Monday, February 23, 2009

Sulpicius Severus, Life of St. Martin. The Complete Story and Future Directions

As promised, here are the links to the various sections of the Life of St. Martin.

1 15
2 16
3 17
4 18
5 19
6 20
7 21
8 22
9 23
10 24
11 25
12 26
13 27

Future Directions:

Really, completing this translation is really only the first stage in a process which I hope will produce a useful translation. I originally started this translation series with the hope in mind that I would be able to work it up to offer as a gift to two of my parish churches which share the same name: St. Martin-in-the-Fields, West Toronto and St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London (Ontario). What I need to do right now is to go back over the translation with the text at hand and edit it some more so it reads better. I have a tendency to translate rather too literally, so I definitely have to smooth out the translation. More editing is necessary, mind you, and introductory material is needed. So, there is more work.

As for other translation activities, my next step is to work my way through The Patristic Greek Reader by Rodney Whitacre which I just bought last week. I think I'll do an extended review of this work as I work my way through it.

So, there will be more translation work in my future, so stay tuned.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sulpicius Severus, Life of St. Martin 27

Here we come to the conclusion of Sulpicius Severus' Life of St. Martin; a series which I began around two and a quarter years ago (has it been that long!) back on St. Martin's day 2006. In a couple days, I intend to collate links to all the passages and publish them in a separate posting, along with some ideas about future directions for this project and for my translating efforts in general. So, stay tuned for that post.


No one ever saw him angry, nor excited, nor lamenting nor laughing. He was always one and the same. Somehow preferring heavenly joy in his face, he seemed to be beyond the limits of human nature. (2) Nothing was ever on his lips except Christ. Nothing was ever in his heart except piety, peace and pity. Frequently, he was accustomed to weep for the sins of those who seemed to be his detractors, who harassed him with poisoned tongue and the mouth of vipers, although he lived apart and quietly. (3) Truly, we know about some who envied his virtue and his life, who hated him what they did not see in themselves and what they were not able to imitate. And, O crime which one must be pained and groan over, not a few were almost persecutors, to be sure just a few. Some, however, were reported to be bishops. (4) It isn't really necessary to name anyone. Many are accusing us falsely. It is enough that, if someone of them should read this and recognize themselves, he would blush. If he becomes angry, he will admit he was the one spoken about, when, perhaps, we were thinking of another person. (5) But we do not shrink away if anyone who is that type of person would hate us along with such a great man. (6) I am easily confident that this little deed is pleasing to all the saints. As for the rest, if anyone should read this without faith, he will sin. (7) I am conscious that I was motivated by my trust of the facts and love of Christ to write, to set out well-known things and to speak truthfully. I hope that whoever not only reads this book, but who believes them will have the reward which is prepared by God.


As we come to the conclusion, Severus continues his summation of St. Martin's character which he began in section 26. These last two chapters remind of how ancient biographies tend to end with rapid sketches of the essential personality of the person featured. There are differences, of course. For instance, we don't see any attempt to describe St. Martin physically. The focus is on spiritual gifts and virtues. That makes sense in this context, but one does wonder sometimes about what these people looked like and whether they resemble our picture of them.

Severus' concern with the opposition to St. Martin and, by extension, himself strikes me as interesting. St. Martin was the first of a type of bishop which was, by this time, reasonably common in the East, but not so much in the East: the monk bishop. The next generation would see its share (St. Augustine and his circle to name only a few examples, but the ascetic bishop was not necessarily a common figure in synods of the day. They weren't unheard of. St. Paulinus, mentioned by Severus, is a good example. Still, they were something of a novelty which may explain some of the opposition which St. Martin accidentally stirred up.

His opposition, it seems, is portrayed as more 'worldly'. These bishops were already influential within their provinces and were deeply involved in the church politics of the day. They were the ancestors of the mediaeval prince-bishops who came to dominate as lords considerable land holdings. They were more likely to emphasize their position in society, to develop an elaborate (and expensive) 'court' and to display the church's wealthy as a way of emphasizing their political power and influence. If we remember this, we can understand why the monk-bishop would make these other bishops look bad. Here we see monk-bishops diverting the resources used to emphasize the magnificence of the Church and its representative in the region, the bishop, to poor relief etc. The latter use of the Church's resources is, of course, more in line with what Christ commanded us to do which makes it embarrassing when someone actually acts on it.

We are, of course, in the middle of the conflict between the burgeoning monastic movement in the West and the trimphalistic Church of the late Roman period. This means that, in a sense, Severus has tipped his hand a little in this passage and revealed that his telling of St. Martin's life wasn't just motivated by a desire to edify the reader, but, also, to convince him of the benefit of the monastic movement in general. Just as St. Athanasius' Life of Antony had a similar double goal: edification and the strengthening of the Egyptian monastic movement, so to does Severus' effort.

This isn't to denigrate the very real spiritual goals of this Life. St. Martin is intended as an example of living a Christ-like life and we are expected to be inspired to imitate him.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Call For Submission- Patristic Carnival XXI

Welcome to Patristic Carnival XXI. This month, we're back here at hyperekperissou.

The guidelines remain the same as the Modest Proposal entry back in November, 2006 and my additions in August, 2007.

The last day of submission will be February 28th and the postings will be up by the week of March 10th. .

Remember you can offer submissions on the carnival site or the dedicated e-mail (


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sulpicius Severus, Life of St. Martin 26

Here is the penultimate installment of Sulpicius Severus', Life of St. Martin.


But this book now demands an end, this discourse must conclude, not because everything which must be said about Martin has been exhausted, but, because we, just as an incompetent poet, careless at the end of the work, succumb, defeated by the amount of material. (2) Although his deeds can be set out in words, no speech, I truly admit, will explain his inner life, daily conversation and his heart which was always intent on heaven. I truly acknowledge, of course, his perseverance and moderation in abstinence and fasting, his power in vigils and prayers, days and nights spend in like manner and no time free from the work of God in which he indulged in leisure or business nor indeed in food or sleep, unless to the degree the necessities of nature forced . (3) If, as they say, Homer himself emerged from the dead, it is not possible to explain all of this. To such an extent all this is greater than can be conceived in words. No hour or moment was ever wasted in which he did not apply himself to prayer or pursue reading, although even amid reading or if, by chance, he was doing something else, he did not relax his soul from prayer. (4) Truly, just as is a custom among blacksmiths, who beat their own anvil amid their work as a break in their labour, just so Martin was always praying, even while he seemed to do something else. (5) O truly blessed man, in whom there was no deceit: he judged no one, condemned no one, returned no evil for evil to anyone. Naturally, he displayed such great patience against all injuries that, even when he was the supreme priest, he was insulted by the lowest clerics without punishing them nor did he ever remove them from their position because of the insult or, as much as was in his power, did he drive them out from his affection.


With this section, we're in the home stretch and Sulpicius is getting ready the rhetorical fireworks which tend to begin and end of ancient literary efforts. Rhetorically, we can see the return of Sulpicius' modesty and his insistence of his basic incompetence for the task of writing about St. Martin. If you go back to the preface (which I translated two and a quarter years ago here), you'll see the same theme. For that matter, we have seen Sulpicius' protests of his literary incompetence throughout this life. We're not really used to this particular rhetorical theme- we tend to boast about our abilities, not denigrate them when we write-, so I think we misunderstand Sulpicius' scruples, dismissing them as insincere and/or tedious. Yet, if we think about it, I think this rhetorical trope has some interesting historical implications.

Sulpicius is hardly the first Latin or, for that matter, Greek writer to use this trope. Indeed, this sense of one's incapacity for high literary efforts is common from the 2nd century AD onwards. Partly, it reflects the sense of the post-Golden Age writers (Vergil, Horace, Livy etc) that the real glories of Latin literature are over and that the job of the contemporary writer was to use these examplars as touchstones for their own literary productions. By the time we get to the fourth century, there is a strong sense among many Latin writers- pagan and Christian- that, no matter how well they write, they'll never reach the level of the glorious writers of the past.

Add to this the rather ambivalent attitude that Christian writers had to pagan learning such as rhetoric or philosophy or, even, historical writing. No one could deny the worldly benefits of these pursuits, especially rhetoric. Yet, herein lies the problem. There is an element where excellent ability in writing was a little suspect because it reflected, perhaps, too much attention to the pagan arts. The literary standard for the Latin Christian writer shouldn't merely be Vergil or the school authors, but, also, the Bible whose rude style offended the delicate sensibilities of the young Augustine, but which was also authoritative in the Christian community. Sulpicius' shyness in claiming literary skill can also be understood as a subtle rejection of the pagan literary world and of the world in general. It is, in a sense, a part of Sulpicius' vicarious participation in St. Martin's ascetic life. In a sense, it is an assertion of the Christian dictum of the weak shaming the strong by their faith.

Furthermore, I hope that you see what Sulpicius thinks he can't describe. It isn't St. Martin's deeds, but rather it is his interior life, his life in prayer. Here we come to the heart of the problem that Sulpicius has been dealing with since the beginning of the work- how to portray the all-important life of prayer which is so important in a saint. St. Martin, like many of the monastic clerics and saints, was, first and foremost, a man of prayer. That is part of what made and makes him such an inspiring figure. St. Martin's claim to fame isn't his deeds- whether we're talking about his famous clothing of a beggar or his efforts to Christianize the Gallic countryside around Tours- but, rather, his participation in the life of Christ in the world through prayer. This is why he was so compelling a subject for Sulpicius and, ironically, why Sulpicius cannot really do justice to him.

Well, stay tuned for the last few bursts of rhetorical fireworks in the next installments. With the end so near, I think I will probably finish up this series next week. Then, I'll post links to all the installments and give some ideas of where my translating efforts are going to lead.


Monday, February 09, 2009

Patristics Carnival XX- January, 2009

New Under the Tent: New Patristic Blogs And Announcements.

Nothing new this month.

Front Gate: Introductions to the Fathers

David on the He Lives blog offers an introduction to Church History.

The Newsletter of the Roman Orthodox Church examines that 'old time' religion of the Fathers in parts one, two, three, four and five. Yes, I know, it starts in December, but it is too good not to include. Besides, I missed it last month.

The Midway: Articles on the Fathers

Mike Aquilina on The Way of the Fathers blog resolves to learn Greek this year.

Roger Pearse on his self-named blog considers James of Edessa, a 8th century continuator of Eusebius who preserve the first mention of Mohammed, updated his plans to commission translations of Eusebius of Caesarea's lesser known works, introduces us to Isidore of Pelusium, reviews the numbering of the letters of Isidore of Pelusium, announces his publication of a cross-reference table for the numbering of Isidore of Pelusium's letters in Migne and the Source Chretiennes edition. Wow, Roger just tires me out listing his patristic entries, much less his other valuable work.

Tim Trautman on the Army of Martyrs blog claims antiquity for the Catholic Church, returns the favour because the Church belongs to antiquity and considers Second Clement and Incarnational ecclesiology.

Chris Armstrong on the Christian History blog discusses the charismatic gifts in the early patristic age.

Weekend Fisher on the Heart, Mind, Soul and Strength blog considers Eusebius' historical methodology in determine the canonical status of several books attributed to Peter.

Polycarp on the Church of Jesus Christ blog discusses God the Father and Jesus Christ: Ignatius of Antioch and the Economy of God in parts one and two, considers John Cassian on free will and as an alternative to Augustine,

David Waltz on the Articuli Fidei blog discusses the development of doctrine in the light of Behr, Louth, Hanson, Giles and Newman.

Historical TheoBlogy features a discussion of Arius' exegetical method and its applications to Proverbs 8.

Stan on the Winging It blog considers the Church's relationship to the military with some important discussion of the attitudes of early Fathers.

Mark on the Joe Versus the Volcano blog discusses St. Gregory Nazianzus' view on deification.

Richard on the Tehillim blog (thanks to my wife for transliterating the Hebrew title discusses St. Athanasius, Mary and Psalm. 45.

Reed Antony Carlson on the theophiliacs blog discusses the patristic view on non-violence as part of a wider series on Non-Violence in a Violent World.

Andrew on the Theology of Andrew blog discusses St. Ignatius of Antioch's ecclesiology and the problems it creates for non-episcopal Protestant denominations.

Father Ernesto Obregon on the Ortho-Cuban blog considers whether the Radical Reformers' challenge of the authority of the Early Church Fathers paved the way for liberal Christian challenges of the Bible.

Kevin Edgecomb on the biblicalia blog offers a catalogue of St. Vladimir Press' Popular Patristics series with an indication of which treatises are included in each volume. This is an invaluable resource.

Christopher D. Hall on the This Side of the Pulpit blog considers tradition as submission's teacher.

Father Gregory Wassen on the First Principles blog considers the patristic understanding of Scriptural exegesis as opposed to modern understandings in part one and part two.

Jay Dyer on the Nicene Truth blog offers a primer on Trinitarian Theology and Christology.

Brian LePort on the pasa graphe blog considers Justin Martyr's view on Christian participation in the military.

Michael on the To and Through St. Vlad's considers the fun of three-in-one, or, in other words, Trinitarian theology brought to you by the Cappadocian Fathers.

Theocoid on the Is my Phylactery Showing? blog let us in on the discussion questions for his patristics class.

Kevin on the Courting the Mystery blog considers new Syriac textbooks and the hope Origen gives us.

John Hobbins on the Ancient Hebrew Poetry blog considers Stanley Fish's contention why St. Augustine would allow Roland Burris to sit in President Obama's old Senate seat.

Rick Brannon on ricoblog considers a textual problem in the Letter to Diognetus.

MG on The Well of Questions blog considers Jerome's view on the tri-fold ministry structure shared by Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Anglicanism and St. Athanasius on the Law of Death.

James Swan on the Alpha and Omega Ministries argues that Protestants do have the apostolic tradition.

Ben Smith on the Thoughts on Antiquity blog continues his series on the canonical lists with the Stichmetry of (Pseudo-)Nicephorus.

Walter Shandruch on the Thoughts on Antiquity blog considers early Christian use of magic.

On this blog, I consider why Christians can't leave history alone.

The Marketplace: Book Reviews

Nick Norelli on the Rightly Dividing the Truth blog reviews Christopher Hall's Learning Theology with the Church Fathers.

Brendon on the Christian Books: Orthodoxy blog reviews Andrew Louth's translation of John of Damascus' Three Treatises on Divine Images from our friends at St. Vladimir Press' Popular Patristics series.

Christina on the Christian Books: Orthodoxy blog reviews Norman Russell's The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition.

The MLibrary blog offers a short review of Norman Russel's Theophilus.

The Very Rev. Dr. Theodosius Walker on the St. Mary's Orthodox Bookstore blog reviews James Cowan's Desert Father: A Journey in the Wilderness with Saint Antony.

April DeConick on The Forbidden Gospels blog reviews the Collected Essays of Gilles Quispel.

Tim Trautman on the Army of Martyrs blog reviews J. Patout Burns book, Cyprian the Bishop.

Derek Leman on the Messianic Jewish Ramblings blog reviews Philip Jenkins' The Lost History of Christianity.

Philip Harland on the Religions of the Ancient World blog previews his forthcoming book on the Dynamics of Identity and Early Christianities.

Exhibition Place: Biographies of the Fathers

J. Hearne on the Telling the Stories That Matter examines the biography of St. Gregory of Nyssa.

Brad Culver on the Living Water From an Ancient Well blog discusses St. Antony. He follows up this post with a consideration of the Desert Fathers as a group. He also gives the biography of St. John Chryosthom.

Peter on The Rock and The Sword blog gives St. Antony's biography also.

Padre Mickey on Padre Mickey's Dance Party also considers the life of St. John Chyrsosthom.

Sophocles on the a...sinner blog considers the life of Hippolytus of Rome.

Kevin Edgecomb on the biblicalia blog considers Sts. Ephrem and Isaac.

The Rodeo: Patristic catenae

Nothing new this month.

The Foreign Exchange Tent: Translations and Summaries

Roger Pearse on his self-named blog publishes some commissioned translations of a few letters of Isidore of Pelusium.

On this blog, I continue my series on Sulpicius Severus' Life of St. Martin.

The Talmudic Tabernacle: Christianity and Judaism in the Ancient World

Nothing new this month.

The Apocryphal Aisle: Christian Apocrypha

Father Jones on the Anglican Centrist blog posts an article by Bryan Owen critiquing Elaine Pagel and her book, Beyond Belief.

April DeConick on The Forbidden Gospels blog notes her observations on the Apocolypse of Gabrial stone, notes a micromorphological analysis of the same stone, discusses why theology isn't history, poses a translation problem in the Gospel of Judas,