From my diary

I’m trying to push forward a couple of projects.  I’ve written to the translator for the Encomium on St Nicholas of Myra by Andrew of Crete, to see if the sample is available yet.

I have also changed my plans slightly for the translation of Methodius from Old Slavonic.  The lady who was to do the Greek fragments is overcommitted elsewhere, with the result that nothing ever appeared of the Severian translation that I set as a sample.  So I will ask Andrew Eastbourne to handle that side of the work.  Indeed I had always intended to use him in some capacity if I could, because of his vast philological knowledge.

In some ways this simplifies the grant application process, since I now know who I am dealing with.  I can also upload the Methodius De Lepra translation as part of the application, as evidence that I know what I am about.  But I need to replan.  Some kind correspondents have been supplying me with parallels and sources, which may well be useful.

Most of the grant bodies will only give around 50% of a project; so I shall try to find another source of funding for translations.  I suspect, rightly or wrongly, that this is merely bureaucrats trying to cover their own backsides.  After all, if it isn’t just them who gave the grant, then how can they be blamed?  But it is tiresome.  I also realise that I need to understand what the unstated rules of the game are.  So I need to telephone and talk to someone.

It all reminds me why I just pay for translations out of my own pocket.  There seems to be a whole industry that has grown up, merely to get funding.  It is a quite daunting process to the amateur.

I have been adding a few more photos to the Mithras site.  Most of these I encountered on Twitter, and wondered to what they related.  I’ve just seen one of a Vatican tauroctony, photographed by Carole Raddato, that is really quite good.  This is no small praise; the location of the monument in the museum makes photography almost impossible.  I’ve seen it myself, tried to get useful pictures, and failed!


Methodius of Olympus, De Lepra (On Leprosy) – now online in English

The fourth short work by Methodius of Olympus (d.311) is De Lepra, On Leprosy, an explanation of Leviticus 13.  The first English translation of it is now made available.

Unlike the three previous works, some fragments of the original Greek text are preserved in a medieval anthology found in at least 20 manuscripts.  The task of translating both sides has been a long one!  But it is done at last.  The comparison reveals that the Old Slavonic text is an abbreviated version of the original.

Ralph Cleminson translated the Old Slavonic, and Andrew Eastbourne translated the Greek, and drew attention to many issues which will considerably modify how we go about the task of translating the two long works.  Anyway, here are the files:

I’ve also uploaded these to here.

As ever, I make these public domain.  Do whatever you wish with them, personal, educational or commercial. Let them circulate as widely as possible, entire or in part.  That’s the whole idea!

UPDATE 22/9/15: Tweaked for a couple of late thoughts.


The Greek fragments of Methodius translated in the Ante-Nicene Fathers series

Most of the works of Methodius of Olympus (d. 311) are preserved only in Old Slavonic.  His Symposium exists in Greek, and was translated in the mid-19th century, and appears in the Ante-Nicene Fathers series in volume 6.  A modern translation by Musurillo also exists.

Three short works exist in Old Slavonic only; a fourth, De Lepra, also has some Greek fragments.  Two long works extant in Old Slavonic, De resurrectione and De autexusio, likewise have substantial Greek fragments.

As I consider commissioning a translation of these two long works, I have to decide what to do about the Greek fragments.

I had originally intended to commission a translation of these also.  But I am still having difficulty getting a satisfactory version of De lepra together.  Obviously it helps to have someone who knows both Slavonic and Greek to do both sides; but this I do not have.

Instead I have two translators working independently, a process that masks the correspondences between the two versions.  But the Greek is often fuller than the Slavonic; so one can’t just ignore it.

Recently Andrew Eastbourne courteously drew my attention to the fact that the ANF translators also translated the fragments extant in Greek.  This I had either not known, or had forgotten.  I need to see what is there; and this post will document that.

The ANF series is an American pirate edition of the Ante-Nicene Christian Library series commissioned by the Scottish firm of T. & T. Clarke in the 1860’s.  A list of the volumes is here, and so I learn that Methodius was vol. XIV, which is accessible at Google Books here.

Looking at the ANCL volume, I find more information than is included in the ANF.  The translator was Rev. William Clark, M.A., vicar of St Mary Magdalen in Taunton, and he includes a preface to Methodius, seemingly omitted from the ANF (or at least the online OCR of it), which I reproduce here:


METHODIUS, who is also called Eubulius,[1] was first of all bishop simultaneously of Olympus and Patara, in Lycia, as is testified by several ancient writers.[2] He was afterwards removed, according to St Jerome, to the episcopal see of Tyre in Phoenicia, and at the end of the latest of the great persecutions of the Church, about the year 312, he suffered martyrdom at Chalcis in Greece. Some consider that it was at Chalcis in Syria, and that St Jerome’s testimony ought to be thus understood, as Syria was more likely to be the scene of his martyrdom than Greece, as being nearer to his diocese. Others affirm that he suffered under Decius and Valerian; but this is incorrect, since he wrote not only against Origen long after the death of Adamantius, but also against Porphyry, whilst he was alive, in the reign of Diocletian.

Methodius is known chiefly as the antagonist of Origen; although, as has been pointed out, he was himself influenced in no small degree by the method of Origen, as may be seen by his tendency to allegorical interpretations of Holy Scripture. The only complete work of this writer which has come down to us is his Banquet of the Ten Virgins, a dialogue of considerable power and grace, in praise of the virginal life. His antagonism to Origen, however, comes out less in this than in his works On the Resurrection, and On Things Created. The treatise On Free Will is, according to recent critics, of doubtful authorship, although the internal evidence must be said to confirm the ancient testimonies which assign it to Methodius. His writings against Porphyry, with the exception of some slight fragments, are lost, as are also his exegetical writings.

For the larger fragments we are indebted to Epiphanius (Haeres. 64), and Photius (Bibliotheca, 234-37).

Combefis published an edition of his works in 1644; but only so much of the Banquet as was contained in the Bibliotheca of Photius. In 1656 Leo Allatius published for the first time a complete edition of this work at Rome from the Vatican MS.  Combefis in 1672 published an edition founded chiefly upon this; and his work has become the basis of ali subsequent reprints.

The following translation has been made almost entirely from the text of Migne, which is generally accurate, and the arrangement of which has been followed throughout. The edition of Jahn in some places rearranges the more fragmentary works, especially that On the Resurrection; but, although his text was occasionally found useful in amending the old readings, and in improving the punctuation, it was thought better to adhere in general to the text which is best known.

A writer who was pronounced by St Epiphanius[3] to be ανὴρ λόγιος καὶ σφόδρα περὶ τῆς ἀληθείας ἀγωνιστάμενος, and by St Jerome, disertissimus martyr,[4] who elsewhere speaks of him as one who nitidi compositique sermonis libros confecit,[5] cannot be altogether unworthy the attention of the nineteenth century.

1. St Epiph., Haeres. 64, sec. 63.

2. St Hieronymus, De viris illust. c. 83.

3. Epiph. Haer. 64, sec. 63.

4.  Hieron. Comm. in Dan. c. 13.

5. Id. De vir. ill. c. 83. Many more such testimonies will be found collected in the various editions of his works in Greek.

Now this is very useful to me, because it identifies the texts used.  The Migne edition is the Patrologia Graeca volume 18 and the Jahn edition of 1865 is online also.  The PG edition starts with an introduction to Methodius, in Latin, followed by a collection of testimonia.  Both were clearly used by Mr Clark as the source for his own remarks.

The fragments begin on column 239 (p.125 of the PDF above), rather than the 229 of Migne’s table of contents, and it looks as if Mr Clark simply translated from the top.

The first item in sequence is fragments of De libero arbitrio (= De autexusio = On free will), col.239-266, based on three chunks: material from Meursius; Photius codex 236; and then material from Sirmond.  The Meursius and Sirmond material is no doubt from Greek miscellaneous manuscripts.

The ANCL translates exactly this in order on p.120-138.  On p.136 is a significant note, however:

The whole of this work, as preserved, is in a very fragmentary state. We have followed Migne in general, as his edition is most widely known, and but little is gained by adopting Jahn’s, which is somewhat more complete.—Tr.

For the ANCL little may be gained; but for us, we will need those extras; and potentially the modern edition, in the GCS series, will have more again.

Looking at Jahn, I find that the volume has no table of contents, in common with other volumes produced in that period for the convenience of the editor rather than the reader.  De autexusio appears on p.54 f. Variants for De autexusio appear on p.117 (!).  It looks as if Jahn has essentially used the same materials, but run them together.  There might be additional sources used, it’s hard to tell.  In fact Migne is far clearer, in his pre-critical edition, on what he is using and from where, than Jahn is.

De resurrectione appears on Migne col. 266, ANCL p.139, and p.64 of Jahn.

A fragment on Jonah is next, from Combefis (Migne 327, ANCL 174).

Then we have fragments from De creatis, derived from Photius (Migne 331, ANCL 176).

Then extracts from Methodius work against Porphyry, On the Martyrs, and on Simeon and Anna  (Migne, ANCL 183), and then various other fragments and supposed works, most of them omitted by Jahn.

What are we to make of this?

My first impression is, frankly, to revise my project and simply leave the Greek alone.  The only value in translating both Greek and Slavonic together is to indicate the parallels by means of translating the same word in each language in the same English way; and this is the one thing that I can’t do, since I don’t have a translator who knows both.  So what value is there, in translating the Greek again, even if we add a few more fragments?  Why not just translate the Old Slavonic, and leave the Greek?

Much of the material is from Epiphanius Panarion; so not merely do we have the ANCL translation, but we have the new Williams translation of the whole work.  We are spoiled for English translations of this material.

I will have to mull this over, but at the moment I must ask: Is it worth it?  I don’t aim to make something for scholars; I want to make something for ordinary people.  In what way will they benefit?

Much to think about over lunch today!


From my diary

Autumn has arrived very early this year, with its quota of draughts in the office, and consequent colds and chills and air-conditioner wars.  I am rather preoccupied with some work-related nuisance of just this kind, so don’t expect too much from me for a bit.  But things are moving slowly forward anyway.

I’ve been corresponding with Dr Mary B. Cunningham of Nottingham University, who has translated a number of pieces by Andrew of Crete.  I had hoped that she might translate Andrew’s Encomium on St Nicholas of Myra, but sadly she is otherwise engaged.  That is perhaps unsurprising at the start of a new academic year!

However she has given me the name of a gentleman who might be interested and qualified to do it instead.  So I have written this evening to offer a commission to him.  Let’s hope that it works out.  The work is about 11 pages of Anrich, so far from huge (thankfully).

I have also commissioned a translation of another piece by Severian of Gabala: CPG 4201, “In illud: Quomodo scit litteras (John 7:15)”, text in PG 59. 643-652 = Montfaucon; Savile edition, vol. 5, 752-761.  This is rather more meaty.  But I am hoping to use the translator for the Greek side of several works by Methodius of Olympus preserved in Old Slavonic, so I do need to know that she can handle the task.

The application for grant money to translate two large works of Methodius of Olympus from Old Slavonic (and Greek where it exists) is stalled until I have sorted out a Greek translator.  However one query on the form was resolved this week by a query to the grant body.  But I need to revisit the form entirely – my answers are rather waffly at the moment, and not especially focused on answering the specific question.

Methodius “on the Leech” is still on my hard disk, and the subject of some debate between the translators of the Greek and the Slavonic.  I will try to finalise this in a few days, depending on the crud at work.

A prediction of mine, that the availability of online PDFs would lead to libraries selling off their physical books, appears to be coming true.  A correspondent drew my attention to this item. A book dealer in Oxford is advertising a complete set of the printed 19th century Patrologia Latina, all 221 volumes of it (!), for £6,000 (about $9,000).  The source is “an English cathedral library”.  The volumes have apparently hardly been opened; probably the library never allowed clergy to look at them without onerous conditions.  Now … they’ve been sold off.  Clerical libraries have often been knocked down for cash in times of decay, such as our own, to the rage and chagrin of subsequent generations, and it seems those days have come again.

But did they get very much money for it?  Well, I myself once sold a load of patristic books to that bookseller. I can tell you that I got really very little money for them (but I did get the blasted things off the floor).  We may sure that the cathedral got much less than the sum demanded; probably a couple of thousand, if that.  Ten pounds per volume?

But we may wonder who might have the shelf-space for such an item?  And … considering that they are all online, why would anyone buy it?


From my diary

I have just spent four hours on an application for grant funding.  I ache as much as if I had been doing manual labour!  Why is this process so awful?  I did smile, though, at the assurances that the process is not intended to be a barrier to applicants – an assurance contained in a PDF guide to applying which was itself 57 pages long!

The application is for money to translate from Old Slavonic Methodius’ De resurrectione and De autexusio, plus the Greek fragments of each, plus whatever remains of other works in Greek.  The price tag is a lot more than I can afford to spend, and the work does need doing.

After all, nobody is ever likely to translate Methodius into English again.  An academic would need Greek and Old Slavonic, and that isn’t such a common combination.  And, as we all know, the way that research funding is set up, just making a translation is not “research”.  So how does it ever get to happen?

Anyway I thought I’d see if anyone might fund the work.

It’s slightly daunting to realise that the timescale for the project is 18 months of my life!  Ouch!  I just wish I could think of some way to get some money out of it myself.  A good project is one that profits everyone.

I’ve produced a combined version of De Lepra, and I’ve today had back some comments from Ralph Cleminson on the differences between the Old Slavonic and the Greek.  I hope to work on this later today, and I hope to get it out of the door.

I rather grudge the time on that application.  I had so much useful to do, and that time is all gone.  Rats!  And I know that I need to reread that application and make sure it explicitly answers the questions asked, rather than rambling.

It’s probably all time wasted.  But I do have to try.


Thinking about Methodius, De resurrectione and De autexusio

This evening I combined the English translation of the Old Slavonic text of De Lepra with the translation of the Greek fragments of the same work.  The latter were considerably fuller, where I had both, and sometimes with startling differences.  However I hope to have this completed before too long.

This will complete the four short works of Methodius, leaving some Greek fragments, but also two large works: the De resurrectione and the De autexusio (On Free will).  The latter has a French translation by Vaillant.

I’ve worked out the price of translating both, and it is far beyond my means.  If it is to be done, it must be done by a grant.  Fortunately I have such a body in mind, so this evening I have been doing some calculations.

It is relatively straightforward to work out a price for the Old Slavonic of both works, based on the page count of the manuscript.  That said, Vaillant did edit the Old Slavonic text, so in this case we do have an edition to work from.

But working out a price for the Greek is much harder.  It turns out that there is an awful lot of Greek extant for these works.  The total for the Greek is 50% of the total for the Old Slavonic!

A further issue came to my attention when skimming through Vaillant’s preface.  It seems that the Old Slavonic translation is often almost unintelligible.

The reason for this, says Vaillant, is that the translator simply substituted for each Greek word the equivalent term in Old Slavonic, without bothering much about whether the resulting sentence made sense!  In fact he says that often the best thing to do is to reverse the process – to work out what Greek word lies behind each Slavonic word, and then see what the sentence actually originally meant in the Greek!

If we are to take this seriously – and translators are known to exaggerate the difficulty of their achievement sometimes, at the behest of their publishers – then this would mean that only a translator fluent in both Greek and Old Slavonic could make a translation of Methodius.  Only a native English speaker fluent in Greek and Old Slavonic could make an English translation.  Does anyone know of such a prodigy?

But I suspect that this is a tall tale.  Doubtless this may sometimes be the case; but I don’t think that I should abandon the effort of getting a translation made for such a reason.

It is late now, tho, so the application process will have to wait until another day.

One other point caught my eye.  Interestingly Vaillant refers to an unpublished French translation of an Armenian recension of De autexusio.  I wonder where that is now?


Methodius of Olympus, On the Leech – now online in English

The third of the short works by Methodius of Olympus, On the leech (De sanguisuaga) is now available online, thanks once again to Ralph Cleminson who has translated it from Old Slavonic for us all.  It’s an explanation of a couple of passages from the Old Testament.

Here are the files:

I have also uploaded them to here.

As usual, I make these files and their contents public domain.  Use them in any way you like!


From my diary

Work is continuing on Methodius of Olympus.  There has been no progress for just over a week, thanks to a contaminated sandwich purchased at a garage, and then some other trivial but time-consuming difficulties.  It would be nice, sometimes, to be a man of independent means!

However a translation of Methodius “On the Leech” has arrived, and will appear as soon as I can edit it.

The translation of De Lepra was done a little while ago, but we have been waiting for a translation of the Greek fragments of this work.  This has arrived, but I have not been able to look at it yet.

I’m hoping that I shall be able to deal with both soon.

Before I fell ill, I had located a possible source for a grant to translate the two major works of Methodius extant in Old Slavonic.  These are sufficiently lengthy that the price is a little beyond my own purse, but it looks highly likely that a grant may be possible.


Methodius of Olympus, De Cibis – now online in English

Once again Ralph Cleminson has very kindly translated for us a work by Methodius of Olympus out of the Old Slavonic, in which alone it now survives, and made the first-ever English translation!

Dr Cleminson has done if anything a better job here than with the previous text, De Vita.  I’ve also incorporated into the footnotes some of his explanatory material on points that I found obscure, and that I think might be of general interest.

One point of general interest – Dr C. draws attention to a linguistic feature identified as a “Preslavism” – not, as I thought, a pre-Slavism, but rather something associated with the Bulgarian city of Preslav.  It was in Preslav, after the death of SS Cyril and Methodius, that a translation movement came into being in the 9th century, translating material from Greek into Old Slavonic.

The files above may also be found at here.  As usual, I have made this a public domain text: do whatever you like with them!


From my diary

The first draft has arrived of Methodius, De cibis, translated from the Old Slavonic, using manuscript 40 of the Lavra of Holy Trinity-Saint Sergius.  It looks very good, except that the translator has used the Authorised Version as the basis for the bible quotations and allusions.  I’ve suggested that he use the NRSV instead.

The translation is being done by Ralph Cleminson, whose grasp of Old Slavonic is clearly first-rate – he suggests that the translation from Greek into Old Slavonic may have been done in Bulgaria – but of course he doesn’t know my shibboleths, or I his.  However we seem to be getting there.

One thing that I always do, when reviewing a translation – and I always review any text that I commission, no matter who does it – is to make sure that it means something.  This means reading the prose, and trying to follow the thread of the author’s thought.  It is essential for editors to do this, as it often preserves us from errors, not in translating words, but in translating sentences.  We have all seen the unhappy results of a student getting all the words right but paying no attention to what the author was saying!

It is remarkable how much the use of antique expression obstructs the modern English reader from grasping the sense of a text.  This is so, even for a reader such as myself, who habitually reads English literature from past centuries, and is currently reading the Letters of an English Country Parson, James Woodroffe, from ca. 1800.  We all know it; but perhaps we fool ourselves by thinking that the odd “thee” and “thou” is of no importance, and that stilted sentence structure is something we can overcome.  But we deceive ourselves, if we do.

This was brought home to me forcibly yesterday, when I tried to read through the draft.  I had to give up about half-way through, after realising that I had no idea what the author was saying any more!  Now my efforts were not aided by four nights of sleep deprivation and a splitting headache; but, even so, that day I did a good day’s work for someone else, so I should have been able to read a 13-page document.

Fortunately I was more successful today, and I have made various suggestions to improve the readability of the final product, and sent them off.

But we do now have a translation of De cibis.  If the translator were to drop dead, or to refuse to do anything that I have asked for, I could still fix it enough to be usable myself.

One thing that helped me, when I did read the text, was that, as I went, I started to break the text into English paragraphs.  It is remarkable how that helps, compared with just looking at the wall of text preserved in the manuscript.  It is an old journalists’ trick to over-paragraph a text for readability, and it is one that I employed today.  I commend this point to anybody intending to translate Cyril of Alexandria!!

Unlike De vita, the manuscript is divided by headings in red, which do correspond to the content.  Whether these are ancient or medieval, whether these are authorial, or whether they were added by a Greek scribe, or a Slavonic one, I do not know.

There are  two more short works by Methodius in Slavonic, which were translated into Russian by Michael Chub in the 1960’s, and are present in the ms. 40 of the Holy Trinity-Saint Sergius Lavra.  These are On Leprosy and On the Leech.  No trace of De Vita, or De Cibis, exists in Greek.  But this is not true of the next item, De Lepra, where a Greek fragment is preserved.   This is also the case for De resurrectione and it raises the question of what to do in such cases.

Other things being equal the original language must have priority over a version, however good.   But when we have fragments, what we mean by this is that either we have a quotation from the work, preserved in some later writer, or, worse, a catena fragment, from some medieval Greek bible commentary.  In the latter case the compiler usually modifies the opening and closing words, alters the tenses, and abbreviates etc, in order to create a running narrative.  Even a quotation may display some of these features.  So … what do we do?

My thinking at the moment is to translate both.  That is, to give the translation of the Old Slavonic as the main text.  When we get to a passage extant in Greek, give the translation of the Greek but footnote the translation of the Slavonic; or do the reverse if we think the Greek is damaged.

It will be interesting to see how it works out.

The other short work, On the Leech – such charming names, but these works are really quite interesting! – has no such problems.  That leaves us with the next text, a big one: De resurrectione, in two books.  The price of doing that at the same rate-per-word of the short works might be prohibitive, and I might try to negotiate a bulk discount, or find someone willing to do it cheaper.  Also there are substantial Greek remains, mostly from Epiphanius’ Panarion.  We have a translation of that in English already, so that raises other questions.  We’ll see what to do with this when we get there.

In other news, I’m hoping to persuade a gentleman familiar with Cyril of Alexandria’s works to finish off the translation of his Commentary on Isaiah.  This was started by Robert C. Hill, who died after translating the commentary as far as Isaiah 50.  Holy Cross Press published what he had done in 3 volumes, as I have blogged before.  To this end, I have presented him with a copy of the Hill translation.  But of course there is no obligation on him to do so.

I’ve also come across a post on Ancient World Online, directing my attention to a site listing patristic commentaries on Genesis, and referencing a book from 1912 (?) as the source.  I will look further into this next week, if time and tent-making permit.

Back in the winter, I did commission a translation of Theodore of Mopsuestia on Genesis 1-3, whose fragments are preserved in Syriac and published by Sachau.  Unfortunately the translator went silent on me, and I have therefore rerouted the money put aside for this to other purposes.  Never mind.  One day it will happen, if I am spared, and if I find someone with the necessary language skills.