Ephraem Graecus, “Threni” or “The Lamentations of the Virgin Mary before the cross” (CPG 4085)

Yesterday I discussed a short but spurious piece attributed to Ephraem Graecus, the “Threni” or “Lamentatins of the Virgin Mary before the cross” (CPG 4085).  It’s actually a set of Greek verses from the 14th or 15th century.  Assemani only printed – or rather pirated – a Latin translation of the early modern period.  But since it is a short text, I thought that it would be fun to translate it, and put the results online.  Here they are:

It’s also on Archive.org here.  As usual these files and everything in them are public domain – do whatever you like with them, personal, educational or commercial.


A “Prayer of Saint Ephrem the Syrian (306-373)”: actually an excerpt from Ephraem Graecus, CPG 4085

Here’s an interesting one, from a random link: a “Prayer of Saint Ephrem the Syrian (306-373)”:

Blessed Virgin, immaculate and pure, you are the sinless Mother of your Son, who is the mighty Lord of the universe. Since you are holy and inviolate, the hope of the hopeless and sinful, I sing your praises. I praise you as full of every grace, for you bore the God-Man. I venerate you; I invoke you and implore your aid. Holy and Immaculate Virgin, help me in every need that presses upon me and free me from all the temptations of the devil. Be my intercessor and advocate at the hour of death and judgment. Deliver me from the fire that is not extinguished and from the outer darkness. Make me worthy of the glory of your Son. O dearest and most kind Virgin Mother. You indeed are my most secure and only hope, for you are holy in the sight of God, to whom be honor and glory, majesty and power forever. Amen.

The same can be found on many Catholic websites, but always unreferenced. I encountered it in a tweet by a youthful Catholic, arguing that Ephrem lived at the time of Nicaea, so Church teaching at that time must have endorsed the idea that Mary was sinless. It can’t be Nicene, of course: Ephraem was a teenager at that time, and his major works belong to the mid-4th century.

So where does it come from?  Is it actually by Ephraem?

The English text of the prayer is taken from something called the “Raccolta”.  This was a “Collection of Indulgenced Prayers & Good Works”, to be used every day in order to obtain indulgences.  It first appeared in Italy in the 19th century – the word means “collection”, and the work was taken on by the church and revised until replaced in the 1960s by a new volume for the same purpose.

In the 1957 edition, p.265, with parallel Latin and English, the prayer appears as section 371:

O pura et immaculata, eademque benedicta Virgo, magni Filii tui universorum Domini Mater inculpata, integra et sacrosanctissima, desperantium atque reorum spes, te collaudamus. Tibi ut gratia plenissimae benedicimus, quae Christum genuisti Deum et Hominem: omnes coram te prosternimur: omnes te invocamus et auxilium tuum imploramus. Eripe nos, o Virgo sancta atque intemerata, a quacumque ingruente necessitate et a cunctis tentationibus diaboli.  Nostra conciliatrix et advocata in hora mortis atque iudicii esto: nosque a futuro inexstinguibili igne et a tenebris exterioribus libera: et Filii tui nos gloria dignare, o Virgo et Mater dulcissima ac clementissima. Tu siquidem unica spes nostra es securissima et sanctissima apud Deum, cui gloria et honor, decus atque imperium in sempiterna saecula saeculorum. Amen.  (S. Ephraem C. D.)

Not sure what C. D. means – confessor?  doctor?  The English is as above, and adds:

St Ephrem the Syrian
An indulgence of 3 years.
A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions, if the daily recitation of this prayer be continued for a month (S. P. Ap., Dec. 21, 1920 and Jan. 9, 1933).

S. P. Ap. = Sacra Poenitentiaria Apostolica, and I presume the reference is to some instructions somewhere by that body, the “Apostolic Penitentiary.”  The prayer also appears in the 1943 edition, as section 339, but not in the 1910 edition.

The Latin text of the prayer is taken from our old friend, Ephraem Graecus.  It is an excerpt from a work printed by Assemani, in Latin only, in volume 3 of the Opera Graeca, on p.575, column 2, lines A-C.[1]  The work in question is “Threni, id est, Lamentationes gloriosissimae Virginis Matris Mariae super passione domini,” “Lamentations of the most glorious Virgin Mother Mary on the Passion of the Lord.”  The reference number is CPG 4085, although the CPG gives no useful information.  The text begins on p.574 of Assemani. There is no indication of where Assemani found it.  Here is the relevant passage:

Willem F. Bakker has made a study of this obscure text.  His useful article with D. M. L. Philippides from 2000, “The Lament of the Virgin by Ephraem the Syrian,” is online here.[2] From this I learn that there is indeed a Greek text, which was printed in a 3-volume collection of articles, although I was unable to access this:

Μ. Ι. Μανούσακας, “Ἑλληνικὰ ποιήματα γιὰ τὴ σταύρωση τοῦ Χριστοῦ”, in: Mélanges Octave et Melpo Merlier, II, Athens (1956), 49-60.  Text on pp.65-9.

According to Bakker &c, the Greek text was circulating from the 16th century onwards, although never printed, and it was translated into Latin by a number of people.  Among them was a version by Vossius, which Assemani then silently copied for his own edition.  The literary theme of the work – the Virgin Mary before her son on the cross – is one that belongs to the Byzantine period, rather than the 4th century, and so the work must be 9th century or later.

A further article by Dr Bakker, from 2005, is paywalled hereanybody got access? * -, but we get a useful abstract:

The “Threnos seu lamentatio sanctissimae Dei genitricis, quae dicitur in sancta et magna Parasceve,” long since attributed to Ephraem the Syrian, appears to be a direct translation of the anonymous “Φρηνo τη υϕεραγία Φεoτόκoυ ει την σταυρωσιν τoυ δεσϕότoυ Xριστoυ,” published by Manousakas, and thus cannot be Ephraem’s work. The Greek original, based upon “troparia” in the versus politicus of the fourteenth century, the “Akolouthia” of Good Friday and the second version of the “Acta Pilati,” must have been composed around the year 1400. There are strong indications that this text, a sort of amplified “stavrotheotokion,” had been sung for some time on Good Friday, outside the official service.

So this is definitely not Ephraem, and certainly not a witness to any doctrinal position at the time of Nicaea, but a very late Byzantine work.

* Thank you to the kind colleague who sent me a copy!

Update: I have now made a translation of the whole thing which may be found here.

  1. [1]Using the Latin text, beginning “O pura et immaculata, eademque benedicta Virgo,” allows us to find the source.  Carlo Passaglia, De immaculato deiparae semper virginis conceptu Caroli Passaglia commentarius, vol. 3 (1855), p.125, quotes the Latin, and so gives us the reference to Assemani.
  2. [2]Willem F. Bakker & Dia Mary L. Philippides, “The lament of the virgin by Ephraem the Syrian” in: Enthymēsis Nikolaou M. Panagiōtakē, (2000), 39-56. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/bc-ir:104925.

From My Diary

The other evening I realised with a shock that the project with the St Nicholas material is actually done.  My original intention was to make the oldest hagiographical material available in English translation, and this I have achieved.  With the translation of the “Life of St Nicholas” by Methodius (ad Theodorum), which originally drew me into this, the project is complete.  All that remains is to tidy up.

What remains?  Well, I have a couple more fragments of Latin miracle stories that I did.  But the original reason for doing these was to help with the translation of John the Deacon’s “Life of St Nicholas”, which often is interspersed with Latin miracle stories.  But all those are done.  The remainder are all later stuff, and really are out of scope.  So I will just release the last handful that I have done, and stop there.  That will be it.

Something that I did long ago was the first recension of the “Praxis de Stratelatis”, the story of the three generals.  This a kind colleage translated from the text printed by Anrich in “Agios Nikolaos”.  A couple of days ago, I started to OCR the second recension from Anrich, so that I could put this into an AI Translator.  I did the first page, and the results were very nice indeed.  The AI translators do a fine job.  The OCR wasn’t too bad either, except that Anrich used a strange version of “theta” (θ) where the loop is not closed, so Finereader OCR thinks that is an ampersand (&).  Likewise sigma was sometimes handled as beta.  The high-point was always recognised with an asterisk.  And so on.  The accentuation was a mess, of course; but the machine translators do not seem to care.  My new unicode Greek SPIonic-layout keyboard for Windows 11 worked fine.  But … correcting the OCR became tiresome.  And I found myself wondering why I was bothering.  I never intended to translate everything between the covers of Anrich’s two fat volumes.

Thankfully an academic team has now come along and will do professional work on all the St Nicholas texts.  That is as it should be, and I wish them all the best.  My own humble efforts have made the texts more accessible to everyman, and they never had any purpose beyond that.  If they have spurred renewed interest from scholars, then that is better still.

So… what now?

I was quite impressed with how well the modern Greek translations of St Nicholas material were handled by the AI translators, with a bit of sanity-checking from Google Translate.  I really have almost no translations of patristic material into modern Greek.  Indeed I wonder… now that we can work with modern Greek, it might be interesting to see just what already exists in translation in that language!

The only other text that I have in modern Greek translation is the mass of hardly-edited texts under the name of “Ephraem Graecus”.  I have the Phrantzolas edition of these, thanks to a correspondent.  In fact I find that the ancient/medieval Greek of these is in the elderly TLG disks, which most of us have, so I have access to that too.

I fired up Diogenes, which I use to work with that disk, and picked a text at random.  (In fact it was “Sermo unde magi in Hierosolymam ineunt.”)  I copied some of the text, and ran it through Bard AI.  Here’s the text:

Λόγος ὅτε οἱ μάγοι παρεγένοντο εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα

 Ὅταν ἀγαθοῦ τινος ὁδοιπόρος τύχῃ συνόδου, χαίρει τὸν πόνον τῆς μακρᾶς ὁδοιπορίας κλεπτόμενος ὁμιλίᾳ· ὡς ῥάβδῳ γὰρ ἐρειδόμενος λόγῳ ἀκονιστικῷ γλώττῃ, συμβαδίζειν κεκονισμένῳ δοκεῖ τῷ ποδὶ καὶ τῷ στόματι ἀκαμάτῳ· μεριζόμενος γόνασι κόπον, κουφίζει χείλεσι πολυβάδιστον βῆμα.  Οὕτω δὴ καὶ τοῦ Χριστοῦ γεννηθέντος, οἱ μάγοι τὸν ἀστέρα ἰδόντες καὶ τοῦτον λαβόντες συνοδοιπόρον, τὸν πολυπόρευτον κόπον ἔκλεπτον τῆς ὁδείας ἐρωτήσει κοπούμενοι, ποῦ ἐστιν ὁ βασιλεὺς πυθόμενοι· ὡς κλέπτας τοῦ τεχθέντος ἠρεύνουν φωνῇ τοὺς Ἑβραίους.  Τοῖς δὲ ἐρωτῶσιν εἰκὸς Ἰουδαῖοι, τί δή, ξένοι, τολμᾶτε, τί φατε, ἄνδρες, φασί; Τί φέροντες ἐπικίνδυνον ἥκατε φήμην; Τί βασιλέα καινὸν βασιλευομένῃ σαλπίζετε πόλει; Τί πρὸς ἄωρον κυβιστεύετε τέλος; Τί κατ’ οἰκείων μαχαιροῦτε γλῶτταν τραχήλων; Τί τάφον ἐπιφέρεσθε στόματι, καθεύδοντα καθ’ ἑαυτῶν διυπνίζετε θάνατον; Ἠπόρει μνημάτων Περσίς, ἵνα ἔτι ζῶντος Ἡρῴδου βασιλέως ἄλλου πυνθάνεσθε; Πολλὴν ἀκούσας ὁμολογήσει χάριν ὑμῖν καὶ μεγάλοις ὑμᾶς ἀμείψειε δώροις.  Ἀλλ’ ἡ πρὸς ταῦτα τοῖς μάγοις ἀπόκρισις σύντομος· εἴδομεν αὐτοῦ, φασί, τὸν ἀστέρα ἐν τῇ ἀνατολῇ καὶ ἤλθομεν προσκυνῆσαι αὐτῷ. Οὐκ ἠρκέσθησαν ἐρωτῆσαι, ἀλλὰ καὶ προσκύνησιν φῆσαι· διὰ τῆσδε τῆς λέξεως Θεὸν εἶναι τὸν τεχθέντα δηλοῦντες.  Ὡς δὲ ἦλθε τῶν τοιούτων πρὸς Ἡρῴδην ἡ φήμη, τοὺς μάγους τέως ἀνείς, τοὺς σοφοὺς Ἰουδαίων καλεῖ λέγων· ποῦ ὁ Χριστὸς γεννᾶται; Οἱ δέ φασιν, ἐν Βηθλεὲμ τῆς Ἰουδαίας.  Ὢ τοῦ θαύματος! Τὸν τόπον ἐπίστανται, καὶ τὸν τόκον βδελύττονται· τὴν Βηθλεὲμ βοῶσι, καὶ τὴν οἰκονομίαν σιγῶσι· τὴν Ἰουδαίαν σημειοῦνται, καὶ τὴν δεσποτείαν ἀρνοῦνται. Εἰ οὕτω γέγραπται, διατί μὴ συντίθεσθε; Εἰ ἀνέγνωτε, διατί μὴ πιστεύετε; Εἰ ἐν Βηθλεὲμ τεχθήσεται, διατί μὴ παρ’ ὑμῶν προσκυνηθήσεται; Ὅθεν συνιεὶς ὁ Ἡρῴδης ὡς οὐχ ἁπλῶς ἥκεσαν ἐρωτῶντες οἱ μάγοι, λάθρα τούτους καλέσας ἐπυνθάνετο παρ’ αὐτῶν τὸν χρόνον τοῦ φαινομένου ἀστέρος, ἀκριβῶς, λέγων, τὸν τρόπον ὃν ἥκατε φάσκοντες, εἴπατε τὸ τῆς ὑμετέρας <ὁδείας>

And here is the output from Bard AI, unedited:

The Story of the Magi

When a traveler meets a good companion, he rejoices, stealing away the pain of the long journey with conversation. For as if leaning on a staff with a sharp-pointed tongue, he seems to walk with ease, his foot and his mouth tireless. Dividing the fatigue on his knees, he lightens his weary step with his lips.

So too, when Christ was born, the Magi, seeing the star and taking it as their companion, stole away the long journey of the road, inquiring and asking, “Where is the king?” They sought out the voice of the Hebrews, as thieves of the newborn.

It is likely that the Jews asked the questioners, “What do you mean, strangers? What are you saying, men? What dangerous rumor do you bring? Why do you trumpet a new king in a city that is already ruled? Why do you stir up trouble at an inopportune time? Why do you sharpen your tongues against your own necks? Why do you bring a tomb to your lips, awakening death against yourselves? Persia is full of tombs. Why do you ask about another king while Herod is still alive? He would hear your confession with great gratitude and reward you with great gifts.”

But the Magi’s answer to this was short: “We saw his star in the east, and we have come to worship him.” They were not satisfied with asking, but they also said that they would worship him. By this word they declared that the one who was born was God.

When word of this came to Herod, he dismissed the Magi for a time and called the wise men of the Jews, saying, “Where is the Christ born?” And they said, “In Bethlehem of Judea.”

Oh, the wonder! They know the place, and they abhor the birth. They cry out Bethlehem, and they are silent about the economy. They point to Judea, and they deny the lordship. If it is so written, why do you not agree? If you have read, why do you not believe? If he is to be born in Bethlehem, why will he not be worshiped by you? Therefore, Herod, realizing that the Magi had not come simply to ask questions, called them secretly and inquired of them the time of the appearance of the star, saying, “Tell me exactly the way you came, and tell me the time of your journey.”

And here, for comparison, is the Google Translate text, again unedited:

Reason when the magicians were brought to Jerusalem

It was a fellowship of the Synod, he enjoys the pain of the long -standing manner of the mackerel; ITON VIMA.   Even so, when Christ was born, the magicians, seeing the star and receiving this as a companion, asked the rich laborer, the thief of the covenant, when they were cut down, where the king was; they sought out the Jews by voice as the thief of what had been done.   And they will ask them if they are Jews, what do you say, foreigners, you dare, what do you eat, men, fasi?  What dangerous fame have you come? What city do you trumpet the king’s new reign? What do you end up turning against the hour? Why do you stab the throats of necks? Persis, the treasurer of monuments, why should you marry Herod’s living king? He heard many confessions for your sake and rewarded you with great gifts.  But the answer to this to the magicians was short: we saw the star in the east, and we came to worship him. It was not enough to ask, but also to worship; through this word God is declaring what has been done.   And when the rumor of these came to Herod, he called the magicians of old, the wise men of the Jews, saying: Where is Christ born? They said, in Bethlehem of Judea.   Ὢ of the miracle! The place they visit, and the interest they detest; Bethlehem loudly, and the economy quietly; Judea they mark, and despotia they deny. If it is written like this, why do you not compose it? If you read it, why do you not believe? If it is made in Bethlehem, why does it not worship before you? How did Herod know that the magicians did not simply come inquiring, and you secretly called them a priest for them at the time of the vision? stay star, exactly, saying, the way you came, you said that of the mother <Odeia>

Google Translate is now out-dated, but because it uses a different technology – NMT – it acts as a useful check on AI.  For instance the first sentence is paraphrased by AI, rather than translated.  At least one can count the sentences and get an idea if it’s all there!

Likewise Diogenes allows you to click on individual words and get the L&S result for each, which  helps in checking.

But all the same, the AI translation looks wonderful.  Basically we can now make use of it for ancient and medieval Greek.  So long as we proceed with caution!

I’m not sure whether I want to start working on Ephraem Graecus tho.  What is there in this mass of texts that is going to be interesting?  At the moment I don’t know.

There is another issue with the Ephraem Graecus material.  The edition was made by Assemani, in the 18th century.  He just printed in a heap whatever he found in the manuscripts.  What this means is that some short “texts” are actually just abstracts of other texts.

But which ones?  There ought to be a list, but if so, it has not reached me.

I wonder whether we could get AI to work out the relationships?  After all, the task is basically one of text comparison.  We have all the Greek in electronic form, thanks to the wonder that is the TLG.  So… can we get AI to look through it and tell us?

I think it might be possible.  But there’s only one way to find out, which is to try.  When I get a break, I might experiment a bit!


Ephrem Graecus – Published English translations coming soon

Ephrem the Syrian is the most famous of the Syriac writers; but there is a mass of material in Greek attributed to him.  Some of it is translations of the Syriac, but most is clearly not.  It looks as if there was a fashion for writing in his style at one point.

Unfortunately this large splodge of unexplored material has never been critically edited.  Instead it was collected by Assemani in the 18th century from manuscripts, and more or less printed as he found it.  Some of the texts are clearly excerpts from others of the texts.  Assemani gave a Latin translation.

Since then we’ve had Phrantzolas reprint the text in 1988-98 in 7 volumes, with a modern Greek translation.  That was a step forward.

But now I read that a complete English translation is in progress!  An English translation is indeed the obvious next step.  Making it easier to dip into the texts will cause more young scholars to start doing so, and in turn to start creating scholarship about it.  Little by little Ephrem Graecus is being opened up!

Via the St Ephrem: The Greek Corpus site:

Published Translations of Ephrem Graecus Coming Soon

That’s it. That’s the news. A translation of the Greek writings attributed to St Ephrem the Syrian is currently underway with St Vladimir’s Seminary Press. They are currently working on vol. 1 (of seven). Look for it probably in 2024.

The site owner told me:

A friend of mine here in the US is working on it. I had planned to do a volume of the most (historically) “important” texts, but he was inspired to do the whole collection, so I yielded to him. It will be very good to finally put out there

This is massively good news.  Wonderful!


A translation of a homily by Ephraem Graecus online in English!

Some years ago I wrote a very long article here on whether pseudo-Ephraim testifies in the 4-5th century to a belief in 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 is quite a controversial subject in the USA, and this means that quite ordinary people are willing to study the question; and, therefore, they are willing to study the deeply obscure and seriously neglected texts in question.  I believe that they have been doing so since, although I find it impossible to get Google to tell me who or where; or, equally possibly, I put in the wrong search terms.

The texts in question form part of the “Ephraem Graecus” and “Ephraem Latinus” corpuses of texts, which simply get no attention.  I have a list of the Ephraem Graecus stuff here.  So it is very good for everyone that these are being worked on.  I am very much in favour of theological disputes that lead to study and translation of texts that would never otherwise be examined.  Everybody benefits.

Today a kind correspondent wrote to me about passages in Ephraem Graecus which seem to teach the doctrine of the tribulation and the rapture.  It seems that a chap named Lee W. Brainard has been blogging away, and has located and – better – translated 10 passages in the works of Ephraem Graecus that support this view!  The article, entitled “Ephraim the Syrian — Ten Undiscovered Pretribulation-Rapture Passages”, online here.

This is great!  Translations of this material is precisely what we need.  No doubt some of the translation details will be cavilled at, mercilessly criticised, etc.  This is inevitable.  It is incredibly easy to write, loftily, about “translation defects” once some poor chap has taken a machete and laboriously chopped an English version out of the uncharted forests of the raw Greek.  Doing the first translation is what sorts out the men from the boys.

But better yet, I find that Mr Brainard has plunged in and translated one homily completely!  This is CPG 3946, the “Sermo in adventum domini, et de consummatione saeculi, et in adventum antichristi”.  He has placed it online as “Ephraim the Syrian — Sermon on the Advent, the End, and the Antichrist”, here.  Needless to say, I have stashed a copy offline, in these delicate days.

Good news.  Let’s hope he does more!


A symposium on Ephrem Graecus next week at Marquette university in Milwaukee

Regular readers will remember “Ephrem Graecus” – the mass of works in Greek which are attributed to Ephraim the Syrian, but which are in fact mostly original compositions.  Little work has been done on this area, which makes it one of the uncharted frontiers of patristics.

Those in the Milwaukee area in the US might like to attend a one-day symposium on Ephrem Graecus next week, on Saturday 9th November.  It’s being run by Tikhon Alexander Pino, who runs the St Ephrem the Syrian website.  The program is here.

If you have any interest in the subject, I’d recommend going along.  It will be a rare opportunity to meet others interested in the subject, and find out what’s going on.  I’d go if I was anywhere nearby.


Ephraim Graecus – a list of works

Just to wrap up my work on Ephraim Graecus, I’ve uploaded a list of works to the site.  This appears as a page in the right-hand side of the blog here.  I give the title of the work, in Greek, the Latin title, where the text  may be found, any translations known to me, and a link to the Greek text where it is online.

The whole list is divided into the seven sections of the Phrantzolas edition, whose titles are also given.

This is the basis for further work.  Go to it, people!



Beatitudines aliae, part 5


ϛʹ. Μακάριος ὁ | ἔχων | ἐν νῷ | τὴν ἡμέραν τὴν μέλλουσαν τὴν φοβερὰν | καὶ σπουδάσας ἰάσασθαι | ἐν δάκρυσι τὰ τραύματα τῆς ψυχῆς αὑτοῦ. (VI.  Beatus, qui mente versat formidabilem illam futuri judicii diem, & qui lacrymis vulnera animae suae curare studet.)

A slight change at the front: ὁ rather than ὃς, reflecting the fact that it is followed by a vowel.  But we still have “Blessed [is he] who” plus verb plus something it does.  We’re back to a participle, tho – “having” or better “keeping” – and then “ἐν νῷ”, “in mind”.

Then a bunch of accusatives with the definite article in between, as normal. The noun “τὴν ἡμέραν” = “the day”, its adjective “φοβερὰν” = “fearful”, and a present active participle in the same tense, number and gender, μέλλουσαν which might be given as “forthcoming”.  So: “Blessed [is he] who, keeping in mind the dreadful forthcoming day [of judgement]”?

Then into the main clause.  The word order that follows is the same as for English.  First a verb plus an infinitive: σπουδάσας is an aorist participle, active, masculine, nominative singular, “having been earnest”.  ἰάσασθαι is an aorist infinitive – presumably aorist in order to agree with σπουδάσας –  which means “to heal”. So: “and having been in earnest to heal”.

Then “ἐν δάκρυσι” the latter dative plural, so meaning “in tears”; “τὰ τραύματα”, accusative, so the object of the verbs, meaning “the wounds”.  Which wounds? Three words in the genetive singular follow: “τῆς ψυχῆς αὑτοῦ”, “of his soul”, understanding “psyche” as “soul”, as Traversari does.

But we have a problem.  There is actually no main verb.  Both clauses have an aorist participle as their verb.  This we would usually translate with an English simple past, but the aorist is not that simple. As one writer offers: “But when the aorist participle is related to an aorist main verb, the participle will often be contemporaneous (or simultaneous) to the action of the main verb” (but if the main verb is a present, the aorist will be a past tense).[1]

Traversari wimps out and renders both verbs as active present – “Blessed is he who keeps in mind … and is in earnest…”.  But that won’t do.

Morwood  tells us that the aorist is really about a single event, rather than about time.  Something happened.  The aorist indicative and its participles may place that event in the past, but even that is not always the case.[2]

I am not clear how to resolve this, so perhaps there is not alternative but to bodge it.  Doing so produces interesting effects.  If we try to insert a main verb somewhere, like “is”, it has to go in the first clause, and then the second clause must go into the present also: “Blessed is he who is keeping in mind xxx and has been in earnest to yyy”.  In fact I find that the second clause must be modified to an indicative, do what you will.  So perhaps this?

Blessed [is he] who has kept in mind the dreadful forthcoming day [of judgement], and has been in earnest to heal in tears the wounds of his soul.

Let me finish with a postscript.  While looking vainly for help on the two aorists, I encountered a most interesting looking book on sentence analysis, by none other than the excellent Eleanor Dickey, author of an essential book on Greek scholarship and scholia.  It is An Introduction to the Composition and Analysis of Greek Prose, Cambridge 2016.  There is a preview here.  Sadly the book is neither online, nor sold at a price that a man can afford.  Which is a pity.  Worth a look, if you can access it.

  1. [1]Daniel B. Wallace, The Basics of New Testament Syntax: An Intermediate Greek Grammar, Preview, or here, p.624.  The phrase is quoted by other writers, so clearly struck a chord.
  2. [2]Morwood, Oxford Grammar of Classical Greek, p.61.  Forms other than the aorist indicative and its participles convey no information on the time of the event.

Beatitudines 4

Here’s the next few sections in Beatitudines aliae capita viginti of Ephraem Graecus.

δʹ. Μακάριος ὃς | γέγονεν ἁγνὸς Θεῷ | καὶ ἅγιος καὶ καθαρὸς | ἀπὸ πάντων τῶν μιασμῶν καὶ λογισμῶν καὶ πράξεων τῶν πονηρῶν. (IV. Beatus, qui castus est Deo, & sanctus ac purus a cunctis immunditiis, cogitationibusque, ac operibus improbis.)

As before, we have “Blessed [is he] who”, plus a verb, “γέγονεν” – has become (perf, indicative, active).  Then the complement, an adjective in the nominative, following by the dative – “ἁγνὸς Θεῷ”, “pure in God”. Then two more nominatives connected by “kai” – “and holy and pure”.

That gives us “pure” twice.  Now “katharos” is definitely “pure”, so perhaps we need a different word for “ἁγνὸς”, “hagnos”.  Lampe gives “chaste”, and Traversari is rendering it as “castus”, as in “castitas”, chastity, so he understood it the same way.  So let’s go with “ἁγνὸς Θεῷ” meaning “chaste in God”.

So far so good: “Blessed [is he] who has become chaste in God, and holy, and pure…”

Then we have a series of nouns all in the genetive; following the preposition ἀπὸ, “from”, which here is pushing the nouns to which it relates into the genetive case.  First of these is πάντων μιασμν.  “Pantos” is “all”, of course.  Lampe does NOT give me anything special for “miasmos”, so I’m getting “scandal” for Attic Greek.  But in the NT it means “defilement”[1] which agrees with Traversari.  Let’s stick with that: “all defilement”.

“logismoi” is thoughts of the heart, as we saw last time.  “Praxeis” is acts, deeds; “poneroi” is “evil”.  I think we may treat “logismoi and praxeis” together as qualified by “poneroi”, by introducing a comma.  All of which resolves to:

4. Blessed [is he] who has become chaste in God, and holy and pure from all defilements, and [from] evil thoughts and deeds.

εʹ. Μακάριος ὃς γέγονεν | ὅλος αὐτὸς ἐλεύθερος | ἐν Κυρίῳ | ἀπὸ πάντων τῶν πραγμάτων | τοῦ βίου τούτου ματαίου.  (V. Beatus, qui totus in Domino est liber a cunctis hujus vanae vitae rebus.)

There’s a lot of similarities here; opening words “Blessed [is he] who has become”, then stuff, then “in the Lord” following by “apo” and a genetive.

“holos autos eleutheros” – autos without article meaning “himself”, so “himself completely free” + “en Kyriow”, “himself completely free in the Lord”.

An aside: I often find it pays to google the odd bit of the Greek.  Googling “ὅλος αὐτὸς ἐλεύθερος” gave me a bonus here: it led me to the Thwaites edition of 1709, the Oxford edition which Assemani reprinted for vols 1 and 2, and for which I was hunting in vain earlier.  It’s here; and I have updated the “main” Ephraim Graecus post / bibliography accordingly.

Then the apo + genetive – “from all of the things”; then a normal genetive, “tou biou” = “of life”, then adjectives for “biou”, “toutou mataiou” so “of this pointless life”.  Putting it all together:

5. Blessed [is he] who has become | himself completely free | in the Lord | from all the things of this pointless life.

It is quite encouraging to go through a list of similar statements like this.  Not so hard on the translator!

  1. [1]See Strong’s, here.

Beatitudines aliae 3 – stepping through the Greek once more

Let’s carry on looking at the Greek of Ephraim Graecus, Beatitudines aliae capita XX.  I apologise if it’s a bit dull, but it’s useful to me.  Into section 3:

γ’. Μακάριος ὃς γέγονεν π τς γς ς ἄγγελος οράνιος κα μιμητς τν Σεραφίμ, γνος ἔχων καθ’ κάστην τος λογισμούς.

Traversari’s modern translation (which helps quite a bit in sorting out the sense):

Beatus, qui in terra est tamquam Angelus coelestis, & imitator factus Seraphim, castas assidue cogitationes habet.

(I.e. Blessed [is he], who on earth is like an angel of heaven, & has become an imitator of the Seraphim, [and] continually has pure thoughts.)

As before, we start with “Μακάριος ὃς”, “Blessed [is he] who“, and we expect a verb.  This time we’re not getting a verb in participle form, but instead a normal main verb, a 3rd person perfect indicative active, “γέγονεν”, “he has become”.  The next bit is simple; π τς γς, meaning “upon the earth”.

Then we get ς, meaning “as, like”.[1]  Alright, Traversari tipped me off; so I hunted around until I found an excuse for it!  But it still fits.  Next ἄγγελος οράνιος, i.e., like a heavenly angel.  Finally “κα μιμητς τν Σεραφίμ”, “and an imitator of the Seraphim”.

So the first clause means:

Blessed [is he], who has become, on earth, like a heavenly angel and an imitator of the seraphim…

Nothing unusual here.

But the rest gets messy.

γνος | ἔχων | καθ’ κάστην | τος λογισμούς.

The object of this clause is the accusative plural, ἁγνος τος λογισμούς =  “pure thoughts”. 

In truth, I’m not sure that I would have recognised λογισμος as “thought”, from Liddell and Scott.  I got the idea from Traversari; but I see that even in Lampe’s Lexicon of Patristic Greek (p.806), meaning 1 is “argument, faith based”.  But meaning 2 is indeed “thought”, thankfully.

ἔχων = a present participle, “having”.

But what on earth is “καθ’ κάστην”?  From googling I find that it appears in Hebrews 3:13, where καθ’ means “each”, and “hekastos” is an adjective meaning “every”, but not as a phrase.  However I find “καθ’ ἑκάστην ἡμέραν” and “καθ’ ἑκάστην τὴν ἡμέραν” both rendered as “every day” in Mastronarde’s Introduction to Attic Greek p.159

This is in fact the meaning. I find in the 1826 A new Greek and English Lexicon by James Donnegan, p.292, in the middle of the entry for hekastos the following entry:

καθ’ ἑκάστην (ἡμέραν understood), every day.

This Traversari has rendered as “continually”.  So we end up with

Blessed [is he], who has become, on earth, like a heavenly angel and an imitator of the seraphim, having pure thoughts every day”.

That was harder work than it should have been!

  1. [1]A nice discussion of conjunctions here.