From my diary

I’m rather busy with other things, but I’ve done some work on OCR-ing the translation of Theodoret’s commentary on Romans from the Christian Remembrancer of 1839.  The 1840 volume of that serial has still not become available to me, unfortunately, in which the remainder of the translation probably appears.

It’s a wearisome business, in truth.  The energy with which I scanned materials, ten years ago, has departed.  Clearly I shall not be scanning huge amounts of texts in future.  However did I do it, in the past?  I must have been young and foolish.

This dislike is made worse by all the thee’s and thou’s.  The text, unless read carefully and mentally retranslated into modern English as you go, quickly becomes unintelligible.  And I’m not reading it that carefully — I’m correcting OCR errors. 

Oh well.  I’m about half way through the 1839 portions of the text.  I admit that I shall be relieved when I get to the end.


Ethiopian biblical commentaries — the Amharic “Andemta commentary”

In Amharic, the main biblical commentary is known as the Andemta commentary.  This is divided into four sections, which cover the Old Testament, the New Testament, Patristic works, and Monastic canons and texts.[1]

The Andemta commentary is an explanation in Amharic of passages in the Ethiopian biblical, patristic and liturgical books, themselves written in Geez.  The commentary does discuss textual variants and emendations, showing that the authors are aware of scribal issues.  The Geez OT is based on the Septuagint, rather than the Hebrew text.[2]

The commentary is little known in the West.  Manuscripts are uncommon.  The late Roger Cowley (d. 1988) worked in Ethiopia for 15 years, and managed to amass copies of the entire collection, which he bequeathed to the British Library.  He encountered great difficulty even in identifying manuscripts.[3]  However the Andemta commentary has now at least been printed for a number of books of the bible; Psalms, the 5 books of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Ezekiel, the 4 gospels, Acts, the letters of Paul, the Catholic letters, and Revelation.[4]

Cowley does refer to the commentary on Philoxenus (of Mabbug) in the Andemta commentary in his own book on Ethiopian Biblical Interpretation, but otherwise I have been unable to find anything on the subject of the patristic commentaries.

  1. [1]British Library Endangered Archives project 336, here. “This project aims to digitise the andemta (Ge’ez – Amharic commentary) manuscripts of biblical and patristic commentaries made according to the lay bet exegetical tradition. The formerly famous exegetical school of thought known as lay bet has survived only in the much endangered codices which are kept mostly in private and in rare monastic collections in Eastern Gojjam and Southern Gondar regions, Ethiopia. The material includes 70-75 codices which cover the Ge’ez – Amharic commentary of the four sections of Ethiopian Exegesis: Old Testament, New Testament, Patristic Works and Monastic Canons & Writings.”
  2. [2]K. Stoffregen-Pedersen, Traditional Ethiopian exegesis of the book of Psalms, 1995, p.5
  3. [3]K. Stoffregen-Pedersen, Traditional Ethiopian exegesis of the book of Psalms, 1995, p.2
  4. [4]K. Stoffregen-Pedersen, p.3.

More on the Ge`ez version of the Coptic-Arabic gospel catena

It has taken some time since I wrote this initial article, but I am finally in a position to say somewhat more.

The Gospel problems and solutions by Eusebius was used by the compiler of a now lost Greek catena commentary.  This catena was translated into Coptic (De Lagarde published it) and the Coptic into Arabic. 

The Arabic version then seems to have furnished material for a composition in Ethiopian, in Ge`ez, to be specific.

The Geez adaptation of the Coptic-Arabic gospel catena gives the name of the magi’s ancestor as Zaradas, and continues with the information tabulated below [15]: …

15. The text I have primarily used is B.L. Add. 16220, fol. 10b-11a; EMML 2088 fol. 9a-b has only minor differences.[1]

The source for this is the mess that is Roger Cowley’s Ethiopian Biblical Interpretation, where Cambridge University Press declined to do more than reproduce the typescript.  The book is full of great scholarship, but, as here, subjects are raised without any introduction, on the assumption that everyone will know about this Ge`ez text.  In this case Cowley is investigating the sources for a passage in the Amharic “Andemta commentary”, discussing the Magi, and doing so with great intelligence and learning, but, unfortunately, little concern for the reader.

“BL” is of course the British Library; “EMML” is the “Ethiopian Manuscript Microfilm Library (see 7.2 under W. Macomber and Getatchew Haile)”, which doesn’t take us a  huge distance forward.  It is a reasonable inference from Cowley’s careless remarks that these are two manuscripts of this Geez text.

The British Library is a major research library, so of course its website is useless to the researcher and its catalogues must be found elsewhere.  What else do we expect, in return for our taxes?  I found this information on Add. 16220:

The Manuscripts which here follow in the order of numbers, from No. 16,185 to No. 16,258 inclusive, are in the Ethiopic language, and were presented by the Church Missionary Society. They are all fully described in the “Catalogus Codicum Manuscriptorum Orientalium, qui in Museo Britannico asservantur. Pars III.” Published in 1847. Folio.

In the 160 years following, it seems, nothing more has been done.  The British Library, lazily, has not even troubled to place these paper catalogues online as PDFs.  Thankfully Google Books has it.  But even then, the volume is not organised by shelfmark, nor is there an index.  Dear me, no.  Fortunately Google again rescued me, and I find the item on p.10-11, as “ms. XI.”

It is a catena on Matthew, on f.9-46, preceded by 8 leaves of paschal tables.  Named as being referenced ubique (everywhere) are: John Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, Severus of Antioch, Gregory Nazianzen, Basil the Great, Clement of Rome, Athanasius, Benjamin, Epiphanius, Simon Eremita, Litus, Ausonius, Justus. 

Sadly there is no mention of Eusebius.  But I do not trust catalogues on such things, of course.

Ms. XII is also a catena on Matthew, I notice.

I suppose it is futile to wish that this Ethiopic catena — just 37 leaves — was edited and translated?

  1. [1]R. Cowley, Ethiopian biblical interpretation, p.49. — more thieving Italians

I don’t know why Italian booksellers are dishonest.  But I have received precisely two orders for my book from them, and in both cases they did not feel any obligation to actually pay for the book.

Thief of the week is  Licosa ordered a book from me at the start of November 2011.  I sent it, promptly, together with an invoice.  The invoice went unpaid.

Six weeks later I sent a reminder.  There was no answer from Licosa.

Today I have written again to tell them that I propose to name and shame them.  So here is it: Licosa are dishonest.

German companies are honest.  But I shall not be accepting any further orders from Italian booksellers without cash up front.

UPDATE: My letter demanding payment and threatening a post like this one has produced a reply, that the matter will be handed to someone or other.  Humpf.


More on Zeno of Verona

The correspondent who first asked about Zeno of Verona (d. 371-2) has written explaining why he was looking for a translation:

I am presently researching and compiling early church commentary on 1 Tim 2:15-3-1a, and more precisely, trying to ascertain which interpreters ascribed either a typological or illustrative reference of Eve to the church, and/or which interpreters believed that 1 Tim 2:15 was a “faithful saying”.   As you are likely aware, this text has been a difficult one for interpreters.  I had come across a reference to St. Zeno (here) and I wanted to verify his quotation form the original source.

The reference is in A Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature by David L. Jeffrey (Eerdmans, 1992), p.252, in the article on Eve, which fortunately appears in the Google Books preview.  The relevant portion reads as follows:

The NTs depiction of the Church as the bride of Christ, together with Paul’s parallel between “the first man Adam” and Christ “the last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45), led to an explicit association in the writings of the Church Fathers between Eve, mother of the living, and “mother” church, mater ecclesia. Zeno of Verona declared that just as Eve was created from the side of Adam, so the Church was created from the side of Christ, from which flowed blood and water, figuring the martyrdom and baptism wherein the Church actually took its beginning. In this way, says Zeno. “Adam is restored through Christ, and Eve through the church” (PL 11.352). The same idea is expressed by St. Augustine: “Eva de latere dormientis, Ecclesia de latere patientis” (PL 37.1785) — “Eve from the side of the sleeping one, the Church from the side of the suffering one.” This parallel became commonplace in the Middle Ages …

The remark of Zeno is thankfully referenced to the Patrologia Latina, vol. 11, column 352, which is online.  The remark appears at the end of chapter 10 of Book 1, tractatus 13:

… ut legitime Adam per Christum, Eva per Ecclesiam renovarentur.

… so rightly Adam was restored through Christ, Eve through the Church.

The German translation of the whole chapter is here, and the Google translate version of it is here.


The homilies of Zeno of Verona

A correspondent wrote to ask about an English translation of the sermons of St. Zeno of Verona:

I am trying to find an English translation of St Zeno’s (of Verona) sermons.  In particular, I am looking for some typological comments he has said to have made on Eve and the church.

The name was unfamiliar to me, and is probably unfamiliar to us all, so I thought that a few notes might be generally helpful.[1]

A number of medieval manuscripts contain a collection of sermons in two books, ascribed to a certain Zeno of Verona.  The oldest of these mss. is 8th century.[2]  Book 1 contains 62 texts, and book 2 contains only 30.  Only about 30 of the homilies appear to be complete and revised, the remainder being outlines or fragments.  This suggests that the collection was not made by the author, but at some later date.

The texts make use of Hilary of Poitiers’ Commentary on the Psalms (A.D. 360), and so belong to the following period.  Jerome and Gennadius and the other biographers of the period do not mention Zeno, but Ambrose of Milan, around 380 mentions him as the recently deceased bishop of the city in a letter.[3]  There is mention of African writers, and the cult of an obscure Mauretanian saint, which has led to speculation that Zeno was of African origin.  There is, apparently, no real reason to dissent from the transmitted authorship.  He seems to have died around 371-2.

The majority of the homilies are exegetical, although some are moral in character.  The exegetical work is primarily around the Old Testament.

The editio princeps appeared in 1508. [4]

The text appears in PL 11, 253-528, and has been edited in the Corpus Christianorum series.[5]  No English translation seems to exist of any of this material, but a German translation appeared in the BKV series, and is online.[6]

He also refers to the kinds of casual paganism that Christians may encounter.[8]:

The following also displease God: those who run around tombs, who offer sacrificial meals to the stinking cadavers of the dead; those who out of love for overindulgence and drinking in disreputable places have suddenly produced martyrs for themselves [to celebrate boozily] through their wine-bottles and their cups; those who observe days; those who try to make ‘Egyptian’ [ill-omened] days out of favourable ones; those who try to find auguries and see their well-being / salvation in the violently torn-open stomachs of cattle.  (Sermon 1.25 (15).11)

This is little.  But surely someone could take the time and translate Zeno?

  1. [1]See J. Quasten, Patrology vol. 4, p.127-130, for more details.
  2. [2]A rather rubbishy list may be found on p.clxi of Giulari’s edition.
  3. [3]Letters I 5, 1.  The identification is made by Bigelmair in his Zeno von Verona, 1902, online here:
  4. [4]J. Giulari, S. Zenonis episcopi Veronensis sermones, Verona (1883). Online here:
  5. [5]B. Lofstedt, CCL 22 (1971).
  6. [7]
  7. [6]A. Bigelmair, BKV2 vol. 10, Munich, 1934.  Online here:[/ref]  I believe that an Italian translation may also exist.  Apparently the CCL text comments on the translations on p.55-59.

    Is Zeno interesting?  I can’t say that I know!  A web search unearths some interesting thoughts.

    In a sermon to new converts on baptism, he used astral themes.  He described Christ as our sun, the true sun, who once set and rose anew and will never set again, crowned with twelve rays, symbolising the twelve apostles.  Being asked about the horoscope of the new birth, he went through the zodiac, assigning a spiritual significance to each.[7]Stephen M. McCluskey, Astronomies and cultures in early medieval Europe, Cambridge, 2000, p.39.

  8. [8]Ken Dowden, European paganism, 2000, p.156

Following Jesus ever more closely … ouch

I’ve just seen the website of St. Marys, Bletchley, which has the slogan:

Following Jesus ever more closely

Just like this:

Hmm.  It’s probably my warped sense of humour, but this conjured up quite an image.

Following Jesus closely…
And more closely …
And still more closely …
And … ouch!

I have this picture of Jesus, robes and all, walking down the street with a gang of anglicans jostling to follow him “ever more closely”, until one of them accidentally treads on His robe!

Which is possible not the image intended.

A worthy sentiment, but possibly in need of some rephrasing!


From my diary

I’ve started OCR-ing the commentary of Theodoret on Romans from the Christian Remembrancer of 1839.  The translation belongs to the Oxford Movement period, so is pretty stodgy.  I’ve not seen any indication yet of who the translator is. 

I’ve also bought a copy of Adobe InDesign CS 5.5 from Amazon, at some terrifying price.  At least I can reclaim the 20% VAT (and isn’t it outrageous that if I buy something from you, we have to give the government an extra 20% of the money we pass between us, just to prevent them throwing us in prison?)  This should arrive later this week.  When it does, I shall tentatively try doing some typesetting experiments on the Origen book, and request a print via  Since I have to learn how to do it, the sooner I get that underway the better.  The book needs more editorial work, but I can do that while waiting for the printed-out form to appear.

That trip to Israel was good, but not relaxing, and the very long days of travel have left me rather tired!  My apologies to anyone awaiting an email reply.  I will get to you.

Meanwhile I need to find a further foreign trip to go on, before I have to go back to the treadmill in a week or two.


Partial translation of Theodoret’s Commentary on Romans online

A correspondent writes:

I have been enjoying Robert C. Hill’s two-volume translation of Theodoret’s commentary on Paul’s epistles.  For comparison of Romans, I found an older translation on Google books in The Christian Remembrancer, Vol XXI, 1839 (sadly, it only covers chapters 1-8). 

The material is to be found on page 34, 93, 158, 231, 291, 349, 407, 480, 608, 671, and 734, according to the index at the front.  It ought to be rescued and added to the Additional Fathers site.

The last item indicates that it continues: but I have not been able to locate the next volume online.


From my diary

Being offline last week for almost a week felt like a bit of a risk.  But in fact my email inbox is not too bad, and I have processed most of these.  A couple require a more considered response — or a longer response!  Nothing was shrieking for my attention.

I notice that it is Lent next week.  There is a case for giving up TV “news” for Lent.  I didn’t see any News while I was in Israel, and, in truth, I didn’t miss it.  Why do I need a daily digest of miseries, about which I can do little?  I did mention this to someone on the tour, and the response was that we need to pray for the world.  This is scriptural, of course, but there is probably a balance somewhere.

One of the emails that I received was from my local library, telling me that Roger Cowley’s Ethiopian Biblical Interpretation is in.  So I went into town and picked it up.  The material in this volume will be unfamiliar to most of us, so I will probably post a digest of the interesting bits here at some point.  Few of us can have any idea what kind of literary sources and approaches were used for biblical study in medieval Ethiopia.  But since the country was evangelised from the Byzantine empire, it is likely that the catena model was in use.  What other pattern could there be?

Another thing that I did today was to copy all the digital photos that I shot in Israel — more as a keepsake than anything else — onto a memory stick and take them to Boots to be printed off on the 1 hr service.  This produces really good results, as a rule; equal to those that we got in the film days.  The photos are better than I recalled, in truth.

On a different note, I’m toying with the idea of adding a photograph to the blog header.  This needs to be professionally shot, of course — some may feel that *I* need to be professionally shot, in a rather different sense! — and so I’ve contacted a photographer and we’ll see what happens.  In fact I contacted him before I went to Israel, but I emailed him today to say that I was back.  Curiously he omitted to discuss the little matter of copyright release, which I did mention, so I have asked for specifics. 

While I was in Israel, I found myself starting to write another song.  It was on Thursday evening, while in the Ron Beach hotel in Tiberias.  I found myself outside by the pool, in the dark, with rain pouring down on me, as I walked up and down trying to work it out.  There was no useful indoor area, and I needed the beat of the feet on the concrete!   Sadly, in the absence of a tape recorder, I am left only with the idea and the hook.  Today I have dug out a voice recorder from the drawer, and … discovered the need for AAA batteries!  Rather droll, I thought — determination is all very well, but you still run into these intractable sorts of barriers.

There are various projects that need my attention, but that will not happen today.  The Origen book needs finishing off, and I ought to start typesetting it (and learning how to typeset it).  A proposal for a further book needs attention, or else rejection.  There are also various Christian things that I need to do, and events that I need to attend.

Pedal to the metal, in other words, comme d’habitude.