Eusebius of Emesa, “De Poenitentia” / “On Penitence” / “On Repentance” – now online in English

Eusebius of Emesa flourished in the 340s AD, and was identified with the anti-Nicene party.  Only one of his works has survived in the original Greek, a short homily on penitence.  The rest of his works existed only in fragments until Eligius Buytaert located 29 homilies in antique Latin translations in two manuscripts in France.

The Greek text of the Homilia de paenitentia (CPG 3530) is preserved in manuscript Paris BNF Coislin 913, online here.  Our text begins on folio 89:

There are also ancient versions in Armenian and Georgian.

The Greek text was edited by E. M. Buytaert, “L’heritage litteraire d’ Eusebe d’ Emese”, Louvain (1949) , p.16*-29* (i.e. in the second half of the book).  This book can be borrowed from here.  There is a useful article on the text on p.150.

Prior to the work of Buytaert, the Greek text was attributed to Basil of Caesarea, and appeared in editions of his works.  It may be found in the Patrologia Graeca 31, columns 1476-1488, online here.  The quality of the text is atrocious, however.

The only complete edition of the works of Basil in the original Greek with parallel Latin translation is that prepared by the Maurist fathers, Julien Garnier and Prudentius Maran, “Sancti Patris Nostri Basili Caesareae Cappacdociae … Opera Omnia“, 3 volumes (Paris, 1721–1730), reprinted in J.-P. Migne’s Patrologia Graeca, vols. 29–32 (Paris, 1857, 1886).  The volumes are here:

A correspondent asked me whether there was any English or French translation of De Paenitentia.  There does not seem to be. So, on a whim, I have scanned in the 1722 Latin translation, and passed it through Google translate, and the results (with a little intervention) are appended.  It has no scholarly value, but should help the interested find their way around the text.  I’ve appended my scan of the Latin.  As usual, I make this file and its contents public domain.  Do whatever you like with them!

I have also placed them at here.

The text is not of great interest.  Eusebius argues against some who say that sins are only forgiven through baptism, and sins after baptism cannot be forgiven.  This strange idea – to our eye – was common in the fourth century, and resulted in the common practice of death-bed baptism.

During the Great Persecution under Diocletian, many had apostasised.  Afterwards the question arose on what to do with those who had lapsed. Some of these were bishops; or ordained by them.  Fanatics demanded that they were expelled. Others saw no problem in the ordination of rank traditores, or traitors.

This in turn led to many undesirable consequences.   As we see in our own day, demands for ideological purity – whatever the ideology – where power and money are involved mean that those who are considered most “pure” have most authority.  This in turn creates a ratchet, as politicians race to take ever more extreme positions, to prove their “purity” and so gain power.  Dissenters are tracked down and purged, to keep the pressure on.  Any who fail to keep up with the very latest dogmas are marginalised.

It is a recipe for fanatics, and a very happy place for dishonest men.   The truly honest are repelled, while the cynical find that they can lie their way to power and profit.

This process appears again and again in Byzantine history, as new “heresies” are discovered, and new groups thrown into the darkness.  It had nothing whatever to do with Christianity.

Nor was this purely a Byzantine activity.  During the Commonwealth after the English Civil War, all sorts of awful things took place of this kind.  Some of the “preachers” proved to be utterly vile men.  Charles II’s minister, Lord Arlington, once a preaching presbyterian chaplain to a New Model Army regiment, when times changed became the mastermind of the vicious persecution of the Scottish presbyterians recorded by Bishop Burnet.

Probably something like this is the background to Eusebius of Emesa’s mild rebuttal.




Notes on Eusebius of Emesa

Ever since I found a sermon by Eusebius of Emesa and placed it online, I have been somewhat interested in this obscure figure.  He was a pupil of Eusebius of Caesarea, and has been called a semi-Arian, although he had no political interests and lived in the times of Constantius when such views were perhaps normal in some areas.  The sermon I found was translated by Solomon Caesar Malan, a Swiss prodigy who knew many languages, took a degree at Oxford, and could converse in the bazaars of the east in the 1830’s with anyone who met in any language.  He is mentioned in Tuckwell’s Reminiscences of Oxford.

The sermon was very interesting, and this leads me to wonder what else now remains of his work.  I could find no evidence of any translations into English.

In the Patrologia Graeca 86, there are two “orationes” (cols. 510-535), plus a slew of fragments from catenas (columns 535-562).  But I learn from Quasten that there is rather more under the name of Eusebius of Caesarea, in PG 24. 1047-1208, 14 sermons originally printed by Sirmond in 1643.  The CD I have lists the following titles (which don’t make 14!):

  • De fide adversus Sabellium (On the faith, against Sabellius, 2 books)
  • De resurrectione (on the resurrection, 2 books)
  • De incorporali et invisibili deo (on the incorporeal and invisible God)
  • De incorporali (on the incorporeal, 2 books)
  • De spiritali cogitatu hominis (on the spiritual thoughts of men)
  • De eo quod deus pater incorporalis est (on he who is the incorporeal God the Father) (?)
  • Another sermon of the same name
  • De eo quod ait Dominus (on he who is called Lord)
  • De operibus bonis et malis (on good and evil deeds)
  • De operibus bonis (on good deeds)

I don’t think any of that exactly thrills.  Theological noodling is not my bag, and the lack of work on these texts suggests that my instinctive reaction is not unusual.

There is also another 17 homilies, discovered in Latin in Ms. Troyes 523 and published by Buytaert in the 1950’s.  He appended Sirmond’s collection to the end of his publication.  There are also a bunch of these things in Armenian.

None of this exactly calls out for translation, tho, does it?


Armenian sermons of Severian of Gabala … or Eusebius of Emesa?

In a post a few days ago I mentioned that I had discovered an English translation of a sermon by Severian of Gabala on the sufferings and death of our Lord, and placed it online.  The sermon was translated from an 1827 publication of sermons in Armenian — probably from the parallel Latin text, rather than the Armenian, I fancy! — and I have since discovered the book online here.  I also noted that the sermon was not listed among the works of Severian in the Clavis Patrum Graecorum.

While I was scanning the text, I came across  various examples of allegorical interpretation.  This is not quite what I associate with Severian.  Looking at the table of contents in the Armenian, at the end around p. 449, I am struck by the vagueness of the titles.  Severian is called bishop of Emesa, for instance.  15 sermons are edited.  Here are the last three:

  • XIII.  B. Severiani Episcopi in Ficulneam arefactam. – 415
  • XIV.  B. Emesensis Episcopi in Passionem Christi – 429
  • XV. B. Eusebii (lege, Seberiani) Episcopi in idem mysterium (de Juda traditore) – 443

The last entry is the most interesting: “Of the blessed Bishop Eusebius (read: Severian) on the same mystery (of Judas the traitor)”.  The lege is added by the modern editor, of course.  But should we agree?  Or do the last two sermons both truly belong to Eusebius of Emesa (d. 359)?

Eusebius of Emesa is listed in CPG 2, nos 3525-3543.  #3525 is a list of sermons extant in Latin translation and discovered in the Codex Trecensis which also preserves works of Tertullian and was unknown until a century ago.  Among these is De arbore fici; we might wonder whether ‘Severian’ XIII is the same work.

Listed in #3531 is “Armenian sermons”.  These have been edited by N. Akinian, Die Reden des Bischofs Eusebius von Emesa, in Handes Amsorya 70 (1956), 71 (1957) and 72 (1958).  This is a collection of homilies under the name of Eusebius of Emesa.  The first eight are by Eusebius; the other five are by Severian of Gabala (CPG 4185, 4202, 4210, 4246, 4248)!  Sermon 2 is De passione Christi (Akinian, l.c. 70, pp.385-416) — is this our baby?  Well, no.

Because sermon 5 De passione, ed. vol. 71, p.357-80, is listed in the CPG as being the same as the sermon XIV of Aucher, starting on p.428, and continuing as Aucher’s sermon XV.  And fragments of it are indeed found in the Butyaert Latin text.

I will therefore update the page I uploaded with the necessary details.


‘Severian of Gabala’ on the sufferings and death of our Lord

In 1827 J.B.Aucher published a set of sermons from Armenian at the press of the Mechitarist Fathers in Venice, Severiani sive Seberiani Gabalorum episcopi Emesensis homiliae nunc primum ex antiqua versione armena in latinum sermonem translatae, Venetiis, 1827.  A homily on the sufferings and death of our Lord appears on p.428 of that edition.  Unfortunately it is not listed among the sermons of Severian of Gabala in the Clavis Patrum Graecorum 2, so is perhaps pseudonymous [but see below].

A reader of these posts has discovered an English translation of this obscure text in S.C.Malan, Meditations on every Wednesday and Friday in Lent (1859).  The book itself is a curiosity, printed using the long-s (which looks like ‘f’ without part of the cross-stroke) which had then ceased to be in use for more than a century.  It is dedicated to Charles Marriot, the editor of the Oxford Movement Library of the Fathers translations.

This is Holy Week.  I admit my own thoughts have been far from the sufferings of the Lord.  But as I scanned this translation, I found myself moved by the words of this ancient writer.  The sermon is a little long to post here, and I have left the English archaic as it was.  If anyone has difficulty with this, I would like to know. 

But here it is.

UPDATE (1/4/10).  The Aucher publication is online here!  It’s remarkable, really, what Google books now contains.  After looking at the index of sermons, I must ask whether this sermon is really by Eusebius of Emesa, like the one that follows it?  A look at the CPG reveals that, indeed, both are by Eusebius of Emesa.