Ephraem Graecus: the Phrantzolas edition (part 4)

I’m still looking at the Phrantzolas edition and (modern Greek) translation of “Ephraim Graecus”, the huge but neglected collection of texts in Greek attributed (mainly wrongly) to Ephraim Syrus in the manuscripts.

I thought that I would OCR the prologue and introduction to volume 1, and run the result through Google translate, to see what it said that might interest us.  Sadly the answer is “not much”.

The prologue is purely flowery compliments.  It tells us nothing about the process of creating the edition.  The introduction contains lots of stuff about Ephraim himself, useful to the modern Greek general reader; but not especially interesting to us.  However at the end, we get the following:

Έπιλογικό σημείωμα

Τό κείμενο τής αρχαίας μετάφρασης στήν Ελληνική γλώσσα των ’Έρ­γων του Όσιου Έφραίμ του Σύρου αντλήσαμε άπό τίς παλαιότυπες Εκδό­σεις (Ed. Thwaites, 1709 καί J. S. Assemani, 1732-1746) επιλέγοντας άπό τίς παραδομένες γραφές εκείνες πού κατά τή γνώμη μας είναι σύμφωνες μέ τή λογική, αισθητική καί συντακτική δομή του κειμένου. Σέ ελάχιστα ση­μεία καταλήξαμε σέ λύσεις γιά την άποκατάσταση τής νοηματικής σαφή­νειας του κειμένου.

Άπό τά γνωστά σημεία γραφής στίς Εκδόσεις κειμένων χρησιμοποιήσαμε τίς αγκύλες [], γιά τόν εξοβελισμό (άπόρριψη) λέξεων του κειμένου, καί τά άντίλαμβδα < > γιά τήν πρόταση λύσεων πρός άποκατάσταση του κειμένου.

Κατά τή μετάφραση στό νεοελληνικό λόγο φροντίσαμε, μέ τίς ταπεινές μας δυνάμεις, νά περισωθεί δ,τι ήταν δυνατόν άπό τό κάλλος καί τήν ήδύτητα του λόγου καί του πνεύματος τού Όσιου Πατρός ήμών Έφραίμ τού Σύρου.

Ευχαριστίες δφείλουμε στόν τότε Διάκονο Έφραίμ Ξηροποταμηνό, πού μέ τίς ευλογίες τού μακαριστού Γέροντός του Έφραίμ Ξηροποταμηνού μας παραχώρησε τό πλούσιο βιβλιογραφικό υλικό πού είχε συλλέξει, ευλαβούμενος τόν *Όσιο.

Ή έκδοση αυτή δφείλει πολλά γιά τήν άρτια παρουσίασή της στή φροντίδα των Εκδόσεων «Τό Περιβόλι τής Παναγίας»·

Which google translate rendered something like this:

Editorial note

The text of the ancient translation into the Greek language of the works of the Holy Ephraim of Syros was drawn from the old editions (Ed. Thwaites, 1709 and J.S. Assemani, 1732-1746) by selecting from the delivered texts those readings which in our opinion, are consistent with the logical, aesthetic and editorial structure of the text. In a few places, we have come up with solutions to restore the conceptual clarity of the text.

In the existing text in the editions, we used brackets [] to remove words from the text, and add suggestions for proposing solutions to restore the text.

In translating into the Modern Greek language, we have, with our humble powers, kept ourselves safe by the beauty and dexterity of the Word and the spirit of the Holy Father, the Ephraim of Syros.

We are grateful to Dean Ephraim Xeropotamenos, who, thanks to the blessings of the Elder of Ephraim Xeropotamenos, gave us the rich bibliographic material he had gathered, redeeming the Holy One.

This publication owes much for its excellent presentation to the care of the publishers, “To periboli tes Panagias”;

Not very certain of the last two sentences!  But interesting to know that the editor did alter the text.

I’ve also been looking at the now-vanished website of the Archimandrite Ephrem Lash, who translated some of Ephraem Graecus, and commented on the Phrantzolas edition.  The site is preserved in the Wayback Machine at Archive.org, from which we get these words:

The large corpus of Greek texts that go under the name of St Ephrem the Syrian have been greatly neglected by scholars. The only full editions are those published in the 18th century by Thwaites, in Oxford [1709], and by Assemani, largely based on Thwaites, in Rome [1743]. Mercati began a critical edition in 1915, but only one fascicle of the first volume ever appeared. In 1988 a corrected reprint, based on the two eighteenth century editions, together with a translation into Modern Greek, began to be published in Thessaloniki. It was brought to completion late in 1998 with the publication of the seventh, and final, volume.  This final volume contains a number of texts that do appear in either of the 18th century editions. The whole is extremely useful, though it is not a critical, but rather a practical, edition.

Some of these texts seem to be translations of Syriac metrical homilies, but the majority of them are almost certainly original Greek works and most of these the product of Byzantine coenobitic monasticism. They are of different dates and by different authors. A number of them are written in the metre called in Syriac the ‘metre of St Ephrem’, but do not appear to be translations. Some of them seem to have been known to St Romanos the Melodist in the sixth century and one large collection of fifty ‘Exhortations to the Monks of Egypt’ is mentioned by St Photios the Great [c.810-c.895] in his ‘Library’.

The best known of these Greek texts is the prayer of St Ephrem the Syrian, which is prescribed for use in all the Lenten offices of the Church and is one of best loved prayers of Orthodox Christians. The vices there listed are those typical of coenobitic communities, which leads one to suggest that the prayer is unlikely to be by St Ephrem himself, though whether its origin is Greek or Syrian is harder to say. There is one intriguing difference between the Greek and Slavonic texts of the prayer. Where the Greek has ‘idle curiosity’, periergia, the Slavonic has ‘faint-heartedness’, which in Greek is akedia, the classic monastic sin. Does this go back to a different original, or is it a reflection of differing national temperaments?

These Greek writings attributed to St Ephrem have never been translated into English and so I hope on this page to begin to fill a yawning gap in the spiritual reading of English speaking Orthodox Christians. The translations are not ‘scholarly’, since no critical edition of the originals exists, but ‘practical’.

The page then contains his translations:

Sermon in Heptasyllablics
Three Short Discourses
55 Beatitudes
To the Monks of Egypt
On the Departed Fathers
On Abraham and Isaac
On Joseph
On the Transfiguration
On The Passion

Sadly it looks as if he did no more.

The statement that volume 7 contains otherwise unedited texts is interesting.  I must go and look!


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