A few more letters of Isidore of Pelusium – 102-116

Ten years ago I attempted to get English translations made of letters of Isidore of Pelusium.  Each attempt failed for one reason or another.  This translation of letters 102-116 was made by Clive Sweeting in 2010, but never received a final revision, and was never published.  This seems a pity, so I post it here.

    *    *    *    *

LETTER 102  – To Timothy the Reader.  Against the Theopaschites and those who affirm one nature in Christ.

Just as sailors hide the hook with bait and thus catch unsuspecting fish, even so wicked allies of heresies, covering  their evil designs with fair words,  fatally ensnare the more simple-minded[1]. With all care therefore guard your heart lest in any respect you accept Christ’s nature after the Incarnation as an appearance[2]. For assent to one nature involves a denial of the other –(for) either the divine nature is subject to change or our (humanity) is diminished. This is the Charybdis of Manes, by means of which he strove to lead (us) all to Gehenna.

LETTER 103 – To the Same.  Why Our Lord after His Resurrection questioned Peter three times about love.

Our Lord’s threefold questioning of Peter about love is not a reason to suspect ignorance on the part of the Master (let certain persons not think amiss in this way), but the good Healer expelled the threefold denial by means of the threefold assent.

LETTER 104 – To Leontios. On those who unworthy aspirations touch on ordination as a bishop.

It does not for just anyone to set his sights on a bishopric, my dear fellow, but to those whose lives are governed by the laws of Paul[3]. If then you perceive that degree of scrupulousness within yourself, proceed cheerfully towards the ascent to such an elevated position, but if you do not possess this (quality), until you acquire it, do not touch that which is untouchable[4]. Beware of approaching the fire which consumes matter.[5]

LETTER 105 – To Eutonios the Deacon. Why John called the Jews generations of vipers[6].

John called the Jews “generations of vipers” as being more wicked than the offspring of wicked parents. For it is recounted that this wild species[7] devours the maternal womb when they are hatched. Since then they abandoned God who gave them birth and they mortified all the grace given to them through failing to make use of it, he quite reasonably likens them to those poisonous creatures, who negate their benefactions through ingratitude, or to put it otherwise devour them.

LETTER 106 – To Timothy the Reader.  On the saying, “Do not make my Father’s house a house of trade”[8].

You will need to reply to the searching enquirer. For he speaks, it is said, to the ears of those who hear.[9] Also “He who has ears to hear, let him hear”. Our Lord said, “Do not make my Father’s house a house of trade” to the sellers of doves, but with the priests who sell off the gifts of the Holy Spirit in mind. Since the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove, this is an insult to those who trade in God. As for ‘’Take these away from here”, he means that there is no longer any need for blood (sacrifices); for I grant bloodless forgiveness of sins; from now on I wish the Spirit alone to make propitiation. The law of flesh is fulfilled, let the law of the Spirit prevail, and that of salvation commence.

LETTER 107- To the Same.  On the harmony of the Testaments.

The Son of God introduced no novelty of beliefs, dear friend, into the Law and the Prophets, but placed a term to those things which had been revealed of old concerning Him. If you open[10] the Old Testament with the utmost attentiveness, you will find the whole of the New Testament announced therein. For those then who rely on the Law and consider the way of the Gospel strange, from the words of the Law He clarifies the truth of the beliefs (communicated by) grace. Thus they will (come to) see the intrinsic harmony of both Testaments.

LETTER 108 – To Prohairesios the scholasticos[11]?  On the living Word.

You have in your possession, I am informed, a collection of discourses which delight the ear, but which do not nourish the soul. You are in need of the Living Word, which he who lacks is a (mere) sounding brass [12]. If then you acquire this, it is a sweet-sounding instrument for God and well – tuned for men.

LETTER 109 – To the monk Marathonios. Against the Macedonians or Spirit-Contesters.

If our God and Saviour after becoming Incarnate transmitted the Most Holy Spirit, counted as completing the Holy Trinity and by His invocation in Holy Baptism as freeing from sins, but on the Sacramental Table revealing ordinary bread to be His own Body in Taking Flesh, how is it then that you teach, you crackbrained fellow, that  (the Spirit) is made or created or belongs to subject nature and is not parent to and of the same substance as the royal nature?  For if subject, let it not be counted with the Master. And if it is a creature, let it not be compounded with the Creator.  But it is united and counted together, since an exact exponent of such belief must believe Christ, when He teaches infallibly concerning His own substance, even if you do not accept it, as one who would be wiser and boasts of knowing heavenly (realities) better than God or who rather prates insolently against God.

LETTER 110 – To the monk Crato. That he who has promised spiritual effort, must willingly embrace all its difficulties.

He who wishes to undertake spiritual effort and desires salvation readily embraces all its difficulties, whatever and how many they are. He who thinks he acts in a way contrary to his dignity in performing spiritual effort or in the acts of service it involves is endued with exterior pride, which it is not possible to discard – unless he keeps in mind his body, from where it has come into existence and where again it is dissolved.[13]

LETTER 111 – To Zosimos the Priest.  Concerning one ordained by means of money payment.

You have received the priesthood unholily, O unholy one, having stolen a heavenly article by means of payment, a second Caiaphas, receiving that of which one may not speak by means of silver. But there a hope exists that you will be changed towards goodness. For I do not wish to speak against you.

LETTER 112 – To Bishop Eusebios.  Whatever we say we priests should do.

In church you teach with fair words, oh but it were rather so in act. For you resemble someone throwing stones into the air and aiming[14] at the directness of their fall and (thereby) bringing[15] them down upon himself. For if the refutation of sins is perceived amongst us as denying its words by its acts, not only do we fail to prevent hearers from acting badly, but we also incur mockery teaching one thing yet doing  another.

LETTER 113 – To the Same.  That he has sold the priesthood for payment.

You are building the church fabric with useless stones, with lawless or rather with your impious resources. For you received the price of priesthood, as one who sells priestly office, and you gave this to Zosimos. The news is thus being spread throughout the entire area, so that both ears of all who hear it are buzzing.

LETTER 114 – To Timothy the Reader.

This is the explanation of the three periods of day and night of Our Lord’s entombment. It is written “Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights; so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. He who promised fulfilling the prefiguration (type) of Jonah and who understands it accurately, since He was present with Jonah when he was thrown into the deep, and when he was vomited forth from the depth, fulfilled Jonah unfailingly, dwelling in the tomb as long as Jonah (did) in the whale; If you seek a second figure, this is it: At the sixth hour of Friday the Lord was crucified. From then until the ninth there was darkness; Take this from me to be night. Again from the ninth hour; this is again day. Then there is the Friday night, then the Sabbath. The night of the Sabbath is the morning of Sunday, according to the Evangelist who states  “When it dawned on the first day of the week” If you wish to learn a third reason, (it is) as follows. On the Friday the Lord gave up His spirit; this is one day. He passed the whole of the Sabbath in the grave; then there is the night belonging to the Sabbath. When Sunday dawned, He rose from the tomb, and this is day. Since, as you know, from knowing a part the whole is known[16]. For in this way we are accustomed to perform the remembrance of those who die. At whatever hour of the day someone dies, the following day only is omitted, and on the next day from dawn we hold the third day of his (commemoration). You have, I think, the solution to what you were seeking. For if those who fight dishonestly ask for three complete days and nights, reply that, if the emperor was receiving the supplication and petition of those in the mines or in prison and promised to give them release after the third day, and in advance of the set date granted them their freedom, it was rather by his rapidity that he declared the truth (of his intention). The Master, rising more swiftly than He had promised, will appropriately be worshipped by all.

LETTER 115 – To the monk Elias.

“What have you to do with the way to Egypt with a view to drinking Nile[17] water?”, the prophet said to the turnabout people, or rather God by means of him. What have you to do with the confusion from which you were separated by God’s mighty hand and outstretched arm? How is it that having laid hold on virtue and tasted the summit of philosophy, you revert to wickedness, and do not have in mind the word of Scripture, that “He who turns away from justice towards sin, the Lord will prepare him for the sword. Flee the billow and flee the waves. Christ has rebuked the wind[18], and no experience of storm will engulf you, if you hold fast to Christ, the harbour.[19]

LETTER 116 – To Ausonius[20] the Corrector.

Possessing a wise means of discovering truth, namely the many-shaped device of torments, use fear with regard to judgment, since divine legislation[21] has established you as a fear for the wicked.

[1] Cf. Gregory of Nazianzus, letter 101,7 (Grégoire de Nazianze, Lettres théologiques, Sources Chrétiennes, no. 208,38)

[2] With the alteration ‘one’ (nature) featuring in place of ‘appearance’ this injunction is specifically ascribed to Isidore by one of his earlier testimonia, See P.T.R. Gray: Leontius of Jerusalem: Against the Monophysites; Testimonies of the Saints and Aphoriae  (Oxford Early Christian Texts), 2006, 84.

[3] I Tim. 3,2 – 7; Tit. 1, 7 -9

[4] cf. I Sam. 7,1.

[5] cf. Ex. 3,5

[6] Mt. 3,7

[7] Isidore’s treatment differs substantially from the Physiologus.

[8] Jn. 2,16

[9] Mt. 11,15

[10] lit; unfold

[11] A term for professor of rhetoric.

[12] 1 Cor. 13,1

[13] cf. Gen;, 3,19

[14] diakonti – perhaps a corruption of a present participle (dative masc. sing.) although LSJ (and Bailly) quote the middle form diakontizomai. Alternatively participle. dioikounti.

[15] Lit.calling.

[16] synecdoche

[17]Following Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 1, 39,  Hesychius glosses Geon (Gihon, Gen.  2,13) as the Nile.

[18] Lc.8,24

[19] Less frequent among the many navigational metaphors of salvation. cf. Heb.6,19

[20] In this short selection of letters, only Ausonius’ existence (not even that of bishop Eusebius) is confirmed in J.R. Martindale, The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire, Vol. II, A.D.395-527, but on the evidence alone of a fair number of letters addressed by Isidore to Ausonius or to a slightly varying homonym.

[21] Rom.13,4.



An email about the letters of Isidore of Pelusium

Isidore of Pelusium was a monk living in the Nile delta in the early-mid 5th century AD, in the times of Cyril of Alexandria.  We know nothing of him except that a collection about 2,000 of his letters – or rather short excerpts from them – was made by the “Sleepless” monks of Constantinople in the 6th century.  It’s never received a critical edition, but the text is actually quite interesting.  It may be a lost devotional classic.

Something over ten years ago – I write from memory – I became aware of this work.  I did so through the marvellous monograph of Pierre Evieux, who also translated the second half of the collection for the Sources Chrétiennes series.  It seemed a shame not to commission some English translations, and so I set out to do so, and I wrote about this here with the tag “Isidore of Pelusium”.  But it was all very hard, and I got nowhere much.  The bits and pieces all over the place that resulted were too much for me to ever collect.

Yesterday I received an email from Ted Janiszewski.  It seems that he and a friend have been looking at Isidore of Pelusium and trying to work out what exists in English.  He wrote:

What we’ve come up with is there are currently 53 numbered epistles in English, either posted to your blog, shared in the comments, or translated in your edition of Eusebius’ Gospel Problems and Solutions:

1–14, 27, 35–36, 78, 97–101, 212, 221, 310–311, 322, 448, 1106, 1214–1220, 1222–1229, 1241, 1243–1246, 1285, 1382, 1582

There are a further twenty unnumbered letters done into English in 1843 by William Roberts, as you mention here – but I haven’t yet checked to see whether there is overlap. A quick Google Books search uncovered translations of a few more fragments – and I’m sure there is more buried out there in monographs and journals. But this now is what we have.

I was wondering: you mention here (ten years ago today! how time flies) and again here that you commissioned letters 15–25. Did those ever come through?

I have written back to tell him that 15-25 never arrived.  My email box reveals that a gentleman named Mark Genter was working on them, and then everything went silent.

What I did find was a translation of 102-116, made by a gentleman named Clive Sweeting, but never placed online because he never received the payment we agreed.  I think after 10 years that it doesn’t matter, so I will do so in a bit.

Rather nice to hear about all this again!


Isidore of Pelusium, Letter 78

Edward Campbell has kindly translated for us this letter of Isidore of Pelusium, from the Patrologia Graeca text.  It came to my attention after a correspondent asked whether it referred to the Three Hundred Spartans.

To Esaias[1] the soldier.

To[2] the disorderly soldier.

If, from among your weapons, you consider your spears and your helmet and your breast-plate to be an assurance for your well-being, while you plunder and desolate the highways, know that many who had armed themselves more impregnably than you won for themselves[3] a most lamentable death. Among us[4] are recorded, on the one hand, Oreb, Zebah, Zalmunna, Abimelech and Goliath, and Absalom,[5] and as many others who were like them. Among those outside,[6] on the other hand, are the Hectors, the Ajaxes, and the Lacedaimonians[7] themselves who, above all others, were prideful of their strength, since they did not possess justice in proportion[8] to their power. If, then, you do not wish to be a worthless soldier, arrange yourself at once toward the spiritual war and wage war rather upon your own disorderliness.

[1] A more normal English rendering would give “Isaiah.”
[2] Possibly, “Against the disorderly soldier.”
[3] Or simply, “obtained.”
[4] i.e. Characters from the Old and New Testaments.
[5] See Judges 7, 8, and 9; 1 Samuel 17; 2 Samuel 13.
[6] i.e. Characters from Greek literature.
[7] i.e. the Spartans.
[8] Lit, “running along with their power,” a slightly confusing phrase. Isidore seems to mean that the Spartans’ power far surpassed their justice, hence they only had their power to be proud of.


Letters 97-101 of Isidore of Pelusium

LETTER XCVII — to Hymetios.  Against the Macedonians, or Spirit-Contesters.

It was in order to show the union of the most Holy Spirit with Himself and the Father said to the disciples that Our Lord and Master, after rising from the dead, said to his disciples, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive any ones’ sins, they are forgiven.”- namely, by the authority [1] of the divine Spirit you receive, who has divine power to remit sins.

LETTER XCVIII- to Frontinos the Monk.  Concerning him who received (a slap)on the cheek.

If you have been injured by words and given way to unrestrained anger, how can you become a worker in the Lord‘s Vineyard? For He determines that whosoever, struck on one cheek  [2], is capable also of presenting the other, is that one who “bears the oppressiveness of the day and its heat” [3] and who thus will have accomplishedall the labour of the Lord’s command. For if you aspire to those greater rewards, do not be distraught at the lesser toils, but learn to bear with love the greater ones, for you will not otherwise receive a penny unless witnessed to by the perfection of (your) own efforts.

LETTER XCIX- to Duke Gelasios

Concerning pride, impotence and insignificance

It is usual for human beings- at least for most, although foreign to divine legislation, to be puffed up by (noble) descent, practical wisdom, possessions, beauty or rank.[4] However it helps in no way the pride of those who are from earth and who again return to it. That you possess none at all of these qualities you will scarcely deny. If then you are deprived of all the things that cause one to swell and be puffed up, since you are of lowly extraction, poor, of weak intellect, [very] ordinary and ill-shaped,[5] why do you strut through the city, as though you were the most reputed of all, and become the author of many disturbances there? Rather get to know yourself and acquire a manner proportioned to your insignificance, or alternatively prepare yourself for efforts and dangers, with which those in power will reward you. For you are lacking in wealth, which frequently smoothes over the asperities of circumstances and the blows of fate.

LETTER C — to Syros the Reader

Against theNovatians

Say to the disciple of Novatian’s pride: why are you foolishly boasting as if [you were] clean? Why are you pretending that you are sinless? Why deny the (fault) common to nature? Isaiah declares himself unclean; David knows that every man is a liar and that all were conceived and carried in the womb in sin. God Himself knows that human beings are devotedly attached to evil and require only the mercy of divine kindness- and do you arrogantly boast of being clean? Either then give over lying or from what you are doing be exposed as a laughing-stock or indeed mightily shameful.

LETTER CI — to Theognostos, a newly-professed monk

Concerning the need always to be sober

You have grasped the ploughshare well and to the point. You are succeeding in escaping from suffocating [6] matter. You have stepped forth well towards a higher citizenship. Stand [7] therefore wide awake as a heavy-armed soldier, lest sleep slip in rendering you flabby and show you up as a deserter, which God forbid. For we are not unaware of the designs of the Evil One.

[1] The Greek relative pronoun could also refer to Christ, who is the initial subject and whose power to forgive is central to the NT. The translation would then read: by the authority of whose divine Spirit…
[2] Mt.5.39
[3] Mt.20.12 
[4] See L. Meridier, L’influence de la seconde sophistique sur l’œuvre de Grégoire de Nysse, Rennes, 1906.
[5] For a Christian writer’s effort to include ψογος in his rhetorical repertoire see J. Bernardi, Grégoire de Nazianze, Discours 4-5, Contre Julien, (Sources Chrétiennes 309) introduction p.15, Cerf, 1983.
[6] cf. Mk. 4,7
[7] cf. Plato, Ap. 28D

These letters were translated for us by Clive Sweeting — many thanks!


From my diary

Busy.  I’m about half way through processing the Latin proof corrections into Eusebius Gospel Problems and Solutions.  I’ve also tentatively commissioned a translation of a few more of Isidore of Pelusium’s letters.  And I’m reading Mutschmann’s article on chapter divisions.


14 letters of Isidore of Pelusium

Isidore of Pelusium: Letters 1-14

(PG 78, cols. 177-189)

1. To the monk Nilus.

The holy bishops and the guides of the monastic discipline, from the conflicts and struggles which they underwent,[1] established fitting terms, for activities for our instruction and knowledge. They called the withdrawal from the material world “renunciation,” and ready obedience “subjection.” And they, on the one hand, only had nature as a teacher[2]; and we, on the other hand, having their recorded[3] conduct, consider the work to be small. “Renunciation,” therefore, must be the forgetting of the former way of thinking and the refusal of fellowship[4]; and “subjection” must be the cessation and dissolution from the people on earth, just as it stands written.

2. To the monk Dorotheus.

Burning coals were set ablaze by[5]it.[6]

Burning coals were set ablaze by[7] it; namely, the saints are set ablaze by the fire from[8] God. For since our God is a consuming fire, those who contemplate God with purity are likewise called burning coals. Being set ablaze in union with him, they appear as stars in the world.[9]

3. To the scholar Neilammon[10].
Concerning an active life of good works.

Having learned quite clearly from the ancients, that to be is not to think, what then is to be? Do more, and do not just talk.

4. To the reader Timotheus.

Concerning the conflicts[11] which you undergo, excellent sir, be convinced: the present circumstances put before us are an invisible arena,[12] in which we do not wrestle against perceptible beasts, but against perceptible[13] passions. These are the very things that, if they should prevail over the strength in us, will bring on danger not just as far as the body but bring death to the soul itself. But if they should be controlled then[14] they will flee, and we will gain for ourselves great rewards and acclamation; and here we wrestle these often, but hereafter certainly we will receive rewards and acclamation,[15] since the coming age has been entrusted with rewards, just as this age has been entrusted with trials.[16] 

5. To Nilus.

Concerning the food of the Precursor[17] and asceticism[18].

Since the divine prophesies report the account accurately, the excessive debate is unnecessary for the ones reading these things intelligently. If, therefore, we have been instructed about both the food and clothes of perfect, godly[19] asceticism[20], with reference to John the Baptist, we will be content with hair[21], for example, for a covering; and we will be content with twigs[22] from herbs and plants for a little food and strength and a simple meal[23]. But if these things, because of weakness, are too intense[24], let the testing and directive of the one put forward[25] be an example for us of every need and way of life[26].

6. To Ursenuphius.

Concerning: For [there is] a cup in the hand of the Lord.”[27]

There is a cup in the hand of the Lord full of a mixture of pure wine.” The divine prophecy makes known the just recompense is a mixture, on the one hand, with kindness for repentance with respect to the ones putting away[28] sins. “For he was turning from this way to that way,” that is to say, from kindness to the one being owed punishment and just judgment for faults. But in order that we do not altogether appear to be light-hearted[29] of the punishment, it was added: “Nevertheless its dregs were not poured out.” For if they will despise salvation altogether, in the end they will not escape the punishment. “For all the sinners upon the earth,” he says, “will likewise drink” the cup of judgment.

7. To Timotheus.

Concerning the Mother of God.

The holy book of the Gospels, recording the genealogy to Joseph, who derives kinship from David, was pleased[30] to show through him that the Virgin was also of the same tribe of David; just as the divine law prophesied, the pair came from the same tribe. And the interpreter of heavenly doctrines, the great Apostle Paul, openly makes the truth quite clear, testifying that the Lord would be a descendant from Judah. Because you know these things more keenly[31], do not feign ignorance with respect to the questioning. For by doing this,[32] you are shown to be pursuing shabbiness.[33]

8. To the same.

That it is necessary that the labor of spiritual discipline[34] be moderate[35].

Just as the body that is healthy lacks a bruise, since it soothes the swelling of an injury[36], so also the body that is sick is in need of aid, and the soul that is downcast ruins the body, with the result that it must be illuminated by the divine commandments.[37] One, therefore, must take care of both. For when one of the two[38] is in want, sanctification[39] is difficult.  

9. To the same.

Concerning the appearances at night.

The appearances at night, as you have written, you who are most fond of learning, are not only echoes of associations and conversations of the day, but also the product of frivolous practice[40]. For when the mind is seized in a stupor from drunkenness, a stimulant of the passions occurs. But when one is wakefully self-controlled and preparedly waiting for the Lord, that person is neither defeated by the belly nor by the passions of the belly[41]. For you see, nothing other than this will prepare someone or bind the strength of the loins.[42]       

10. To the elder Eusebius.

That nothing is greater than love, in which one has[43] brotherly union as proof.

Thus, nothing is as greatly desired by God than[44] love, through which both man had come into existence, and is a subject of love until death. For on this account, namely, the first call of his disciples, there happened to be two brothers; thus, from the beginning the all-wise savior immediately showed that he desires all his disciples to be united in a brotherly manner. Therefore, let us consider nothing more precious than love, which unites everyone, and protects everyone in harmonious accord. 

11. To the scholar Ophelion.

That in philosophy one is frequently wronged or maltreated.

If Socrates, the lawgiver of the Athenian doctrines, was beaten and did not retaliate, why are you alone at a loss having been maltreated, as you have written? For if you should pursue philosophy, on the one hand, you will bring upon yourself the glory of Socrates, even though you have been abused less than Socrates. But this person[45], on the contrary, will be wounded as from a dart in arrogance; or, there will be a time when he will be changed from the propensity of sin, and of mind and speech – and he will thank you[46] for the cause of his change[47].

12. To Ammonius.

Although you conceal failure[48], still you show yourself as haughty, being puffed up concerning your tribe[49], strength, and worth. Therefore, either get for yourself a spirit that is in measure with you, or else be someone who is laughed at by all.

13. To the monk Lampetius.

When you were approaching the high mountain of ascetic practice[50], you cleansed[51] both your clothes and senses. And according to the report of godly opinion you prepared your[52] heart.[53] Assuredly you had been resolved to leave[54] the unspiritual things, in order that you, having arrived at the citadel of virtues, might hear God  uttering a message (the one who inscribes the old law on physical tablets) and might become a tablet made by God. And now these things are celebrated by all concerning you, that, on the one hand, they proclaim eagerly that you took hold of the plow of salvation; but, on the other hand, having lost heart, in turn, you turned back. Accordingly, does this pattern not frighten you? Namely, that although Simon[55] was baptized and followed the ministers of Christ, he, in turn, turned back to the material world (on account of which the wretched one was brought down from the height to the notorious death; that from the one calamity against that one it might be shown what sorts of calamities the deserving ones meet, namely, those who broke their word[56] about the spiritual way of life). Hold fast to the intention[57] of Simon. And if only everyone who had a share of this resolve and knowledge would avert that punishment to the enemies![58]  Fulfill the covenant[59] to the Lord, and devote yourself carefully to his vineyard. The reward is with him, which each one will receive according to their own work.

14. To the monk Patrimus.

Concerning practical asceticism[60].

You have a good disposition, as I have come to know, learning earnestly and speaking nobly. But the way of spiritual asceticism[61] prospers more from action than from speech. If, therefore, it is your concern for unfading rewards, consider speaking[62] well as trivial; pursue this so that you fare well.

[1] This is athletic imagery for events encountered in the Christian life and especially spiritual asceticism; literally it may be read: “from the games and races which they performed.” For similar imagery, see 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7; Hebrews 10:32.

[2] In this construction, the verb ἔχω takes as its object an accusative (φύσιν) and a predicate accusative (διδάσκαλον); see Bauer (=BDAG hereafter), 421. Here I take μόνην as an adverb, which is usually in the neuter case; so does the Latin translation: Atque illi quidem naturam solum magistram habuerunt.

[3] Or, “famous.”

[4] The wide semantic range of συνήθεια includes: “friendship,” “intimacy,” “practice,” “habit,” “custom,” and “tradition.”

[5] This prepositional phrase απ’ αὐτοῦ denotes agency: “by it” or “from it” (cp. Psalm 18: 8; LXX Psalm 17:8).

[6] This letters comments on Psalm 18:8 (LXX Psalm 17:8). In context, “it” in this letter refers to fire that came out of the mouth of the Lord; thus, “the coals were kindled by the fire [which came from the Lord’s mouth].”

[7] Same note 5 above for comment on απ’ αὐτοῦ.

[8] This prepositional phrase έκ τοῦ Θεοῦ denotes the source of the preposition αὐτοῦ; its antecedent is “fire.” See note 5 above.

[9] This borrows the imagery of Daniel 12:3 and Philippians 2:15.

[10] Νειλαμβωνι is the name of the recipient in the dative. This dative case either preserves a longer form or alternative spelling for the name for the name: Νειλαμμων.

[11] Or, “games”; see note 1 above.

[12] Or, “contests.” Again, athletic imagery is used concerning events encountered in the Christian life; see note 1 above.

[13] Or, “spiritual.”

[14] The conjunction here is καί.

[15] Literally: “And here, on the one hand, often, but, on the other hand, after these things, certainly.” Both subject and verb have to be supplied in both clauses. Context suggests the juxtaposition of trials now and rewards later.

[16] Or “contests.” In this sense, we now participate in contests; in the coming age we receive the rewards in full.

[17] I.e., John the Baptist.

[18] Generally, “practice,” “exercise,” or “discipline”; more specifically, “asceticism” or “monastic life.”

[19] I take κατὰ Θεὸν as paraphrasis to indicate the nature of “the perfect asceticism”; see κατά in BDAG 5.b.β.

[20] See note 18 above.

[21] Here “hair” is a reference to the camel hair that John the Baptist wore as a covering; cf. Mark 1:6; Matthew 3:4. 

[22] Or, “branches.” Here it is the food on the “twig” or “branch” that is in view.

[23] This Greek phrase reads: πρὸς ὀλίγην τροφὴν καὶ δύναμιν καὶ ἀπέριττον. I take πρὸς as governing (1) ὀλίγην τροφὴν καὶ δύναμιν and (2) ἀπέριττον. The adjective ἀπέριττον (“simple”) requires an implied noun in which to modify; so, “simple meal.”

[24] Based on context, I take μείζονα to refer to intensity; thus, “too intense” or “more intense”; it could also refer to importance; thus, “greater importance” or “more important.”

[25] I.e., John the Baptist.

[26] Or, “way of life”; or more specifically, “diet.”

[27] This letter comments on Psalm 75:8 (LXX Psalm 74:8).

[28] This use of χαίρω means “taking leave of,” “parting,” or “putting away”; see LSJ, IV.3 of χαίρω.

[29] This syntax is difficult, in part because the text does not seem certain (i.e., parentheses are around the infinitive ἐπιλησμονεῖν). And the meaning of this parenthetical word is similar to the nominative plural adjective οἱ ῥάθυμοι. It seems the infinitive is redundant and should be ignored. So, I treat the verb φαντάζω like the verb φαίνω. φαίνω can be the main verb of a clause, take an implied infinitive (εἴναι) or participle (ὄντες), and take a predicate nominative (see II.B of φαίνω in LSJ). This fits our context; and so we ignore the parenthetical verb ἐπιλησμονεῖν. It could be argued that the parenthetical infinitive ἐπιλησμονεῖν could be the complementary infinitive to the main verb φαντάζω (here, φαντασθῶμεν).  But LSJ notes that this verb should take an infinitive and an accusative; here we do not have an accusative. Instead, we have a plural nominative.

[30] Or, “satisfied.”

[31] I take δριμύτερον adverbially. It is also in the comparative state.

[32] I.e. evading questions.

[33] The Greek is awkward here. Literally it reads: “For you, pursuing shabbiness, are not hidden.” Note the Latin translation of this sentence: Nec enim mihi obscurum est, te vilitatem hic aucupari.

[34] For the meaning of ἀσκήσεως, see note 18 above.

[35] I take σύμμετρον as absolute in meaning: “in due measure,” “right-sized,” or “moderate.”

[36] Literally, “suffering.”

[37] The grammar up to this point is awkward. I rearranged the word order to show more clearly the intended parallelism between the healthy body and the sick body and soul.

[38] I.e., the body or soul.

[39] Or more generally, “completion” or “perfection.”

[40] This phrase “frivolous practice” may be translated more neutrally, i.e., “indifferent interaction”; context, however, suggests something more pointed.

[41] A feminine object is implied here. The only feminine singular antecedent which makes logical sense is “belly.”

[42] I rendered these present verbs in the future for clarity.

[43] This construction is ἔχω with a direct object and a predicate object (see note 2 above).

[44] ὡς as a comparative particle is usually translated “as.”

[45] Literally, “he.” This unidentified subject is likely the one who has maltreated the recipient of the letter. Isidore predicts calamity or a change in heart for this unidentified person.

[46] See LSJ εἲδω B.1, p. 483 for this idiom.

[47] Literally, “the change.”

[48] The Latin translation has vitium (“sin”).

[49] Literally, “tribe,” “race,” or “kind.”

[50] Or more generally, “way of life” or “conduct.”

[51] This is an aorist participle.

[52] Literally, “you prepared the heart.”

[53] I take the phrase τῶν θείων δογμάτων as modifying τὴν ἀκοὴν (“the report”); thus: “according to the report of godly opinion, you prepared your heart.” The Latin translation also follows this decision: ad divinorum dogmatum auditionem pectus adornabas.

[54] Literally, “lose thought of.”

[55] For “Simon,” see Acts 8:9-24.

[56] See ψεύω A.3; B.II in LSJ, p. 2021.

[57] The intention of Simon, i.e., not his actions.

[58] Here the Greek grammar here is awkward.

[59] Literally, “articles of agreement,” thus, “covenant” or “treaty”; see συνθήκη in LSJ συνθήκη definition II.2 and Lampe definition 4.

[60] Generally, “practice” or “discipline”; more specifically, “asceticism” or “monastic life.” See note 18 above.

[61] Or more generally understood: “conduct,” “behavior,” or “way of life.”

[62] For τίθημι plus and infinitive, see τίθημι B.II.5, p. 1791 in LSJ. Here τίθημι is a verb of thinking and the infinitive acts like a participle.


Back to Isidore of Pelusium’s letters

An email reached me today from a chap volunteering to take on a commission for some Greek and Syriac (and Armenian for that matter, although I have none in mind at the moment).  I’ve written back and asked for some details.  It might be nice to get him to do a few of the letters of Isidore of Pelusium, at least as a starter.

This reminded me that someone translated 14 of Isidore’s letters during the summer, and that — as I dimly remembered — I commissioned some more, as I remarked here.  I wonder if I ever published those 14 letters online?  I certainly meant to!  I paid for them, after all, and the last revision was rather good and rather readable.  I must hunt them out.  Meanwhile I have written to the translator asking what happened with regard to the next chunk. 

There’s no lack of material to commission.  There’s sermons by Chrysostom, such as the two on Christmas.  I think I listed a bunch of Chrysostom material some time back.

There’s also material by Severian of Gabala.  That reminds me that I ought to write to two other people, each of whom was going to do a sermon and neither of whom I have heard from since.  There is such a thing as being too busy, and I suspect I probably qualify!   But it illustrates why reliability is such a virtue in a translator. 

Then there are works by Cyril of Alexandria, such as his Apologeticus ad imperatorem, explaining himself after the Council of Ephesus.  There’s John the Lydian, On the Roman Months (De Mensibus), book 4 of which is intensely interesting.  Andrew Eastbourne translated the section on December for us a while back.  Indeed John’s work might form a nice volume three in the series of translations I am publishing, although I suspect a UV photographic copy of the manuscript might be a necessary precursor.

Who knows?  The email is welcome, and let’s see if we can get something done.


Miscellaneous projects update

I’ve been really unwell this week, so all my projects are on hold.  Fortunately, for most of them, the ball is in someone else’s court.

One project has been abandoned.  The translation of the remains of Polychronius’ commentary on Daniel will not go ahead.  The translator has decided to write an academic article around what he found.  I am entirely in favour of academic publication, and I never had a strong attachment to this one anyway.

The translation of letters of Isidore of Pelusium is proceeding.  I still need to pass the translation of the first 14 letters in front of  a reviewer’s eyes, but this will happen when I feel somewhat better.

There’s a bit of confusion about how to handle one set of fragments of Philip of Side, coming from the Religionsgesprach text, a fictional dialogue set at the court of the Sassanids.  It turns out that more than half of it has been translated.  This raises the question of whether we may as well translate the lot anyway, and then make that available (plus excerpts to complete the Philip text).  I need to do some calculations to work out what that should cost, but I’m not fit to do so just yet.

The British Library Catalogue-in-Progress book block for the Eusebius book arrived today.  Also a note from the Coptic translator that corrections from that source will be delayed. 

Next week I am due to go to the Patristics Conference in Durham.  I’d like to meet potential customers for the book, and also potential translators for future projects.  But of course I need to be fit, which at the moment I’m not.  And after that, I do need to go and find a job that earns money.  Not for the first time, I could wish that I had been born wealthy. 


Letters of Isidore of Pelusium

A translation of the first 14 letters of Isidore of Pelusium came in this morning.  It’s generally looking good, although the people I use to verify this are on holiday!  But I’ve paid the sum agreed anyway — the chap has certainly worked on it seriously — and commissioned letters 15-25 for the same treatment.

The letters of Isidore do need some kind of running commentary on them, to tie the book into a readable whole.  How this might be done I don’t yet know.

I need to find some more translators and commission some more books for publication.  I wonder how IVP found their translators?  I’ll wander around at the patristics conference next week and see if I can make contact that way.


From my diary

Lots of work this afternoon.  The translator writing direct to the typesetter with instructions caused quite a flurry!  But the situation is now under control and I’m back in the middle, vetting and batching up changes.  It’s quite impossible for anyone  to do something like typesetting with two people issuing instructions anyway.

So it meant that this afternoon I had to boil down all the emails and turn them into something sensible.  I ended up using features of Adobe Acrobat which I have not used before.  What I did was right-click in the area I needed to change, and choose “Add sticky”.  This put a postit-like box on the page, which I could position in the margin and add notes in.  I also highlighted text that was changing.

This is a very good way of sending corrections to the original language.

Another thing that came in was a revised translation of the first four letters of Isidore of Pelusium.  I commissioned a sample of these, but it wasn’t very satisfactory.  This version is much better, and the footnotes are good.  The English is still a bit tortured, tho.  I’ve gone through it and marked up queries and so forth in blue.  I think the result might well be do-able, tho.  A couple of sentences had no main clause, tho, which is worrying (and might be a feature of Isidore’s text, which is very abbreviated).

I also had an email from the chap in India who transcribed a bunch of Syriac text for me for the web a while ago.  Apparently he’s on the market again.  I think I’ll get him to do the letter of Mara bar Serapion.  It might be interesting if he could translate some Syriac for me.  But people whose first language is not English tend to have difficulty with this.

Life is pretty busy for me at the moment.  In real life I am trying to get a new job, and the agency I am dealing with are being very difficult to deal with.  I was supposed to start on Monday; after weeks of delay, after sitting here all day twitching, the contract was emailed to me at 5:50 pm!  And when I look at it… it’s not what I was supposed to get.  Indeed it’s horrible in places.  So I’m rather tired and hope everyone will make allowances.