Every so often I come across a splendid piece of scholarly work; work that makes me want to stand up, and cheer, and shout “look at this!!!”. I’m thinking of work that could only be done by a professional scholar of great skill, great linguistic ability, and massive determination.
Such an experience came my way today with an 2020 article by Alexey A. Morozov, in Russian, who is preparing to edit for the first time the De Resurrectione of Methodius of Olympus, composed in three books and attacking some of the dafter ideas of Origen. This work is probably the largest ante-Nicene text still unpublished. Dr Morozov is based at the university of Fribourg in Switzerland, from where some very excellent philological work has emerged in recent years.
The article citation is:
Морозов А. А. Диалог Мефодия Олимпийского «О воскресении» (CPG 1812) и методология критического издания славянских текстов // Библия и христианская древность. 2020. № 3 (7). С. 80–125. DOI: 10.31802/BCA.2020.7.3.003
Morozov, Alexey A. “Dialogue of Methodius of Olympus ‘On the Resurrection’ (CPG 1812) and the Methodology of Critical Edition of the Slavonic Texts”. Bible and Christian Antiquity, № 3 (7), 2020, pp. 80–125 (in Russian). DOI: 10.31802/BCA.2020.7.3.003
The original Russian can be downloaded in PDF from here. I’m sure everyone realises that I had to pass it through Google translate in order to read it. To save others having to do the same, I have pasted the raw output into a Word .docx file, which is here.
Only fragments of the original Greek text of De Resurrectione still exist. But the complete text is preserved in Old Slavonic (or “Old Slavic” as our American friends seem to want to call it). This, like most Old Slavonic texts, has never been published. In fact, before the fall of the Soviet Union, it was simply impossible to access the manuscripts anyway. A complete Italian translation exists, but this was made directly from a random manuscript. This is a hard area in which to work.
The article itself is an example of hard, painstaking, grinding labour. It is the product of assembling copies of all the manuscripts in every archive in Eastern Europe – nineteen -, and collating the lot in order to produce a stemma. It must have taken him ages. Just locating manuscripts alone involved wading through bad catalogues. Most people in the past just wimped out and worked from whatever manuscript they were able to locate, just as people did back with classical texts at the renaissance. There was nothing else you could do. So in one article he has opened up the whole field. Nobody will ever thank him, I fear. But this paper will form the basis for all subsequent work on the Old Slavonic text of Methodius. It is simply excellent stuff.
Likewise he sits down and addresses the fundamental question: how should Old Slavonic texts be published? He reviews past work, and produces a list of bullet points with the principles to be followed. This is fundamental stuff, and ought to be very influential.
There is more. Reward comes to the selfless scholar who buries himself in such a dry task. Dr Morozov’s reward is to make discoveries. First he has found some substantial portions of the text which are missing from most manuscripts of the text. Even better, he has discovered a fragments of a lost work of Methodius, mentioned by Jerome but lost since antiquity! He gives a diplomatic transcription of the short section of De Pythonissa, which I think was headed “On the demise of magic” in his manuscript. Sadly he does not give a translation, and not even Google Translate can handle Old Slavonic. He has also discovered an Old Slavonic translation of the Symposium of Methodius, the only work preserved in Greek, but not previously known in Old Slavonic. This is likely to clarify the text in some particulars.
Dr Morozov’s findings run to 40 pages. They promise very well for his forthcoming edition of the work. I hope that it will be accompanied by a translation in French.
Magical stuff in a neglected field! More please!