The works of Methodius

Methodius of Olympus is one of those patristic authors who tends to be rather forgotten.  He died in 313 as a martyr, and wrote a reply to Porphyry’s Against the Christians.  There is one recent English study of his works,[1] but even the bibliography in this shows that Methodius has been neglected.

One reason for this is that only one of his works survives complete in Greek, his Symposium.  A substantial proportion of a second, On Free Will, also exists; and fragments of the other works.  However On Free Will exists complete in Old Slavonic, as do four more short works.

I think it would be best to start with a bibliography of editions and translations.

  • J.-P. Migne, Patrologia Graeca 18.  This reprints a pre-critical edition with an incomplete collection of the Greek fragments, and a Latin translation.
  • A. Jahn, S. Methodii Opera et Methodius Platonizans, 1865.  Online here.  This is a more complete collection of the Greek, and was used as the basis for the 1905 Lovyagin translation into Russian.
  • E. Lovyagin, 2nd Edition (1905).  Online here.  Russian translation of Greek material in Jahn edition.  Discussion of contents here and here (with modernised OCR of preface).
  • G. Bonwetsch, “Methodius”, in: Griechischen Christlichen Schriftsteller 27 (1917).  Online here.  This gives the Slavonic material in German translation (only) interspersed with the Greek fragments.
  • J. Farges, Méthode d’Olympe. Du libre arbitre. Traduction précédée d’une Introduction sur les questions de l’origine du monde, du libre arbitre et du problème du mal dans la pensée grecque, judaïque et chrétienne avant Méthode.  Paris: Beauchesne (1929).  French translation of On Free Will.
  • A. Vaillant, “Le ‘De autexusio’ de Méthode d’Olympe, version slave et texte grec édités et traduits en français, 246 p.”, in: Patrologia Orientalis 22, 5 (1930), p.631-877.  This contains On Free Will, edited from both Slavonic and Greek.  Online here.
  • M. Chub, in: Богословский труды (=Bogoslovski Trudy) 2 (1961) and 3 (1964).  Online here.  #2 contains Russian translations from Slavonic of 4 works; #3 contains the passages of On Free Will which only exist in Slavonic translated into Russian, with notes as to how they fit into the Loyagin text. English translation of his useful preface here, with links to two online manuscripts.
  • M. Richard, Opera minora 1 (1976). A reprint of M. Richard, “Quelques nouveaux fragments des Pères anténicéens et nicéens”, in: Symbolae Osloenses 38 (1963), 81.  This gives a new fragment of De resurrectione.
  • B. Zorzi & M. Mejzner, Metodio di Olimpo: La risurrezione, Roma: Città nuova editrice, 2010. Series: Collana di testi patristici 216.  Complete Italian translation by Mirosław Mejzner (Old Slavonic part) and M. Benedetta Zorzi (Greek part).
  •  R. Franchi, Metodio di Olimpo: Il libero arbitrio, Paoline Editoriale Libri, 2015.  448p. Series: Letture cristiane del primo millennio.  ISBN 9788831546690.
  •  N. Antoniono, Metodio di Olimpo: La verginità, Città Nuova, 2000.  200p.  Series:  Testi patristici.  ISBN 9788831131520. €20.  (Google Books preview here).

The works that have reached us are as follows.

1. The Banquet or Symposium (Συμπόσιον ἢ περὶ ἁγνείας), Convivium decem virginum, in praise of virginity. (CPG 1810)   Edited by Bonwetsch, p.1-141, and translated into English as part of the Ante-Nicene Fathers here.  This is the only work for which we possess the complete Greek text.  A modern edition with French translation exists in Sources Chretiennes 95 (1963), ed. H. Musurillo; and an Italian translation by N. Antoniono.

The remaining works are extant in an Old Slavonic translation, with sometimes substantial fragments of the Greek.

2. On free-will (Περὶ τοῦ αὐτεξουσίου), De libero arbitrio. (CPG 1811) The work seems to be directed against the Valentinians and other gnostics.  Edited Bonwetsch, p.146-206, and by Vaillant, Le ‘De autextusio’ de Methode d’Olympe, version slave et texte grec ed. et trad. en franc. p.631-889.  A short chunk — probably from Greek — is translated into English in the ANF here, and there are two French translations, one by l’Abbe Farges, the other by Vaillant.  There is also an Italian translation by Franchi.  The work is extensively quoted by Eznik of Kolb in his 5th century Armenian work On God.

3.  Aglaophon or On the resurrection (Ἀγλαοφῶν ἢ περὶ ἀναστάσεως), De resurrectione, in three books.  (CPG 1812) It refutes the idea of a purely spiritual resurrection.  The Greek is extant in fragments, including a long quotation from book 1 by Epiphanius in the Panarion.  The Old Slavonic version includes all three books, but abbreviates book 3.  Ed. Bonwetsch, 217-424, giving a German translation of the Old Slavonic.  A small piece is translated in the ANF here.  The Greek can be found in PG18, 265-329, and Richard’s Opera Minora.  UPDATE: There is now a complete Italian translation by Zorza and Mejzner.

4.  On life and reasonable actions, De vita et actibus rationi consentaneis.  (CPG 1813) This encourages us to be satisfied with what God has given us in this life and to place our hope on the world to come.  Quasten says that this appears in the Old Slavonic version between On free will and On the resurrection, but none of the Greek survives. Bonwetsch gives a German translation of the Old Slavonic on p.207-216; the text does not seem to have been edited, nor translated into English.  Mikhail Chub gave a Russian translation from manuscript in Bogoslovskie Trudy 2 (1961).  Update: English translation here.

5.  De cibis (CPG 1814) or On the distinction  between foods and the young cow mentioned in Leviticus. (actually Numbers 19).  This follows On the resurrection in the Old Slavonic and is exegetical in nature.  It is addressed to two women, Frenope and Kilonia, and gives an allegorical interpretation of the food laws.  Bonwetsch gives a German translation of the Old Slavonic on p.425-447.  Again this was translated by Mikhail Chub into modern Russian. Update: English translation here.

6. De lepra or To Sistelius on leprosy. (CPG 1815)  On the allegorical sense of Lev. 13.  Bonwetsch, German translation on p.449-474.  But there are some Greek fragments of this work, in addition to the Old Slavonic.  Chub translated it into Russian.  Update: English translation here.

7. A third treatise, De sanguisuga, (CPG 1816) allegorises the leech, described in Proverbs 30, 15f. (De sanguisuga: p.475-489) and Ps. 18:2 ‘The heavens show forth the glory of God’ (De creatis: p.491-500).  Bonwetsch gives a German version of the Old Slavonic.  Chub gives a Russian translation. Update: English translation here.

8.  On the creatures, or De creatis (CPG 1817). PG 18, 332-344.  Bonwetsch p.493-500.  There are also fragments in Photius, codex 235.

9.  Against Porphyry, or Adversus Prophyrium (CPG 1818).  Jerome tells is that Methodius wrote a well-received refutation of Porphyry (De vir. ill. 83; Epist. 48:13; Epist. 70:3), but it is entirely lost.  Bonwetsch edits some Greek fragments on p.501-507.

10.  On Job, or Fragmenta in Iob.  Bonwetsch edits some fragments on this subject from catenas, on p.519.

10. On the martyrs, or De martyribus (CPG 1820).  Bonwetsch edits a fragment under this title (otherwise unknown) on p.520.

11.  On Genesis, or In Genesim (CPG 1821).  See Studi e Testi 201, p. 54, “Les anciens commentateurs grecs de l’Octateuque et des Rois”, 1959.

There are also a number of spuria, with which we are not concerned here.  The most important of these is an Apocalypse of pseudo-Methodius (CPG 1830), from the 7th century.  A Sermo de Simeone et Anna (CPG 1827; BHG 1961) is probably 5-6th century.  A couple more sermons and fragments are listed in the CPG, none genuine.

Bonwetsch’s study on the theology of Methodius is online here.  In 1891 Bonwetsch did a Methodius von Olympus. 1. Schriften volume, which contains much the same material as the GCS edition.  This may be found here or here.  The latter copy is better quality, I think.

I can find no trace that the Old Slavonic text has been published at all, which seems remarkable to me, as this alone preserves much of his work.  This consists of a Corpus Methodianum of the 11th century, evidently translated from Greek but no longer extant in that language.  The existence of the Old Slavonic first became known via Cardinal Pitra in 1883.[2]  However two manuscripts are online now, and Mikhail Chub published translations of a few.  The preface to his translation I have made into English here, and it includes links to the manuscripts.

UPDATED June 2015 with Slavonic material info.  July 2015 with material from the SC site.  June 2017 with the Italian translation of De resurrectione.  July 2023 with Latin titles for those works without, and a note on the spuria.

  1. [1]Patterson, L. G., Methodius of Olympus : Divine Sovereignty, Human Freedom, and Life in Christ, CUA 1997
  2. [2]Analecta sacra spicilegio Solesmensi parata.  t. III.  Patres antenicaeni.  Venice, 1883, p.612 ff. (Bonwetsch Schriften p.vii and n.5.)

46 thoughts on “The works of Methodius

  1. A quick look into the matter suggests at least one possible reason for which this Methodian corpus hasn’t been wholly published yet: Slavists, it seems, were more interested in a seventh-century Apocalypse falsely attributed to Methodius, translated several times in Slavonic and then extensively used by East Slavic chroniclers. And, of course, Fathers weren’t studied as they deserve during Soviet times.
    I’ll see if, as a Slavist, I can find out more on this interesting topic.

  2. Thank you very much for this. I don’t have much idea about Old Slavonic studies. If you can discover whether this material by Methodius has been published, that would be helpful. I have not had much luck so far.

    I’d be interested to know of any academics in England or the US who work in this field. Do you know of any?

  3. I believe that Methodius and then Origen are the two main authors of the ante-Nicene church fathers who have a substantial amount of material that has never been translated into English (or into any modern language). Slavonic is understudied, I’m sure there is a lot of good stuff around, I think I recall a fragment from Melito of Sardis in Slavonic, but I’m not sure. Slavonic is the only language which contains the complete Commentary on Daniel by Hippolytus, the Greek has some gaps.

  4. Does anyone know if anyone plans on doing a translation of Commodianus – Carmen Apologeticum ? I am *really* surprised that no one has translated this into English in the last 100+ years…

  5. The Symposium is super-sweet. It was tons of fun to record, what with the frame story and all the female characters, both virtues and saints.

  6. What I meant to say, before I had an attack of fannishness, is that he seems a very mellow sort of teacher, and he seems to have a good opinion of both men and women, as well as a sense of humor. So I would be very interested in reading more of his works.

    I’ve been known to translate Russian with the help of audacity and a dictionary; but Old Slavonic is not exactly a walk in the park, by all accounts. It might be easier to find Old Slavonic translations in Russian and go from there, although that would be cheating. (And probably not terribly accurate, which is more to the point.)

  7. Oh, man. In Russian, they usually call him “Мефодий Патарский”, Methodius of Patara. No wonder I wasn’t finding anything.

  8. @lordskylark, Commodian’s Instructiones are in the ANF, but it seems that the Carmen apologeticum is not. Quasten lists a 1977 Italian edition and translation, but that’s the only translation.

  9. @Maureen: Well done!!! You’re a hero! Do you suppose that these are editions, or just studies? It looks, tentatively, as if he did all the minor works. These are the ones that I was going to start with, if I could find someone who would translate them for us. I think “Theological works” (Богословские труды ?) must be the journal name.


    Предисловие к извлечению из славянского сборника творений св. Preface to the recovery of the Slavic collection of works of St. священномученика Мефодия // Богословские труды. the martyr Methodius / / Theological Works. М., 1961. M., 1961. №2. Number 2. С. 145-151. S. 145-151.

    Мефодий Патарский, священномученик. Methodius of Patara, martyr. К [С]истелию о проказе (к Истелию о прокажении) / пер.: Михаил (Чуб), архиепископ // Богословские труды. K [G] isteliyu of leprosy (To Istelius about lepers) / lane. Michael (Chub), archbishop / / Theological Works. М., 1961. M., 1961. №2. Number 2. С. 173-183. S. 173-183.

    Мефодий Патарский, священномученик. Methodius of Patara, martyr. Молитва (из сочинения “О воскресении”) / пер.: Михаил (Чуб), архиепископ // Богословские труды. Prayer (from the essay “On the Resurrection”) / lane. Michael (Chub), archbishop / / Theological Works. М., 1961. M., 1961. №2. Number 2. С. 152-153. S. 152-153.

    Мефодий Патарский, священномученик. Methodius of Patara, martyr. О жизни и о разумной деятельности (слово второе “О житии и деянии разумъне”) / пер.: Михаил (Чуб), архиепископ // Богословские труды. The life and activities on a reasonable (second floor “of the life and deeds of razumne”) / lane. Michael (Chub), archbishop / / Theological Works. М., 1961. M., 1961. №2. Number 2. С. 154-159. S. 154-159.

    Мефодий Патарский, священномученик. Methodius of Patara, martyr. О пиявице, о которой говорится в книге Притчей, и о (словах) “Небеса проповедуют славу Божию” (О пиявици сущии в притчах и о Небеса исповедают славу Божию”) / пер.: Михаил (Чуб), архиепископ // Богословские труды. М., 1961. №2. С. 184-205. About piyavitse referred to in the book of Proverbs, and the (words), “The heavens declare the glory of God” (On piyavitsi suschii in the parables of heaven and confess the glory of God “) / lane. Michael (Chub), archbishop / / Theological Works. Moscow, 1961. № 2. S. 184-205.

    Мефодий Патарский, священномученик. Methodius of Patara, martyr. О различении яств и о телице, упоминаемой в книге Левит, пеплом которой окроплялись грешники (о разлучении яди и о юници менимеи в левитице еяже пепеломь грешнии кропяхуся) / пер.: Михаил (Чуб), архиепископ // Богословские труды. On distinguishing dishes and heifer, mentioned in Leviticus, which is sprinkled with ashes sinners (on the separation of UNIC yadi and is applicable to levititse eyazhe pepelom sinners kropyahusya) / lane. Michael (Chub), archbishop / / Theological Works. М., 1961. M., 1961. №2. Number 2. С. 160-172. S. 160-172.


    Предисловие к диалогу св. Preface to the Dialogue of St.. священномученика Мефодия “О свободе воли” // Богословские труды. the martyr Methodius “On Free Will” / / Theological Works. М., 1964. M., 1964. №03. № 03. С. 187-191. S. 187-191.

    Мефодий Патарский, священномученик. Methodius of Patara, martyr. О свободе воли / пер.: Михаил (Чуб), архиепископ // Богословские труды. Freedom of will / per. Michael (Chub), archbishop / / Theological Works. М., 1964. M., 1964. №03. № 03. С. 192-208. S. 192-208.

    And as you say there are more studies and so on. The Google translate version is here.

    The thing to do is to get hold of copies of the journal articles. (That would be a challenge for my local town library!) I can see that I need help from Slavicists…!

  10. According to this transliteration site, Богословские труды = “Bogoslovskiye troodi”. A Google search finds no matches, but turning “troodi” into “trudi” brings up results for “Bogoslovski Trudi (Lavori teologici)”, although not many. Wonder how it is usually transliterated? If I need to search library catalogues such as, I’ll need to know what to look for!

    UPDATE: Not much joy. But the journal has a home page here (Google translate version here. From this there is a link to a Norwegian site that provides the following details:

    Bogoslovskie Trudy
    ISSN: 0320-0213 ( BIBSYS )
    ITAR kode: 1019504
    Publiseringsutvalgets faginndeling: Teologi og religionsvitenskap
    Vitenskapsdisiplin: Teologi (151)
    Fagfellevurdering: Fagfellevurdert
    Behandlingsstatus: Satt ved årsskiftet
    Nivå: Vitenskapelig nivå a
    Startår: 1960
    Forlag: Izdatel’stvo Moskovskoi Patriarkhii
    Land: Russland

    The ISSN should help, I imagine.

  11. “Bogoslovskie trudy” (Theological Studies) is the theological journal of the Moscow Patriarchate.
    Thanks to Maureen!
    I think I can get hold of these articles through my university library and then scan them, if you are interested.
    I haven’t been able yet to locate other works on Methodius in Slavonic (except Vaillant’s translation), which seems to me quite surprising.

  12. “Bogoslovskie Trudy” seems to be the right anglicisation! I have found entries under that name in COPAC and indeed on Amazon and Abebooks. There are copies in various UK libraries, including a set in Cambridge University Library (order in West Room, shelfmark L66.c.28.1-), which is accessible to me (or will be shortly).

    I shall try there first. ILL is a last resort, for I remember that, if I order it — at immense expense — by inter-library loan, the British Library will scan the page into digital form, stamp it with loads of bogus copyright claims of their own, and then, incredibly, print it out on A4, at low, grainy resolution, and send you the paper print-out, retaining the digital copy for themselves.

  13. @adshkute, if you can get hold of these articles and scan them, I’d be very grateful! It would save me fumbling with volumes and page numbers in a language I don’t understand.

    The ones that I want are those listed in my comment earlier.

    I don’t mind what image format they come in — I can create PDF’s from .PNG or .JPG or whatever.

    Thank you again!

  14. @Mikhail: Thank you very much! This is great, and very useful to have! Do you know what the original published source for these is? (I’m hoping to find an Old Slavonic text, you see)

  15. It’s worth noting that Musurillo also did an English translation of the Symposium, with notes and introduction, for the Ancient Christian Writers series (link).

  16. Thank you so much for this update! It’s very interesting to hear of the book, and also of the project at Jena to edit the Slavonic texts. One can only wish them well!

  17. You are welcome. I fully share your delight and enthusiasm for this article!

    It seems likely that Slavonic manuscripts still conceal a number of interesting patristic texts, though the translation of Methodius is a first-class rarity. I could translate the fragment of “De Pythonissa”, but why not tactfully contact A. Morozov?

  18. Well I could, but I expect that he wants and needs to publish it formally. He’s a young academic, and he’s done the right thing in giving a transcription.

  19. I’m new to Methodius, and I have a couple questions for those of you who are more experienced. First, the editions that I’m aware of are in Latin (De libero arbitrio; De resurrectione; Symposium [Convivium decem virginum]). Why are scholars using the Latin translations? Second, is there a Latin translation of Oration concerning Simeon and Anna (I have access to a Greek version)? And, if so, is there a standard Latin title to Oration?

  20. I’m not aware of scholars using Latin *editions* of those three works. But Latin translations do exist of these three works, because they have long been known, and most patristic texts were translated into Latin at the renaissance. The Patrologia Graeca editions of the Greek contain a parallel Latin translation, and I suppose this might be used? Not sure what you refer to here.

    Or do you perhaps mean Latin *titles*? Greek works were usually assigned Latin titles at the renaissance, and the practice has continued to our own day. Scholarship is multi-national, and if we didn’t use a standard title in Latin, it would be far harder to search for a dozen or more different vernacular titles for the same work. But I suspect you know this.

    According to the Clavis Patrum Graecorum, the “Sermo de Simeone et Anna” (CPG 1827) is not genuine, so is attributed to “Pseudo-Methodius”. The CPG tells me that R. Caro discussed the text in “La homiletica Mariana griega en el siglo v” [Marian Library Studies, New Series 4]. Dayton, Ohio (1972), II, p.610-617, and gave a date of 5-6th century. Subsequent writers, I find, seem to repeat his conclusion. The Greek text of this work was printed in the Patrologia Graeca volume 18, columns 348-381, with – as always – a facing Latin translation. But there is a good English translation, from the PG text, in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, freely available online.

    I’m not quite sure whether I have answered your question, or simply confused myself (!), but I hope this helps?

  21. Thanks, Roger. Yes, I meant is there a standard Latin title for Oration concerning Simeon and Anna. Sorry for the confusion. I have T&T 1869 translation by William R. Clark and Jahn’s Greek edition.

  22. Yes: the standard title is the “Sermo de Simeone et Anna”. Hope that helps.

    I’m going to write a blog post about the date and authenticity of the work at some point.

  23. Thanks for the title, Roger. I hope you consider it authentically Methodius of Olympus and not pseudo-Methodius.

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