A little more Asterius

Blogger Albocicade has very kindly sent me some excerpts from Asterius the Homiletist’s 31 homilies on Psalms, which he has culled from a French book.  Let me give them here; I’m sure we can all use Google Translate.

Sur l’arbre verdoyant:

“Le Verbe est le bois planté au bord des eaux, que le Père a engendré sans séparation, chargé de fruits, à la sève vigoureuse, à la cime élevée, aux belles pousses. C’est de cet arbre qu’Adam ayant refusé le fruit est déchu en son contraire. En effet, le Christ est l’arbre de vie, le démon l’arbre de mort.”
—  Homélie I.5, sur Ps.1, traduction Daniélou : “Les symboles chrétiens primitifs” p 40

Sur la crucifixion du Sauveur:

“Durant la Passion, le monde était secoué comme un navire, le pilote était cloué à la croix, le voile du Temple se déchirait comme une voilure ; alors le choeur des apôtres, privé de pilote et secoué par la tempête s’écrie : Délivre-moi, Seigneur, car le juste fait défaut !”
— Homélie XX.17, sur Ps.11, traduction Daniélou : “Les symboles chrétiens primitifs” p 71

Sur la trahison de Judas:

“Le juste a fait défaut. Il a abrégé l’horloge des Apôtres. Du jour de douze heures des disciples, il a fait un jour de onze heures. Il a montré l’année du Seigneur privée d’un mois. Et c’est pourquoi est onzième le psaume où est rapportée la lamentation des Onze sur le Douzième”
— Homélie XX.14, sur Ps.11, traduction Daniélou : “Les symboles chrétiens primitifs” p 131

Sur la fuite des apôtres:

“Avec les trois heures, les autres heures des Apôtres ont fui le jour. Les heures du jour sont devenues heures de la nuit, lorsque le jour lui-même, qui nous présente en lui l’image des Apôtre, a été changé.”
— Homélie XX.15-16, sur Ps.11, traduction Daniélou : “Les symboles chrétiens primitifs” p 131

Asterius on Matthew 27:25

My original reason for interest in Asterius the Sophist, and the collection of 31 homilies that bears his name in Richard’s edition, is the reference to Mathew 27:25 – His blood be upon us and upon our children – in homily 21.  Of course we must now recognise that this is by Asterius the Homiletist, and written around 400 AD, as has emerged from the series of posts on Asterius.

I’ve got the text of Homily 21 from Richard’s edition, and I’ll post it here, for those without access to the TLG:

The passage of interest to us has very generously been translated by “Inepti graeculi” for us all.  The file is here, with copious and useful notes:

But let me give just the raw translation here:

13. On the eighth day he was raised from the dead. For the end, upon the eighth, when the end of the world became the beginning of the world and since death was cut off on the eighth. For the end, upon the eighth, when also on the second eighth he appeared to Thomas and cut off his disbelief by belief. For the one who said ‘unless I put my hand in his side’, used the sight alone of Christ as a knife and cut off disbelief, and believing in him he said, ‘my Lord and my God.’

14. Eight days after the resurrection Jesus came to the disciples when the doors were shut and stood among them and said: ‘Peace be with you.’ For the enemy death, by [his] death had been put to death. Then he said to Thomas: ‘Put your hand in my side, not to pierce my side with a spear as the soldier, but (so that) you may receive the blood and water from my side in your mind, and learn why the blood and water came out, the two witnesses of the Lord-killers: the blood in order to convict the Jews who said; ‘His blood be on us and on our children’; the water, in order to accuse Pilate, who taking water and washing his hands, as innocent an innocent and righteous [man] scourged and crucified. Put your finger, Thomas and put your hand, first your finger and thus your hand. First taste that the lord is good, [he] who while [you were] disbelieving did not beat you, and so receive the bread of life. And so Thomas had not yet tasted, and immediately blurted out the confession: ‘And Thomas replied, saying to him: “My Lord and my God”’.

A few more notes on Asterius the Sophist, Asterius the Homiletist, and the Commentary on the Psalms

After my post yesterday, I did a google search and found a number of useful items of bibliography.  It seems that there was further work on Asterius, after Marcel Richard’s edition.  In particular there is a rather excellent work by Wolfram Kinzig[1], whose conclusions about this collection of 31 homilies on the Psalms (which he referred to as HomPs) were as follows:

We are now in a position to collate all the evidence which has emerged from our study and to sum it up in five points:

  1. The ‘repair’ of the damaged text in 27.9-15 notwithstanding, the HomPs. as edited by Richard, form a unity. They were written by one single author.
  2. The author’s name is Asterius.
  3. He is not identical with either Asterius the Sophist or Asterius of Amasea.
  4. The author is not an Arian, but an adherent of the Nicene Creed.
  5. The HomPs were composed in Palestine or, more likely, in western Syria (Antioch), probably between 385 and 410 A. D.

Hence Richard’s hypothesis that AS is the author of the HomPs must be considered as having been refuted.

However, the positive evidence for a different authorship is somewhat poor, especially if one considers the number of bearers of this name. Unfortunately, there is among them no bishop of Asterius of Antioch in the later fourth century.

 Kinzig’s work seems very thorough, and I think we may take his word for it.  In a later article, he designated the author as “Asterius the Homilist”, which seems as good a designation as any.  Aloys Grillmeier discusses Asterius, and gives a useful bibliography of articles around the subject, and the collection of homilies, here.[2]

A number of selections from the collection of sermons were included in the IVP academic volume of ancient commentary on Psalms 1-50 (Preview here).[3]

In 1993 Markus Vinzent collected the fragments genuinely by Asterius the Sophist, and edited them with a German translation.[4]

Last, but by no means least, blogger Albocicade has been at work on Asterius in French.  He added a couple of useful links to the French Wikipedia article on Astérios le Sophiste, which I reproduce here because Wikipedia is so ephemeral:

He has gone further: in fact he began his blog, Les Cigales éloquentes –  The Eloquent Cicadas? * – with a translation by Fr. Joseph Paramelle, SJ, of a portion of Asterius on the Psalms; specifically from the 1st homily on Psalm 8.  It is here; and has appeared elsewhere also.  Here is my rendition from the French:

“Lord, our lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

Christ, who is the divine vine, the vine before all ages, has sprouted in the tomb and born fruit, in the newly baptised, like clusters of grapes in this church.  Let the visible reality clarify for us the song of the wine-press.  The vine has been harvested, and, like a wine-press, the church is full of grapes.

Operators of the wine-press, pickers at the harvest, cicadas perched on the trees, we are – by their songs – again shown today the paradise of the church, shining with grace.

Who are the operators?  The prophets and apostles, who intone for us the song of the wine-press which has for title, “Unto the end, for the presses”[5]

Who are the cicadas?  The newly baptised who, soaked with dew as they arise from the font, sit on the cross like a tree, warmed by the Sun of Justice, bathed in the light of Spirit, echoing the words of the Spirit:

“Lord, our lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

They are beautiful with their white wings, the eloquent cicadas, surrounding the font.  Yes, their wings are white because they are endowed with speech.  The cicadas feed on dew, the newly baptised are strengthened by the Word; what the dew is to the former, the celestial Word is to the latter.

I’ve probably mangled that badly: but the eloquence of the homilist certainly shines through!

UPDATE:  Wolfram Kinzig kindly writes (see comments to this post) to say that he has in fact translated the entire corpus of 31 homilies! This is a translation into German, and priced for libraries, but at least it exists.  For some reason it is rather locate to find using Google, even if you know what to search for, although you can find it on Amazon.  Here are the details:

Asterius: Psalmenhomilien. Eingeleitet, übersetzt und kommentiert von Wolfram Kinzig. Stuttgart: Anton Hiersemann (2002). 2 vols; Erster Halbband: ISBN 978-3-7772-0201-3, Zweiter Halbband: ISBN 978-3-7772-0202-0 (here). Series: (Bibliothek der griechischen Literatur 56, 57).

He adds:

I produced a new edition of Homily 31 in Vigiliae Christianae 50 (1996), p. 401-415

In a small monograph I studied Asterius’ peculiar theology of inheritance: Erbin Kirche. Die Auslegung von Psalm 5,1 in den Psalmenhomilien des Asterius und in der Alten Kirche, Heidelberg: Carl Winter Verlag, 1990 (Abhandlungen der Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften, phil.-hist. Kl. 1990/2)

As regards other publications you may also want to consult my list of publications which you find here.

This also lists the reviews of each work, so is very useful!

* In my first version of this post, I was confused between grasshoppers, crickets, and cicadas.  See the comments for more details on this!  Asterius is referring to cicadas.

  1. [1]Wolfram Kinzig, In search of Asterius: Studies on the authorship of the Homilies on the Psalms, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1990.  Google books preview here.
  2. [2]A. Grillmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition, p.206.
  3. [3]Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture VII: Psalms 1-50. Ed. Craig A. Blaising, Carmen S. Hardin. IVP, 2008.
  4. [4]M. Vinzent, Asterius von Kappadokien: Die theologischen Fragmente.  Brill, 1993. Google books preview here.
  5. [5]This seems to be the LXX title for Psalm 8, and appears in the Vulgate, and Douai English translation.

Some notes on the commentary on the psalms by Asterius the Sophist

This morning a Greek text of the remains of Asterius the Sophist’s Commentary on the Psalms came into my hands.[1]  The editor’s preface is quite interesting on this obscure writer, and I thought that I would transcribe a few remarks from it.

But who was this fellow?  Asterius was a pupil of Lucian of Antioch, but during the Great Persecution, led by Maximinus Daia, Lucian was martyred, and Asterius agreed to sacrifice to the pagan gods.  He was never ordained, in consequence, but after the Council of Nicaea, he seems to have come to support the Arian party.[2]  In consequence he wrote a booklet, the Syntagmation, promoting Arian ideas and circulated it industriously.[3]  He also wrote a now-lost refutation of Marcellus of Ancyra, who defended the Nicene definition ineptly, plus some commentaries, of which only material on the Psalms has been recovered.   He died around 341 AD.

Jerome thought him important enough to be listed in his De viris illustribus as follows:

He wrote during the reign of Constantius commentaries on the Epistle to the Romans, on the Gospels and on the Psalms and also many other works which are diligently read by those of his party

In Letter 112:20 Jerome adds that Asterius of the Sophist was one of the writers known to him who had written a commentary on all of the psalms.

Marcel Richard discovered that there are considerable remains of this commentary in the catena of type VI on Psalms 1-50.  This catena was composed in Palestine in the 6th century, and the selections from Asterius cover various verses of Ps. 1, 4-7, 10, 14-20, 34, 36 and 38.

In addition, in many of the manuscripts which transmit to us the homilies of John Chrysostom on the psalms, there is also a collection – in whole or in part – of 31 homilies on the psalms which are clearly not by Chrysostom.  Excerpts from some of these homilies also appear in the catena type VI, and are there labelled as being by Asterius the Arian.  There seems no pressing reason to reject the identification made by the catenist to seven of these homilies.  The homilies show no sign of Arian ideas, and doubtless belong to the ante-Nicene phase of Asterius’ life.  Other homilies in the same collection fit less well with Asterius, but Richard thought it best to edit the whole collection, plus the catena fragments, and let others decide which homilies were authentic.  In his edition, which follows the order of the manuscripts, homilies 4 and 5 (on Ps.4), homily 6 (on Ps.5), homily 12 (on Ps. 6), homily 13 (on Ps. 7), homily 19 (on Ps. 10), and homily 29 (on Ps.18) are definitely authentic.  Richard suggested that homily 10 may be by Origen; while homily 22 perhaps from an Apollinarist writer, while he notes that 26 actually attacks Arius and Eunomius; but his co-worker made a case that all the homilies are Asterian, and the attack is merely an ancient interpolation.

A number of the homilies are plainly intended for delivery as panegyrics on the eight days of Easter.  These are homilies 8, 9, 11, 14-16, 22, 30, and 31.

Asterius was an orator, and his style is “very exuberant”.  Richard suggests that, among the uncounted mass of pseudo-Chrysostomica, there are probably further examples of his style, perhaps in material on Romans, or on the Gospels.

The manuscripts of the collection mentioned by Richard are as follows:

A = Athos Magna Laura Θ 210, 17th century (Richard thinks 14-15), paper.  Complete, but missing homilies 1-2 and first part of 3.  The only witness to homilies 30 and 31, and the last few folios of 31 are lost because of damage to the manuscript.  The ms. has suffered from damp at the top, affecting the first 3 lines of the text.  The text contained in it is of good quality.

B = Paris suppl. gr. 266, f. 93-155v, 17-18th century.  The Greek text is followed by a Latin version of homilies 4-18, and 20:7-23:5.  Referred to by Montfaucon as “my manuscript, copied at the Escorial”.  It seems to be a copy of a manuscript with Latin material, made by a certain Fr Gabriel of St Jerome, which itself was copied from ms. Scorialensis I.Δ.11 (previously II.K.13), destroyed in the fire of 1671.  The Escorial ms. contained homilies of Chrysostom, and homilies 1-29 of this collection, and was “very ancient” according to surviving descriptions.

This Fr. Gabriel belonged to the monastery of the Escorial.  He intended to publish an edition of unpublished works of Chrysostom preserved in the mss of the Escorial, and submitted his work to the printer Cotelier.  The submitted text was in two parts; the first containing 23 homilies on the psalms, while the other contained the remaining 4 homilies, plus a commentary on Daniel.  However Cotelier was interested only in the second part, which he had purchased by Colbert, and published in 1661.  The manuscript of Fr Gabriel’s second part passed into the Bibliotheque Nationale, where it is today Ms. Paris gr. 659.  None of this material is related to our collection.

The manuscript of the first part contained 23 of the 27 homilies from Scorialensis I.Δ.11.  The Escorial ms. in fact contained still more homilies; but Fr Gabriel was naturally interested only in material which was unpublished.  Consequently he omitted the authentic homilies of Chrysostom on Ps.4-12, and also the Asterian homilies 1-3 and 25-27, because these 6 homilies were translated into Latin and printed in that form by G. Hervet, in 1549, and so were frequently reprinted with other translations of Chrysostom.

The manuscript of Fr. Gabriel’s edition ended up in Rome, where Montfaucon saw it, and made a copy.  Richard was unable to locate Fr. Gabriel’s manuscript in Rome, but Montfaucon’s copy was found at the BNF by R.P.A. Wenger, and Richard inspected it the very next morning!  The ms. is unbound, and has lost folios from the front.  But the text in it is important.

P = Paris gr. 654, a luxury manuscript from the second half of the 10th century.  It contains the end of homily 1 and homilies 2-18.  A couple of folios were lost from the front before the 13th century. The current first folio is a 13th century leaf, a palimpsest, which contains the whole of homily 1, but copied from another manuscript.  This leaf is labelled Q.

V = Vatican gr. 524, 11th century.  It only contains homilies 12-22, 25, 26-27, and 28.

C = Caesenatensis Malatestianus Plut. D XXVIII, 2.  Copied by a monk named Leo who finished on 4 September 1027.  Parchment.  Homilies 1-3, 25-27.

The 5 other manuscripts listed by Richard only contain selected homilies.  Interestingly, some of these come via copies of a manuscript once annotated by Photius.  There are also 4 mss which are only copies of other manuscripts, and 1 which is a copy of the text in Savile’s edition.  Richard also discusses the catena fragments.

The early editions naturally reflect the manuscripts.  I will only give selected details here, but Richard details the lot.

G. Hervet, D. Ioannis Chrysostomi vere aureae in psalmos homiliae…, Venice, 1549, prints a Latin translation of homilies 1-3 and 25-27, made from Ms. Vat. Ottob. 95, itself a copy of C.  This was reprinted at Anvers in 1552 and 1582, and then in all the general Latin editions Chrysostom from that of Venice, 1549, until that of Anvers in 1614.

Henry Savile’s 1612 edition of Chrysostom also included the first Greek edition of homilies 3 and 5 (in vol. 8, 1, and vol. 7, 431).  These he based on various late copies.

Homilies 6-13 were first printed with a Latin translation by J.B. Cotelier in Ecclesiae Graecae Monumenta, vol. 2, Paris, 1681, p.1-81.

Montfaucon’s edition of Chrysostom includes 3, 5 and 25, based on preceding editions, somewhat corrected.

The Patrologia Graeca reprinted Cotelier as vol. 40, col. 389-477, and Montfaucon in vol. 55, col. 35-39 (hom. 3), 539-544 (hom. 5), and 549-558 (hom. 25).

There was then no interest until Richard and Skard started work in 1949.  Richard also lists editions of the catena fragments, and a mess they are too.

My own interest in all this is concerned with homily 21, and its mention of Matt.27:25.  Sadly it looks as if it is neither Asterian, nor published other than by Richard in Greek (without a translation of any sort!)

UPDATE: See a few more notes in my next post, here.

  1. [1]Asterii Sophistae.  Commentariorum in Psalmos quae supersunt. Accedunt aliquot homiliae anonymae. Ed. Marcel Richard. In: Symbolae Osloenses fasc. suppl. 16, Oslo: Brogger, 1956. P.3-245.
  2. [2]Indications to this effect may be found in Philostorgius, HE, book 2, 15; and book 4, 4; so Richard, p.iii.
  3. [3]Athanasius, De synodis 18, and De decret. 8.