The “Glaphyra” of Cyril of Alexandria and Matthew 27:25

Cyril of Alexandria wrote quite a number of commentaries on the Old Testament.  There is the De adoratione et cultu in spiritu et veritate, in 17 books, in the form of a dialogue with a certain Palladius.  There is the massive line-by-line Commentary on Isaiah, in 5 books; and his Commentary on the minor prophets, with which we have been concerned recently.  There is also a collection of fragments from a Commentary on the Psalms, collected by Angelo Mai.  But not all of these are genuine.[1]

But there is also the Glaphyra, the “Elegant Comments”, in 13 books, which he deals with select passages from the Pentateuch.  7 books are devoted to Genesis, 3 to Exodus, and 1 book each to Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  It appears in the Patrologia Graeca volume 69, cols. 9-678, and as far as I know has not been translated into English, or any other modern language.  The work was also translated into Syriac in the 6th century by Moses of Agel, and fragments of this translation are extant.

The work begins with a preface (cols.9-10) in which he makes clear that the purpose of his exegesis is to show that “the end of the law and the prophets is Christ.”

These notes are necessary, for I find that an online search on Cyril of Alexandria and Glaphyra produces almost no information.  But of course our interest is his references to Matthew 27:25, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.”  The TLG gives 4 results in the Glaphyra in Pentateuchum {4090.097}, when searched:

  • PG 69 page 44 line 17: τῶν ὅλων Κύριον, καὶ τετολμήκασιν εἰπεῖν ἐκ πολλῆς ἄγαν ἀνοσιότητος, «Τὸ αἷμα αὐτοῦ ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς, καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ τέκνα ἡμῶν.» Ἀλλὰ τὸ μὲν αἷμα τοῦ Ἄβελ
  • PG 69 page 349 line 29: Ἕτερον γὰρ, οἶμαι, παρὰ τοῦτό ἐστιν οὐδὲν τὸ ἀσυνέτως εἰπεῖν ἐπὶ Χριστῷ· «Τὸ αἷμα αὐτοῦ ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς, καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ τέκνα ἡμῶν.»
  • PG69 page 629 line 17: ὑπὸ νόμον ὡς ἡγούμενον· πυῤῥὰ δὲ ὅτι τῆς οἰκονομίας ὁ τρόπος ἐφ’ αἵματι γέγονε δι’ ἡμᾶς καὶ ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν. Ἄμωμος δὲ, διὰ τὸ ἀπλημμελές· οὐ γὰρ οἶδεν
  • PG 69 page 649 line 17: Χριστῷ, ταῖς ἑαυτῶν κεφαλαῖς καταγράφουσι τὸ δυσσέβημα, λέγοντες· «Τὸ αἷμα αὐτοῦ ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ τέκνα ἡμῶν.» Οἱ δὲ τῆς παρ’ αὐτοῦ γλιχό-

So let’s go and look at the first of these.  As ever I give the Latin text, which I can OCR using Abbyy Finereader 12 Screenshot, rather than the Greek which I cannot; and translating from it.

The first passage, col. 44, is on Genesis, the story of Cain and Abel.

For everywhere they [the Jews] live, as strangers and foreigners, and fearful, and that which is right for free-born men, without liberty.  Now Cain received the sign so that they might not kill him.  For not all Israel was ruined.  But the rest were made saved, as the prophet said, who understood this and prophesied, saying “If the Lord of the Sabbath had not left us a seed, we would have been like Sodom and Gomorrha.”  For this reason also the divine psalmist, lest Israel might be dissolved in the world, called upon the God of the whole world, saying, “Do not kill them, lest they forget your law.”  So Cain went out from the face of the Lord.  For so it is written, “And Cain went out from the face of the Lord.”  The same thing happened to the Israelites, to whom it was spoken by the voice of the prophet, “When you stretch out your hands to me, I will turn my eyes away from you; and if you multiply your prayers, I will not hear you.  For your hands are full of blood.”   For they killed the Lord of all, and in their extreme impiety dared to say, “His blood be upon us and our children.”  The blood of Abel cried out only against his single killer.  But the precious blood of Christ cried out so greatly against the cruelty and inhumanity of the Jews, for he freed the world from sin, for he was poured out for it.  For this reason the divine Paul says, “”we come near, we who are justified by faith, by the shedding of the blood which is called better than the blood of Abel.”  I think that this must be added to what has been said: “For afterwards”, he said, “Adam knew Eve his wife and she conceived and gave birth to a son, and called him Seth, saying, ‘God has appointed for me another seed, in place of Abel whom Cain killed.”[2]

As usual with Cyril, we see an Old Testament story being interpreted as a prediction of the events of the New Testament.

More in due course!

  1. [1]Robert Wilken, “Cyril of Alexandria as interpreter of the Old Testament” in: The Theology of St. Cyril of Alexandria: A Critical Appreciation, A&C Black (2003) p.4.
  2. [2]Ubique enim hospites atque advenae, et trepidi, et ea quae ingenuos maxime decet, libertate carentes vivunt. Caeterum accepit Cain signum ut non interficerent eum. Periit enim non totus in universum Israel. Reliquiae autem salvae factae Sunt, juxta prophetae vocem, qui cum hoc intelligeret, praeclamavit, dicens: «Et nisi Dominus Sabaoth reliquisset nobis semen, sicut Sodoma facti essemus, et sicut Gomorrha similes essemus.»Quocirca, divinus etiam Psalmista, ne in universum absumeretur Israel, Deum totius universi rogavit, dicens: «Ne interficias eos, ne quando obliviscantur legis tuae.» Praeterea egressus est Cain a facie Domini. Ita enim scriptum est:«Et egressus est Cain a facie Domini.» Tale quid accidit Israelitis, ad quos dictum est per vocem propheta :« Quando extenderitis manus vestras ad me, avertam oculos meos a vobis; et si multiplicaveritis orationem vestram, non exaudiam vos. Manus enim vestra sanguine plenae sunt.» Occiderunt enim universorum Dominum, et prae nimia impietate ausi sunt dicere: «Sanguis ejus super nos et super filios nostros.» Atqui sanguis Abel adversus solum interfectorem clamavit : pretiosus vero Christi sanguis fere tantum clamavit adversus Judaeorum crudelitatem atque ingratitudinem : liberavit autem mundum a peccato , utpote fusus pro ipso. Idcirco etiam divinus Paulus ait, «accedere nos, qui per fidem justificati sumus, fusione sanguinis melius loquente quam sanguis Abelis». Illud vero etiam iis quae dicta sunt adjiciendum puto : «Postquam enim, inquit, «mortuus est Abel, cognovit Adam Evam uxorem suam, et concipiens peperit filium, et vocavit nomen ejus Seth, dicens “Suscitavit enim mihi Deus semen aliud pro Abel, quem occidit Cain.»

Cyril of Alexandria and Matthew 27:25 (part 2): the case of the vanishing passage!

Yesterday I discussed 5 passages from Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on the XII minor prophets, which according to a TLG search supposedly reference Matthew 27:25, “His blood be upon us all”.  Passage #1 was a glitch, and #3-5 are genuine and I gave the passages in translation using the Fathers of the Church translation.

But it is passage 2 that I want to discuss now.  For I was unable to see it, in the Google Books Preview of the commentary.  The TLG result is as follows:

  • Volume 1 page 530 line 13: γὰρ τῷ Πιλάτῳ σταυροῦν ἀναπείθοντες τὸν Χριστόν “Τὸ “αἷμα αὐτοῦ ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ τέκνα ἡμῶν.” τοιγάρτοι  πανοικὶ διολώλασι καὶ αὐτοῖς ἀνδράσιν ἡρπάσθησαν πόλεις,

As we can see, the Greek of Matthew 27:25 is right there.  Here is the page from the Pusey edition[1], volume 1, page 530 (click on the picture below for a larger image):


So … why did it not show up in my search of the Fathers of the Church translation?

The running header in Pusey tells me that this is from the Commentary on Amos, chapter 9:4, at the end.  If I look at the Fathers of the Church 116, Commentary on 12 Minor prophetsvolume 2, p.120 indicates the start of Pusey p.530, and p.121 shows the start of p.531.  But it is noticeable how much less text there is, than between “(531)” and “(532)”.


There’s only one conclusion to draw.  The translator, for whatever reason, has omitted this passage from his translation.

This may be an honest error. After all, similar passages do appear translated in the next volume of the same commentary.  But the passage might be considered anti-Semitic, and so politically controversial.  I have referred before to the atmosphere of fear in US universities these days.  It would be worrying if it was omitted for reasons of self-preservation: just as copies of the Talmud in medieval Europe omitted material about Jesus, out of fear of the inquisition.

I have asked a correspondent for a translation of the missing portion, which I will add here.  And I shall write to the editors of the FOC series, and draw their attention to the omission.

UPDATE: Two kind commenters have had a go at the passage (see below).  Bryson Sewell has sent in a version in PDF, with some notes on an unusual Greek usage, which I attach.  Comments are welcome!

“And the wretched crowd of the Jews has endured this, who transferred his righteous blood upon their own heads. For when they were persuading Pilate to crucify Christ, they said, ‘His blood be upon us and upon our children!’ Accordingly, they all perished with their whole households and their cities were plundered together with their men, so that no one was able to escape. As regards the sort and number of the things that they have suffered, the long history books of those who have written about such matters sing of them.”

In addition I have looked again at Pusey’s edition, and verified that there are four, and only four references to Matt.27:25 in the commentary on the 12 prophets:


  1. [1]P.E. Pusey, Sancti patris nostri Cyrilli archiepiscopi Alexandrini in xii prophetas, 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1868: 1:1-740; 2:1-626.  Volume 1; Volume 2.

Cyril of Alexandria and Matthew 27:25 (part 1)

The evil day has arrived, when I have to sift the references to Matthew 27:25 found in the works of Cyril of Alexandria.   Woe is me.

We start with his Commentary on the 12 Minor Prophets.  The TLG search gave us the following five references:

  • Volume 1 page 90 line 7: φόνος καὶ κλοπὴ καὶ μοιχεία ἐκκέχυται ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, καὶ    αἵματα ἐφ’ αἵμασι μίσγουσιν.   Ἀναγκαῖον ἡμᾶς διατρανοῦν ἐθέλοντας τῶν προκειμένων τὸν νοῦν, μονονουχὶ παλινάγρετα ποιεῖσθαι τὰ ἐν ἀρχαῖς, …
  • Volume 1 page 530 line 13: γὰρ τῷ Πιλάτῳ σταυροῦν ἀναπείθοντες τὸν Χριστόν “Τὸ “αἷμα αὐτοῦ ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ τέκνα ἡμῶν.” τοιγάρτοι  πανοικὶ διολώλασι καὶ αὐτοῖς ἀνδράσιν ἡρπάσθησαν πόλεις,
  • Volume 2 page 232 line 9: τὸ ἀπηνέστερον, ἢ τί πρὸς θυμοὺς ἀγριώτερον; οἵ γε καὶ αὐτὸ τὸ δίκαιον αἷμα ταῖς σφῶν αὐτῶν ἐπαντλήσαντες κεφαλαῖς, ἀπεριμερίμνως ἔφασκον “Τὸ αἷμα αὐτοῦ ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς καὶ “ἐπὶ τὰ τέκνα ἡμῶν.” πρᾶος δὴ οὖν ὁ λαὸς, ὁ τῆς τούτων
  • Volume 2 page 324 line 22: ὄλεθρον ἐν ἡμέρᾳ μιᾷ, καθ’ ἣν ἔφασαν προσάγοντες αὐτὸν τῷ Πιλάτῳ “Τὸ αἷμα αὐτοῦ ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ τέκνα “ἡμῶν.” εἰ γὰρ μὴ καὶ συνεκβέβηκε παραχρῆμα τὰ ἐκ
  • Volume 2 page 454 line 12: “αἶρε, σταύρου αὐτὸν,” καὶ αὐτὸ δὲ τὸ δίκαιον αἷμα ταῖς    σφῶν αὐτῶν ἐπηντλήκασι κεφαλαῖς. ἔφασκον γὰρ πάλιν “Τὸ αἷμα αὐτοῦ ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ τέκνα ἡμῶν.” διὰ τοῦτο τοίνυν, φησὶν, οὐκέτι φείσομαι ἐπὶ τοὺς κατοικοῦντας

The edition used in the TLG is that of Philip E. Pusey in 1868-72.[1].  I would prefer to map this to the PG edition, in PG71-72 (which reprints the Aubert edition).  The page numbers are to the Pusey edition.

Thankfully I learn that a translation (in three volumes!) of this work exists, published by Catholic University of America Press in the Fathers of the Church series, and made by Robert C. Hill, a man who deserves very well of this age.  Better still, Google Books previews exist.  The text used was the same Pusey edition.

The first passage – Pusey vol.1, p.90 – does not seem to reference Matt.27:25, and when I examine the original volume, it does not appear there.  The list of references was supplied to me by a kindly colleague, however, and it may simply be a glitch.

I shall comment separately in a moment about the second passage, where something unusual has happened!

The last three references, all from Pusey’s volume 2, all appear in the FOC translation.  Here they are.

From FOC volume 3, p.51, commenting on Zephaniah 3 (“volume 2” p. 232):

I shall leave in your midst a people gentle and lowly, and the remnant of Israel will reverence the name of the Lord; they will not be guilty of iniquity and will not say idle things, nor will deceitful talk be found in their mouth (vv. 2-13).

Again he addresses Zion, or the holy city—I mean Jerusalem—in which he also promises will be left the gentle and lowly people. Though in fact the synagogue of the Jews had raged against Christ the Savior of all, and had turned murderer of the Lord, and of it he requires an account, yet not all perished; the remnant was preserved and the survivors saved, a great number of them coming to faith. (232) These were the gentle, not venting on Christ their rage like a bull, like of course those who at that time brought him before Pilate, crying out in the words, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him,” and adding to this the cry, “If you do not kill him, you are no friend of Caesar’s.” In fact, what could be more cruel than such people, and more fierce than their anger? They brought innocent blood upon their own heads in saying without a thought, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.” So the people who had no share in their savagery were gentle, therefore, and likewise lowly in their subjection to Christ, submitting the neck of their mind to his yoke, and willingly heeding his loving call, “Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I shall give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

They are therefore also conformed in this to Christ, who for our sake made himself poor, as though unconcerned for the glory proper to God and his pre-eminence by nature, in order that in the divine plan he might endure the condition proper to a slave. Let those who enjoy spiritual guidance from his laws therefore model themselves on him. It is they who will also reverence the name of the Lord; the divinely inspired disciples, who before others also have the role of light of the world, are among those who have particular love for God. Now, those who love God, and are good, will avoid iniquity and idle words, he says: they will not say idle things, nor will their talk be false, the meaning of deceit. By contrast, this is spiritual adornment, highly befitting the ornaments of virtue like a kind of crown: …

From FOC volume 3, p.124, commenting on Zechariah 3 (“volume 2” p. 324):

Lo, I am digging a pit, says the Lord almighty, and I shall get a grip on all the injustice in that land in one day.

He presented our Lord Jesus Christ as light and dawn, and the fact that he will illuminate like daylight those in darkness and the shadow of death, that is, in error. But it was also necessary to forecast the fulfillment of the divine plan, namely, death for the sake of us all, which he willingly underwent by surrendering his own body to the cross, because the Jewish race had also offended and forfeited their relationship with him. You see, since the  wretches did not understand the mystery of the Incarnation and became murderers of the Lord, consequently and very properly  they were deprived of hope and perished miserably as miserable people, caught up in terrible and ineluctable calamities. So he  actually likens the cross of the Savior to a pit, since those who  shed the Lord’s blood fell into a pit, as it were, even presuming  to give over to crucifixion the Author of life.

Now, if the Father himself spoke of digging a pit, let no-one be scandalized, but consider rather that the expression  is redolent in some way of the Incarnation; it is like what is said wisely and precisely by Christ, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Admittedly, while there is truth in claiming that he did not come for this reason, for some people to become blind, nevertheless it was not only the fault of uncomprehending people that ntisrepresented the manner of the wonderful Incarnation; they refused to see, in fact, despite having access to the divine light. This is the way to take it here, too: while the Father sent the Son “so that the world might be saved through him,” on account of the folly of those who failed to understand, he who was sent became a pit and a trap for those who crucified him. Perhaps it was the one who sent him who is somehow thought to have dug the pit; so he actually says, I shall dig a pit, and I shall get a grip on all the injustice in that land in one day, by digging a pit meaning, I shall seek it out and carefully pry into it.

You see, they killed the holy prophets, and like hunters they assailed those sent at various times, abusing some, maltreating others, killing still others. God was still tolerant, however; the victims were servants and fellow slaves of those who committed the murders. Since in their unrestrained assaults they went to extremes, and contemplated such an unholy outrage as audaciously to do violence to the Son himself, and fell into the pit by crucifixion, he no longer forgave their unbridled sin. He sought out the offenders and submitted them to punishment, decreeing the destruction of the whole of Judea on one day when they paraded him before Pilate and cried, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.”  Even if the effects of divine wrath did not immediately befall them, even if the penalty was not sought without delay, nevertheless the just sentence from God took effect on them, destruction gripping the land of the Jews, as I said. (325) While the Savior was taken off to crucifixion, therefore, women followed him, weeping and wailing; he then turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me: weep for yourselves and for your children.” They were, in fact, delivered to destruction and slaughter, and there happened to them what was said in the verse of Isaiah, “Your land is desolate, your cities are bumed, foreigners consume your very land before you, and it is devastated and overwhelmed by foreign peoples.”

From FOC volume 3, p.216, commenting on Zechariah (“volume 2” p. 454):

…of all—Christ, I mean—and be subject to him, they stupidly associated themselves instead with those who slaughtered and sold them. The Only-begotten Word of God became man, remember, and clearly said in  unmasking both those men’s knavery and the sincerity of the divine plan for us, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep, whereas the hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming, leaves the sheep, and takes to flight. (454) The wolf snatches them and scatters them, because he is a hired hand, and does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd.” Now, the Jews, miserable though they were and needing to voice their criticism of the hired shepherds, did not do so; rather, the good shepherd, who laid down his own life as a ransom for all, they abused in countless ways, stoned, reproached, and in the end opened their mouth wide against him, crying out along with their leaders in demanding from Pilate, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him,” and actually bringing down his righteous blood on their own heads in the words, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.”

Hence I shall no longer spare the inhabitants of the earth, the text says: they no longer deserved pity from God; instead, each person was delivered into the hands of their neighbor and into the hands of their king or ruler. In fact, they crucified Emmanuel, and became murderers of the Lord, completely sacrilegious. But God called them to repentance, and did not immediately inflict on them the effects of His wrath. After the lapse of thirty years from the crucifixion of the Savior, however, peace departed from the country of the Jews; there were enemies everywhere, city invading city, people in each one divided among themselves and fighting with one another, the result being that they found themselves in equal trouble from one another as befell them from the enemy. The bold Roman generals were in control of the land of the Jews, burning cities along with inhabitants, (455) and subjecting the country to the yoke of slavery. Those capable of fleeing dwelt in the lands of the nations, which is still the case today.

A Google Books search of volume 1 and volume 2 turns up no results.  In fact there are no results to be found in these volumes.  I will discuss passage #2 in just a moment.

  1. [1]P.E. Pusey, Sancti patris nostri Cyrilli archiepiscopi Alexandrini in xii prophetas, 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1868: 1:1-740; 2:1-626.  Volume 1; Volume 2.

“Ingesting the Godhead”? – a dubious “quote” from Cyril of Alexandria

A correspondent has written to me with an interesting quotation which is being attributed on the web to Cyril of Alexandria.  It may be found here, among other places, and reads:

When we ingest the Eucharist in reality we are ingesting the Godhead ….. because His Body and Blood are diffused through our members we become partakers of the divine nature.

My correspondent notes that this contradicts what Cyril says in Against Nestorius 4:

But out of overmuch reverence, he blushes (it appears) at the measures of emptiness and endures not to see the Son Co-Eternal with God the Father, Him who is in the Form and Equality in everything with Him Who begat Him, come down unto lowliness: he finds fault with the economy and haply leaves not unblamed the Divine Counsel and Plan. For he pretends to investigate the force of the things said by Christ, and as it were taking in the depth of the ideas; then bringing round (as he thinks) my words to a seeming absurdity and ignorance; “Let us see, he says, who it is that mis-interprets. As the Living Father sent Me, for I live (according to him) God the Word, because of the Father, and he that eateth Me he too shall live: which do we eat, the Godhead or the flesh?”

Perceivest thou not therefore at length how thy mind is gone? for the Word of God saying that He is sent, says, he also that eateth Me, he too shall live. But we eat, not consuming the Godhead (away with the folly) but the Very Flesh of the Word Which has been made Life-giving, because it has been made His Who liveth because of the Father.

And we do not say that by a participation from without and adventitious is the Word quickened by the Father, but rather we maintain that He is Life by Nature, for He has been begotten out of the Father who is Life. For as the sun’s brightness which is sent forth, though it be said (for example) to be bright because of the sender, or of that out of which it comes, yet not of participation hath it the being bright, but as of natural nobility it weareth the Excellence of him who sent it or flashed it forth: in the same way and manner, I deem, even though the Son say that He lives because of the Father, will He bear witness to Himself His own Noble Birth from forth the Father, and not with the rest of the creation promiscuously, confess that He has Life imparted and from without.

I have been unable to find the source for the “quote”.  But of course much of Cyril’s work is untranslated, and possibly it does exist somewhere.  It is not found in the 110 letters of Cyril, published in English in the Fathers of the Church series, that much I can tell.  Nor is it found in Norman Russell’s Cyril of Alexandria, which contains a selection of texts.

I wonder whether the “quote” exists in German?  Or French?  What would “ingest” and “Godhead” be, in either language?  There are some works extant in translations in that language.

Any ideas, anyone?

UPDATE: Mina Soliman seems to have found it.  A certain Richard Foley, Mary and the Eucharist, contains almost exactly the “quote”, on p.46.  But in reality the words are his own:

When we ingest the Eucharist, in reality we are ingesting the Godhead.  This makes of us a kind of tabernacle, and we are transformed.  For thus we become Christ-bearers, because his body and blood are diffused through our members … and we become partakers of the divine nature.[8]

Footnote 8 (on p. 54) gives the source as “Cyril of Alexandria: Catechetical Lectures 4, 6.[1]Snippets accessible….g#search_anchor and….n#search_anchor[/ref].

Of course the author of the Catechetical Lectures is Cyril of Jerusalem, not Cyril of Alexandria.  And the second sentence in the Foley quote is indeed in Cyril, as the NPNF text show:

Wherefore with full assurance let us partake as of the Body and Blood of Christ:  for in the figure of Bread is given to thee His Body, and in the figure of Wine His Blood; that thou by partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, mayest be made of the same body and the same blood with Him.  For thus we come to bear Christ in us, because His Body and Blood are distributed through our members; thus it is that, according to the blessed Peter, we become partakers of the divine nature.

The first sentence is Fr. Foley’s own idea.

And so we have it; a quotation from a modern book with an erroneous reference turned, magically, into a patristic quote.

Well done, Mina Solomon, for getting to the bottom of that!

  1. [1]

A series of posts on Cyril of Alexandria at “All along the watchtower”

An incoming link draws my attention to a blog previously unknown to me, All along the watchtower.  The blog has begun a series of posts by “Chalcedon451” on Cyril of Alexandria.

It is certainly the case that few of the Fathers enjoy a lower reputation in the English-speaking world than Cyril.  “Chalcedon451” suggests that we have Gibbon to blame for this.

He’s probably right.  Few other than specialists had any access to the Fathers, and the impact of Decline and Fall on the literate world was immense.  His slurs on Eusebius are still repeated; his negative opinion of Cyril was likewise definitive. 

It is telling that the 19th century American pirate edition of the Fathers, the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers series, while it reprinted the translations of Augustine and Chrysostom, left sternly to one side the translations of Cyril of Alexandria in the same series.

I have always felt that Cyril suffers from his association with the Nestorian dispute.  That was a matter of high politics, in which he is unlikely to appear very pleasing to our eyes.  It would be much, much better if we could start with something we DO sympathise with, the Contra Julianum.  One of the last apologetic works of antiquity, the arguments of Cyril would at least be directed against the anti-Christianity of Julian the Apostate, rather than Nestorius, with whom many of us feel some sympathy.  A translation of this work is in progress; but it seems unlikely that it will be accessible to non-specialists.

It will be interesting to see what is said in the blog series, all the same.


From my diary – translation projects and other things

The July sales figures (through Amazon) for Eusebius’ book on differences between the gospels (and how to resolve them) have arrived and are encouraging.  I still haven’t launched an online marketing campaign, yet we sold more in July than in June.  Interestingly most of these seem to have been hardbacks.  The purchasers certainly got a good deal — those hardbacks are impressive! — but I wouldn’t have expected that.

I’ve had another attempt at my project to translate Cyril of Alexandria’s Apologeticus ad imperatorem.  A sample couple of pages have arrived from the translator, and I passed them to Andrew Eastbourne for comment.  His verdict was decidely negative, unfortunately, which is a great pity.  But I need to read his review in detail, which I won’t do this evening.

The postman brought me a large parcel containing two volumes which together make up Brockelmann’s Supplement 1 to his history of Arabic literature.  I created these for personal use from a rather poor PDF, making sure they had wide margins, and the results are more than satisfactory.

While looking at the Greenhill papers on Galen — mentioned in yesterday’s post — I noticed that in several cases the books had been (re)bound, interleaved with blank pages, so that notes might be made on them.  Perhaps I should try doing the same with some of these PDFs!

This practice of interleaving is something that you never see today; yet I remember talking to an academic who told me that the late L.D.Reynolds, editor of Texts and Transmissions, had a copy of his own book made for him with interleaved blank pages by Oxford University Press so that he could scribble notes in it.  Clearly it is still possible.

The Royal College of Physicians library wrote back to me today about those Greenhill papers, containing stuff on Galen’s works in Arabic.  They don’t allow photocopying of material more than a century old — and who can blame them? — but they do allow the use of digital cameras.  Good for them!  They’re closed until 15th August, but I must look at getting down there and browsing the material.

I’ve also been reading Walzer’s book Galen on Jews and Christians.  It’s a curious performance, but I am learning some interesting things from it.  A post will doubtless be forthcoming in due course.  The most interesting thing that I have seen so far is that all the passages are extant in Arabic translation, but two of them are only extant in Arabic.  Walzer seems to think that no question of authenticity arises, which seems surprising given the tendency of Arabic authors to elaborate, but doubtless he will explain why.

Last night I did some more work on my version of Brockelmann’s remarks on early Arabic writers about Mohammed (and, when it’s 25C in your bedroom and very humid, you’re not going to be sleeping, so why not use the time?).  I also started searching for web versions, and found some.  I will include links to these in the final version.  I did discover that the Digital Library of India held copies of the journal Islamic Culture, which in 1927 and 1928 has some important articles on this subject.  I just wish their site was quicker and easier to use!  For Arabic culture, the publications in India in the 19th century are important, and I suspect few of us have ever visited the DLI site or downloaded its curious download tool.

Today I was able to discover that Guillaume’s English translation of ibn Ishak is online in page images.  This evening I hope to download it.  The book is a reconstruction of this lost early biography, based on quotations in Ibn Hisham and al-Tabari.

Finally, and on a lighter note, I have just checked my inbox, and received a job advert for a contract IT support engineer role in Afghanistan, paying about average UK rates.  Length of contract is 20 months. 

Evidently I need to be nicer to recruitment agents when they phone.  Who knew that one of them was trying to get me shot!


Cyril of Alexandria buys the government

The collection of letters of Cyril of Alexandria that has come down to us is really a dossier of materials surrounding the Nestorian controversy.  That unedifying story has many low points.

One that sticks in my mind is letter 96.  This consists of a list of bribes of courtiers in Constantinople.  I found a copy online today, and I thought I would share it.  The translation must be that of the Fathers of the Church series, and if so must be copyright to them. So don’t treat this as public domain: it isn’t mine to give you.  But I imagine a quotation of one letter should be within fair usage.

It is possible that the court was so corrupt that no-one could be heard unless “presents” were given.  The phrase “customary gifts” noted in the footnotes tends to suggest this.  All the same, it’s not nice reading.  Bribes to one official, to act as mediator with another official, all of it simply to do whatever business a major dignitary of the empire thought right to do.  Um.


A catalogue of things dispatched from here to the following who are there, by my lord, your most holy brother Cyril. 1

To Paul the Prefect: four larger wool rugs, two moderate wool rugs, four place covers, four table cloths, six larger bila (rugs or curtains), six medium sized bila, six stool covers, twelve for doors, two larger caldrons, four ivory chairs, two ivory stools, four persoina (= pews?), two larger tables, two ostriches (= pieces of furniture?); and in order that he would help us in the cause about those matters which were written to him: fifty pounds of gold. 2

(2) And to his domestic, one wool rug, two rugs, four bila, two stool covers, and one hundred gold coins.

(3) To Marcella, the chambermaid, the same as was dispatched to him, and that she would persuade Augusta 3 by asking her: fifty pounds of gold.

(4) To Droseria, the chambermaid, the same as was dispatched to Marcella, and that she would help her as was written to her: fifty pounds of gold.

(5) To the prefect Chryseros, that he would cease to oppose us, we were forced to dispatch double amounts: six larger wool rugs, four moderate rugs, four larger rugs, eight place covers, six table cloths, six large bila rugs, six medium sized bila, six stool covers, twelve for chairs, four larger caldrons, four ivory chairs, four ivory stools, six persoina, four larger tables, six ostriches; and if he shall have acted in accordance with what were written to him by the most magnificent Aristolaus with the lord Claudianus intervening as mediator: two hundred pounds of gold.

(6) And to Solomon, his domestic, two larger wool rugs, four place covers, four table cloths, four bila, four stool covers, six covers for chairs, six caldrons, two ivory chairs, two ostriches; and just as was written to lord Claudianus, so he may use persuasion to forward the proposal: fifty pounds of gold.

(7) To lady Heleniana, who is [the wife] of the prefect of the praetorian guard, the same in all things which were dispatched to Chryseros, so also to her; and in order that the prefect, persuaded by her, would help us: one hundred pounds of gold. As to her assessor, Florentinus, just as the things sent to Solomon, equally the same also to him and fifty pounds of gold.

(8) And to the other chamberlains customary suppliant gifts 4 have been dispatched.

To Romanus the chamberlain: four larger wool rugs, four place covers, four bila, four stool covers, six covers for chairs, two caldrons, two ivory chairs; and so that he would aid in our cause: thirty pounds of gold.

(9) To Domninus the chamberlain: four larger wool rugs, four larger rugs, four medium sized bila, four table covers, four medium sized bila, six stool covers, six covers for chairs, two larger caldrons, two ivory chairs, two ivory stools, four ostriches; and so that he may help us according to those things which were written to lord Claudianus: fifty pounds of gold.

(10) To Scholasticius, the chamberlain, the same in all things as those which were dispatched to Chryseros: and one hundred pounds of gold. And to Theodore, his domestic according to the promises of lord Claudianus, if he should persuade Scholasticius that he desist from friendships with our adversaries: fifty pounds of gold. We have directed also gifts4 to him which ought to persuade him that he should think in our favor: two wool rugs, two place covers, four table cloths, four rugs, four stools, six stool covers for chairs, two caldrons, two ostriches.

(11) To the most magnificent Artaba the same in all things as those which were dispatched to Scholasticius both in kinds: and that he would help us as was written to him: one hundred pounds of gold.

(12) To Magister, the same in all things as were dispatched to Artaba, in the same kinds: and one hundred pounds of gold. And to his domestic equally in all things as those dispatched to Rufinus.

(13) And to the quaestor, the same as those things which were destined for Magister: and one hundred pounds of gold. And to his domestic Ablalius equally in all things as Eustathius.

(14) A letter was written by your brother to the most reverend clerics so that all these things be dispatched, if anything was done out of devotion to my holy lord and should happen to be accomplished, and that is what is necessary, with the good will and advice of the lord Philip and the lord Claudianus.

1  For the critical text of this letter see Schwartz, ACO 1.4 pp. 224-225. Geerard numbers this letter 5396 in CPG.
2  The libra was the Roman pound of 12 ounces.
3  Pulcheria, elder sister of Theodosius II. She received the title Augusta when she became regent in 414.
4  The word eulogiae, here translated “gifts,” appears to be a diplomatic phrase actually meaning. “bribes.” It is difficult to pass judgment on this matter. The court at Constantinople evidently was corrupt. One very revealing item is found on p. 224, line 28: eulogiae consuetudinariae supplices, “customary suppliant gifts.” If this was customary, the action of Cyril was not so unusual. How this treasure was transported to the capital is an unanswered problem. The date of this catalogue was during the time of the council or soon after it. Wickham, Select Letters, 66, note 8, translates persoina as possibly “pews” or “benches,” and suggests that the ostriches must be pieces of furniture or of upholstery. See P. Batiffol, “Les présents de Saint Cyrille à la cour de Constantinople,” Bulletin d’ancienne littérature et d’archéologie chrétienne, 1 ( 1911), 247-264 (= Etudes de Liturgie et d’Archéologie Chrétienne, Paris, 1919).


Always verify your references

To Norwich this morning, mainly to escape my cleaning lady.  But I went into the cathedral library, where I knew that they had a 1696 edition of the works of Julian the Apostate.  This includes the text of Cyril of Alexandria, Contra Iulianum.

According to the Sources Chretiennes edition of books 1 and 2 (only), this edition was the source for Migne’s Patrologia Graeca text.  But you can never tell, unless you look.

In I went, accordingly, and asked to see the book.  The library was merged with a modern theology library some years ago, and closed to visitors.  The new librarian has made it into a rare books room.  This is rather a pity.  Sitting among the volumes in a library founded some centuries ago was a treat by itself.

Anyway out came the book, a massive folio volume in white leather.  As soon as I tried to use it, it became clear that no-one had opened it in years, if not decades or longer.  The spine was tight and stiff.  Indeed it looked like an original 17th century binding to me.  It was almost impossible to open more than about 30 degrees.

But the effort was worthwhile, because it revealed that this cannot be the source for the PG text.  The PG text prints the full text of books 1-10, which survive complete.  But there were certainly books 11-20 in antiquity, because people like John Damascene quote them!  In the PG, therefore, there is a meagre collection of fragments following book 10.  I know that there are Syriac fragments, and I would be surprised if there are not Arabic fragments too, and indeed Armenian ones.  For Julian’s book attacked the bible; Cyril’s reply necessarily defends it; and such comments must be of interest to catenists.  Cyril was such an important figure in monophysite Christianity, that we would expect his work to travel into those languages.

None of this extra material is present in the 1696.  Therefore Migne, for these items at least, used some other source.

It all goes to show that you cannot rely on what you read in even the best editions.  You must check.


Works of Cyril of Alexandria not present in the TLG

A correspondant writes that he has been in contact with Maria Pantelia of the TLG about works of Cyril of Alexandria which are not yet in the TLG.  He’s sent me the list that he sent in, which is useful anyway as a guide to works by Cyril and their editions.  By permission I reproduce it here.

*        *        *

Cyril of Alexandria’s Missing Works from TLG 

Adversus Nestorii Blasphemias Contradictionum Libri Quinque.
Pusey, Epistolae tres oecumenicae etc. (Oxford, 1875), 54-239.
Best edition: Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum I, I, vi, 13-106 

De recta fide ad imperatorem Theodosium.
Pusey, De recta fide ad imperatorem etc. (Oxford, 1877), 1-153.
Best edition: Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum I, I, i, 42-72

De recta fide ad dominas.
PG 76.1201-1336.
Pusey, De recta fide (Oxford, 1877), 154-333 
Best edition: Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum I, I, v, 62-118

De recta fide ad augustas 
PG 76.1335-1420
Pusey, De recta fide (Oxford, 1877), 154-333 
Best edition: Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum I, I, v, 26-61

Explicatio duodecim capitum Ephesi pronuntiata
Pusey, Epistolae tres oecumenicae etc. (Oxford, 1875), 240-259 
Best edition: Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum I, I, v, 15-25

Explicatio pro duodecim capitibus adversus orientales episcopos

Pusey, Epistolae tres oecumenicae etc. (Oxford, 1875), 260-381
Best edition: Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum I, I, vii, 33-65

Epistola ad Euoptium adversus impugnationem duodecim capitum a Theodoreto editum
Pusey, Epistolae tres oecumenicae etc. (Oxford, 1875), 384-497
Best edition: Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum I, I, vi, 107-146

Apologeticus ad imperatorem
Pusey, De recta fide ad imperatorem (Oxford, 1877), 425-456
Best edition: Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum I, I, iii, 75-90

Scholia de incarnatione Unigeniti
Portions of this text are only preserved in Latin, but there are quite a few Greek fragments that are extant
Patrologia Graeca 75.1363-1412
Pusey, Epistolae tres oecumenicae etc. (Oxford, 1875), 498-579
Best edition: Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum I, V, 219-231

Adversus nolentes confiteri sanctam Virginem esse Deiparam 
PG 76.255-292 
Best edition: Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum, I, I, vii, 19-32

Contra Julianum imperatorem
You currently have online books 1 and 2 which were published by Burguiere and Evieux in the Sources chretiennes series, but don’t have books 3-10 which are extant in their entirety. They are printed in PG 76.509-1058
I believe that additional fragments are also published by J. Neumann, Iuliani Imperatoris librorum contra Christianos quae supersunt (Scriptorum Graecorum qui Christianam impugnaverunt religionem quae supersunt) (Leipzig, 1880), 42-63 

Homiliae diversae
You already have 8 of the 22 of these homilies included on the site. The ones that you are missing are 1-8, 10, 13, 15-16, 19, 22. Note, however, that ns. 10, 11, and 13 are usually regarded as being spurious. 
All of the sermons can be found in PG 77.981-1116. 
Also Pusey, St. Cyrilli in d. Joannis evangelium, vol. 3 (Oxford, 1872), 452-476, 538-545 includes some new fragments, and several are included in Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum I, I, ii, 92f; I, I, iv, 14f; I, I, vii, 173; I, I, ii, 102.

Cyril has quite a few extant letters. PG 77.401-981 includes 88 letters, though some are spurious and 17 are actually letters addressed to Cyril. Some of these appear to be on TLG, but most are not.
Five additional letters were published by Schwartz: Konzilsstudien II (Strasbourg, 1914), 67-70; Neue Aktenstücke zum Ephesinischen Konzil 431 (Munich, 1920), 52f, 57f, 67f, 75f. 
A number of the epistulae are scattered throughout Tome I, Volume I of Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum.
Also, Pusey published an edition of three of the letters: Pusey, S. Cyrilli epistolae tres oecumincae etc. (Oxford, 1875), 2-53. 

Responsiones ad Tiberium diaconum sociosque suos
You have an older version of this text on the site. There is a newer and more up-to-date version in Wickham, Cyril of Alexandria: Select Letters (Oxford, 1983), 132-179 

Again, you have an earlier version of this on the site. A better and newer edition is included in Wickham, Cyril of Alexandria: Select Letters (Oxford, 1983), 180-213


Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on John, vol. 2 now on

A customer for my CDROM of the Fathers wrote to ask if I had a PDF of vol. 2 of Cyril’s Commentary on John, since I had scanned it for my site.  Luckily for him I had the chance to look, and found the images first shot.

I’ve now uploaded a searchable PDF of this volume to  It’s here:

(Or will be in a few minutes)

This was the final volume in the Oxford Movement Library of the Fathers series of translations.  The series began in 1838.  By 1880 E.B.Pusey was dead, and the movement was history.  Yet, somehow, this one last volume appeared, in 1885.  It wasn’t published by Parker of Oxford, and it wasn’t edited by Pusey; but the title-page was uniform with it.  The last few volumes were unnumbered.

By this time the Ante-Nicene Fathers series was 20 years old.  Most collections of the Library of the Fathers were obsolete.  Very few of them indeed ever acquired this last, final volume.  I obtained this one through the courtesy of Glasgow University Library, who benevolently photocopied it and posted it to me.  May their name be ever remembered; for I doubt any other copy of this very, very uncommon book, is ever likely to get scanned.

Volume 1 of the Commentary contained books 1-5.  It was translated by Phillip E. Pusey, the crippled son of old Pusey, who predeceased his father.  P.E.Pusey edited Cyril’s works, and his editions still have value.  But as a translator he was useless, tending to transliterate the Greek.  A vicious review, which I have never been able to locate, halted his efforts and he never proceeded further with Cyril on John.  The otherwise unknown T. Randell did this volume, and made a nice job of it.  It’s far easier to read than vol. 1!  It covers books 6-12, although some of those books are lost and only catena fragments were available.

There’s quite a lot of Orthodox interest in this text.  Let’s hope this helps make it more available.