Beauty in the Christian Life according to St Ephraim the Syrian
Issue №37, pp. 12–24
The article examines the concept of beauty in Christian anthropology using the writings of Ephrem the Syrian. The interpretation of the biblical verse about the creation of man in God’s image is analysed using the hymns of a fourth-century Syriac poet as an example. Metaphors are revealed, with the help of which Ephrem develops the idea of the original beauty of man in Paradise, the fall into sin and the loss of beauty by Adam and Eve. The beauty of the image of God in man has been obscured by sin, and human effort and ascesis are needed to restore it. In doing so, God retains the gift of free will and does not resort to coercion. The creation and fall of man, the incarnation of Christ, and man’s return to God through baptism are described by Ephrem using the metaphors of the garment and mirror. The image of a clean and unclouded mirror is revealed in Christ. One who has been baptized must constantly purify his inner eye in order to imitate Christ in this purity. The images of being clothed in the “garments of glory”, the purification of the mirror and the return to original beauty help not only to reveal the specificity of the concepts inherent in early Syriac Christian literature, but also to shed light on the possible understanding of F. M. Dostoevsky’s words “beauty will save the world”.
Keywords: Christian anthropology, the image of God, early Syriac literature, Ephrem the Syrian, the Fall, beauty.
From the History of Translations of the “Chapters on Love” by St Maximus the Confessor into Church Slavonic and Russian
Issue №38, pp. 49–102
The full Church Slavonic translation of the “Chapters on Love” and its revisions are explored in detail, and there is an overview of the Russian translations of the 19th and 20th centuries. A number of manuscripts are drawn to the history of ancient translation for the first time, allowing for significant specification of the history of the original translation. It is proved that the translations of the fragments in the Slavic izbornik (anthologies) are derived directly from the Greek text and do not depend on the full Church Slavonic translation. The archetype of the complete translation (the time of creation needs to be specified; probably not earlier than the late 10th or early 11th centuries) underwent an initial editing between the 11th and 13th centuries, reflected on the one hand, in Sin and Деч, on the other – in Гам, Хлуд and Син. 644. New versions of the translation were carried out with the involvement of divergent Greek manuscripts in the first half and the middle of the 14th century. The first such edit is reflected in the БРА. A later version, presented in Нням, was widely spread in the Slavic countries. Manuscripts have also survived (Печ. 90 and 91, Гильф), which present a “mixed” text with occasionally combined variants of earlier and later editions. The late edition was used by Arseny the Greek, who made minor revisions to it from the old printed editions of the Greek text and published the translation in the book “Anthologion” (1660). The text from the “Anthologion” was sequentially checked by Revd. Paisios Velichkovsky with different later manuscripts (according to the БРА and Нням), as well as with the Greek text from the Venetian edition of the “Philocalia” (1782). The glosses preserved from these verifications are analysed in this article. The Church Slavonic translation of the “Chapters on Love” from the “Anthologion” was reprinted in 1816–1817 and 1819, parallel to the first Russian translation by St Philaret (Drozdov). Using the example of chapter IV, 5, some features of the Russian translations of St Philaret (1816), St Theophan the Recluse (1889) and A. I. Sidorov (1993). The conclusion emphasises the unity and continuity of the Church Slavonic translation tradition over many centuries, and also the significance of the book “Our Holy Father Maxim, On Love” (1816–1817) in the formation of a new tradition of translating patristic works into Russian.
Keywords: patrology, St Maximus the Confessor, translated Old Russian literature, Russian translations of patristic works, Arseny the Greek, Revd. Paisii Velichkovsky, St Philaret (Drozdov), St Theophan the Recluse, A. I. Sidorov.
A Commentary on One of Gregory Palamas’ “Chapters” Preserved in Antipalamite Sources
Issue №34, pp. 149–168
This article analyzes a chapter contained in a collection of antipalamite extracts taken from the works of St Gregory of Palamas, which after being read at the Council of 1351 caused such agitation that the controversy around the Palamite and his opponents was brought to a halt by the Emperor. The chapter comes to light in an essay of Arsenios of Tyre relating to the Council, is also preserved in other antipalamite sources, and is taken from Gregory’s 3rd Refutation of Akindin. The article shows that the antipalamites, following Nicephorus Gregoras, quote an original text, while what has come down to us in the Palamite manuscripts has been subject to later correction with the goal of softening careless expressions of thought. In the original version, Gregory relies on his own liberal interpretation of expressions from the works of Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagite. The article also gives other examples of changes made to the works of Gregory Palamas by the author himself, which have been brought to light by contemporary scholars (the 3rd letter to Akindin, “Dialogue Between an Orthodox and a Barlaamite”, “On the Holy Spirit”, and others). The author comes to the conclusion that it is wise to proceed with caution when using the works of Gregory Palamas as a primary source in the reconstruction of the history of the Palamite controversy or Palamite theology.
Keywords: late-Byzantine theology, Palamite Controversy, Gregory Palamas, 1351 Council of Constantinople, Corpus Dionysiacum, Dionysian Corpus.
Anti-Jewish Polemic and Internal Critique in Ephrem the Syrian’s Memra “On Nineveh and Jonah”
Issue №40, pp. 144–170
The present publication focuses on the little-studied preaching activity of the Syriac poet and theologian Ephrem the Syrian (d. 373), and particularly on the sharp critique he offered his own Christian community. The article demonstrates that Ephrem’s internal critique is often accompanied by anti-Jewish polemic, a fine example of which can be found in his memra (syr. discourse, (metrical) homily) “On Nineveh and Jonah”. This article identifies intertextual connections between this work and other memre by Ephrem — in particular memre “On Nicomedia”, the first memra “On Admonition” etc., making it possible to draw the conclusion that the memra “On Nineveh and Jonah” is a part of a cycle of works in which St. Ephrem analyzes the causes of the catastrophic situation in his hometown of Nisibis, caused by its invasion by the Persian king, Shapur II. Ephrem proposes that the wicked behavior of the Christian residents of Nisibis is the main cause of the invasion, therefore attacking them with a sharp critique and drawing an analogy between the residents of Nisibis and the Jews of the Old Testament. Thus, the article claims that for St. Ephrem — especially in his memra — the Jews are not only real opponents, but also a paradigm of negative behavior. The article pays special attention to the fact that this shift of anti-Jewish polemic to internal critique was due to the specific historical situation and geographical position of the region where Ephrem the Syrian lived, contributing to the question of the formation of Syriac Christian identity. These findings on the context and specifics of the memra “On Nineveh and Jonah” can be used in genre studies of early Syriac literature.
Keywords: theology, Syriac Christian literature, Ephrem the Syrian, anti- Jewish polemic, internal critique, genre of memra, narrative exegesis, exegesis of the Book of Jonah, intertextuality, Syriac Christian identity