Origen: Homilies on Ezekiel translation underway

The project to translate the homilies of Origen and put them online is underway.  A scholar wrote to me over the weekend about this, and I have commissioned him to translate all of the Homilies on Ezekiel, which have never received an English translation at all.  The Homilies on Numbers have never been translated into English either, but these are three times as long, and I only have the last volume of the SC edition.

The first 5 pages of the first homily have already been done as a sample, and been approved.  We’re using the Sources Chrétiennes text as a basis (itself a reprint of the GCS text).

He also sent me a digest of what translations of the homilies already exist, which is very useful and I reproduce here.  Any additions and corrections would be welcome!

One of the Numbers homilies is included in the “Classics of Western Spirituality” volume of Origen, and there is a compilation by Tollinton – Selections from the Commentaries and Homilies of Origen (SPCK, 1929); I’m not sure what it has in it.

Genesis and Exodus (R. E. Heine – FotC, 1982)
Leviticus 1-16 (G. W. Barkley – FotC, 1990)
Joshua (B. J. Bruce, C. White – FotC, 2002)
Judges (E. D. Lauro – FotC, 2009)
Song of Songs (R. P. Lawson – ACW, 1988 / 1978)
Jeremiah + 1 Kings 28 (J. C. Smith – FotC, 1998)
Luke (J. T. Lienhard – FotC, 1996)

Selections from the Commentaries and Homilies… (R. B. Tollinton, 1929)

Genesis (L. Doutreleau – SC, 1976)
Exodus (H. de Lubac – SC, 1947)
Leviticus (M. Borret – SC, 1981)
Numbers (vol. 1:  Doutreleau [et al.] – SC, 1996; vol. 2:  Doutreleau – SC, 1999; vol. 3:  Doutreleau – SC, 2001)
Joshua (A. Jaubert – SC, 2000; Jaubert – SC, 1960)
Judges (SC, 1993)
Samuel (SC, 1986)
Psalms 36-38 (SC, 1995)
Song of Songs (O. Rousseau – SC, 1966)
Jeremiah (SC, 1976-77)
Ezekiel (M. Borret – SC, 1989)
Luke (SC, 1962)

Genesis and Exodus (G. Gentili, 1976)
Exodus (M. I. Danieli, 1981)
Psalms (74 Homilies on…:  1993)
Psalms 36-38 (E. Prinzivalli, 1991)
Song of Songs (M. Simonetti, 1998)
Isaiah (M. I. Danieli, 1996)

Exodus (1992)

Jeremiah [the ones preserved in Gk] (E. Schadel, 1980)
Jeremiah [10 homilies] (E. Klostermann, 1903)
Luke (H. J. Sieben, 1991-2)

More on the Homilies of Origen

Comments on my post asking how to get an English translation of the Homilies of Origen were enthusiastic.  So I think we will conduct a little experiment with this one, and see if we can get somewhere. 

Today I have written to an academic/publishing person I know, and asked if they can find us a translator.  They have the contacts, and I am reasonably optimistic.  I’ve suggested a price of 3-4 p (UK = about 5-7 cents US) per word of Latin — because English and French translations already exist as a guide, reducing the labour — but negotiable (well, you have to be realistic).  I’d specify a condition that the first bit is done as a sample, and nothing is owed unless the sample is satisfactory.

I have also suggested no-one is committed beyond one homily at a time, neither the translator nor ourselves.  That reduces the size of financial risk and commitment down to something trivial.  We can always stop at any point, in other words; homilies we translate are an advance on nothing; those we don’t get to, well, we’re no worse off than now.  Of course I hope to do the lot!

Money comes from me in the first instance.  A couple of commenters stated their willingness to donate — much appreciated.  What I suggest is that we donate for a homily, and get our name on the bottom as “translation made possible by a grant from xxx” (or whatever wording you like).  A condition of the project is that everything becomes public domain. 

That’s all the project mechanics that I can think of; now, where to start?

I suggest the homilies on Genesis, unless anyone has a better idea? 

There are 16 homilies on Genesis.  A French edition in the Sources Chretiennes series exists, critical text and translation.  (And I have a copy!) 

Some numbers: the first homily, on creation, is 52 pages (i.e. 26 pages of Latin), about 8 words a line, 30 lines a page, i.e. 240 words a page, = 6,240 words, or about $400.  That’s a  big price, for a big homily; indeed the biggest of those on Genesis, which don’t otherwise run to more than around 20-30 pages (i.e. 10-15 pages of Latin, or about $200 each).  But I can stand that, as the price of the experiment.

Let’s see whether we can get a translator.

What to do about offline Origen?

The homilies of Origen are all offline.  This is because the 19th century translators of the Ante-Nicene Christian Library (repackaged as the Ante-Nicene Fathers later) were selling their translations by subscription, and couldn’t get enough subscribers to translate these works.  Of 574 homilies, only 186 have survived, mostly in Latin translations by either Rufinus or Jerome.

Quite a few have been translated in various series during the 20th century.  But under our accursed copyright laws, these remain offline and inaccessible to ordinary mortals.

From time to time, I wonder what to do about this.  What can be done, I wonder?

I suppose that I could commission someone to make a translation.  But this would be costly, and also wasteful.  I hate the idea of spending my hard-earned to produce a translation of Origen’s homilies, when so many ancient texts remain untranslated.

I’ve toyed with the idea of getting someone who knows Latin to take a modern critical edition of the Latin text, and whatever translations exist in English, and produce a copyright-free version that way.  It’s always quicker and easier to translate something when someone else has done the heavy lifting and produced a first version.  I wouldn’t care whether the result was of publishable quality, so long as it was fairly true to the original.  But… who would I ask?  I could make such a thing myself fairly easily if laboriously, if I had time, but I don’t.

If I were a billionaire, of course, I would just buy the companies that own the existing versions, give the texts away, and then sell on the companies.  But I am not.

Are there any other alternatives?  It is deeply frustrating.  What can be done?