEL text, which didn’t help.

But we’re there.  The Latin is now done, definitely; the Syriac and Arabic likewise, and the Coptic also.  I suspect the Greek is also in shape.  Can a release be far away?!