From my diary

I’m still working on my post on the use of Matt.27:25.  It is really interesting, looking up all these unfamiliar passages in patristic writers.  Today I translated most of a question by Ambrosiaster; and several sections of homilies found in the Patrologia Graeca.  I can’t translate from Greek – my training as a scientist did not give me that – but I can translate the Latin side alright.

In fact I’ve been bring up the PG in PDF form, and then using Abby Finereader 12’s “Screen reader” utility to mark up a section of text and OCR it.  These days Finereader supports Latin – what I would have given for that, 15 years ago! – and does a reasonable job except when the quality of print is just atrocious.  Then I can pop the result into QuickLatin, and into Google Translate (which also does Latin, quite reasonably); and between the two I can produce a rather decent translation of modern Latin into English.

I’m still seeing the same pattern in the quotes; that the anti-Jewish edge only really appears in the post-Nicene period.  In fact it doesn’t appear much.  When we consider that the Ante-Nicene Fathers library consists of 5,000 pages; that the selected Nicene and Post-Nicene writers in the same series are twice that, and that the total volume as far as 500 is probably ten times that, then we come up with around 50-60,000 large, double-column pages of text.  Out of which immense volume, the total number of references to this passage – I have not counted – is perhaps 20-30?

It’s not a hugely important part of patristic commentary, clearly.

One text that is resisting my efforts rather well, tho, is the Commentary on Isaiah by Eusebius.  This was only rediscovered in the last 50 years, and so is not found in Migne.  In fact only one translation exists in any language, made into English by IVP Academic very recently indeed.  And I have been trying to obtain a copy, without actually ponying up the money to buy it.  I try not to buy translations, for my house is small and already full of books.  Translations and texts are reference items, and I want them in PDF, not on paper.

It seems that the IVP salesmen have not managed to get their series into many UK libraries.  This means that few copies exist for interlibrary loans.  Nevertheless, I found one at Aberdeen using COPAC.  This morning I trotted down to my local library in Suffolk, and placed an order.  Then I learned the price – they want almost £15 (around $22) to lend me the book for two weeks.  I was assured that this price was subsidised; which may be so, but is plainly nonsense when a book may be posted from the US for $5.  I shall carry on; but it will be the last book I borrow.

It is very sad to see Suffolk Libraries degenerate in this way.  Nobody can afford such prices to borrow a book.  Effectively the service has been priced out of existence.  Which is very sad, because I owe much of my education to books obtained this way.  The library service is now merely a service for elementary readers: those needing textbooks must buy them.

I find, actually, that I can borrow the book via Cambridge University Library for £6 (around $8), who certainly are not subsidising it.  But I can’t borrow books from there.

In this light, I found it curious that this week a consortium of publishers obtained a judgement from the High Court in London, to force ISPs to bar access to pirate book sites.  Those sites are used mainly by people who simply cannot afford to purchase academic books at the fantastic prices demanded.  To these will now be added those who cannot afford to borrow them from public libraries.  It is a short-sighted, unpleasant business, to obstruct access to learning.

I do wonder what will happen to the next generation.  I was fortunate enough to have access to books, and articles, by means of ILL.  This, plainly, is no longer the case.  The internet compensates to some extent; but not enough, because of the predatory instincts of book publishers.  If I were to be interested in patristics today, would I be able to even obtain a copy of Quasten, whose 4 volumes opened a world of interest to me?  I rather doubt it.

These are sad thoughts.  But change is the rule of life.  We live in bad times, with bad rulers.  But times change, and what these worthless men have tried so hard to kill, we will rebuild.


From my diary

This week I went to Cambridge University Library to obtain translations of some patristic quotations of Matthew 27:25 and Acts 4:10 for the post on the subject.  Instead of photocopying them, I used my smartphone and took pictures.

I wasn’t sorry to avoid the charge of 15c per page!  On the other hand, trying to balance open a tightly-bound volume of the Sources Chretiennes with Hilary of Poitiers’ Commentary on Matthew distracted me so much that I photographed the wrong pages!  Also I had turned off the “click” sound, so as not to distract my fellow students, with the result that some pages that I thought I photographed were, in fact, not copied.  Finally, instead of a few photocopies, I ended up with 500mb of photos, which is a little rich even for my hard disk.  So … an experiment with mixed results.

I also noted that my library card was about to expire.  Renewing it involves going to the office, queuing, presenting various testimonials, evidence of identity, etc.  Which, considering that I have kept renewing the ticket every year or six months for almost 20 years, is rather silly.  It’s also a burden: I can find a lot of material online with a couple of clicks; but to access this offline material, I have to jump through hoops.

One news story I saw this week, which is rather less welcome, is that UK publishers have obtained a High Court order to force ISPs to block access to 9 book-pirate sites.  These contain a lot of academic books, and, for those of us without university access, they are invaluable.  The practical effect of this order, made in order to safeguard supposed lost publishing industry profits, is to decrease the access to learning for UK citizens.

In the UK the public in general is hardly aware of the riches available online, because so much of it is inaccessible as a result of such litigation.  Nor do the politicians seem to know either.  It is sad to see useful material being lost.  After all, what academic book is less than $80?  How many non-scholars ever buy them?


A useful paper on Eutychius of Alexandria (Sa`id ibn Batriq); and some rueful reflections on why a useful tax-funded book has been made copyright of Brill

A little while ago I came across an article, online in PDF format, which contained much the most useful overview known to me of the life and works of the 10th century Melkite patriarch of Alexandria, Eutychius, known to the Arabs as Sa`id ibn Bitriq.  The author is Uriel Simonsohn, an Israeli academic, and the paper appears in Christian-Muslim Relations: A bibliographical history, ed. David Thomas &c, Brill, 2010, vol. 2 (900-1050), p.224.  This series of volumes gives details of the writers and their works, and is incredibly useful, or would be if anyone could access it (of which more anon).

Dr Simonsohn has, thankfully, made his article available, and from it we can judge the quality of the work done.  A couple of excerpts:

Little can be established with certainty about the life and career of Saʿīd ibn Batṛīq, a 10th-century Melkite patriarch of Alexandria. The earliest source to provide some detail is a 13th- or 14th-century copy of Ibn Batṛīq’s historiographical treatise, allegedly written by the patriarch himself (Ibn Batṛīq, Eutychii, ed. Cheikho, Carra de Vaux and Zayyat, ii, pp. 69-70, 86-87). It is here that we are informed for the first time that Ibn Batṛīq, the mutatạbbib, i.e. a practitioner of medicine, was born in Fustạ̄t ̣ in the eighth year of the caliphate of al-Muʿtamid (r. 870-92), i.e. 877, and was appointed in 933 as patriarch of Alexandria by the Caliph al-Qāhir (r. 932-34), whereupon he was named Eutychius; he died in 940.  …

The Arabic historiographical treatise known as the Annales, following its Latin translation by E. Pococke in 1658-59, is also known as Kitāb naẓm al-jawhar, ‘String of pearls’ and Kitāb al-taʾrīkh al-majmūʿ ʿalāl-taḥqīq wa-l-taṣdīq, ‘The book of history, compiled through investigation and verification’. Although the work has often been referred to as a Byzantine universal history, nothing in the composition suggests its classification within a particular category of historiographical works. Rather, the work reflects a mixture of diverse historiographical traditions, among which one can list Eusebian chronography, Sasanian and Muslim historiographies, Palestinian hagiography, and legendary tales of various sorts. It was completed, according to al-Antạ̄kī, in 938.

The oldest manuscript copy of the work, MS Sinai, Monastery of St Catherine – Ar. 582 (163 folios), represents the oldest known text of the Annales. Indeed, Michel Breydy, who has presented the most detailed study of the manuscript, has argued that the text is the autograph of Ibn Batṛīq himself. The manuscript has the dimensions of a notebook and consists of 163 folios. According to Breydy, it lacks roughly two parts of the beginning of the original work and six of its end. Furthermore, the part referring to the caliphs al-Qāhir (r. 932-34) and al-Rāḍī (r. 934-40), could not have been composed by Ibn Batṛīq himself. The original manuscript may have consisted of 242 folios, of which 23 are missing at the beginning and about 56 at the end. A comparison of the text of MS Sinai Ar. 582 with the texts conserved in later manuscripts, reveals evident traces of successive manipulations, as well as divergences of the later texts from the earliest (and possibly original) version.  …

 Finally, a particular work from which Ibn Batṛīq drew much of his narrative is the Arabic translation of the history of the Sasanid kings, prepared by the Muslim convert ʿAbdallāh ibn al-Muqaffaʿ (d. c. 756). A strikingly literal correspondence between the last section of MS Sinai Ar. 582 and Muslim sources that conserve a textual transmission that had originated with the Egyptian muḥaddith ʿUthmān ibn Ṣāliḥ (d. 834) regarding the conquest of Egypt, allows us to believe that Ibn Batṛīq had similarly transcribed extracts from other Muslim authors as well. …

The Annales are currently extant in some 30 manuscripts, copied both in the Near East and in the West. …

It’s all excellent stuff, and I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in Eutychius or the works of Christian Arabic historiography.

But there is a snag.  Looking at the preview (p.iv), I see that “This project was supported by a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council” – that sounds like taxpayers money -, which makes it all the more odd that the copyright has been given away to Brill, a commercial publisher, and the output is not open-access.  Shame on you, AHRC!

The volume has a couple of introductory papers, and then, starting on p.74, a series of entries on literary figures who wrote in Arabic on the subject of relations between Christians and Muslims, complete with bibliography.  This material is of the highest value, when we consider how difficult it is to access anything in English, and it is really a scandal that it is offline and inaccessible.

I see that eBooks of the volumes do exist – doubtless made available on subscription only to university libraries.  But what use is that to those of us who pay for them?

I have nothing against Brill; but if we paid for this, and it seems likely that we did, then it should not be the property of a commercial company, to be exploited by selling it back to the universities that produced it.


A bunch of Chrysostom and ps.Chrysostom now online in English

Sometime correspondent “Inepti Graeculi” has been working away on some of the untranslated works of Chrysostom, and also some of the mass of literature attributed to him in transmission.

This sort of work is excellent.  Voicu has estimated that there are around 1,500 texts which are spuriously attributed to Chrysostom.  They are, of course, works which lost their original author, but were considered sufficiently interesting to be preserved; which means that they deserve attention now.  These translations should do much to make that happen!

There’s a list of material recently translated by IG at the bottom; but coming soon also is…

Ps.Chrysostom’s In Parabolam Ficu (CPG 4588) – a popular work that argues against the notion that God rejected the Jews (versions found in Syriac, Ethiopic, translated five times into Arabic (!), also in a very important manuscript in Slavonic etc etc.  Wrongly ascribed to Severian of Gabala in the Armenian tradition. Voicu assigns this to an anonymous Cappadocian. The amazing Sever Voicu’s short outline of Chrystostom in the Oriental tradition is quite eye-opening.

I have also nearly finished Chrysostom’s Non Esse Desperandum (CPG 4390) which I very much enjoyed

Here are the recent releases!


Title CPG Comment Version
In Jordanem Fluvuium 4548 Attributed to Severian of Gabala by Marx (1939) but this was rejected by Altendorf (1957). Calvin should have read this. 0.1 Link
De Cognitione Dei 4703 A short homily in which  the speaker relates that Christ’s advent brought the knowledge of god (θεογνωσία). He then briefly addresses neophytes and invites the audience to pilgrimage to the Jordan. Possibly delivered at Bethlehem on the night before the celebration of Christ’s baptism 0.1 Link


Precatio in Obsessos 4710 One of several prayers published by Montfaucon (and reprinted by Migne) as a supplement to the Liturgy ascribed to John Chrysostom. Montfaucon sourced this text from Goar, Rituale Graecorum, Paris, 1647, p. 783. It was not included in Savile’s or Fronto’s Chrysostom edition. This little prayer is still found in the liturgical books of Eastern Orthodox churches. 0.2 Link
In Ingressum sanctorum jejuniorum 4665 On fasting and drunkenness. Ascribed to Proclus (Marx, Le Roy, De Aldama) or an anonymous sophistic rhetor (Musurillo) 0.1 Link
In sanctum Stephanum 2 4691 One of several homilies on the Protomartyr Stephen among the Ps.-Chrysostomica 0.1 Link
Encomium in sanctos martyres 4759 Text: Aubineau (1975) 0.1 Link

And the tide rushes in: now self-service photography arrives at the British Library

About ten years ago, when digital cameras had appeared, I went down to the British Library and asked if I could use mine to photograph manuscript items.  The female librarian to whom I spoke looked very angry and rudely and indignantly refused.  I remember thinking that the response was more or less as if I had casually asked for the loan of her daughter for the night. 

Not long afterwards mobile phones acquired digital cameras.  But still the hard-faced refusal went on.  I commented, in these pages, on this nonsense.  Only last year I went to examine Ms. BL addit. 12150, but had to resort to verbally describing various paragraphing marks, because I had no means to take a snap of the pages.

But the tide has been with us, and finally sense has prevailed.  Yesterday I learned via a correspondent of an update to the British Library policies, here.

Self-service photography

From 5 January 2015 you will be able to photograph collection items using compact cameras, tablets and mobile phones in the following Reading Rooms:

  • Humanities – floors 1 and 2
  • Newsroom
  • Science – floors 2 and 3
  • Social Sciences

Photographic copies made may be used for personal reference purposes only and must not be used for a commercial purpose. Copyright and data protection laws may still apply.

Some material will be excluded from self-service photography, including items at risk of damage, or further damage. …

In March 2015 we will extend this service to include the following Reading Rooms:

  • Asian & African Studies
  • Business & IP Centre
  • Manuscripts
  • Maps
  • Philatelic
  • Rare Books & Music

It is very good news.  No doubt there will be teething problems, as the staff get used to the idea that snapping is normal.  But it should mean that a lot of material starts to appear online that might otherwise wait for years to appear in someone’s priority queue.

We live in fortunate times.  In the 19th century editors had to pay for collations of manuscripts, and thank the owners of the mss fulsomely for even being allowed to have such a thing.  It seems unthinkable now.  So also the nuisances of very recent times will quickly become historical curiosities.


46 more British Library manuscripts online

The flow of manuscripts continues!  Here’s some highlights from the latest batch at the British Library.

  • Add MS 26112, Georgius Cedrenus, Compendium historiarum (TLG 3018.001), imperfect, starting from vol. 1, 546.3 and ending with 750.22, συγχάρια τῷ βασιλεῖ (from AD 374 to 641). 12th century.
  • Add MS 27862, John of Damascus, Dialectica sive Capita philosophica (TLG 2934.002) and Expositio fidei (TLG 2934.004); Sketches on the Division of Philosophy according to Christ and On the Seven Good Things; Anastasius of Sinai, Viae dux (TLG 2896.001); selections and fragments from other works (theological and geographical). 11th c.
  • Add MS 28821, Mathematarion in Byzantine music notation, containing works by a number of composers such as Manuel Chrysaphes, John Koukouzeles, John Kladas, Xenos Korones, Chionopoulos, John Glykys, Gregorios Mpounes Alyates, Theodoros Manougras and others. 15th-17th century.
  • Add MS 28828, John Zonaras, Epitome historiarum (TLG 3135.001-002), imperfect; George Akropolites, Annales (TLG 3141.002), imperfect; Leo VI the Wise, Oracula. 14th century.
  • Add MS 36634, Gregory of Nazianzus, Orationes, followed by Pseudo-Nonnus (Nonnus the Abbot), Scholia mythologica, imperfect. 10th century, ff 1-9 being added on paper in the 15th century.
  • Add MS 36749, Gregory of Nazianzus, Epistles and Poems; Leo Magister, Poems; Anonymi professoris epistulae; Hierocles, In aureum carmen. 10th century, with some paper additions in Messina (southern Italy) in the 15th century.
  • Add MS 39607, John Chrysostom, In epistulam I ad Corinthios homiliae (TLG 2062.156), imperfect. 12th century.
  • Add MS 58224, Appian, Historia Romana. Eastern Mediterranean (Crete?), c. 1450-1460. Decorative headpiece on f 1r. The text belongs to Mendelssohn’s family i (deteriores). The text breaks off after 11 lines on f 65r, after which 37 unfoliated leaves are left blank, marking the lacuna in the Illyrica first found in Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, MS 70.5.
  • Burney MS 69, Greek treatises on warfare, with numerous drawings. Includes works by Athenaeus, Biton, Heron, Apollodorus, Philo of Byzantium, Leo VI the Wise, and others. Italy, N. E. (Venice), completed 7 May 1545.
  • Kings MS 17, Scholia on Pindar’s Olympian and Pythian Odes. Italy, N., 4th quarter of the 15th century.
  • Royal MS 16 C XXIII, Philostratus, Heroicus, Imagines, and Vitae Sophistarum. 15th century.
  • Royal MS 16 D II Epistles of Phalaris (TLG 0053.001), with many marginal annotations, imperfect. Italy, N. (Venice), 2nd half of the 15th century. Owned by Isaac Casaubon.



Locating images of monuments online

A year or so ago I decided to collect some of the online images of monuments of Mithras, and put them together on my site with some explanatory material.  The reason is that I kept seeing some glorious images; with no idea what they were, or where they might be found.  Of course a complete or professional collection is beyond me, but there is still value is sticking text under commonly found pictures.  It is not always that easy, in truth, to find an image of a monument just by looking.

A little while ago I became aware that a relief of Mithras killing the bull was found by Italian police in Veii during a raid.  It was hidden in a  barn, and was intended to be sold to a Japanese collector for 500,000 euros.  Little information exists in English, but I have a page on the item here.

But what I could not find – and I tried hard – was any pictures of the relief.  All the articles – in Italian – had no images or just a fuzzy one of a barn with some cops hanging around it.

This evening I was making some technical changes to it, and I searched for “Mitra Veio” and drew blank.  Then I searched for “dio mitra veio” (because one of the Italian articles talked about “Dio Mitra”), and clicked on the images tab.  And … there it was!  There were several images; not huge, but quite large enough!  One showed the item upside down in the barn; another after restoration.

So now there is a proper page with the material on, and searchers will be able to find it.

But it is odd, you know?  It’s like one of those fairy stories, where you can’t find something by looking for it.  Instead you must be looking for something else, and it will just come along of its own accord.  Which is why sites that index material are valuable.


No photos allowed inside the National Museum in Damascus

It seems that the Syrian National Museum in Damascus does not / did not allow photography inside the building.  Not that it got many tourists, thanks to the grim reputation of the Assad regime in the old days, but those who did turn up were prevented from photographing, or rather recording, the contents.

That doesn’t seem like a satisfactory policy now, does it?  If ISIS capture the city, all that material will be gone for good, except for those pieces that they can sell on the art market.

If some people have their way, the art market for Syrian pieces will be shut down, in order to prevent ISIS raising money thereby.  But won’t that merely guarantee 100% destruction rate?  I rather doubt the evidently well-funded and foreign-backed ISIS gunmen will be deterred by the loss of a few art sales, however.

So what was the justification for not recording the museum contents?  To sell a few miserable postcards?  I fear so.


Acts of Andrew and Paul: Does anyone have access to “Orientalia”?

I need an article: can someone help me?  We may get a translation out of it, if we can get hold of the text.

The Apocryphal New Testament: A Collection of Apocryphal Christian Literature in an English Translation by J. K. Elliott makes mention of some 9th century Coptic Acts of Andrew and Paul, on p.243. The text has been published, with French translation.  Unfortunately the journal is not one I have access to:

X. Jacques, “Les deux fragments conservés des ‘Actes d’André et de Paul'”, in: Orientalia, New Series, volume 38 (1969), pages 187-213.

The Orientalia journal seems to be issued by the Pontifical Bible Institute in Rome: info here.  The 2008 volume seems to be open-access, here and here.  The article is also referenced in Schneemelcher, p.450.

Does anyone have access to this article? If so, can you let me have a copy?  A kind gentleman is willing to translate the Coptic into English, if I can supply him with the text.

UPDATE: The series is ISSN 0030-5367. Apparently the journal exists in the “ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials” product (not the same as the more common “ATLA Religion Database”) – does anyone have access to this?


Some translations by Anthony Alcock from Syriac, Coptic and Arabic

Anthony Alcock has been busy on a number of texts, creating new translations.  He has kindly sent a number of these to me for upload here, although I think that they are also available on and perhaps on Alin Suciu’s blog also.

In each case he provides a useful introduction.

Here they are (all PDF):

  • Chronicle of Séert I – A rather important Syriac chronicle, written by a Nestorian writer in the 9-11th century.  A detailed study of the text by Philip Wood (Oxford, 2013) is accessible on open access (yes!!!) here.
  • Chronicle of Séert II – Part 2 of the same.
  • Preaching of Andrew – A fresh translation of one of the Christian Arabic apocrypha from Mount Sinai.
  • Sins1 – A Coptic text on the Sins of priests and monks, by ps.Athanasius.  An Arabic version also exists.  This is the first English version, so is very welcome.  The text is interesting because of the interaction with Islam, and may be one of the sources used by the Apocalypse of Samuel of Kalamoun.  However I wasn’t able to locate this text in either the Coptic Encyclopedia or Graf’s GCAL – does anyone know where it is?
  • Sins2 – Part 2 of the same.

It is profoundly useful to have this kind of material available in English and online, and our thanks to Dr Alcock.

UPDATE: Dr Alcock has now provided part 3 of the Chronicle of Seert here: