Two sensible tweets on Twitter, and some reflections on keeping politics out of your twitter feed

This tweet appeared on Oct. 27:

Biting my lip and stopping my finger from tweeting on a political tweet that has me itching to point out how wrong it is. However, is it helpful, edifying, done in love? No, I’m too emotionally invested to do so? Then I’ll shut my mouth unless/until I can.

And from a different account on 26 Oct:

If you want to become a miserable partisan who spends more time being angry at people you have never met than enjoying the company of friends, neighbors, and loved ones, then Twitter is the place for you.

I’ve been thinking of these quite a bit lately.

In addition, political twitter is not quite what it seems.  I had a curious experience myself yesterday.

Learning that the government proposes to bring in a tax measure that will impact me and those like me a lot, I tweeted to my MP politely asking her to vote against.  It’s mostly a technical change, but of great importance to folks like me.

So I was slightly surprised to get a total stranger pop up and start heckling me.  His timeline gave no indication of anything except football.  Eventually I lost patience with his “questions” and asked him what his interest was.  This was a matter that can only concern those involved, which he clearly wasn’t.  Answer came there none other than an insult. At which point I blocked him.

But… in the process of blocking him, I noticed just how “clean” his timeline was.  It didn’t contain *any* hint of personality or political affiliation.  It was all vanilla posts about football.  Odd, for someone who popped up to heckle someone opposing a government measure.  And then…

… I noticed that in his reply to my original tweet, he had taken the time to remove the MP from the exchange.  I had not noticed this myself!  After all, MPs don’t want heckling in their timeline.  Whereas a normal person would not care, or notice.  This was very strange.

This suggested to me that my interlocutor was in fact a paid hack, employed by party HQ.  Why else would he carefully remove a government MP from the chain?

Why bother with politics on twitter, if it’s just bots and paid hacks?

The other effect of posting politics is that it alienates others who might be friends.    People feel strongly about politics.

It’s a funny old world, but it seems best to keep it all rather vanilla.


The medieval catalogue of the abbey of Lorsch now online!

I discovered yesterday that there is a project to reconstitute online the scattered volumes of the library of the abbey of Lorsch in Germany, and that some of the books are now online.  This includes the lengthy 9th century list of books then in the library.

Lorsch was founded during the Dark Ages, as part of the revival of learning spearheaded by Charlemagne.  A whole series of monasteries were founded, running eastwards, including Lorsch.  The holdings of these libraries remained intact until the Renaissance.  The 15th century manuscript hunter Poggio Bracciolini took advantage of his attendance at the Council of Constance (as a papal sidekick) to visit many of them, in search of the lost works of classical antiquity.

Unfortunately they all suffered badly during the Thirty Years’ War, when the Swedish army campaigned in Southern Germany and destroyed all of them.  Unique items went to line the leak boots of Swedish bombardiers.  The loot of Lorsch was taken to the Palatinate, to Heidelberg, and the disposal of the books formed part of the settlement of the Thirty Years War.  The Lorsch books mostly went to the Vatican, to form the “Palatinus Latinus” collection.

Here’s the page for the Lorsch catalogue, today Ms. Vatican. Pal. Lat. 57.  The catalogue is folios 1-7.  (Note that you can’t use IE for this; use Chrome.)

The first page (folio 1r) is mostly bible books.  Here’s the top of folio 1v:


Chronica Eusebii. Hieronymi & Bedae. In uno codice.

Tripertita historia libri xii. Socratis, Zozomeni [i.e. Sozomen], Theodoriti. In uno codice.

Gesta pontificorum romanorum. In uno codice.

A little further down is the epitome of Pompeius Trogus in 44 books, in a single volume.

After a few leaves of Augustine, Jerome, Ambrose, etc, at the top of a leaf we find Tertullian:


Liber Tertulliani presbyteri   (Book of Tertullian the presbyter)
Item alius lib. Tertulliani.  (Likewise another book of Tertullian).

This was almost certainly a copy of the two volume Corpus Cluniacensis of the works of Tertullian.  Sadly it has not come down to us.

The catalogue was printed long ago in G. Becker, Catalogi Bibliothecarum Antiqui, Bonnae 1885.

Looking at these images makes me nostalgic for the 90s, when I had just started the Tertullian Project, and learned of the lost Tertullian of Lorsch.  There was no Google Books then.  So I travelled to Cambridge University Library to consult “Becker”.

This was held in the awe-inspiring Rare Books Room, where you weren’t allowed to photocopy.  Of course it was impossible to do more than skim the book, and I ended up buying a reprint online.  (These days Becker is freely available for download at, etc.)  It is by my elbow as I write, a very early purchase in my work online.  I read it, poring over the crabbed Latin, and reread it.  First I looked for Tertullian’s; but gradually it became so much more.

To read those library lists is to enter the literary history of the middle ages.  The book is a massive compendium of lists of the works that really filled up monastic libraries.  The bible at the front, then the fathers, then miscellania, then classical stuff at the back.  The lists are full of works never read today, but everywhere in the middle ages.  We read Tacitus and Suetonius; they read Dares Phrygius and Justinus.  It is a vision of a different world.

I never hoped that the manuscripts themselves would be online.  But so they are.

These are truly days of miracles and wonders.


Fragments of a 4th century manuscript of Cyprian’s Letters

A tweet from the British Library medieval manuscripts account drew my attention to five damaged leaves in a British Library manuscript, Additional 40165 A.  They are portions of Cyprian’s Letters, letters 55, 74 and 79.  This is CLA II 178.

What makes them exciting is the early date – 4th century, according to the BL twitter account (the online page does not give a date) – and the location, which is North Africa.  The Trismegistos site gives the date as 375-400 AD, and location as Europe or North Africa.

The manuscript was the subject of an article by no less than Cyprian scholar Maurice Bévenot in the Journal of Theological Studies[1]  Sadly this is not accessible to me.  (My access to JSTOR is provided by Oxford University alumni, so it is curious that an Oxford University Press journal is not included.)


Three fragments from St Cyprian’s epistles:.

1. Epistle LV, p. 645, 1. 11, “facit daemoniis” – p. 647, 1. 16, “inuenerint iudica[bit].” (f. 1r);

2. Epistle LXXIV: ‘[re]tro nusquam'(p. 801, 1. 12), to ‘effectus/m est.’ (p. 808,11. 9, 10) (ff. 2r-4r);

3. Epistle LXIX: ‘aepiscopo legitima’ (p. 752, 1. 11) – ‘episco[po] alium sibi’ (p. 754, 1. 17) (f. 5r).(References [to pages.lines] in Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, Vol 3, Part 2).

The manuscript of which these fragments formed part, appears to have been the archetype, (at least in these three letters) of the English group of manuscripts (classed by von Soden, 1904) as ‘n’, which includes Royal MS 6 B XV, Oxford, Bodley Latin MS 210, New College MS 130, and Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 25. Decoration: Biblical quotations in red.

ff. 1-5: Origin: North Africa (Carthage?). ?Theodore of Tarsus and Hadrian, perhaps brought to England by them in the 7th century. In England by the 8th century: insular letter forms, e.g. ‘vr’ written over uncial ‘UR’ (f. 2v) (see Schipper 2004, p. 160). ff: 6-7:

Origin: England, S. W.?

Provenance of all parts : Used as flyleaves for a 12th-century Latin manuscript, now Additional 40165B: a table of contents of this manuscript in a hand of the 13th century covers an erased portion of the text (f. 3r).Bernard Howard, 12th Duke of Norfolk (b. 1765, d.1842): his bookplate in Additional 40165B.Purchased by the British Museum (with Additional 40165B) in the anonymous sale of manuscripts at Sotheby’s on 20th December 1921, lot 504, for £40.

Purchased by the British Museum (with Additional 40165B) in the anonymous sale of manuscripts at Sotheby’s on 20th December 1921, lot 504, for £40.

Here’s the twitter image:

The pages were cut-down and used as fly-leaves in the binding of a 12th century manuscript, which is how they survive.

Here’s the full leaf (3v), the bible stuff is the middle column.

The page is also of interest for indicating a means of citation – indenting one or two letters, and text in red.  This may be seen lower down, where the bible quote ends, and the original text resumes, outdenting by two letters[2]

It is unclear whether we can see paleographical evidence for origins in Roman North Africa.[3]  The pages have been trimmed, but Bévenot states that the original pages were written in four thin columns; very unusual, and a hang-over from the usage in the papyrus roll.

Very interesting to see!

  1. [1]M. Bévenot, “The oldest surviving manuscript of St. Cyprian now in the British Library”, in: Journal of Theological Studies (new series) 31, 1980, 368-377.  JSTOR.
  2. [2]See Patrick McGurk, “Citation marks in early Latin manuscripts. (With a list of citation marks in manuscripts earlier than A. D. 800 in English and Irish libraries)”, in: Scriptorium 14, 1961, 3-13.  Online here.
  3. [3]R. Rouse, “North African literary activity : a Cyprian fragment, the stichometric lists and a Donatist compendium”, Revue de histoire de textes 30, 2001, 189-238.

Did pseudo-Ephraim believe in the Rapture? Some notes on the manuscripts, the passage and its Greek origins

There is a Latin text from the early Dark Ages which some believe teaches the “Rapture”; the idea that, before the Tribulation described in Revelation, the saints will all be caught up in the air by God and taken away. This claim has become a subject of controversy in the USA, as has the discussion about the Latin text.

I don’t intend to discuss here the Rapture teaching. But I think that it would be interesting to look at this obscure text here, and verify the claim made about it. Will the text bear the weight placed upon it?

Also, since many of the manuscripts are online, we get to look at two critical texts and three manuscripts, and second-guess the editors!  But I do apologise for its length!

I suspect that this post might interest people involved in that controversy, so I have tried to avoid jargon and explain my terms, so that any interested reader can follow the discussion. If I have failed at any point, please let me know through the comments.

First, some bibliography. It’s as well to be clear that there is a text, known as the Syriac “Apocalypse of pseudo-Ephrem,” which is NOT the same work; and there are a lot of Greek sermons attributed to Ephraim, all about the end of the world.

Title of the work

In the Clavis Patrum Latinorum, the index of early Christian texts in Latin, this text is CPL 1144, and given the title “Scarpsum de dictis Sancti Efrem prope fine mundi et consummatione saeculi et conturbatione gentium”, i.e. “Extract from the sayings of St Ephraim On the end of the world, the consummation of the age, and the confusion of the nations.” It is generally known for convenience as “De fine mundi”, “On the end of the world”. The title as given in the earliest known copies is given below. However I notice that in some scholarship the work is listed as “De antichristo et de fine mundi”, “On antichrist and the end of the world”.[1]

Author of the work

Ephraim (or Ephrem) the Syrian lived from 306 to 373 AD. He wrote only in Syriac. He has nothing to do with the work that we are discussing, although it passes under his name. But his fame was such that works under his name appear in every single language of the ancient world.  So we need to explain the rather strange name of “pseudo-Ephraim Latinus.”

A very large collection of works in Greek can be found in the handwritten Greek books of the middle ages, where the title says that the author is Ephraim. Very few of these are in fact translations of his works, or even from works by other people in Syriac. Most of these works are of unknown authorship. These works are known for convenience as “Ephraim Graecus”. They have mostly been printed. Translations into English or French etc are few. Scholars have not worked here, for the most part.

There is also a small collection of works in Latin, where the Latin manuscripts give the author as Ephraim.  A collection of 6 sermons seems to be a translation of works from Ephraim Graecus. These are known for convenience to scholars as “Ephraim Latinus”.  The other Latin texts attributed to Ephraim are known as “Pseudo Ephraim Latinus”.  Our text is one of these. Much of this material has never been printed. Studies by scholars are few.

The author of our work, “De fine mundi”, will be referred to (for convenience – what else?) as pseudo-Ephraim Latinus. We shall see what we can deduce about him later on.


This text has reached us in a small number of handwritten medieval copies, today preserved in libraries in cities across Europe. Each manuscript is unique, and each library assigns each a code or number of some sort (known as a shelfmark). Editors give each manuscript a single letter reference (or siglum) for quick reference by scholars.

  • P = Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale Français, manuscript Latin 13348. Text starts on folio (in manuscript studies each leaf is numbered, rather than each page, and the front side is the “recto” or “r”; the reverse is the “verso” or “v”) 89v and ends on 93v. Followed by a short piece from Greek of Peter the Monk, then a sermon of pseudo-Methodius. The title in the manuscript is “Scarpsum de dictis Sancti Efrem prope fine mundi et consummatione saeculi et conturbatione gentium”. The type of book-hand used tells us that the manuscript was written in the 8th century. A monochrome PDF is online here.
  • A = Paris, Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, ms. 80. Fol. 103r-104v. Then a bit of Jerome on the works of Methodius, the preface of Peter the Monk, and ps.Methodius. Same title as P. 13th century.
  • B = Vatican, Barberini lat. 671. Foll.167-171. Followed by ps.Methodius. Same title as P. No later than 13th century. Online here.
  • G = St Gall, Stiftsbibliothek, ms. 108. Foll.2-10. “Sermo Isidori de fine mundi” – the author of the text is given here as Isidore, not Ephraim. The next text in the ms. is the Revelation of Ps.Methodius. About 800 AD. Online here.
  • K = Karlsruhe, Landesbibliothek, ms. 196. Text starts on folio 24r, ends 29r. “Sermo sancti Effrem de finibus seculi” (Sermon of St Ephraim on the ends of the ages). Next but one text is the Revelation of Ps. Methodius. 9th century.

This list is from a modern edition of the Latin text – I list these in a moment -, namely that of Verhelst.

A Google search suggested that there might be another manuscript at Koblenz as well, but the opening words of the text (the “incipit”) indicate that this is a different unknown work.[2]

By examining copyist errors, Verhelst drew the following diagram of which manuscripts were copies of which:

X stands for the now lost original.  A and K are copies of P, while B and G are independent.


The Latin text has been printed twice, based upon the manuscripts.

  • P. Caspari, Briefe, Abhandlungen und Predigten aus den zwei letzten Jahrhunderten des kirchlichen Altherthums und dem Anfang des Mittelalters, 1896. Online here. Pages 208-20 contain the text (Caspari_text PDF); pages 429-472 contain Caspari’s discussion of it (Caspari_discussion PDF).
  • D. Verhelst, “Scarpsum de dictis sancti Efrem prope fine”, in: R. Lievens (ed), Pascua Mediaevalia : studies voor Prof. Dr. J.M. de Smet, Louvain, 1983, p.518-528. Online here.

Caspari edited the text based upon 4 manuscripts; Verhelst added knowledge of the Karlsruhe manuscript. The two editions differ slightly, as we shall see.


There were no translations into any language, until Grant Jeffery discovered the text, and asked Cameron Rhoades, professor of Latin at Tyndale Seminary in Texas to make a draft translation into English.[3] This translation Jeffrey published in an article:

Electronic transcriptions of the Rhoades translation have circulated on the internet, but these are apparently of doubtful accuracy.[4]

  • B. McGinn, Visions of the End: Apocalyptic Traditions in the Middle Ages, 1979. Chapter 4, pp.60-1, contains a translation of part of the work from Caspari.


Quite a few papers mention this work. Here’s a selection of those not included in the footnotes.

  • Paul J. Alexander, The Byzantine Apocalyptic Tradition, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985, p.136 ff. The discussion that started it all, when Grant Jeffrey read it. Preview here.
  • T.L.Frazier, A Second Look at the Second Coming: Sorting Through the Speculations, p.181. This is the anti-Rapture position with discussion of de fine mundi. Preview here.
  • Gerrit Reinink, “Pseudo-Methodius and the Pseudo-Ephremian ‘Sermo de Fine Mundi’”, In: R.I.A. Nip &c, Media Latinitas: A collection of essays to mark the retirement of L.J.Engels, Steenbrugis, 1996, pp. 317-321. First page visible here. Unfortunately I was unable to access this paper. However I was able to access a discussion of his claim that De fine mundi is derived from the Apocalypse of ps.Methodius, in S. Shoemaker, The Apocalypse of Empire: Imperial Eschatology in Late Antiquity and Early Islam, 2018, p.202-3 n.94 f., which dismisses the claim as unconvincing. Preview here.
  • G. Kortekaas, “The Biblical Quotations in the Pseudo-Ephremian ‘Sermo de fine mundi’”, In: R.I.A. Nip &c, Media Latinitas: A collection of essays to mark the retirement of L.J.Engels, Steenbrugis, 1996, pp. 237-244. First page visible here. Again I was unable to access this.
  • D. Hemmerdinger-Iliadou, ‘Éphrem latin’, in: Dictionnaire de Spiritualité, vol. 4, Paris 1960, col. 815-819.
  • R. Gryson, Répertoire général des auteurs ecclésiastiques latins de l’Antiquité et du Haut Moyen Âge, t. 1, A-H, Herder, 2007. This is said to contain an overview of the scholarship ; again I was unable to access it.

Origins of De fine mundi

Before we look at the specific passage that concerns the Rapture, in chapter 2, we ought to establish something more about the text. Our text is not an original composition, but uses material from other ancient texts, which are therefore relevant.

C. P. Caspari (p.445) has identified no fewer than 8 works from Ephraem Graecus or Ephraem Latinus where the wording seems very close to that in De fine mundi. These were printed in the 18th century by J.S.Assemani in three volumes.[5] Let me give the page numbers and the conventional Latin titles for each, together with the reference in the CPG, the Clavis Patrum Graecorum, the index of early Christian texts in Greek:

  1. Vol. 1, p.294-99 – Beatitudine alia, capita XX. (= CPG 3935.2)
  2. Vol. 2, 222-230 – Sermo in Adventum Domini et de consummatine saeculi et in adventum Antichristi (= CPG 3946)
  3. Vol. 3, p.136-40 – In Adventum Domini, sermones III. (= CPG 4012, sermon 2)
  4. Vol. 3, p.376-80 – Sermo utilis de paenitentia, et judicio, et separatione animae et corporis (= CPG 4044)
  5. Vol. 2, 192-209 – Sermo in secundum adventum d.n.I.C. (= CPG 3944)
  6. Vol. 2, 209-222 – Sermo de communi resurrectione, de paenitentia et de caritate, et in secundum adventum d.n.I.C. (=CPG 3945)
  7. Vol. 3, 152-159 – Sermo paraeneticus de secundo adventu domini, et de paenitentia (=CPG 4016)
  8. Vol. 3, 579-81 – De die judicii (=CPG 4089) (Given in Latin)

There is quite a quantity of works here, connected to the Second Coming of the Lord, and repentance!  Nor is this all; at various points our text has the same words as passages in something known as the “Latin Apocalypse of pseudo-Methodius.”  This work is often found in the same manuscripts as de fine mundi.  Our text really looks like something of a hodge-podge, and indeed it may be.[6]

Only the two works in bold relate to our passage specifically. We will ignore the remainder, except to say that they indicate that the unknown author of our work was clearly very familiar with the Ephraim material in Greek and Latin.

Origins of chapter 2 of De fine mundi

Caspari’s discussion included a list of places where the text was parallel to that in some other work. Here is his entry for our passage.  Click on it to expand.

That’s rather hard to read.  The Latin of De fine mundi is on the left; the parallels to the right and below.  Each “parallel” has a reference at the end – III, 378, etc – which refers to the Assemani edition volume and page number, which I gave in full above.

*   *   *   *

Firstly, we need to recheck what De fine mundi actually says. Caspari prints his text from the Vatican manuscript. But since then we have Verhelst’s edition, and some manuscripts are actually online!

Here’s the text of De fine mundi, as given by Caspari. I have placed the key words in bold.

Omnes enim sancti et electi Dei, ante tribulationem quae uentura est, colliguntur et ad Dominum adsumuntur, ne quando uideant confusionem, quae uniuersum propter peccata nostra obruet mundum.

For all the saints and elect of God, prior to the tribulation that is to come, are gathered and are taken [up] to the Lord, lest they see the confusion, that will overwhelm the whole world because of our sins.

But the text given by Verhelst (p.524, l.36-39) is different:

Omnes enim sancti et electi Dei, ante tribulationem quae uentura est, colliguntur et a Domino adsumentur, ne quando uideant confusionem, quae uniuersum propter peccata nostra obruit mundum.

For all the saints and elect of God, prior to the tribulation that is to come, are gathered and will be taken by the Lord, lest they see the confusion, that will overwhelm the whole world because of our sins.

Verhelst’s apparatus shows that “ad Dominum” is just the reading of B, the Vatican manuscript, and this is online. Let’s look at it!

The text continues at the top of the next folio, 168r:

Looking at the bottom of folio 167v we find “etaddnm” (I can’t mark the overscore on the n in this post), which is abbreviated from “et ad dominum”. Note also the spelling “adsummentur”.

The other manuscripts do not say this. Here’s fol. 4 of manuscript G, the St Gall ms., with the abbreviated “a dnō” = “a domino”:

Here’s the same sentence in ms. P, with the same reading “a domino”.

Verhelst does not indicate where he gets the “adsumentur”, but we can see it in B. However both G and P have “adsumuntur” as Caspari printed it, and this is probably right.

None of this really amounts to much. It doesn’t change the meaning much, to say “taken up to God” or “taken up by God”, does it.

*   *   *   *

The order in which Caspari gives his parallels is somewhat confusing. Let’s do it a bit more systematically.

1.  Latin: De Beatitudine Animae (On the blessing of the soul)

The first parallel is in another Latin text. This is one of the 6 sermons in the Latin collection of Ephraim texts known as Ephraim Latinus; specifically in De beatitudine animae. This has the code CPL 1143.ii. This work is contained in several manuscripts. Caspari transcribes the St Gall manuscripts 92 and 93, which differ on one letter, “obruit” or “obruet”.  Here’s what he prints:

Omnes sancti et electi, ante tribulationem quae uentura est, collinguntur et a Domino assumuntur, ut non uideant confusionem illam magnam, quae universum obruit [obruet] mundum.

All the saints and elect, before the tribulation which is to come, are gathered and taken by the Lord, so that they may not see that great confusion, that will overwhelm [overwhelms] the whole world.

This is nearly identical to the passage in De fine mundi.  It’s pretty obvious that our author copied it from here.

Note also the “a Domino” “by God” wording.  The St Gall manuscripts 92 and 93 of De beatitudine animae are online, so let’s just confirm that. Here is the text as it appears in ms. 93: [7]

There’s an early printed edition of De beatitudine animae, which was printed before 1500, and that version is also online, and we can check that also.[8]  Often early editions are based on other manuscripts now lost.

That’s rather hard to read, but if you concentrate a bit you can see the “colligut” with abbreviation marks, followed by a “7” which is actually an abbreviation for “et”, followed by “a dno”. So this has the same reading.

The pseudo-Ephraim Latinus is probably derived from the Ephraim Latinus material, so I would conclude that there is very little doubt that the author of De fine mundi copied this word for word from De beatitudine animae.

The correct readings in both texts are “a Domino” and “assumuntur” – “are gathered and taken [up] by God, so that they don’t see that great confusion, that overshadows [or “will overshadow”] the whole world”.

*   *   *   *

Now let’s look at the Greek texts, from which the Latin texts probably derive. Caspari really presented this data in a confusing way. I hope we can do better! I will skate lightly over the many problems that the “Ephraim Graecus” material presents to us.

  1. Μακαρισμοὶ ἕτεροι, κεφάλαια κʹ / Beatitudines aliae, capita viginti / Other blessings, 20 chapters

This Greek text (CPG 3935, 2) is the Greek original of the Latin text that we just looked at, De beatitudine aliae. It was printed in J. S. Assemani’s 6 volume edition of Ephraem Graecus, in volume 1, on column 297 C.  It’s hard to read, as you will see.  Fortunately the Greek text was retyped in modern times and is now in the TLG.[9]. Here it is:

Οἱ ἐκλεκτοὶ συνάγονται πρὸ θλίψεως τοῦ μὴ ἰδεῖν τὴν σύγχυσιν καὶ τὴν θλῖψιν τὴν μεγάλην ἐρχομένην εἰς τὸν κόσμον τὸν ἄδικον.

Electi ne videant magnam illam confusionem, atque pressuram, quae iniquum hunc mundum obruet, colliguntur.[10]

The elect are gathered together before the tribulation so that they do not see the confusion and the great suffering to come over the whole world.

Click on the image for higher-resolution:

The sense is the same, but the “gathered and taken by the Lord” idea is reduced only to “gathered”. How being “gathered” will prevent the elect from experiencing the tribulation is not stated.

At any event we can see that the translator added the “a domino assumuntur” (“taken [up] by the Lord”). Presumably this was his explanation for that very question.

The Rapture teaching references 1 Thess. 4:17, so let’s see that, in the Latin bible.  This was probably known to the author of de fine mundi, but he may have used a different Latin version.

Deinde nos, qui vivimus, qui relinquimur, simul rapiemur cum illis in nubibus obviam Christo in aëra, et sic semper cum Domino erimus. (Vulgate)

After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (NIV)

If the man who made the Latin translation – de beatitudine – from the Greek used here “rapientur” (“will be caught up”) instead of “assumuntur” (will be taken [up]), then we would have no doubt that he was thinking of this passage in the bible. But he did not.  It would be interesting to know what the Old Latin was for this verse, however.

3.  Λόγος περὶ μετανοίας καὶ κρίσεως, καὶ περὶ χωρισμοῦ ψυχῆς καὶ σώματος / Sermo utilis de paenitentia, et judicio, et separatione animae et corporis / Sermon on penitence, and judgement, and the separation of soul and body.

When we look at the CPG for the previous item, we are informed of links to yet another Greek work. This has the code CPG 4044, and appears in Assemani volume 3, page 376.[11] It was printed from a Vienna manuscript, no 62, folio 225 f, according to Assemani.  I’ve not looked at this.

But the page of interest to us is 378 (p.454 of the downloadable PDF of Assemani). There are two sentences on this page, not together, which Caspari quotes above.

The first appears at the top of Caspari, but is toward the bottom of p.378, section E, line 2.

Οἱ ἐκλεκτοὶ συνάγονται πρὸ τῆς θλίψεως, τοῦ μὴ ἰδεῖν τὴν σύγχυσιν καὶ τὴν θλῖψιν τὴν μεγάλην τὴν ἐρχομένην εἰς τὸν ἄδικον κόσμον.

Congregantur electi ante tribulationem, ne confusionem videant…

The elect are gathered before the tribution…

This is pretty much identical to the passage in Beatitudines aliae. In fact the Dictionaire de spiritualite 4, col. 815, section 10, signals “duplicia” – “a duplicate” – with Assemani’s “volume 1, p.294-99” – which in fact is the very same text, the Beatitudines aliae.

The second quote runs along the bottom of Caspari.  It can be found at the top of Assemani 3 p.378, section A line 3f. I’ve highlighted Caspari’s quote.

Ταῦτα μένουσι τὴν ἐρχομένην σύγχυσιν καὶ τὴν θλῖψιν τὴν μεγάλην τὴν μέλλουσαν ἐπέρχεσθαι ἐπὶ πάντα τὰ πέρατα τῆς γῆς. Διὰ τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν <καὶ> διὰ τὴν ἡμῶν χαυνότητα προβαίνουσι τὰ πονηρά. [12]

Haec expectant venturam confusionem, ac tribulationem magnam, quae ventura est super omnes terminus terrae propter peccata nostra….

These await the coming confusion, and the great tribulation, which will come upon all the ends of the earth because of our sins…

This is similar material, but this doesn’t include any of the “collected together and taken by God” material.

All the same, we can see quite clearly that the material in Beatitudines aliae is identical, or nearly so, to two passages in this other work in the Ephraem Graecus collection.

It should be added that neither of these Greek texts is a translation of anything in Syriac.

*   *   *   *

Let’s draw the threads together, after all those manuscript pictures and bits of Latin and Greek.  What have we discovered here?

We have discovered that in the Greek “Ephraim” material, there is a mysterious passage about the elect being gathered together before the tribulation, so that they don’t have to see the suffering.

We have discovered that one of these texts was translated into Latin, becoming De beatitudine animae, and that the translator “improved” the Greek by adding a couple of words, so that the elect are gathered and, crucially, taken away by the Lord, so that they don’t see the suffering.

We have discovered that the author of pseudo-Ephraim Latinus, de fine mundi, copied this sentence word-for-word from De beatitudine animae. Presumably he saw nothing unusual in it.

So we have a passage, appearing in two Latin authors, which says that before the Tribulation, the elect are gathered together and taken away by the Lord. We have the same passage, less explicit, in two Greek texts from which the Latin is derived. We can see that the Latin authors understood the text in that manner.

The sentence in De fine mundi is certainly copied from the Latin translation of De Beatitudine animae, rather  than derived from the Greek. The presence of “assumuntur” in the Latin translation of De beatitudine, which not found in the Greek, shows the author’s worked from the Latin version. Our only caveat is that we possess no critical edition of De beatitudine animae, so we cannot be sure that this wording is correct.

Other parts of De fine mundi come from a range of other works by Ephraim Graecus, for which we possess no Latin translation. Unless we hypothesise the existence of now-lost Latin translations, we must presume that the author knew Greek.

The Greek text of De beatitudine animae / Beatitudines aliae capita viginti contains the idea in similar wording, but without the “assumuntur” of the Latin. This work consists of 19 short blessings, and then, as chapter 20, a long section of text. It is hard not to look at the imbalance and feel that chapter 20 does not belong with the blessings; particularly when we look at the Sermo utilis de paenitentia and find the same ideas on the same page, although in two separate sentences. Chapter 20 is, perhaps, a summary of material culled from the Sermo utilis?

It should be added that neither Greek work was translated from Syriac, as far as we know.[13]

What about the date and place of composition?  Caspari noted the reference to “Persian wars” and the decline of Rome; which places it before the Islamic conquest of Persia in 640 AD.  He noted another reference to two “brother emperors” in the past, which can only be either Valens and Valentinian, ca. 378 AD; or perhaps Honorius and Arcadius, ca. 410 AD. We know that De beatitudine animae is found in a manuscript written around 700 AD.  From all this, Bousset dated the work to the 4th century; Caspari to before 628.

Perhaps we might speculate a little here ourselves.  As we have seen, the author of De fine mundi was clearly a Latin, as he copied from a form of the text only present in the Latin translation of De beatitudine animae.   So that translation must already have been made. It is known that this translation was made early, not least because a manuscript exists written around 700 AD. However the author was also clearly familiar with ideas from a range of works by Ephraim Graecus, of which no Latin translations are now known to exist. If we reject the hypothesis that a lot more of Ephraim Graecus was translated into Latin in antiquity, and then lost, we must conclude that he was also fluent in Greek, and had ready access to manuscripts. We also know that he refers to the “brother emperors”.

I suggest that the author was a westerner, living in Constantinople, sometime after the reign of Honorius and Arcadius – the brother emperors – and aware of the Roman collapse in the west, and of Persian attacks in the East, and in a place and time where there was intense interest in the subject of the end of the world, as might well have been the case in that period. The mass of western refugees in Constantinople at the second quarter of the 5th century fits this period nicely. On the other hand there was relatively little in the way of Persian wars until 502 AD, other than the brief wars of 421-2 and 440. There are references to the Nestorian debates in the Ephraim Graecus collection, and also to the Theotokos. Perhaps we might speculate from all this that De fine mundi was written by a Latin speaker in Constantinople around 450 AD?

If this is correct, it would follow that the Ephraim Graecus material used by him existed well before this date, and the Ephraim Latinus collection of 6 sermons also.

Did the author believe in the Rapture, much as modern Pre-Millenial Dispensationalists do? The cautious reader will hesitate. For we are sifting the meaning of a single sentence; and it is generally unwise to place too much reliance on a couple of words in a single sentence. There is no link to 1 Thess. 4:17, to being “caught up in the air”; only to being “taken [up]”.  Really there is not.  Does that by itself destroy the claim?  I don’t know.

What we can say that the data is consistent with Dr Jeffrey’s claim that ps.Ephraim Latinus believed in the Rapture; and indeed that the author of the Greek texts did so as well. The author states that the elect will be gathered together before the tribulation and taken away by God so that they do not see the suffering that is to come. What else, in a way, is the teaching of the Rapture than this?  The text of pseudo-Ephraim Latinus’ de fine mundi will bear this interpretation.

But … the statement is too brief for us to be certain.  Two key words cannot compel belief.  If we know of no other evidence that a modern teaching was present to the minds of 5th century believers, then we would probably be very wary of asserting it based on a single ambiguous sentence in an obscure work.  The evidence, in the end, leaves us doubtful.  The similarity may merely be an accident.

Much more research also would be needed for us to be sure that such an interpretation was possible at that period.  For any statement of this kind must be interpreted, not by the beliefs of 19th century America, but by the known beliefs of the period.  We know of no other evidence that this interpretation was in vogue.  Other interpretations are therefore more probable, as a commenter has already pointed out here, if they can be stated in a not-to-contrived manner. The wise man will be cautious.  But such a survey is beyond the scope of this already too lengthy post.

It’s certainly a very interesting text, in a neglected area of patristics.  We could use much more work on Ephraim Graecus and Ephraim Latinus and pseudo-Ephraim.

Update 11 June 2024:  I’ve been rereading the post, and just adding a few words where I realise that I wasn’t as clear as I might have been.

  1. [1]E.g. W. J. Aerts & G.A.A.Kortekass, “Die Apokalypse des Pseudo-Methodius: Die Altesten Griechischen und Lateinischen Ubersetzungen”, 1998. CSCO 569, subsidia 97. Preview.
  2. [2]See Christina Meckelnborg, Mittelalterliche Handschriften im Landeshauptarchiv Koblenz, p.176, preview here. It’s in Bestand 701, manuscript 128, ff. 51r-57r. 13th century. It too contains Ps.Methodius. But the incipit is “Incipit tractatus sancti Effrem translatus de Greco in Latinum de antichristo et fine mundi. Omnes quotquot estis fideles Christi…” I did not find this incipit in the CPL.
  3. [3]I have been unable to discover anything whatsoever about Cameron Rhoades. Jeffrey tells us (Armageddon: Appointment with destiny, 2009): “Professor Cameron Rhoades, professor of Latin at Tyndale Theological Seminary, translated Ephraem’s Latin text into English at the request of my friend Dr Tommy Ice and myself.”
  4. [4]Bob Gundry, First the Antichrist: Why Christ Won’t Come before the Antichrist Does, 1996, Postscript: Pseudo-Ephraem on Pretrib Preparation for a Posttrib Meeting with the Lord, note 8: “The translation reads correctly in Jeffrey’s version (p.114) but not in that of the Pre-Trib Research Centre (compare note 3 above).”
  5. [5]Assemani also did three volumes in Syriac, confusingly. Here is the title for the Greek volumes. S. Assemani, Sancti Patris nostri Ephraem Syri Opera omnia quae extant graece, syriace, latine, in sex tomos distributa. Rome 1732-46. Online here, and Vol.1 Vol.2; Vol. 3. Assemani made a complete mess of editing these texts; for details see Wilhelm Bousset’s criticism, Der Antichrist in der Überlieferung des Judentums, des neuen Testaments und der alten Kirche, Göttingen, 1895. Translated into English as The Antichrist Legend, 1986, online at here in German and English; and D. Hemmerdinger-Illiadou, “Les doublets de l’édition de l ‘Éphrem grec par Assemani”, OCP 24 (1958), although this I have not seen.
  6. [6]Readers may be interested in the very intelligent comment on an earlier post by Matthias Gassman, here.
  7. [7]The ms. 93 is online here.
  8. [8] Ephrem Syrus, Sermones, ed. Kilianus Fischer (Piscator), Freiburg im Breisgau c. 1491, fol. 12-13v, online here.
  9. [9]beautitudines-aliae-capita-viginti (PDF)
  10. [10]I give A. Traversari’s renaissance translation for ease of comparison.
  11. [11]sermo-de-paenitentia-et-iudicio-et-separatione-animae-et-co (PDF)
  12. [12]Caspari’s quote misses the full stop part way through present in Assemani.
  13. [13]They do not appear in the list of homilies translated from Greek given at the site.

Hunting for the modern Greek translation of Ephraim Graecus

After my post on Ephraim Graecus here, I discovered that a modern edition of the whole collection exists, with a translation of all the works into modern Greek. This is Φραντζοᾶς, Ὁσιοῦ Ἐφραίμ τοῦ Σύρου, Thessaloniki, 1988-98, 7 vols.[1]  There is a website with a list of the contents by volume, and some mysterious-looking linked pages of text for each here.

My initial efforts to locate this, even in printed form, initially drew blank because the editor’s name does not appear on the websites.  You have to search for the Greek title, which is ΟΣΙΟΥ ΕΦΡΑΙΜ ΤΟΥ ΣΥΡΟΥ.  Searching for the editor name is futile.  If you do want to find it, try Phrantsoles (!).

I was luckier last night, and located a bookseller who had the volumes, in stock, and which played nice with Google Translate (just open in Chrome and right-click, and hit “Translate to English”.  It’s here:, Βιβλιοπωλείο Πολιτεία.  I was able to create an account easily enough via the Google Translated form of the website, and no doubt could have ordered.


The seven volumes each cost about 18.40 euros.  Unfortunately postage from Greece is as much again.

I have not been able to locate any copies of these volumes in British libraries.  No doubt some Greek Orthodox people have them.

But the existence of these volumes means that anyone whose first language is modern Greek has an enormous advantage over the rest of us.  It would be a tedious, but relatively straightforward business for such a person to prepare a summary of the contents of every work, in English and post it online.  Such a step would instantly make the works far more accessible.

There are quite a few people in patristics from a Greek Orthodox background.  Would any of them care to undertake the challenge?

There is more.  Google Translate does not handle ancient Greek, for some reason.  But it does handle modern Greek, as we have seen.  I wonder what it would make of some of these texts?

  1. [1]Konstantinos G. Phrantzolas / Κων. Γ. Φραντζόλάς, Ὁσιοῦ Ἐφραίμ τοῦ Σύρου  ἔργα, Thessaloniki: Το περιβόλι της Παναγίας / To Perivoli tis Panagias, 1988-98, 7 vols.  I’ve also seen google results for Phrantzoles (!).  After looking at the edition itself, I can see the name is plainly Phrantzolas.

From my diary

It’s rare that I can mark my birthday, because it is in October.  Once the summer holidays are over, managers recruit contractors in September. So as a rule, I have just started a contract when my birthday comes round.  So, “big birthday” or not, it goes unmarked.

However this year I am still at home, so I went down to St Austell in Cornwall for a few days.

I was fortunate to have exceedingly good weather.  Each day I went down to the little port of Charlestown.  Let me inflict a couple of holiday photographs on you, before I move on to matter of more general interest.

Charlestown at dusk
The setting sun glitters on the masts of the yacht, and on the lighthouse on Gribben Head, as a huge moon fades into view at the top right.

Back I came yesterday, and unfortunately I had to spend a few hours at the end of a 350 mile journey in writing a sample coding exercise for a company that I have applied to.  Such exercises can consume a lot of applicants’ time, but cost the company nothing, so I usually avoid them.  But this role is very close to home, so worth it.  A splitting headache today is reminding me of the price for not resting on Sunday.

I spent some of the time in the hotel searching the web for material related to Ephraem Graecus and Ephraim Latinus.  Some of this was quite productive.  I need to download all of this, and digest it into my notes.

This raises the question of how best to proceed.  In one way it would be best to update my existing post on Ephraim Graecus, as I get more information.  In another this might become very long.  The alternative is to scatter the data across a series of posts as I read it, which is messy for those who come looking for it.  Possibly I should create a page on this blog about Ephraim Graecus, and then blog my progress, updating the page and using the blog posts as announcements, as it were.  I’m not sure.

Ephraim Latinus is still on my mind, and indeed the focus for all this work.  While I was away, the Ice/Demy (eds) volume When the Trumpet Sounds appeared.  Or, rather, I found it lying behind my back gate on the concrete, where the Yodel delivery man had thrown it.  This inaccessible volume contains an article with the publication of the English translation of Ephraem Latinus, De fine mundi.  I shall scan the article and place it here somewhere.

Incidentally isn’t it curious that an poor-quality delivery firm should name itself after a high-pitched ullulating scream?  More or less the same sound, in fact, that its customers make after discovering to their horror that the vendor has chosen to send their goods by Yodel?

I’m finding that early editions of Ephraim Graecus are not online – the Thwaites edition in particular.

A couple of studies are in dissertations which do not seem to be online.  For one of these I wrote to the author, but no answer.  These ought to be obtained.

There is also a 7 volume edition of the Greek text, printed from Assemani, with modern Greek translation.  I have yet to find any sign of this either.

So there is quite a bit to do.  But not today!


A big hole in Patristics – the neglect of Ephraim Graecus

We all know that Christianity spread west into the Greek and Latin-speaking world.  It also spread east, into the Syriac-speaking world.  Most important of the Christian writers in Syriac is Ephraim of Nisibis, known generally as Ephraim the Syrian, or Ephrem/Effrem Syrus, who flourished in the mid-to-late 4th century and died in 373 AD.  He wrote mainly in verse.  His work proved popular, and he was translated into or copied in most of the languages of the ancient world.

Ephraim’s Syriac works now exist in fine, modern critical editions, with German translation, thanks to the immense effort of E. Beck in the CSCO series.  Admittedly nobody actually has copies of them – unless somebody has bootlegged that series to PDF without my knowledge! – but the point is that they exist.  Sebastian Brock gives a masterly bibliography of them in his St. Ephrem: A Brief Guide to the Main Editions and Translations, now online at here, and this includes discussion of non-Syriac materials.

There is a huge collection of materials in Greek, attributed to Ephraim the Syrian.  Brock notes:

A glance at the second volume of the Clavis Patrum Graecorum (CPG)52 will indicate that the number of texts in Greek attributed to Ephrem (CPG 3905–4175, 366–468) is exceeded only by those attributed to John Chrysostom (CPG 4305–5197, 491–672). …

The second volume of CPG (1974) and the Supplement (1998)53 provide the essential guide to ‘Ephrem Graecus’, and include references to the main secondary literature.54 The corpus is in fact very disparate in character, consisting of at least three very different elements:

  • (1) translations of genuine works by Ephrem
  • (2) translations of Syriac works not by Ephrem
  • (3) a large body of material, itself disparate in character, for which Greek is the original language. Some of the Greek texts employ a syllabic metre; these may belong to any one of the three categories.

Another scholar writes:

The Greek manuscripts of Ephraem are so numerous that in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris he is counted as the fourth most popular of the Greek Fathers, after St Chrysostom, St Gregory of Nazianzus, and St Basil. The collection of Greek manuscripts of Ephraem in the Vatican Library is almost as numerous. The earliest witness is a papyrus in the Louvre containing fragments of the Life of St Abraamios.[1]

Unfortunately this great mass of material has attracted very little scholarly attention.  What we should like to see is a list of the material, with indications of whether it is (a) really by Ephrem Syrus and translated (b) really from Syriac, if not by Ephrem or (c) clearly a Greek originally composition.  Unfortunately I don’t believe that this basic list of works plus classification exists anywhere.

Lists of Works

What we do have is a list of works in the Clavis Patrum Graecorum vols 2 and supplement:   CPG 3905-4184, supplement pp.227-250, containing supplements – mainly but not exclusively of Arabic and Old Slavonic versions.  This often indicates connections with other versions; but it is quite unclear on what this information is based.

There is also an article by D. Hemmerdinger-Iliadou, in Dictionaire de Spiritualité, vol. 4 (1960), cols. 800-815, which answers some of these questions, in a rather disorganised manner.

There is Homilies of Ephraim Graecus at the site here, covering only the homilies, which suggests that all the homilies have some connection with Syriac.  This claim appears to be based on the CPG data.

A rather strangely formatted bibliography (but useful) is at A Comprehensive Bibliography on Syriac Christianity – Ephremiana [Greek], here.

There is also a dissertation which I have not been able to access: C. Emereau, Saint Ephrem le Syrien; son œuvre littéraire grecque, Paris (1918).

Likewise inaccesible is a festschrift where two papers seem interesting too:

  • S. P. Brock, “The Changing Faces of St. Ephrem as Read in the West”, (pp.65-80)
  • E. Lash, “The Greek Writings Ascribed to Saint Ephrem”, (pp. 81-98)

Both in K. Ware &c (edd.), Abba: the tradition of Orthodoxy in the West: festschrift for Bishop Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2003.


The original edition of Ephraim Graecus was that of Edmund Thwaites, S. Ephraim Syrus, Graece, e codicibus manuscriptis Bodleianis, Oxford, 1709.  This was Greek only, so in a single volume, and can be downloaded from here.

Hardly anybody uses this.  Thwaites edition was of 159 Greek works attributed to Ephraim, plus two Greek vitae.  Thwaite’s edition was made without ever leaving Oxford, so all the manuscripts that he used are in the Bodleian library.[2]

The “normal” edition of Ephraim Graecus is that of Joseph S. Assemani, Sancti patris nostri Ephraem Syri Opera Omnia quae extant graece, syriace, latine; in sex tomos distributa. Romae, 1732-1746.  The first three volumes contain the Greek and Latin versions, the last three the Syriac.  All may be downloaded from here.

But the first two volumes of Assemani were largely a reprint of Thwaites, minus the manuscript sources, so these also are based entirely on manuscripts from the Bodleian.  However he printed in parallel column the renaissance translation of Ambrogio Traversari, thereby making the edition much more useful.  His third volume contains material from other collections to which he had access.

A further problem with Assemani’s edition is the presence of doublets – passages that appear word for word in more than one work.  The CPG indicates these; but this only indicates how bad the Assemani edition is.

Yet another problem with Assemani is the sheer number of works with near-identical titles.  This causes problems in the CPG and the CPL, where the editors themselves became confused in at least one case (since fixed).

S. J. Mercati did his doctorate on Ephraem Graecus,[3] and began an edition in 1915: S. Ephraem Syri opera, textum Syriacum, Graecum, Latinum ad fidem codicum recensuit prolegominis, notis, indicibus instruxit Sylvius Joseph Mercati, Rom 1915 (online here and here).  But only a single volume (of Ephraem Graecus) appeared.

A new edition appeared 1988-98 in Greece, which I am told is from Assemani mostly.  But it also contains translations of all the texts into modern Greek.  It is Κων. Γ. Φραντζόλάς, Ὁσιοῦ Ἐφραίμ τοῦ Σύρου, Thessaloniki, 1988-98, 7 vols.[4]   A bookshop with stock is here (and my notes on using it here).  There is also a website with a list of the contents by volume here, and each work has a linked PDF containing Greek text with a Greek government copyright on it.


Twenty-seven translations exist online, at the marvellous Saint Ephrem blog here. This is run by Tikhon Alexander Pino, an Orthodox Christian husband and father, and a PhD candidate at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI.

Some have been translated by him; others by the late Archimandrite Ephrem Lash, whose blog is now gone but which is archived at  He includes links to both.


I have no list of manuscripts.  But I did discover that a 6th century papyrus fragment exists of a sermon, In secundum adventum domini nostri Iesu Christu, CPG 3920.[5]

    *    *    *    *

Frankly this looks a lot like a complete mess.

It’s not obvious to me how we might begin to solve such a mess.  The presence of the “doublets” makes it particularly difficult to say what any given work does or does not contain.  This in turn makes it very hard to do work on the corpus.

So there we are.  That’s what we have.  Rubbish, isn’t it.

UPDATE 23/10/2018: Added details on the Phrantzoles modern edition.
UPDATE 02/11/2018: Added details of translations.

  1. [1]T. S. Pattie, “Ephraem the Syrian and the Latin manuscripts of De Paenitentia”, in: British Library Journal 13 (1987) 1-24. Online here.
  2. [2]Hemmerdinger-Iliadou “Démocracie. Les manuscrits de l’Ephrem grec utilisés par Thwaites”. In: Scriptorium 13 (1959) pp. 261-262; Online here.
  3. [3]So German Wikipedia.
  4. [4]Konstantinos G. Phrantzolas (google search results use various spellings like Phrantzoles, Phrantsoles, etc; but Phrantzolas is on the copyright page of the first volume.), Ὁσιοῦ Ἐφραίμ τοῦ Σύρου  ἔργα, Thessaloniki: Το περιβόλι της Παναγίας / To Perivoli tis Panagias, 1988-98, 7 vols
  5. [5]T.M.Teeter, “A fragment of Ephraim the Syrian”, in: Fabian Reiter (ed.), Literarische Texte der Berliner Papyrussammlung, (2012), pp.44-47, and table viiia. Google Books here.

The limits of politics

This afternoon I was talking to a lady friend, when discussion strayed to the US.  I quickly became aware of a froideur, of a certain lack of sympathy with the views I was expressing.  Politely I changed the subject.

This evening I was reminded of a passage in Augustine Birrell’s essay on John Wesley, discussing his father, Samuel Wesley.

Here it is, taken from Selected Essays (1908), p.112-3.  The selection was made by none other than John Buchan.

The revolution of 1688 threatened to disturb the early married life of Samuel Wesley and his spouse. The husband wrote a pamphlet in which he defended revolution principles, but the wife secretly adhered to the old cause; nor was it until a year before Dutch William’s death that the Rector made the discovery that the wife of his bosom, who had sworn to obey him and regard him as her overlord, was not in the habit of saying “Amen” to his fervent prayers on behalf of his suffering Sovereign. An explanation was demanded and the truth extracted, namely, that in the opinion of the Rector’s wife her true King lived over the water.  The Rector at once refused to live with Mrs. Wesley any longer until she recanted. This she refused to do, and for a twelvemonth the couple dwelt apart, when William III. having the good sense to die, a reconciliation became possible.

We may smile at Mr Wesley’s folly.  For who but a fool would disturb his domestic happiness and quarrel for a year with his wife over something which affected neither of them.

Wesley knew neither monarch.  His good-wishes or otherwise signified precisely nothing.  The quarrel between James II and William III was of no importance whatsoever in the daily life of the couple.

But don’t we do this?  Which of us has not avoided someone with whose political views we disagree, or find ourselves uncomfortable?  We can all find reasons to say “Oh but it does affect me, if [insert name here] should choose to [insert action here].”  But in truth such claims are always special pleading.

Let us try not to deprive ourselves of the blessings or company of our fellow men, men with whom we must go through life together, over matters which affect neither of us.

At least Mr and Mrs Wesley were able to live together once more, thanks to King William’s unexpected early death!


From my diary

A couple of days ago I became aware of a sermon de fine mundi by pseudo-Ephraim, in Latin, which allegedly contains a reference to the Rapture.  This is when all Christians on earth are caught up to heaven before the Second Coming of Christ, at least according to some American Christians.  A draft translation of the work received non-scholarly publication – I am waiting for a copy to arrive from the US – and online transcriptions are apparently defective.  The discovery in the 1990s produced an outbreak of venomous trench warfare between US proponents of the various ideas about how the Millennium in Revelation should be interpreted.  I hope that I don’t get shot at.

To make sense of this, I’m delving into Ephraim Latinus – basically a collection of 6 homilies translated from Greek, plus some spuria.  Because the possible Greek origin is important, I’ve started to wade into the swamp that is Ephraim Graecus – a mass of Greek texts, often apocalyptic, mostly not by Ephraim Syrus.  This in turn means dealing with the question of whether the Greek is a translation of something from Syriac.  Ephraim Syrus did not write in Greek – that seems to be agreed – so we have a mass of material, mostly pseudonymous.

Ephraim Graecus is a mess.  There’s little scholarly work on it, and the only edition is the mess of J. Assemani in the 18th century.  Assemani just printed whatever the manuscripts said, and didn’t worry about “doublets” – passages appearing in more than one work.  For translation he reprinted in parallel column the renaissance translation of Ambrogio Traversari.  Just to add to the fun, only Chrysostom has more texts listed in the CPG, so it’s a huge area of work.  On the bright side I have identified a list of works that are considered to be translated from Syriac (if not always genuinely by Ephraim).

I’ve already got a bit further than the US boys did.  It looks as if the de fine mundi is probably an original Latin composition – there’s no Greek – by someone who quoted quite a bit from Ephraim Graecus, and probably in the ancient Latin translation of Ephraim Latinus.  The key passage is in fact quoted from de beatitudine animae, sermon 4 in the collection of 6.  I need to look at the Greek for that, and see what is there.

My trusty Fujitsu Scansnap S1300 scanner developed a fault with its power-supply, and only wiggling the power input will make it work.  To the dump it must go.  A new S1300i arrived today from Amazon, and stands boxed on the floor.  I don’t use my PC on Sunday, to stay sane, so it will wait until Monday now.

The sabbath awaits.  God bless you all.


From my diary

As the year grows older, bright warm days grow fewer, and more precious.  Fortunately this week we had two; yesterday and today.  I resolved to take a break from contract-hunting, and go somewhere.  After some thought, a trip to Cambridge beckoned.

I started as I usually do, by visiting the University Library.  I dropped in during the summer and renewed my library card.  But at that time I’d got a photocopy of an article and forgotten one page.  So that was something.  Likewise I wanted to look at Bousset’s book on the Apophthegmata for a blog post.  That was something else to do.

Cambridge University Library in the sunshine

Everywhere there were cyclists.  In the library there were welcome desks, and tours.  Clearly it was freshers’ week.  All those young faces.  Others walked hand in hand.  I wished for a moment that I had made more effort to meet someone at university.  It gets so much harder to find someone suitable after!  Among these strode or cycled the occasional third year, faces which seemed too knowing or mature for their years.

A corridor of books, and students

My mobile phone kept buzzing, but I’d set it to silent.  I did sneak out to the courtyard to talk to one agent.

Every time I make one of my infrequent visits I find that something is different.  This year there was no photocopying room any more; just photocopiers scattered around.  I got the missing page easily.  The search engine on the website was different too.  Whatever happened to “Newton”?

Bossuet appeared in 1923, which means he is not online; but was in the Rare Books Room.  I hadn’t been there for years and years.  It was much the same, except that now we could use our mobile phone cameras!  The assistant told me that I wasn’t allowed to photograph, except for personal purposes, or put the results on the web.  The prohibitions were, of course, quite unenforceable.

The Rare Books Room

I settled down to snap some photos.  Fortunately I quickly realised that Bousset contained little that I needed, and a couple of dozen photos would serve my needs.  Because I wanted to be out in the sunshine!

Bousset’a “Apophthegmata” in the Rare Books Room

Then I was done.  Back I went out of the library, showing my card as I did so.  Into the sunshine, and walked down towards the backs.  So many cyclists!

Into Cambridge!

Over the river I went at the backs…

Looking left from the bridge

Over the bridge…

Into the town…

Still the sun shone.

I was making for a sandwich shop next to the Round Church in Cambridge.  But it wasn’t there any more!  How long, I wondered, since I had last walked the pavements of Cambridge.  I made do with a not-very-good teashop nearby, for I was hungry.

My next stop was Heffers, the university bookshop.  But I was shocked… the basement, in which there were always shelves of history and theology books, was now turned over to Harry Potter junk.  The whole shop was a shadow of itself.  Doubtless Amazon is to blame.  When I found the classics section it consisted of two cases only.  I walked from there down Green Street to Galloway and Porter, where I had bought many a remaindered textbook back in the day.  But it was gone.  Bookshops were at a discount.

I ended up walking along to CLC, the Christian bookshop.  It still existed, thankfully, but around it were endless ethnic restaurants, with name boards in scripts even I don’t know.  But within it too was a husk, or so it seemed to me.  Then again, what is gone is gone.

The sun shone, the streets were full of young and happy folk.  The city bustled with life.  The University Hotel had been rebuilt after a fire with a quite magnificent stone portico, of a sort that evoked the Victorian age.  On the side they had proudly chiselled MMXVII.  That’s the spirit!

Finally I passed by Kings, and headed back to the UL and my car.

Kings College

After that, a long journey to the outskirts, and then home.  But it was a lovely day.  I haven’t done any trips anywhere for over a year.  This was a nice exception.  It’s really important to make time for fun!