“The Mysteries of the Greek Alphabet” – part 1 of Coptic text now online

Dr Anthony Alcock has been at it again.  Fresh from translating the late Coptic poem, the Triadon, he has attacked another late Coptic text.  Today I received a PDF with the first part (out of five) of an English translation of a 14th century work, The Mysteries of the Greek Alphabet.  It is here:

What is this text?  Well, it’s one of those texts that finds significance in all sorts of ways, such as in the number of letters in the alphabet:

In the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit, one God. A discourse uttered by Apa Seba, the presbyter and anchorite, concerning the mystery of God that is in the letters of the alphabet, which none of the ancient philosophers was able to reveal.  …

So, it has become clear that the twenty-two works in the economy of Christ and the twenty-two works of God in the creation are the model of each other, like the twenty-two letters of the alphabet, as we have already said.  …

The text is extant in a manuscript in the Bodleian library in Oxford, Ms. Huntingdon 393, written in 1393 A.D.

There is also an Arabic version, although I don’t know where this might be found.

The Coptic text was published with French translation in Le Muséon, vols. 19 and 20 in 1900-1901 by Adolphe Hebbelynck.  US readers may find vol. 19 here (non-US readers should curse the malign publishers of their land who induced Google to block their access). (Update: also here, at Archive.org). Vol. 20 is here, and accessible to all (so far).

Dr. Alcock has stated his intention to translate the other four sections.  This is admirable, and I look forward to reading them!

UPDATE: The excellent Alin Suciu also has the story here, but in addition posts a monochrome image of a couple of pages of the manuscript!  This is in Coptic, with a marginal Arabic translation.  So that’s where the Arabic version may be found!

UPDATE: A kind correspondent has emailed a link to vol. 19 at Archive.org, accessible to all.


Eusebius book – doing the money

A day that I have long dreaded has arrived – the day on which I have to work out just what it cost to make the translation of Eusebius of Caesarea’s, Gospel Problems and Solutions.

Why now?  Well, it’s the end of the financial year.  The company has been selling copies of the book for the last two years and, unless I want to pay tax on non-existent profits, I need to book the costs incurred in making the thing in the first place.

Trouble is, the payments went out in small lumps.  There was twenty pounds here, and fifty pounds there, over quite a long period.  I did keep track of a lot of it, initially, in a spreadsheet.  But then I succumbed and stopped being so meticulous.  Which meant, of course, that today I had to go back through emails looking for the ones where I said, “the cheque is on the way” and things like that.

Realistically I cannot hope to have covered them all.  I know that there are more costs that I have been unable to find.  But everything I have billed is certainly a real expenditure.

There are also costs connected with the Origen, Homilies on Ezekiel book, which still languishes unpublished but still cost a lot (I need to hire a typesetter and get it out there).  These I have included, since they are part of the expense.  But even so, I spent quite a bit more than I thought.

The bill for translating and reviewing and editing and transcribing is a little more than five thousand two hundred pounds; around $8,000 dollars.  That, to put it mildly, is quite a sum.  Revenues from sales, which exclude the physical cost of manufacture, have been only around 60% of that.  The cost of manufacture and postage drives that revenue figure down further – I have not calculated quite how, since I charged for those costs separately.  So it looks as if I will end up with a loss of around $4,000 on the project, assuming I don’t sell many more copies (which is likely).

I don’t complain, mind you!  The costs came in, little by little, so I hardly noticed them.  I can afford the loss, spread over four years as it was.  And, heck, it’s not a huge sum, really!  A foreign holiday would often cost more, and leave nothing behind.

The great positive is that the job is done!  For a small sum, as most people count these things, a translation of this highly interesting work now exists.  Once sales cease — there is still a trickle of these — I shall place the translation on the web, just as I promised.  We shall all be the better for it.

And I will bring out the Origen book too.  All the main costs are already paid, so why not?


Translation of the Triadon, part 2 – now online in English

Anthony Alcock has continued translating the Triadon, the 14th century poem which happens to be the last literary text composed in Coptic.  He has kindly made this accessible to us all.  A PDF of the second part is here:

Thank you very much, Dr Alcock!


A note on Sir Henry Savile’s edition of Chrysostom

A correspondent yesterday enquired whether the edition of Chrysostom prepared by Sir Henry Savile in the 17th century mentioned a Sir Henry Neville.  The latter, he said, was a student of Savile’s and contributed largely to the cost of the edition.

As you can see from the title page, above, only Savile’s name appears.  But it would be interesting to learn more.  The story of how some famous books appears is one that I would gladly read, and I doubt that I am alone in this.

UPDATE: The story of Sir Henry Neville’s involvement looks rather dubious, as I look into it.  The source for it appears to be a letter written in 1615 by George Lord Carew to Sir Thomas Roe, then a foreign ambassador.  The letter was published by the Camden Society in 1860, and is online here (p.14).  The footnote contains the statement, “He published an edition of Chrysostom 1614, at great cost.”  This is repeated in various subsequent compendia.  But this is probably just a confusion of the Camden Society editor with Sir Henry Savile, and even the year is wrong — it should be 1611-1613.  Most likely this is just a modern myth.


Life of Mar Aba – chapter 36

The 6th century Saint’s life of the Nestorian Patriarch, Mar Aba, is an interesting document in that it contains real insights into the political maneouverings at the court of the later Sassanid kings.  The Nestorian patriarch now had a very substantial following in Persia.  Earlier Patriarchs were merely seen as the head of an unpopular sect suspected of treacherous preference for the Byzantine emperor.  But the hostility of the latter towards the Nestorians had removed this problem, and the King of Kings was beginning to see him instead as a possible counter-balance to the sometimes maleficent power of the Zoroastrian clergy.  Keeping the latter busy with theological issues distracted them from plotting.

In chapter 35 we saw that the Magians had induced the King of Kings to imprison the Catholicos again.

36.  The Catholicos boldly raised his voice and said, “Once the King of Kings has made such a decision about me, because of the whisperings of my enemies, (further) words are unnecessary.  He orders my immediate death, and with great joy do I accept death for the truth of Christ.  The Magians persecuted me, an innocent, and imprisoned me for seven years in the power of my persecutors, and sent a renegade to murder me.  But God  in his invincible power rescued me, after I came to the court of his Majesty the King of Kings, and they did violence on me and the people of God, although they fettered me hand and foot and neck as a malefactor, and God the almighty knows that I was dragged away by them by force.  The King of Kings said that he would release me from the fetters, and after he retracted this, and they slandered me before his sublime Majesty, and he finally decided against me, so let him now demand my immediate execution.”

The PSNIK’ went and reported these words to the king.  Then the King of Kings left the Saint alone and said to him in a friendly way, “Go and write letters to the Christians of each province, that, if the insurgents do not settle down peaceably, the sword, bow and arrows will be drawn against them, they will be attacked, and any found fighting will be killed, be they Magian, Jew or Christian.”  After the PSNIK’ brought the message, he undertook to write it.

After this was done, God worked on the King of Kings, and it was suggested to him that he should release the Saint.  And when the King of Kings went into (winter) quarters near the (two) cities, the Saint went with him.

The Magians must have wondered why on earth the monarch kept dithering.