A few months of interesting links

For some months I’ve been collecting bits and pieces.  Mostly I have nothing much to add, but they shouldn’t be lost.

Cool 9th century manuscript online as PDF

Via Rick Brannan I learn that a downloadable PDF of the Greek-Latin St Gall 9th century manuscript of Paul’s letters is online and can be downloaded as a single PDF:

Note the link on this page where you can download a PDF of what appears to be the entire Codex Boernerianus. It is beautiful.

And so you can.  It’s at the SLUB in Dresden here, where it has the shelfmark A.145.b.  It also contains Sedulius Scottus, I gather.

Nice to see the interlinear, isn’t it?

Codex Trecensis of Tertullian online

A correspondent advised me that the Codex Trecensis of the works of Tertullian has appeared online in scanned microfilm form at the IRHT.  Rubbish quality, but far better than nothing.  The ms is here.  De Resurrectione Carnis begins on 157r and ends on 194r.  De Baptismo begins on folio 194r and ends on 200v.  De Paenitentia begins on folio 200v.

Saints lives = Christian novels?

A review at BMCR by Elisabeth Schiffer of Stratis Papaioannou, Christian Novels from the ‘Menologion’ of Symeon Metaphrastes. Dumbarton Oaks medieval library, 45. Harvard University Press, 2017, caught my eye.   This contains 6 lives from Metaphrastes collection.

Even though hagiographical texts are among the most frequently translated Byzantine sources, little effort has been made so far to translate parts of Symeon Metaphrastes’ Menologion. This is primarily due to the generally unfortunate editorial situation of these texts: They are transmitted relatively standardized, but in a vast number of liturgical manuscripts.

In addition to summarizing the status of research on Symeon’s rewriting enterprise, Papaioannou explains in his introduction why he calls the texts in focus “Christian novels.” It is not unproblematic to apply this modern term, as he himself states, but he decided to do so because of the fictionality of these narratives and because of their resemblances to the late antique Greek novel. When saying this, it is important to emphasize—as Papaioannou explicitly does—that these texts of novelistic character were not understood as such by their audience. On the contrary, the Byzantines regarded these texts as relating true stories, written for edification and liturgical purposes (see pp. xiv-xviii).

It’s an interesting review of a neglected area of scholarship where the tools for research – editions and translations – are not available.

Full-text of the Greek Sibylline Oracles online for free

Annette Y Reed broke the story on Twitter: it’s J. Geffcken, Die Oracula Sibyllina, Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1902, which has turned up at Archive.org here.   A useful transcription, rather than the original book, is also online here.

All known mss in the Bodleian library – detailed in online catalogue

Ben Albritton on Twitter shares:

This is awesome – “This catalogue provides descriptions of all known Western medieval manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, and of medieval manuscripts in selected Oxford colleges (currently Christ Church).” Sharing ICYMI too.

It also has direct links to the for Greek mss!

Where did the Byzantine text of the New Testament come from?

Peter Gurry at the ETC blog asks the question, and suggests that Westcott and Hort are no longer the authorities to consult.

How to respond to politically motivated persecution

Since the election of President Trump I have noted on Twitter a new form of anti-Christian posting.  There has been an endless stream of anti-Christian jeering online, demanding “how dare you support Trump”?  It is surreal to see how people who hate Christians suddenly have become expert theologians on what Jesus would do.  Thankfully a certain Kurt Schlichter writes *Sigh* No, Being A Christian Does Not Require You Meekly Submit To Leftist Tyranny:

Everyone seems to want to tell Christians that they are obligated to give in. There’s always some IPA-loving hipster who writes video game reviews when he’s not sobbing alone in the dark because no one loves him tweeting “Oh, that’s real Christian!” whenever a conservative fights back. I know that when I need theological clarification, I seek out the militant atheist who thinks Christ was a socialist and believes that the Golden Rule is that Christians are never allowed to never offend anyone.

It’s a good article, and sadly necessary in these horribly politicised times.  It’s worth remembering that, were times different, rightists would most certainly adopt the same lofty lecturing tone.

A quote for pastors from St Augustine

Timothy P. Jones posted on twitter:

“If I fail to show concern for the sheep that strays, the sheep who are strong will think it’s nothing but a joke to stray and to become lost. I do desire outward gains–but I’m more concerned with inward losses” (Augustine of Hippo).

Queried as to the source, he wrote:

It’s from Sermon 46 by Augustine–the entire message is an outstanding exposition of what it means to be a shepherd of God’s people…. I translated the above from thisHere’s a good English translation as well.

Artificial Intelligence in the Vatican Archives

I knew it.  It’s alive!!!

Well, not quite.  This is a piece in the Atlantic, Artificial Intelligence Is Cracking Open the Vatican’s Secret Archives: A new project untangles the handwritten texts in one of the world’s largest historical collections:

That said, the VSA [Vatican Secret Archives] isn’t much use to modern scholars, because it’s so inaccessible. Of those 53 miles, just a few millimeters’ worth of pages have been scanned and made available online. Even fewer pages have been transcribed into computer text and made searchable. If you want to peruse anything else, you have to apply for special access, schlep all the way to Rome, and go through every page by hand.

But a new project could change all that. Known as In Codice Ratio, it uses a combination of artificial intelligence and optical-character-recognition (OCR) software to scour these neglected texts and make their transcripts available for the very first time.

They’ve found a way around the limitations of OCR by using stroke recognition instead of letter recognition.  They open-sourced the manpower by getting students (who didn’t know Latin) to input sample data, and started getting results.

All early days, but … just imagine if we could really read the contents of our archives!

Kazakhstan abandons Cyrillic for Latin-based alphabet

Via SlashDot I read:

The Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan is changing its alphabet from Cyrillic script to the Latin-based style favored by the West. The change, announced on a blustery Tuesday morning in mid-February, was small but significant — and it elicited a big response. The government signed off on a new alphabet, based on a Latin script instead of Kazakhstan’s current use of Cyrillic, in October. But it has faced vocal criticism from the population — a rare occurrence in this nominally democratic country ruled by Nazarbayev’s iron fist for almost three decades. In this first version of the new alphabet, apostrophes were used to depict sounds specific to the Kazakh tongue, prompting critics to call it “ugly.” The second variation, which Kaipiyev liked better, makes use of acute accents above the extra letters. So, for example, the Republic of Kazakhstan, which would in the first version have been Qazaqstan Respy’bli’kasy, is now Qazaqstan Respyblikasy, removing the apostrophes.

The article at SlashDot instinctively opposed a change, which can only benefit every single Kazakhstani, by making a world of literature accessible.  Ataturk did the same, and for the same reason.

Tell Google that a book is in the public domain

Sometimes Google misclassifies books.  But there is a way to tell it that actually the book is public domain.  The Google link is here.  From It’s surprisingly easy to make government records public on Google Books:

While working on a recent story about hate speech spread by telephone in the ’60s and ’70s, I came across an interesting book that had been digitized by Google Books. Unfortunately, while it was a transcript of a Congressional hearing, and therefore should be in the public domain and not subject to copyright, it wasn’t fully accessible through Google’s archive….

But, as it turns out, Google provides a form where anyone can ask that a book scanned as part of Google Books be reviewed to determine if it’s in the public domain. And, despite internet companies sometimes earning a mediocre-at-best reputation for responding to user inquiries about free services, I’m happy to report that Google let me know within a week after filling out the form that the book would now be available for reading and download.

What does it mean to speak of an authorial/original/initial form of a Scriptural writing when faced with tremendous complexity in the actual data itself?

Back at ETC blog, Peter Gurry discusses this with Greg Lanier here.

Some of the difficulty, one senses, is because the interaction of the divine with an imperfect world is always inherently beyond our ability to understand.  It requires revelation, which is not supplied in this case.

And with that, I think I’ve dealt with a bunch of interesting stories which didn’t deserve a separate post.  Onward!


From my diary

‘Twas Christmas Eve in the workhouse …  and I’m still busy even as late as this.

I’ve been reading John Carey’s “Down with dons” (PDF) with great enjoyment this evening.  Written in 1975, it accurately predicts many of the disasters of the coming decades.  I love the way that it depicts the Oxford University establishment.  Indeed I shall think of his words every time I get a copy of the dismal university magazine, “Oxford Today”, replete as it is with self-satisfaction and infantile “rebelliousness” from some of the most establishment people in the land.  I need to remember to write to him and thank him for making the article available online.

I’ve also been taking a look at Metaphrastes’ (10th c.) Life of Nicholas of Myra — our Santa! — in the Patrologia Graeca edition, PG 116, 317-356.  This prints the Latin text of Surius against a Greek text from a manuscript.  The Latin is rather harder than the stuff I’ve been translating lately, and I don’t feel like straining my brains on Christmas Eve.  It opens with prologue, and, after a paragraph or two about our Nicholas’ upbringing, moves straight into the story of how he provided dowries for three girls otherwise to be forced into prostitution.  This fills quite a number of chapters.  Somewhat later Nicholas goes to the Holy Land; and then to the Council of Nicaea, where he opposes Arianism.  I didn’t see any mention of him thumping Arius, however, and the account is only a single chapter.  I found myself wondering … why has nobody translated this into English?

One of the sources for Santa suggested that a lot was borrowed from the 6th century Nicholas of Sion.  This Nicholas is mentioned as a contemporary of Nicholas of Myra in Metaphrastes’ Life, I note.  I went to look for the English translation of this.  Then I swallowed hard; the price was eye-watering!  Maybe not yet.

Today Amazon decided suddenly that I had earned a gift card.  It was only a few dollars, and only usable at Amazon.com, rather than Amazon.co.uk which I must presently prefer.  I found that I had a previous gift card also sitting there, unused.  A letter from the library informed me that Berger’s English translation of the Patria – medieval accounts – of Constantinople could not be borrowed by inter-library loan, as it was only published in November this year.  I decided, therefore, to use the Amazon.com funds and buy it, and have it shipped to the UK.  Doubtless it will arrive sometime next year, if the seas remain calm.  No rush.

On the Mithras site, I had my first troll today.  A munchkin turned up, informing me that Mithras had pre-Roman roots.  He didn’t justify his statement of course, but it was enough to cause me to add a couple of sections to the FAQ, and politely inform him otherwise.  His response was to down-vote my reply – imprudent of him – and to post a link to a strange and very ignorant web-page, at Counter-Punch.org, here, entitled “Happy Birthday Mithras!”.  He also posted a two-word insult on another page, and earned his blacklisting on Discus in one easy click of the mouse.

The “Counter-punch” page is full of crude mistakes of fact, yet professes to be written by a certain Gary Leupp, “Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion.”  But it reads like the production of a student.  I feel an obligation to the reputation of the academy, and so I have drafted an email to Dr Leupp, whom I find does exist, if not with that role, querying whether he has been the victim of identity theft.  It’s not an easy email to draft, of course; for all I know he may really be the author, six years ago!  Not so easy to tell someone that their academic reputation is endorsing a bunch of obscurantist nonsense.  Anyway I have tried.

On twitter I have been following the misadventures of Dr Sophia Hay, who has been attempting to travel from Rome to London for the last two days, and hasn’t slept in that time.  The flight was diverted last night to Amsterdam, and when she finally arrived at Gatwick airport, the British authorities had conveniently decided not to run any trains or buses from the airport into London, thereby stranding all the passengers in the wilds of Surrey.  Doubtless the richly rewarded officials are safe at home, and the job they are paid to do can go hang.  “If it feels good, do it” was the slogan of the current generation, and the inevitable selfishness and indifference to others riddles British society.  So it will be a profitable night for the taxi firms; but hardly a stress-free one for driver or passengers.

It’s Christmas Eve.  I want to translate some more of Severus of Antioch.  Maybe I will.  But maybe there is something on the television.  Although this is less likely, it must be said.

Yesterday British Telecom did a repair to one of my telephone sockets.  For reasons best known to himself, he also interfered with the main socket through which my broadband runs.  It has been falling out every quarter of an hour since.

Maybe I will hit “post” now, while I am ahead.

It’s Christmas Eve.  Let us think of those less fortunate than ourselves.  The permissive society has left an awful lot of people sitting alone at home tonight.  Some will be sitting there with a bottle, holding back the loneliness.  Shortage of money is rife in many households too.  These may be divorced, whose loneliness has been contrived by successive pieces of “progressive” legislation, or just the unwed, of whom there seem to be a very large number.

Bookish folks like us can’t do much for these people.  But Christian folk can pray for any known to us.  If you know someone like that, pray for them now.  Pray against the isolation, that they may feel something of the spirit of Christmas; of the Light of the World.

If anyone is reading this, in this situation, here’s a thought.  Maybe a local church is running a midnight service?  It will probably be on Google, if it is.  Maybe it might be fun to go there and get a mince-pie afterwards, even if they don’t know anyone?

Enough.  I feel a definite need to swig a diet coke and watch the news for a bit.  Maybe I’ll be back later!