Two ancient Latin versions of the letter of Arius to Eusebius of Nicomedia

Thanks to a kind correspondent here, I have become aware that the letter of Arius to Eusebius of Nicomedia is preserved in two Latin versions.  These are given in Hans-Georg Opitz, Urkunden zur Geschichte des arianischen Streites (Documents on the history of the Arian dispute), in Athanasius Werke, III, pt. 1, 1934.  He gives an edition of the letter as “Urk. 1” (Doc. 1).  The text can be found at here.

On the first page he lists the two Latin versions, rather gnomically as “Cand. Migne L. 8, 1035.” and “Col. Rev. Ben. 26, 93”.  His needless brevity has cost me an hour of my life, and doubtless others the same, so I thought it worth indicating where these might be found.

“Cand.” is Candidus Arianus, whose letter to Marius Victorinus quotes the letter of Arius.  “Migne L” means the Patrologia Latina, vol. 8, col. 1035, and it may be found online here.

“Col.” is manuscript 54 of the cathedral of Cologne, of the end of the 8th century.  It was published by D. de Bruyne, “Une ancienne version latine inédite d’une lettre d’Arius“, in: Revue Bénédictine 26 (1909) 93-95.  This isn’t online, so I attach it at the end.

The Candidus text in the PL is of course a pre-critical text.  But there is no question as to what it says, on col. 1037: “ante tempora et aeones plenus deus, unigenitus, et immutabilis” – “before ages and ages fully God, only-begotten and immutable”.

The Cologne ms reads:

Here’s the edition of both in Optiz:

Both say plainly “plenus deus”, fully God.

Since the De Bruyne article is out of copyright but inaccessible, I’ve uploaded it here:

My thanks to the correspondent who sent it to me!

Updated July 1 2019 to add the De Bruyne article material.




Arius to Eusebius of Nicomedia: the Son is “fully God”

The Da Vinci Code has spawned a host of people who believe that the First Council of Nicaea voted on whether Jesus was God.  I tend to correct such people by pointing out that Arius himself calls the Son, “fully God”, in his letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia (321 AD).  I usually include a paragraph from the translation of Henry Bettenson, Documents of the Christian Church, 1947, p.55 (online here), as a particularly clear statement of this:

Eusebius, your brother, Bishop of Caesarea, Theodotus, Paulinus, Athanasius, Gregory, Aetius, and all the other bishops of the East, have been condemned for saying that God existed, without beginning, before the Son; except Philogonius, Hellanicus and Macarius, men who are heretics and unlearned in the faith; some of whom say that the Son is an effluence, others a projection, others that he is co-unbegotten.

To these impieties we cannot even listen, even though the heretics threaten us with a thousand deaths. But what we say and think we both have taught and continue to teach; that the Son is not unbegotten, nor part of the unbegotten in any way, nor is he derived from any substance; but that by his own will and counsel he existed before times and ages fully God, only-begotten, unchangeable.

This evening I noticed that not every translation of this letter reads this way.  So I wondered just what the Greek said.

The letter is transmitted to us by Theodoret, Historia Ecclesiastica, book 1, chapter 5 (although in the NPNF version it is mysteriously chapter 4).  The text is edited in the GCS series, and the key passage appears on p.26-27.  In fact the key words are the very first two words on p.27.  And there are no variants!  Here’s the text:

And there it is: πλήρης θεός – pleres theos, fully God.  Pleres indeed can mean complete as well as full, as we see in LSJ.  But the idea is pretty clear.

I did wonder if there was a variant.  After all, everybody knows that Arius did not think that the Son was God in the same way as the Father.  I fully expected to see someone “correct” the text to fix what it said, to  bring it into accordance with the known views of Arius.  But the GCS does not list one.

But Theodoret is not our only source for the letter of Arius.  It is also transmitted by Epiphanius in the Panarion, 69.6.  This also was edited in the GCS series, by Holl.  On p.157 (here) we find the text as follows:

with apparatus:

Here Holl is proposing an emendation.  But the text as transmitted is still πλήρης θεός – pleres theos, fully God.

There are also two ancient Latin versions of the letter of Arius.  The first is by Candidus Arianus, which appears among the works of Marius Victorinus.  The other is found in an 8th century manuscript from Cologne Cathedral.  Both of these say “plenus deus”, “fully God”.  (I have written a separate post on these  here).

The letter was also edited by H.-G. Optiz in the Athanasius Werke III/1, as “Urkunden zur Geschichte des arianischen Streites” (= “Documents for the history of the Arian dispute”) 1934, Urk. 1 (= Doc. 1) accessible online here.  Optiz did something a little odd: he simply inserted Holl’s conjecture into the text:

With apparatus:

This refers to Holl, and to John 1:14

14 Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας· (SBL)

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (ESV)

But there seems no pressing reason to introduce this into the text as transmitted.

The NPNF translator rendered πλήρης θεός as “perfect God”, doubtless thinking of the Latin “perfectus”, completed.

However the translation at the excellent Fourth Century site here is different: it follows Optiz.

(4.) We are not able to listen to these kinds of impieties, even if the heretics threaten us with ten thousand deaths.  But what do we say and think and what have we previously taught and do we presently teach?  — that the Son is not unbegotten, nor a part of an unbegotten entity in any way, nor from anything in existence, but that he is subsisting in will and intention before time and before the ages, full <of grace and truth,> God, the only-begotten, unchangeable.

The translation is in fact that of R. P. C. Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God, 1988, as they make plain.  Hanson page 6:

Which is what Optiz give us.

All the same, we have to work with what Theodoret and Epiphanius and the Latin witnesses record, and what Arius wrote.  The old heretic definitely wrote “fully God”.  What he actually meant by this, of course, was the subject of the Arian disputes.  But he did not believe that the Son was not God.

Note: My sincere thanks to A. von Stockhausen for telling me about Epiphanius and the Optiz text in the comments below, with the very useful links.  I have revised this post to include this very valuable information.


Another Matthew 27:25 reference in Theodoret on the Psalms?

The next reference in the Fathers to Matthew 27:25 – “His blood be upon us and our children” – is to be found in Theodoret.  The Biblindex site gives the reference simply as “Theodoret, Interpretatio in Psalmos. PG 80, 857-1997″ which is notable for the lack of a precise column number.  Oh dear.

Today I started the tedious process of flicking through the pages of a downloaded PDF of the PG80.  It’s more fun than a boy should have, I can tell you.  Only another 500-odd clicks to go.  Whee!

This evening, overcome by nagging doubt, I recalled the existence of an index volume by Cavallera.  Sadly, even on a smartphone, I quickly verified that it wouldn’t tell me where or whether Matt.27:25 was used in the text.

My next thought was whether an English translation existed of the Interpretatio in Psalmos.  And … one does!  A two volume “Commentary on the Psalms” is published by Catholic University of America Press in the Fathers of the Church series.  Furthermore there is a quite generous preview accessible via Google Books, from which I learn (on p.4) that the PG text is indeed the one translated.  This is useful in view of the tendency of ancient commentators on scripture to go round the ground more than once.  The translator writes:

Today’s reader of this work by Theodoret enjoys the advantage of its rich manuscript tradition, direct and in the catenae, while suffering the limitation of lack of a modern critical text. What is to hand is the eighteenth-century edition by J. L. Schulze that appeared a century later in J. P. Migne’s Patrologia Graeca 80.857-1998 with a Latin translation by Antonio Carafa. Study of the Commentary is further complicated by its survival in two forms, long and short, the latter better attested to by more ancient witnesses, yet the long form being cited by the Palestinian catena and thus in existence since the sixth century. Schulze  adopts the short form of the text for his edition, but—without obvious rationale—also incorporates excerpts of the longer form that would puzzle readers did he not acknowledge their inclusion, and that deepen the sense of urgency of need of a critical edition …

It is rather fun, this, chasing down the reference to an ancient text of which I knew nothing before this evening.  The Indiana Jones instinct is alive and well!

But the next stage is to lay hands on this translation.  And this is, of course, not so straightforward.

The FoC series now numbers over 127 volumes.  There is a reasonable possibility that Cambridge University Library will have the volumes in question: and a drive over there will supply me with the reference more easily than paging through 1000 columns of Migne.  Of course I’d rather have a PDF on my own machine, if I could obtain one.  After all, if they sold them at $5 a pop as ebooks, I’d buy just copies and think no more of it.  Maybe even at $10 a pop.

The world is changing, in this regard.  For instance computer manuals such as Spring in Action, sold by Manning, now come bundled with a copy of the eBook version as well.  They enclose a key in the book, and you unseal it and download it.  I have bought a number of their manuals, precisely because I got both (and wanted both).

So what about CUA?  A look at their website shows that they do offer ebooks, and well done them.  The pricing however, is less forward-thinking:

FOC_ebook_priceYour eyes do not deceive you, dear reader.  CUA do indeed want $40 for the paper book, and exactly the same for the ebook. Oh dear.  But as I say, at least the ebook does exist.  Not every publisher has got this far.  So … it’s progress of a sort.

Meanwhile, browsing Theodoret’s preface to the commentary I find an interesting snippet, relevant to my quest for patristic references to Matt.27:25, on p.41, complete with interesting footnote:

In my opinion, it is for a wise man to shun the extreme tendencies of both the former[Jews] and the latter[Christians]: the things that are relevant to stories of the past should be applied to them even today, whereas the prophecies about Christ the Lord, about the Church from the nations, the evangelical lifestyle, and the apostolic preaching should not be applied to anything else, as Jews with their proclivity to malice love to do and contrive a defense for their disbelief.[11]

11. This edge against the Jews can be found in other churchmen in Antioch, of course.

It will be interesting to see whether my survey of the use of Matthew 27:25 bears this last comment out.

Now I was going to leave it there: but these previews are such useful tools, particularly when a publisher is generous and allows a good portion of the book to appear (and, in honesty, you can’t read a book in a preview but you can find it is of use).  I remembered that the previews have a search box on them. So I thought that I’d try a search for “blood”.

And … it worked!  On p.338 and p.340 I found my reference, which is on cols. 1308 and 1312 of Migne’s Patrologia Graeca 80, it seems.  Theodoret is commenting on Psalm 59, which he reads as David foreseeing how the Jews would show their fury against Christ.

You, O Lord God of hosts, God of Israel, take the trouble to survey all the nations (v. 5). Perceiving sinlessness to belong to him alone who came from him in the flesh, and foreseeing in the Spirit the fury directed against him by the Jews who were of the same stock, he begs the Lord of’ hosts and God of Israel to leave the Jews to their own devices and transfer all his providence to the nations, illuminating them with the light of the knowledge of God. Now, in announcing this to the nations, he predicts the Jews’ punishment: Have pity on none of the workers of iniquity. Since with the eyes of inspiration he saw the cross, you see, he seemed also to hear [1308] the Lord of glory saying, “Father, forgive them their sin: they do not know what they are doing.” Loathing the extraordinary degree of their impiety, he prays that they enjoy no pardon.

(6) Then he prophesies the dearth of spiritual nourishment about to affect them. In the evening they will return, they will be as hungry as dogs, and will go around the city (v. 6). Just as dogs are in the habit of prowling around the streets of the cities at night, he is saying, forced to do it by an empty stomach, in like manner these people will be devoid of all spiritual provender; not enjoying the charism of inspiration, they will be completely bereft of high-priestly attention. Like a dog they will continue their meandering, not accorded the right to share even the scraps falling from their master’s table, as the Gospel saying has it.

(7) Then he teaches more clearly the cause of the punishment. Lo, with their own mouth they will speak out, and a sword on their lips, saying, Who has heard? (v. 7). With their tongue they cause slaughter, he is saying, giving forth their words like some dagger and sword, and events bear out their words. They crucified their Lord with their tongue, crying aloud, “Away, away with him, crucify him! His blood be on us and on our children!” They put their words into action with the aid of Pilate’s troops, and nailed the Savior to the gibbet. The inspired word said this, too: With their own mouth they will speak out, and a sword on their lips, saying, Who has heard? Because the words they utter they use in place of swords. Now, they do this, he is saying, as though no one were watching; the phrase saying, Who has heard? indicates this: they are so bold as though no one were watching or listening to what happened or requiring an account. Symmachus brought out this sense, in fact: in place of saying, Who has heard?he put “as though no one were listening.”

(8) Perceiving this attitude of theirs ahead of time, therefore, David adds the words, You, O Lord, will mock them (v. 8): [1309] though they are so bold, in other words, you are listening and watching and mocking their futility. You will set all the nations at naught: it is easy for you to prevail not only over them but over all the nations as well. The divinely inspired Isaiah said this, too, in his efforts to bring out the extraordinary degree of the divine power: “If all the nations were considered to be like a drop in the bucket, like a tilt in the scales and like spittle, and will be so considered, to what did you compare the Lord? By what comparison did you compare him?”

(9) I shall watch for you, my strength, because you are my support, O God (v. 9). I have you as supporter and guardian of my power, he is saying; I continue to enjoy your providence. My God, his mercy will anticipate me (v. 10): you always anticipate my petitions, O Lord, and in an excess of loving-kindness you do not wait for supplication. My God will show it to me among my foes. The inspired author considers his foes to he the same as the Savior’s foes. Then he predicts to them the future: Do not kill them lest they forget your Law (v. 11). I beg you, he is saying, not to let them undergo complete ruin: there are many among them who are being cured by the remedies of repentance. “In death there is no-one to remember you, after all; in Hades who will confess to you?”So what penalty does he intend to exact of them? Scatter them in your power and bring them down, O Lord, my protector. Scatter them throughout the whole world, he is saying, and make them exiles and refugees since they were involved in a wicked conspiracy against you.

(10) Now, what that conspiracy was he informs us: A sin of their mouth, a word of their lips (v. 12). This also concurs with what was said before: above he had said, Lo, with their own mouth they will speak out, and a sword on their lips, and here in turn he accuses them of a sin of the mouth, a word of the lips, teaching us in every case that they will pay [1312] a penalty for that statement which they uttered in concert, undermining Pilate’s just verdict. While he intended, in fact, to release him as an innocent man, they cried aloud, “Away, away with him! Crucify him! His blood be on us and on our children.” Symmachus, on the other hand, rendered this more clearly: instead of, Scatter them in your power, he said, “Drive them out in your power and destroy them, O Lord, our protector, in the sin of their mouths, the word of their lips.” Make them fugitives, he is saying, and turn them from free men into slaves on account of the sin of their mouth and the word of their lips. Likewise in the case of the construction of the tower he dissolved their evil concert in discord, and to the ailment of the damaging harmony he applied the antidote of division of languages.

Which is what we’re looking for.  Thank you CUA and Google Books!

I did look into the preview of volume 2 as well, but there are no references.

As a bonus, I found a footnote referring to Origen’s Commentary on Matthew, not mentioned in Biblindex, but giving a reference to I, 384 (although what that reference is I don’t know).

58. New Testament scholar Raymond F. Brown, The Death of the Messiah, ABRL (New York: Doubleday, 1994) traces this attitude back to the NT and the early Fathers, quoting Origen on Matt 27.25: “Therefore the blood of Jesus came not only on those who existed at that time but also upon all generations of Jews who would follow afterwards till the endtime” (I, 384).

And a search in the Ante-Nicene Fathers produces a result here, although not obviously the same one.  So I have more to do here: and this also casts doubt on the completeness of Biblindex.  Hum.  But what fun!


Theodoret on the Borborites / Phibionites

Epiphanius of Salamis devotes a section of his Panarion to the Borborites or Phibionites, a bunch of libertine gnostics of a pretty disgusting kind.  But few will know that Theodoret also mentions this group, in his Compendium haereticarum fabularum book 1, chapter 13.  The English translation of this is itself little known.[1] Let’s hear what Theodoret has to say.

Chapter 13: Concerning the Barbelioti,[50] that is to say the Borboriani.

The pollution of those called Barbelioti, that is to say, Borboriani, or Naasenes, or Stratiotici,[51] or Phemioniti, sprouted from the seeds of Valentinus. For they set forth a certain Aeon who continues indestructible in virginal spirit, which they call Barbeloth; and Barbeloth asked for Prognosis from him. But after Prognosis came forth, then, asking again, Aphtharsia came forth, then Zoe Aionios. And they say that after Barbeloth was rejoicing, she became pregnant and bore Phos.

They said that Phos, having been anointed by the perfection of the spirit[52] , was called Christ. Again this Christ asked for Nous, and he received (it). And the Father added also Logos. Then Ennoia and Logos, Aphtharsia and Christ, Zoe Aionios and Thelema, Nous and Prognosis were joined in pairs.  Again they said that Autogenes was emanated from Ennoia and Logos, and with him Aletheia, and again there was another pair from Autogenes and Aletheia. And why is it necessary to speak of the other emanations, (namely) those from Phos and Aphtharsia? Because the myth is long, and, in addition to the impiety, it is unpleasant.

And they had put upon them also the Hebrew names, trying to astound those more simple. And they said that Autogenes emanated a perfect and true man, whom they call Adamas. He emanated with him a yoke-mate: Perfect-Knowledge. Hence, again, (they said that) the mother, father and son were manifested. A Tree grew from Anthropos and Gnosis; and this they also called Gnosis.

But they say that the Holy Spirit emanated from the first Angel, whom they term Sophia and Prunicus.  This one, they say, desired a husband, [and] and she begot Work, in which was Ignorance and Arrogance.  And they called this Work Protarchon and they say that he is the maker of creation.

Now [they say that] this one, having coupled with Arrogance, begat Evil and the [various] categories of this. Therefore, these things I have narrated summarily, passing over the immensity of the fiction. So who is thrice-unhappy as to their mystical rites as to wish to utter orally the things that they have performed? For all the things done as divine works by those men transcend every immoral conception and every abominable thought. And to speak the name is sufficient to hint at their all-abominable adventure. For the Borboriani were so called because of this.

50.  See: Irenaeus, Adv. Her. 1.29-30; The Apocryphon of John; and Epiphanius, Pan. 25.2-5; 26.1-19. For further references see: Dizionario Patristico e di Antichita Cristiane, ed. A. di Berardino, Roma 1983, vol. 1, 474-5; W.Foerster, Gnosis: A selection of gnostic texts, tr. R. McWilson, 2 vols., Oxford, 1972-74, pp. 100-120; R. Haardt, Gnosis: Character and Testimony, tr. J.F. Hendry, Brill 1971, pp. 66-69.
51.   Epiphanius,  Pan. 25.2.
52.  Irenaeus, Adv. Her. 1.29.1, states this was done by the Father.

The obvious question is to what extent Theodoret is relying on Epiphanius, and therefore not independent of him.  To evaluate this, we need to see what Epiphanius has to say.

  1. [1]Glenn M. Cope, An analysis of the heresiological method of Theodoret of Cyrus in the ‘Haereticarum Fabularum Compendium’, (Diss.) Catholic University of America, 1990.  The title of the thesis gives no clue that an English translation of all five books is contained therein.

Theodoret on Simeon Stylites

Earlier we looked at the Life of Abraham as presented in Theodoret’s Lives of the Monks, written in 444 AD, and one of our best historical sources for an area generally represented by hagiographical texts.

While reading the volume, in the same excellent translation by R.M. Price, I found myself reading the Life of the famous pillar-saint, Simeon Stylites.  I will give it here, and then we can discuss it.

    *    *    *    *    *    *

1. THE FAMOUS SYMEON, the great wonder of the world, is known of by all the subjects of the Roman empire and has also been heard of by the Persians, the Medes, the Ethiopians; and the rapid spread of his fame as far as the nomadic Scythians has taught his love of labor and his philosophy. I myself, though having all men, so to speak, as witnesses of his contests that beggar description, am afraid that the narrative may seem to posterity to be a myth totally devoid of truth. For the facts surpass human nature, and men are wont to use nature to measure what is said; if anything is said that lies beyond the limits of nature, the account is judged to be false by those uninitiated into divine things. But since earth and sea are full of pious souls educated in divine things and instructed in the grace of the all-holy Spirit, who will not disbelieve what is said but have complete faith in it, I shall make my narration with eagerness and confidence. I shall begin from the point at which he received his call from on high.

2. There is a village lying on the border between our region and Cilicia; they call it Sisa. Originating from this village, he was taught by his parents first to shepherd animals, so that in this respect too he might be comparable to those great men the patriarch Jacob, the chaste Joseph, the lawgiver Moses, the king and prophet David, the prophet Micah and the inspired men of their kind. Once when there was much snow and the sheep were compelled to stay indoors, he took advantage of the respite to go with his parents to the house of God. I heard his sacred tongue recount the following: he told how he heard the Gospel utterance which declares blessed those who weep and mourn, calls wretched those who laugh, terms enviable those who possess a pure soul, and all the other blessings conjoined with them. He then asked one of those present what one should do to obtain each of these. He suggested the solitary life and pointed to that consummate philosophy.

3. Therefore, having received the seeds of the divine word and stored them well in the deep furrows of his soul, he hastened —he said —to a nearby shrine of the holy martyrs. In it he bent his knees and forehead to the ground, and besought the One who wishes to save all men to lead him to the perfect path of piety. After he had spent a long time in this way, a sweet sleep came upon him, and he had the following dream: ‘I seemed,’ he said, ‘to be digging foundations, and then hear someone standing by say that I had to make the trench deeper. After adding to its depth as he told me, I again tried to take a rest; but once more he ordered me to dig and not relax my efforts. After charging me a third and a fourth time to do this, he finally said the depth was sufficient, and told me to build effortlessly from now on, since the effort had abated and the building would be effortless.’ This prediction is confirmed by the event, for the facts surpass nature.

4. Getting up from there, he repaired to the dwelling of some neighboring ascetics. After spending two years with them and falling in love with more perfect virtue, he repaired to that village of Teleda which we mentioned above, where the great and godly men Ammianus and Eusebius had pitched their ascetic wrestling-school. The inspired Symeon, however, did not enter this one, but another which had sprung from it; Eusebonas and Abibion, having enjoyed sufficiently the teaching of the great Eusebius, had built this retreat of philosophy. Having shared throughout life the same convictions and the same habits, and displayed, as it were, one soul in two bodies, they made many love this life as they did. When they departed from life with glory, the wonderful Heliodorus succeeded to the office of superior over the community. He lived for sixty-five years, and spent sixty-two years immured within; for it was after three years of rearing by his parents that he entered this flock, without ever beholding the occurrences of life. He claimed not even to know the shape of pigs or cocks or the other animals of this kind. I too had often the benefit of seeing him; I admired his simplicity of character and was especially amazed at his purity of soul.

5. After coming to him, this all-round contestant in piety spent ten years contending. He had eighty fellow contestants, and outshot all of them; while the others took food every other day, he would last the whole week without nourishment. His superiors bore this ill and constantly quarreled with it, calling the thing lack of discipline; but they did not persuade him by their words, nor could they curb his zeal. I heard the very man who is now superior of this flock recount how on one occasion Symeon took a cord made from palms —it was extremely rough even to touch with the hands — , and girded it round his waist, not wearing it on the outside but making it touch the skin itself. He tied it so tightly as to lacerate in a circle the whole part it went round. When he had continued in this manner for more than ten days and the now severe wound was letting fall drops of blood, someone who saw him asked what was the cause of the blood. When he replied that he had nothing wrong with him, his fellow contestant forcibly inserted his hand, discovered the cause and disclosed it to the superior. Immediately reproaching and exhorting, and inveighing against the cruelty of the thing, he undid the belt, with difficulty, but not even so could he persuade him to give the wound any treatment. Seeing him do other things of the kind as well, they ordered him to depart from this wrestling-school, lest he should be a cause of harm to those with a weaker bodily constitution who might try to emulate what was beyond their powers.

6. He therefore departed, and made his way to the more deserted parts of the mountain. Finding a cistern that was waterless and not too deep, he lowered himself into it, and offered hymnody to God. When five days had passed, the superiors of the wrestling-school had a change of heart, and sent out two men, charging them to look for him and bring him back. So after walking round the mountain, they asked some men tending animals there if they had seen someone of such a complexion and dress. When the shepherds pointed out the cistern, they at once called out several times, and bringing a rope, drew him out with great labor—for ascent is not as easy as descent.

7. After staying with them for a short time, he came to the village of Telanissus, which lies under the hill-top where he now stands; finding a tiny cottage in it, he spent three years as a recluse. In his eagerness to be always increasing his wealth of virtue, he longed to fast forty days without food, like the men of God Moses and Elijah. He urged the wonderful Bassus, who at the time used to make visitations of many villages, as supervisor of the village priests, to leave nothing inside and seal the door with mud. When the other pointed out the difficulty of the thing and urged him not to think suicide a virtue, since it is the first and greatest of crimes, he replied: ‘But you then, father, leave me ten rolls and a jar of water; and if I see my body needs nourishment, I shall partake of them.’ It was done as he bade. The provisions were left, and the door was sealed with mud. At the end of the forty days, Bassus, this wonderful person and man of God, came and removed the mud; on going in through the door he found the complete number of rolls, he found the jar full of water, but Symeon stretched out without breath, unable either to speak or to move. Asking for a sponge to wet and rinse his mouth, he brought him the symbols of the divine mysteries; and so strengthened by these, he raised himself and took a little food—lettuce, chicory and suchlike plants, which he chewed in small pieces and so passed into the stomach.

8. Overwhelmed with admiration, the great Bassus repaired to his own flock, to recount this great miracle; for he had more than two hundred disciples, whom he ordered to possess neither mounts nor mules, nor to accept offerings of money, nor to go outside the gate whether to buy something necessary or see some friend, but to live indoors and receive the food sent by divine grace. This rule his disciples have preserved to this day. They have not, as they become more numerous, transgressed the injunctions that were given them.

9. But I shall return to the great Symeon. From that time till today —twenty-eight years have passed —he spends the forty days without food. Time and practice have allayed most of the effort. For it was his custom during the first days to chant hymns to God standing, then, when because of the fasting his body no longer had the strength to bear the standing, thereafter to perform the divine liturgy seated, and during the final days actually to lie down —for as his strength was gradually exhausted and extinguished he was compellled to lie half-dead. But when he took his stand on the pillar, he was not willing to come down, but contrived his standing posture differently: it was by attaching a beam to the pillar and then tying himself to the beam with cords that he lasted the forty days. Subsequently, enjoying henceforward still more grace from above, he has not needed even this support, but stands throughout the forty days, not taking food but strengthened by zeal and divine grace.

10. After spending three years, as I said, in this cottage, he repaired to that celebrated hill-top, where he ordered a circular enclosure to be made. After procuring an iron chain of twenty cubits, nailing one end to a great rock and fixing the other to his right foot, so that not even if he wished could he go outside these limits, he lived all the time inside, thinking of heaven and compelling himself to contemplate what lies above the heavens—for the iron chain did not hinder the flight of his thought. But when the wonderful Meletius, who had at that time been appointed to supervise the territory of the city of Antioch and was a wise man of brilliant intelligence and gifted with shrewdness, told him that the iron was superfluous, since the will was sufficient to impose on the body the bonds of reasoning, he yielded and accepted the advice with compliance: And bidding a smith be called, he told him to sever the chain. When a piece of leather, which had been tied to his leg to prevent the iron injuring his body, had to be torn apart (for it had been sown together), people saw, they said, more than twenty large bugs lurking in it; and the wonderful Meletius said he had seen this. I myself have mentioned it in order to show from this example as well the endurance of the man: for though he could easily have squeezed the leather with his hand and killed them all, he steadfastly put up with their painful bites, welcoming in small things training for greater contests.

11. As his fame circulated everywhere, everyone hastened to him, not only the people of the neighborhood but also people many days’ journey distant, some bringing the paralysed in body, others requesting health for the sick, others asking to become fathers; and they begged to receive from him what they could not receive from nature. On receiving it and obtaining their requests, they returned with joy; and by proclaiming the benefits they had gained, they sent out many times more, asking for the same things. So with everyone arriving from every side and every road resembling a river, one can behold a sea of men standing together in that place, receiving rivers from every side. Not only do the inhabitants of our part of the world flock together, but also Ishmaelites, Persians, Armenians subject to them, Iberians, Homerites, and men even more distant than these; and there came many inhabitants of the extreme west, Spaniards, Britons, and the Gauls who live between them. Of Italy it is superfluous to speak. It is said that the man became so celebrated in the great city of Rome that at the entrance of all the workshops men have set up small representations of him, to provide thereby some protection and safety for themselves.

12. Since the visitors were beyond counting and they all tried to touch him and reap some blessing from his garments of skins, while he at first thought the excess of honor absurd and later could not abide the wearisomeness of it, he devised the standing on a pillar, ordering the cutting of a pillar first of six cubits, then of twelve, afterwards of twenty-two and now of thirty-six —for he yearns to fly up to heaven and to be separated from this life on earth. I myself do not think that this standing has occurred without the dispensation of God, and because of this I ask fault-finders to curb their tongue and not to let it be carried away at random, but to consider how often the Master has contrived such things for the benefit of the more easygoing. He ordered Isaiah to walk naked and barefoot, Jeremiah to put a loincloth on his waist and by this means address prophecy to the unbelieving, and on another occasion to put a wooden collar on his neck and later an iron one, Hosea to take a harlot to wife and again to love a woman immoral and adulterous, Ezekiel to lie on his right side for forty days and on his left for one hundred and fifty, and again to dig through a wall and slip out in flight, making himself a representation of captivity, and on another occasion to sharpen a sword to a point, shave his head with it, divide the hair into four and assign some for this purpose and some for that — not to list everything. The Ruler of the universe ordered each of these things to be done in order to attract, by the singularity of the spectacle, those who would not heed words and could not bear hearing prophecy, and make them listen to the oracles. For who would not have been astounded at seeing a man of God walking naked? Who would not have wanted to learn the cause of the occurrence? Who would not have asked how the prophet could bear to live with a harlot? Therefore, just as the God of the universe ordered each of these actions out of consideration for the benefit of those inured to ease, so too he has ordained this new and singular sight in order by its strangeness to draw all men to look, and to make the proffered exhortation persuasive to those who come—for the novelty of the sight is a trustworthy pledge of the teaching, and the man who comes to look departs instructed in divine things. Just as those who have obtained kingship over men alter periodically the images on their coins, at one time striking representations of lions, at another of stars and angels, and at another try to make the gold piece more valuable by the strangeness of the type, so the universal Sovereign of all things, by attaching to piety like coin-types these new and various modes of life, stirs to eulogy the tongues not only of those nurtured in the faith but also of those afflicted by lack of faith.

13. Words do not testify that these things have this character, but the facts themselves proclaim it; for the Ishmaelites, who were enslaved in their many tens of thousands to the darkness of impiety, have been illuminated by his standing on the pillar. For this dazzling lamp, as if placed on a lampstand, has sent out rays in all directions, like the sun. It is possible, as I have said, to see Iberians and Armenians and Persians arriving to receive the benefit of divine baptism. The Ishmaelites, arriving in companies, two or three hundred at the same time, sometimes even a thousand, disown with shouts their ancestral imposture; and smashing in front of this great luminary the idols they had venerated and renouncing the orgies of Aphrodite—it was this demon whose worship they had adopted originally —, they receive the benefit of the divine mysteries, accepting laws from this sacred tongue and bidding farewell to their ancestral customs, as they disown the eating of wild asses and camels.

14. I myself was an eyewitness of this, and I have heard them disowning their ancestral impiety and assenting to the teaching of the Gospel. And I once underwent great danger: he told them to come up and receive from me the priestly blessing, saying they would reap the greatest profit therefrom. But they rushed up in a somewhat barbarous manner, and some pulled at me from in front, some from behind, others from the sides, while those further back trod on the others and stretched out their hands, and some pulled at my beard and others grabbed at my clothing. I would have been suffocated by their too ardent approach, if he had not used a shout to disperse them. Such is the benefit that the pillar mocked by lovers of mockery has poured forth; such is the ray of divine knowledge which it has made descend into the minds of barbarians.

15. I know another case of such behavior by these men. One tribe begged the man of God to utter a prayer and blessing for their chieftain; but another tribe that was present objected to this, saying that the blessing ought to be uttered not for him but for their own leader, since the former was extremely unjust while the latter was a stranger to injustice. A long dispute and barbarian quarrel ensued, and finally they went for each other. I myself exhorted them with many words to stay calm, since the man of God had power sufficient to give a blessing to both the one and the other; but these said that that man should not get it, while those tried to deprive the other of it. By threatening them from above and calling them dogs, he with difficulty extinguished the dispute. I have told this out of a wish to display the faith in their understanding; for they would not have raged against each other, if they did not believe the blessing of the inspired man to possess the greatest power.

16. On another occasion I witnessed the occurrence of a celebrated miracle. Someone came in —he too was a tribal chieftain of Saracens — and begged the godly person to assist a man who on the road had become paralysed in the limbs of his body; he said he had undergone the attack at Callinicum — it is a very great fort. When he had been brought right to the center, Symeon bade him disown the impiety of his ancestors. When he gladly consented and performed the order, he asked him if he believed in the Father and the only-begotten Son and the Holy Spirit. When the other professed his faith, he said: ‘Since you believe in these names, stand up!’ When he stood up, he ordered him to carry the tribal chieftain on his shoulders right to his tent, and he was of great bodily size. He at once picked him up and went on his way, while those present stirred their tongues to sing hymns to God.

17. He gave this order in imitation of the Master, who told the paralytic to carry his bed. But let no one call the imitation usurpation, for His is the utterance, ‘He who believes in me will himself do the works that I do, and greater than these will he do’. Of this promise we have seen the fulfilment; for while the Lord’s shadow nowhere performed a miracle, the shadow of the great Peter canceled death, drove out diseases, and put demons to flight. But it is the Master who through His servants performed these miracles too; and now likewise it is by the use of His name that the godly Symeon performs his innumerable miracles.

[18.It happened that another miracle occurred in no way inferior to the preceding. A not undistinguished Ishmaelite, who was one of those who had found faith in the saving name of Christ the Master, made prayer to God with Symeon as the witness, and a promise as well: the promise was to abstain thereafter till death from all animal food. At some time he broke this promise, I know not how, by daring to kill a bird and eat it. But since God chose to bring him to amendment by means of a reproof and to honor His servant who had been the witness of the broken promise, the flesh of the bird was changed in nature to stone, with the result that not even if he wanted to was he now able to eat —for how was it possible, since the body which he had got hold of for eating had been petrified? Astounded by this extraordinary sight, the barbarian repaired to the holy man with great speed, bringing to light his secret sin, proclaiming his transgression to all, asking from God forgiveness for his offence and calling the saint to his aid, that through his all-powerful prayers he might free him from the bonds of sin. Many have been eyewitnesses of this miracle by touching the part of the bird by the breast, which is composed of bone and stone. ]

19. I have been, not only an eyewitness of his miracles, but also a hearer of his predictions of the future. The drought that occurred, the great crop-failure of that year and the simultaneous famine and plague that followed, he foretold two years beforehand, saying that he had seen a rod threatening mankind and indicating the scourging it would cause. On another occasion he revealed beforehand an attack of what is called the grasshopper, and that it would not cause serious harm, for the mercy of God would follow hard on the punishment. When thirty days had passed a countless swarm so swooped down as to intercept the rays of the sun and create shade; and this we all saw distinctly. But it harmed only the fodder of the irrational animals, while causing no injury to the food of human beings. Also to me, when under attack from someone, he disclosed the death of my enemy fifteen days in advance, and from experience I learnt the truth of his prediction. [He also saw on one occasion two rods descend from the sky and fall on the land both east and west. The godly man explained it as a rising of the Persian and Scythian nations against the Roman empire; he declared the vision to those present, and with many tears and unceasing prayers stopped the blows with which the world was threatened. Certainly the Persian nation, when already armed and prepared for attack on the Romans, was through the opposition of divine power driven back from the proposed assault and fully engaged in domestic troubles within.]

20. Although I know very many other occurrences of this kind, I shall omit them, to avoid length in the account —and the preceding are sufficient to show the spiritual perception of his mind. His reputation is also great with the king of the Persians. As the envoys who came to see Symeon related, he wished to inquire carefully about the man’s way of life and the nature of his miracles; and his spouse is said to have asked for oil honored by his blessing and to have received it as a very great gift. All the king’s courtiers, struck by his reputation, and despite hearing from the Magians many calumnies against him, wished to inquire precisely, and on being informed called him a man of God. The rest of the crowd, going up to the muleteers, servants and soldiers, offered them money, begging to receive a share in the blessing attached to the oil.

21. The queen of the Ishmaelites, being sterile and longing for children, first sent some of her highest officials to beg that she become a mother, and then when she obtained her request and gave birth as she had wished, took the prince she had borne and hastened to the godly old man. Since women are not allowed access, she sent the baby to him together with a request to receive blessing from him. ‘Yours,’ she said, ‘is this sheaf; for I brought, with tears, the seed of prayer, but it was you who made the seed a sheaf, drawing down through prayer the rain of divine grace.’ But how long shall I strive to measure the depth of the Atlantic Ocean? For just as the latter cannot be measured by men, so the daily deeds of this man transcend narration.

22. More than all this I myself admire his endurance. Night and day he is standing within view of all; for having removed the doors and demolished a sizeable part of the enclosing wall, he is exposed to all as a new and extraordinary spectacle —now standing for a long time, and now bending down repeatedly and offering worship to God. Many of those standing by count the number of these acts of worship. Once one of those with me counted one thousand two hundred and forty-four of them, before slackening and giving up count. In bending down he always makes his forehead touch his toes —for his stomach’s receiving food once a week, and little of it, enables his back to bend easily.

23. As a result of his standing, it is said that a malignant ulcer has developed in his left foot, and that a great deal of puss oozes from it continually. Nevertheless, none of these afflictions has overcome his philosophy, but he bears them all nobly, both the voluntary and the involuntary, overcoming both the former and the latter by his zeal. He was once obliged to show this wound to someone; I shall recount the cause. Someone arrived from Rabaena, a worthy man, honored with being a deacon of Christ. On reaching the hill-top, he said, Tell me, by the truth that has converted the human race to itself, are you a man or a bodiless being?’ When those present showed annoyance at the question, Symeon told them all to keep silence, and said to him, ‘Why on earth have you posed this question?’ He replied, ‘I hear everyone repeating that you neither eat nor lie down, both of which are proper to men—for no one with a human nature could live without food and sleep.’ At this Symeon ordered a ladder to be placed against the pillar, and told him to ascend and first examine his hands, and then to place his hand inside his cloak of skins and look at not only his feet but also his severe ulcer. After seeing and marveling at the excess of the wound and learning from him that he does take food, he came down from there, and coming to me recounted everything.

24. During the public festivals he displays another form of endurance: after the setting of the sun until it comes again to the eastern horizon, stretching out his hands to heaven he stands all night, neither beguiled by sleep nor overcome by exertion.

25. Despite such labors and the mass of his achievements and the quantity of his miracles, he is as modest in spirit as if he were the last of all men in worth. In addition to his modest spirit, he is extremely approachable, sweet and charming, and makes answer to everyone who addresses him, whether he be artisan, beggar, or peasant. And he has received from the munificent Master the gift also of teaching. Making exhortation two times each day, he floods the ears of his hearers, as he speaks most gracefully and offers the lessons of the divine Spirit, bidding them look up to heaven and take flight, depart from the earth, imagine the expected kingdom, fear the threat of hell, despise earthly things, and await what is to come.

26. He can be seen judging and delivering verdicts that are right and just. These and similar activities he performs after the ninth hour—for the whole night and the day till the ninth hour he spends praying. But after the ninth hour he first offers divine instruction to those present, and then, after receiving each man’s request and working some cures, he resolves the strife of those in dispute. At sunset he begins his converse from then on with God.

27. Although engaged in these activities and performing them all, he does not neglect care of the holy churches — now fighting pagan impiety, now defeating the insolence of the Jews, at other times scattering the bands of the heretics, sometimes sending instructions on these matters to the emperor, sometimes rousing the governors to divine zeal, at others time charging the very shepherds of the churches to take still greater care of their flocks.

28. I have proceeded through all this trying from a drop to indicate the rain, and using my forefinger to give readers of the account a taste of the sweetness of the honey. The facts celebrated by all are many times more numerous than these, but I did not promise to record everything, but to show by a few instances the character of the life of each one. Others, doubtless, will record far more than these; and if he lives on, he will perhaps add greater miracles. I myself desire and beg God that, helped by his own prayers, he may persevere in these good labors, since he is a universal decoration and ornament of piety, and that my own life may be brought into harmony and rightly directed in accordance with the Gospel way of life.

[After a further span of life with many miracles and labors — having alone of men of any time remained unconquered by the flames of the sun, the frosts of winter, the fierce blasts of the winds and the weakness of human nature — since he had henceforth to be with Christ and receive the crowns of his immeasurable contests, he proved by his death, to those who disbelieved it, that he is a man. And he remained even after death unshakable, for while his soul repaired to heaven, his body even so could not bear to fall, but remained upright in the place of his contests, like an unbeaten athlete who strives with no part of his limbs to touch the ground. Thus, even after death does victory remain united to the contestants according to Christ. Certainly cures of diseases of every kind, miracles, and acts of divine power are accomplished even now, just as when he was alive, not only at the tomb of the holy relics but also by the memorial of his heroism and long contending—I mean the great and celebrated pillar of this righteous and much-lauded Symeon —, by whose holy intercession we pray both that we ourselves may be preserved and made firm in the true faith, and that every city and country upon which the name of our Lord Jesus Christ is invoked may enjoy protection, untried by every kind of damage and injury from both the sky and their enemies. To Him be glory for ever and ever.]


Theodoret’s “Life of Abraham” – related to that of “Abramius”?

We have been discussing St. Abramius.  I’m not sure if the Life in the Acta Sanctorum is intended to refer to the same man, but let us read what Theodoret says, in his “History of the Monks”[1] about St. Abraham.  There is no reference to idols in all thus.

It’s worth remembering that Theodoret knew some of these men, and his account is much more prosaic and far less laden with cod-“miracles” (which mostly seem trite) or “prayers” which could hardly have been recorded by anyone present, than later texts.

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1. NOR WOULD IT BE PIOUS to pass over the memory of the wondrous Abraham[1], using as a pretext the fact that after the solitary life he adorned the episcopal chair; for because of this he would with good reason deserve to be remembered surely all the more, in that, when compelled to change his position in life, he did not alter his mode of life, but brought with him the hardships of asceticism, and completed his course of life beset simultaneously with the labors of a monk and the cares of a bishop.

2. This man too was a fruit of the region of Cyrrhus, for it was born and reared there that he gathered the wealth of ascetic virtue. Those who were with him say that he tamed his body with such vigils, standing, and fasting that for a long time he remained without movement, quite unable to walk. Freed of this weakness by divine providence, he resolved to run the risks of piety as the price of divine favor, and repaired to the Lebanon, where, he had heard, a large village was engulfed in the darkness of impiety. Hiding his monastic character under the mask of a trader, he with his companions brought along sacks as if coming to buy nuts — for this was the main produce of the village. Renting a house, for which he paid the owners a small sum in advance, he kept quiet for three or four days. Then, little by little, he began in a soft voice to perform the divine liturgy. When they heard the singing of psalms, the public crier called out to summon everyone together. Men, children, and women assembled; they walled up the doors from outside, and heaping up a great pile of earth poured it down from the roof above. But when they saw them being suffocated and buried, and willing to do or say nothing apart from addressing prayer to God, they ceased from their frenzy, at the suggestion of their elders. Then opening the doors and pulling them out from the mass of earth, they told them to depart immediately.

3. At this very moment, however, collectors arrived to compel them to pay their taxes; some they bound, others they maltreated. But the man of God, oblivious of what had happened to them, and imitating the Master who when nailed to the cross showed concern for those who had done it, begged these collectors to carry out their work leniently. When they demanded guarantors, he voluntarily accepted the call, and promised to pay them a hundred gold pieces in a few days. Those who had performed so terrible a deed were overwhelmed with admiration at the man’s benevolence; begging forgiveness for their outrage, they invited him to become their patron—for the village did not have a master; they themselves were both cultivators and masters.[2] He went to the city (it was Emesa), and finding some of his friends negotiated a loan for the hundred gold pieces; then returning to the village he fulfilled his promise on the appointed day.

4. On observing his zeal, they addressed their invitation to him still more zealously. When he promised his consent if they undertook to build a church, they begged him to start operations at once, and conducted the blessed man round, showing him the more appropriate sites, one recommending this one, another that. Having chosen the best one and laid the foundations, in a short time he put the roof on, and now that the building was ready bade them appoint a priest. When they said they would not choose anyone else and begged to take him as their father and shepherd, he received the grace of the priesthood. After spending three years with them and guiding them well towards the things of God, he got another of his companions appointed in his place and went back to his monastic dwelling.

5. Not to make the narrative long by narrating all he did —after gaining fame among them, he received the see of Carrhae, a city which was steeped in the sottishness of impiety and had given itself up to the frenzy of the demons. But after being honored by his cultivation and receiving the fire of his teaching, it has remained free of its former thorns, and abounds now in the crops of the Spirit, offering to God sheaves of ripe ears.’ The man of God did not perform this cultivation without labor; with innumerable labors and imitating the art of those entrusted with the treatment of bodies —in some cases sweetening by fomentation, in others contracting by astringent medicines, in others again applying surgery and cautery —he effected this sound state of health. His teaching and other attentions found support in the luster of his life. Illuminated by this, they hearkened to what he said and gladly welcomed what he did.

6. All the time of his episcopacy, bread was for him superfluous, water superfluous, a bed useless, and use of fire superfluous.[4] At night he chanted forty psalms antiphonally, doubling the length of the prayers that occur in between; the rest of the night he sat on a chair, allowing a brief rest to his eyelids. That ‘man will not live on bread alone’ had been said by Moses the lawgiver, and the Master recalled this utterance when he rejected the invitation of the devil; but that living without water is among the things possible, we have nowhere been taught in the divine Scripture —even the great Elijah first satisfied this need from the brook, and then on going to the widow of Zarephath first told her to bring him water and then likewise asked for bread. But this wonderful man throughout the time of his episcopacy took neither bread nor pulses nor greens cooked by fire and not even water, which is considered by those reputed clever about these things to be the first of the elements in utility; but it was lettuce, chicory, celery, and all plants of the kind that he made his food and drink, rendering superfluous the skills of baking and cooking. In the fruit-season fruit supplemented his needs. His food he took after the evening liturgy.

7. While wearing down his body with such labors, he was inexhaustible in the services he rendered others. For strangers who came a bed was ready, glistening and select rolls were offered, wine of a fine bouquet, fish and vegetables and all the other things that go with them; he himself at midday sat with the diners, offering to each portions of the fare provided, giving goblets to all and bidding them drink, in imitation of his great namesake — I mean the Patriarch — who served his guests but did not dine with them.

8. Spending the whole day on the lawsuits of those in dispute, some he would persuade to be reconciled with each other, while to those who would not obey his gentle teaching he applied compulsion.[5] No wrongdoer went away victorious over justice through audacity; to the wronged party he always accorded the just man’s portion, making him invincible and stronger than the one who wanted to wrong him. He was like an excellent physician who always prevents the excess of the humors and contrives the equilibrium of the elements.

9. Even the emperor desired to see him, for fame has wings and easily publishes everything, good and bad. He summoned him, and when he arrived embraced him, and considered his rustic goats hair cloak more honorable than his own purple robe. The choir of the empresses clasped his hands and knees; and they made supplication to a man who did not even understand Greek.[6]

10. And so for emperors and all men philosophy is a thing worthy of respect; and when they die its lovers and adherents win still greater renown. This can be learnt from all sorts of examples, but not least from the case of this inspired man. For when he died and the emperor learnt of it, he wanted to bury him in one of the sacred shrines, but realizing that it would be right to restore to the sheep the body of the shepherd, he himself escorted it at the front of the procession, followed by the choir of empresses, all the governors and governed, soldiers and civilians.[7] With the same zeal the city of Antioch received him, and the cities after it, until he reached the great river. Along the bank of the Euphrates there hastened townspeople and foreigners. Everyone both of the country and of the adjoining region pressed forward to enjoy his blessing; many rod-bearers accompanied the bier, to deter through fear of blows those who tried to strip the body of its clothing or who wanted to take pieces therefrom. One could hear some singing psalms, others dirges; one woman with sighs called him patron, another foster-father, another shepherd and teacher; one man in tears named him father, another helper and protector. With such eulogy and lament did they entrust to the tomb this holy and sacred body.

11. I myself, out of admiration at the way he did not alter his mode of life when changing his position in life, and did not as bishop love a relaxed regime but increased his ascetic labors, have listed him in the history of the monks, and have not separated him from the company he loved, in my desire to receive blessing from this source as well.


1. Abraham was an ascetic, originally of Cyrrhus, famous for his missionary work. He was active as far afield as Phoenicia (§2-4), and was finally made bishop of the largely pagan city of Carrhae in Mesopotamia (§5). He died at Constantinople, during a visit to the imperial family (§9-10). This visit is to be dated to the 420s: the reference to ‘empresses’ (§9) implies a terminus post quem of 421, when Theodosius II married Eudocia.

2. Peasants, whether freeholders or tenants, badly needed patrons to protect them against oppression by landowners or officials. This is the theme of Libanius, Oration XLVII, De patrociniis (Loeb Selected Works, II: 500ff). Holy men could be active in this work; cp. XIV.4, and XXVI, note 33 below. They were popular patrons, both because of their influence and because they were disinterested: lay patrons had to be materially rewarded and sometimes reduced their clients to virtual serfs (e.g. Libanius, Or. XXXIX. 10-11). P. Brown, ‘The Rise and Function of the Holy Man’, 115-129, is fundamental for this topic, though he exaggerates the extent to which holy men because involved in this work.

3. But we learn from Procopius, History of the Wars III.13.7 that Carrhae was still largely pagan as late as the sixth century.

4. For ascetic bishops, see I, note 5, above.

5. For episcopal jurisdiction, which took up a great deal of bishops’ time, see A.H.M. Jones, The Later Roman Empire, 480, and P. Brown, Augustine of Hippo, 195-6.

6. The emperor is Theodosius II (408-450), the empresses his sister Pulcheria and wife Eudocia. For Pulcheria’s exceptional piety, and her veneration for holy men and relics, see K. Holum, Theodosian Empresses, 91-146.

7. Evidently, the imperial family would simply have attended the initial ceremony at Constantinople. For this adventus (solemn translation) of relics, cp. the reinterment of the relics of John Chrysostom at Constantinople in 438, attended by Theodosius and Pulcheria (Theodoret, Eccl. Hist. V.36; Holum, 184-5), or the conveying, in a huge procession, of the body of Symeon Stylites from Telanissus to Antioch (Festugiere, Antioche, 369-375). See too, P. Brown, The Cult of the Saints, 98-100.


Theodoret’s Commentary on Romans – online in English

Theodoret’s Commentary on Romans, part 1 and part 2, from the 1839-40 Christian Remembrancer (vols. 21 and 22) is now online.

The translation appeared in installments throughout those two volumes, and the page numbers reset when the new volume came out.  So I have divided it into two web pages.

Many of the notes are by “E.B.”, whom I presume to be E.B. Pusey.  The author of the translation is unknown to me.

The language is fake-Jacobean, as so often in Oxford Movement translations.  I had no heart to translate it into modern English.  I hope it is useful even so.

Regular readers will know that defects in Finereader 11 meant that I had to re-proof this text something like four or five times.  I am, quite honestly, glad to have got rid of the thing.  It has hung on my hands for the best part of two years.


From my diary

One item that has hung around on my PC for ages now is Theodoret’s Commentary on Romans.  A translation actually exists of this obscure item, published by an Oxford Movement person in the 1840’s, in a journal, and then forgotten.  I did scan it in the then-new Finereader 11 back in early 2012; but a bug in the software promptly erased a whole load of formatting.  The original editor had used italics instead of quotes, where bits of the bible were involved, which means there are a lot of them.

I re-added the italics, laboriously, not realising why it had disappeared; and lo! it vanished again.

After trudging through 80 pages, twice, adding italics all over each page, my will to live disappeared and I left it to one side.

But I have got stuck into this again.  This time I add italics to a page, and then copy the page into Word before I do anything else.  Slowly, slowly, I am building up the text.  Another 25 pages to go.  I hope to get it done this week.


Partial translation of Theodoret’s Commentary on Romans online

A correspondent writes:

I have been enjoying Robert C. Hill’s two-volume translation of Theodoret’s commentary on Paul’s epistles.  For comparison of Romans, I found an older translation on Google books in The Christian Remembrancer, Vol XXI, 1839 (sadly, it only covers chapters 1-8). 

The material is to be found on page 34, 93, 158, 231, 291, 349, 407, 480, 608, 671, and 734, according to the index at the front.  It ought to be rescued and added to the Additional Fathers site.

The last item indicates that it continues: but I have not been able to locate the next volume online.


A mysterious reference to Theodoret in the NPNF John Damascene

An email reached me asking:

I was reading John of Damascus in NPNF Series 2, and a comparison was made to Theodoret’s “Epitome of Divine Dogmas.”  I tried searching with Google but gave up.  Do you know of an available English translation?

The reference is to the prologue here, “From the Latin of the Edition of Michael Lequien, as Given in Migne’s Patrology”.  The NPNF says:

After the rules of Christian dealectic and the review of the errors of ancient heresies comes at last the book “Concerning the Orthodox Faith.” In this book, John of Damascus retains the same order as was adopted by Theodoret in his “Epitome of Divine Dogmas,” but takes a different method.

Looking in Quasten’s Patrology reveals no such work by Theodoret; in Migne, vols. 80-84, nothing either.  Le Quien’s preface to John Damascene is PG94, columns 66-97.  But I could find no such sentence in it.

But my correspondent was luckier, and found a reference in a Word document at the Documenta Catholica Omnia site accessible from here.  In the Life and Writings, which takes a while to download.  It contains the following:

(ii.) The Haereticarum Fabularum Compendium, was composed at the request of Sporacius, one of the representatives of Martian at Chalcedon, and is, as its title indicates, an account of past or present heresies. It is divided into five. Books, which treat of the following heretics.

I. Simon Magus, Menander, Saturnilus, (1) Basilides, Isidorus, Carpocrates, Epiphanes, Prodicus, Valentinus, Secundus, Marcus the Wizard, the Ascodruti, (2) the Colorbasii, the Barbelioti, (3) the Ophites, the Cainites, the Antitacti, the Perati, Monoimus, Hermogenes, Tatianus, Severus, Bardesanes, Harmoniu Florinus, Cerdo, Marcion, Apelles, Potitus, Prepo, and Manes.

II. The Ebionites, the Nazarenes, Cerinthus, Artemon, Theodotus, the Melchisedeciani, the Elkesites, Paul of Samosata, Sabellius, MarcelIus, Photinus.

III. The Nicolaitans, the Montanists, Noetus of Smyrna, the Tessarescdecatites (i.e. Quartodecimani) Novatus, Nepos.

IV. Arius, Eudoxius, Etmomius, Aetius, the Psathyriani, the Macedoniani, the Donatists, the Meletians, Appollinarius, the Audiani, the Messaliani, Nestorius, Eutyches. V. The last book is an “Epitome of the Divine Decrees.” 

So it is, in fact, part of the Compendium of the Fables of the Heretics.  My correspondent added:

…there was enough to cross-reference at Source Chrétiennes where I found this:

Résumé des fables hérétiques (Haereticarum fabularum compendium);  CPG 6223.  420 – env. 460.  PG 83, 336-556.

Still nothing in English though.

The work ought to exist in English but I don’t believe it does.  Nor does it appear in the French Sources Chretiennes series.  The work is apparently derivative of earlier works, which probably explains the neglect by scholars.