The Greek fragments of Methodius translated in the Ante-Nicene Fathers series

Most of the works of Methodius of Olympus (d. 311) are preserved only in Old Slavonic.  His Symposium exists in Greek, and was translated in the mid-19th century, and appears in the Ante-Nicene Fathers series in volume 6.  A modern translation by Musurillo also exists.

Three short works exist in Old Slavonic only; a fourth, De Lepra, also has some Greek fragments.  Two long works extant in Old Slavonic, De resurrectione and De autexusio, likewise have substantial Greek fragments.

As I consider commissioning a translation of these two long works, I have to decide what to do about the Greek fragments.

I had originally intended to commission a translation of these also.  But I am still having difficulty getting a satisfactory version of De lepra together.  Obviously it helps to have someone who knows both Slavonic and Greek to do both sides; but this I do not have.

Instead I have two translators working independently, a process that masks the correspondences between the two versions.  But the Greek is often fuller than the Slavonic; so one can’t just ignore it.

Recently Andrew Eastbourne courteously drew my attention to the fact that the ANF translators also translated the fragments extant in Greek.  This I had either not known, or had forgotten.  I need to see what is there; and this post will document that.

The ANF series is an American pirate edition of the Ante-Nicene Christian Library series commissioned by the Scottish firm of T. & T. Clarke in the 1860’s.  A list of the volumes is here, and so I learn that Methodius was vol. XIV, which is accessible at Google Books here.

Looking at the ANCL volume, I find more information than is included in the ANF.  The translator was Rev. William Clark, M.A., vicar of St Mary Magdalen in Taunton, and he includes a preface to Methodius, seemingly omitted from the ANF (or at least the online OCR of it), which I reproduce here:


METHODIUS, who is also called Eubulius,[1] was first of all bishop simultaneously of Olympus and Patara, in Lycia, as is testified by several ancient writers.[2] He was afterwards removed, according to St Jerome, to the episcopal see of Tyre in Phoenicia, and at the end of the latest of the great persecutions of the Church, about the year 312, he suffered martyrdom at Chalcis in Greece. Some consider that it was at Chalcis in Syria, and that St Jerome’s testimony ought to be thus understood, as Syria was more likely to be the scene of his martyrdom than Greece, as being nearer to his diocese. Others affirm that he suffered under Decius and Valerian; but this is incorrect, since he wrote not only against Origen long after the death of Adamantius, but also against Porphyry, whilst he was alive, in the reign of Diocletian.

Methodius is known chiefly as the antagonist of Origen; although, as has been pointed out, he was himself influenced in no small degree by the method of Origen, as may be seen by his tendency to allegorical interpretations of Holy Scripture. The only complete work of this writer which has come down to us is his Banquet of the Ten Virgins, a dialogue of considerable power and grace, in praise of the virginal life. His antagonism to Origen, however, comes out less in this than in his works On the Resurrection, and On Things Created. The treatise On Free Will is, according to recent critics, of doubtful authorship, although the internal evidence must be said to confirm the ancient testimonies which assign it to Methodius. His writings against Porphyry, with the exception of some slight fragments, are lost, as are also his exegetical writings.

For the larger fragments we are indebted to Epiphanius (Haeres. 64), and Photius (Bibliotheca, 234-37).

Combefis published an edition of his works in 1644; but only so much of the Banquet as was contained in the Bibliotheca of Photius. In 1656 Leo Allatius published for the first time a complete edition of this work at Rome from the Vatican MS.  Combefis in 1672 published an edition founded chiefly upon this; and his work has become the basis of ali subsequent reprints.

The following translation has been made almost entirely from the text of Migne, which is generally accurate, and the arrangement of which has been followed throughout. The edition of Jahn in some places rearranges the more fragmentary works, especially that On the Resurrection; but, although his text was occasionally found useful in amending the old readings, and in improving the punctuation, it was thought better to adhere in general to the text which is best known.

A writer who was pronounced by St Epiphanius[3] to be ανὴρ λόγιος καὶ σφόδρα περὶ τῆς ἀληθείας ἀγωνιστάμενος, and by St Jerome, disertissimus martyr,[4] who elsewhere speaks of him as one who nitidi compositique sermonis libros confecit,[5] cannot be altogether unworthy the attention of the nineteenth century.

1. St Epiph., Haeres. 64, sec. 63.

2. St Hieronymus, De viris illust. c. 83.

3. Epiph. Haer. 64, sec. 63.

4.  Hieron. Comm. in Dan. c. 13.

5. Id. De vir. ill. c. 83. Many more such testimonies will be found collected in the various editions of his works in Greek.

Now this is very useful to me, because it identifies the texts used.  The Migne edition is the Patrologia Graeca volume 18 and the Jahn edition of 1865 is online also.  The PG edition starts with an introduction to Methodius, in Latin, followed by a collection of testimonia.  Both were clearly used by Mr Clark as the source for his own remarks.

The fragments begin on column 239 (p.125 of the PDF above), rather than the 229 of Migne’s table of contents, and it looks as if Mr Clark simply translated from the top.

The first item in sequence is fragments of De libero arbitrio (= De autexusio = On free will), col.239-266, based on three chunks: material from Meursius; Photius codex 236; and then material from Sirmond.  The Meursius and Sirmond material is no doubt from Greek miscellaneous manuscripts.

The ANCL translates exactly this in order on p.120-138.  On p.136 is a significant note, however:

The whole of this work, as preserved, is in a very fragmentary state. We have followed Migne in general, as his edition is most widely known, and but little is gained by adopting Jahn’s, which is somewhat more complete.—Tr.

For the ANCL little may be gained; but for us, we will need those extras; and potentially the modern edition, in the GCS series, will have more again.

Looking at Jahn, I find that the volume has no table of contents, in common with other volumes produced in that period for the convenience of the editor rather than the reader.  De autexusio appears on p.54 f. Variants for De autexusio appear on p.117 (!).  It looks as if Jahn has essentially used the same materials, but run them together.  There might be additional sources used, it’s hard to tell.  In fact Migne is far clearer, in his pre-critical edition, on what he is using and from where, than Jahn is.

De resurrectione appears on Migne col. 266, ANCL p.139, and p.64 of Jahn.

A fragment on Jonah is next, from Combefis (Migne 327, ANCL 174).

Then we have fragments from De creatis, derived from Photius (Migne 331, ANCL 176).

Then extracts from Methodius work against Porphyry, On the Martyrs, and on Simeon and Anna  (Migne, ANCL 183), and then various other fragments and supposed works, most of them omitted by Jahn.

What are we to make of this?

My first impression is, frankly, to revise my project and simply leave the Greek alone.  The only value in translating both Greek and Slavonic together is to indicate the parallels by means of translating the same word in each language in the same English way; and this is the one thing that I can’t do, since I don’t have a translator who knows both.  So what value is there, in translating the Greek again, even if we add a few more fragments?  Why not just translate the Old Slavonic, and leave the Greek?

Much of the material is from Epiphanius Panarion; so not merely do we have the ANCL translation, but we have the new Williams translation of the whole work.  We are spoiled for English translations of this material.

I will have to mull this over, but at the moment I must ask: Is it worth it?  I don’t aim to make something for scholars; I want to make something for ordinary people.  In what way will they benefit?

Much to think about over lunch today!

2 thoughts on “The Greek fragments of Methodius translated in the Ante-Nicene Fathers series

  1. For the sake of thoroughness I note the transcriptions of the Clark translation described as “Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight” among the Fathers so handily accessible at He also says in his note with each, “I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors”. Whenever I have happened to find and report any such, Kevin Knight has always been prompt in taking the matter up.

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