Christophe Guignard on Julius Africanus’ letter about the genealogies in Matthew

I’ve started to read the volume of Christophe Guignard, La lettre de Julius Africanus à Aristide sur la généalogie du Christ, De Gruyters (2011).  It’s full of good things, like a well-baked cake in which every bite includes a nut or a raisin.  I have, so far, merely nibbled at it.  It is, in truth, a formidably expensive volume at $210.

Now I bought  the volume at half price at the Oxford Patristics Conference, after Dr. Guignard came to the stall where I was selling copies of the text and English translation of my Eusebius, Gospel Problems and Solutions (=Gospel Questions).  But thereby hangs a tale.  For I find that I was only just in time.  Today a correspondent writes to say  that he was also at the conference, and had gone out to a leisurely lunch with Dr. G.  My friend rushed back to the De Gruyter stall to buy the book, only to find that “some slyboots” — me! — had made off with the only display copy of the book.  Fortune favours the brave!  But probably De Gruyter will honour conference prices, if asked.

I’m not that interested in the letter of Africanus.  But the process of retrieving its fragments takes us over all sorts of sources for early Christian bible commentaries.  It is, in truth, very interesting indeed and full of nuggets of information.  It’s the polished version of a PhD thesis, which will amaze many who have seen anglophone dissertations.  But it makes most of those look babyish.   Evidently French theses achieve a level simply unknown to UK and American PhD supervisors.  The notes make clear a level of reading and knowledge far beyond my own, and I hope to give you, in translation, some bits of the book which will be of general interest. 

For this evening, I thought that I would give you a bit of the foreword in my own English translation, as I found myself translating it as I read last night.

The present work is a lightly reworked version of my doctoral thesis in protestant theology and Greek and Latin philology, completed at the universities of Strasbourg and Bari under the direction of professors Rémi Gounelle and Luciano Canfora, and submitted at Strasbourg on the 28 September 2009.

After I had started with the religious problem posed by the simultaneous coexistence of pagan and Christian elements within the Africanian corpus in my final thesis for theology studies, Julius Africanus: Réexamen d’une énigme (under the direction of prof. Eric Junod, Lausanne, 2004), I at first considered the project of composing for this author a comprehensive study, both biographical and literary.  Very soon, however, the Letter to Aristides attracted my interest.  Claudio Zamagni, that great scholar of the subject, had already drawn my attention to the presence of new extracts of the text in the Syriac tradition of the Gospel questions of Eusebius of Caesarea.  The attribution of the fragments, in two independent branches of the tradition, which not only had remained unknown to the last editor of the letter, W. Reichardt, but also did not fit into the system, on the basis of which he had constructed his edition, convinced me of the necessity to undertake afresh and extend the study of the tradition of the text.  To my great surprise, this process has allowed me to bring to light an unpublished fragment of the Greek, since I was convinced that all the materials for the Greek text had already been identified.  This discovery significantly altered the direction of my research, since, more than ever, it was necessary to give a fresh edition of the text.  Such is therefore the first aim of this work, but, since the text has never been translated as a whole, I have thought it useful to add to it a French translation, as well as a study, in part on the polemical context within which the letter of Africanus was written, and on the other hand on the argumentation which the author deploys to support his arguments and the origin of the traditions which he invokes.

The introduction continues with Dr. Guignard’s thanks to the various people and institutions who made this study possible.  All of them, in truth, should be proud to be associated with it.   It is truly excellent.  More later.