patristics | manuscripts



Digital AF: The Helsinki U library guide on the ‘Apostolic Fathers’

I co-authored recently a chapter on a future project on digitising the so-called Apostolic Fathers, “Digitizing the Ancient Versions of the Apostolic Fathers: Preliminary Considerations” (Open Access, if you’re interested). There is, however, already a very interesting online platform devoted to the AF, briefly presented below (initially a twitter post, this one).

Quick shoutout to a nice resource on the manuscripts, editions, and translations, of the so-called Apostolic Fathers: The Apostolic Fathers: Editions and Translations.

Built up as a library guide at Helsinki University by Matti Myllykoski, it contains far more info than usual in the available critical editions.

It features an impressive list of printed collection that include in some way AF, all with hyperlinks to, with several items pre-dating the (slightly) better known Cotelier. Truly an excellent resource for anyone interested in the history of the corpus.

Then, for individual AF, you’ll find again links to all printed editions and translations (old and new) that can be found online in repositories like archive org or google books. These are only rarely even listed even in critical editions; have a feel, those links are mint!

The manuscripts found online (from microfilm, from scanned publications, recent photographs, editions) are then also listed.

For the Shepherd of Hermas there are links to the main Greek witnesses, 21 (out of some 28!) Latin witnesses, 20 papyri, the edition of some Coptic fragments and an edition the Middle Persian in the public domain.

Also great is the fact that for Ignatius of Antioch it also lists the online editions, translations, and witnesses of the “long recension” or with “extra” letters which are usually discarded, but which form the context in which the seven “authentic” letters are virtually always transmitted in mss.

Interestingly, there is also an online critical edition of the Epistle of Polycarp, on which I’ll write more when I’ve read Matti Myllykoski’s article describing this venture, “The Textual History of Epistula Polycarpi: From the History of Editions to the Benefits of the Digitized Manuscripts“, also Open Access.

All in all, an excellent resource!

Could not recommend it more for AF mss and collections peeps.

ETL issue on the ancient translations of the Apostolic Fathers

Stemming from of a 2019 Leuven conference generously funded by the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung and in relation to the AnTrAF project, at the end of the year was published a thematic issue of Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses [98.3 (2022)] I co-edited with J. Verheyden: “Versions of the Early Christian Past: Ancient Translations of the Apostolic Fathers.”

For convenience, here’s the table of contents, followed by the abstracts of each paper. Note that Greg Given’s article is readily available in Open Access, but feel free to get in touch if you need another article and don’t have access. The introduction is available here.

Donatella Tronca, “The Latin Translation of the Letter of Clement to the Corinthians in Manuscript Namur, Grand Séminaire 37,” ETL 98.3 (2022) 379-389.

The article provides an analytical description of manuscript Namur, Grand Séminaire 37, which contains the only witness of the Latin translation of Clement’s First letter to the Corinthians. While scholars have dated the production of this codex generally to the eleventh century, a palaeographical and codicological analysis enables us to give a more precise dating in the years straddling the eleventh and the twelfth century. The production of the manuscript within this period, defined by Paul Fournier as un tournant de l’histoire du droit, makes it a building block in the political and ecclesiastical construction of papal primacy in the Middle Ages.

Benjamin Gleede, “Image and Instrument: Conflicting Martyrologies in the Martyrdom of Polycarp and its Literary Latin Translation,” ETL 98.3 (2022) 391-409.

The Martyrdom of Polycarp was translated into Latin three times during antiquity, twice in a literary, once in a literal manner. Alongside the famous and most successful literary translation contained in Rufinus’ version of Eusebius’ Church history we have an anonymous literary version which at closer inspection shows an even higher degree of theological reflection than its more famous predecessor. Where the Greek original tries to underscore the Christ-conformity of its hero as much as possible, perhaps even to a degree that might compromise Christ’s unicity as the archetype, the Latin translator uses every chance to avoid such a misunderstanding and underscore the martyr’s inferiority to and dependence upon Christ and grace. Thus, probably the most plausible historical background for this translation would be Augustine’s controversy over the issue of martyrdom during the 420s.

Paolo Cecconi, “Hermas and his Readers: New Cues in the Translation Technique Employed by the Two Latin Versions of the Shepherd,” ETL 98.3 (2022) 411-425.

The Shepherd of Hermas is one of the best documented literary works of the second century AD. It belongs to the first layer of Greek Christian texts and was soon translated into Latin (twice). These translations shed new light on the intercultural and intertextual exchanges between different linguistic groups, who shared the same background and have the same values, but adapted the translations to their own cultural context. This article investigates in depth both Latin translations, drawing on the author’s work on the new critical editions of Vulgata and Palatina, and on methodological investigations into how to translate a text from Greek into Latin, also taking into account new studies on the textual transmission of the Shepherd itself and on the Ge’ez translation.

Adrian C. Pirtea, “The Shepherd of Hermas Fragment from Turfan (M97) and its Manichean Context,” ETL 98.3 (2022) 427-449.

This article discusses the Manichaean Middle Persian translation of the Shepherd of Hermas (Berlin, Turfan Collection, M97) and investigates the possible reasons as to why Manichaeans developed an interest in this early Christian work. After a short overview of previous scholarship, I provide a codicological, palaeographic and philological analysis of M97 and its relationship to the Greek, Latin, Coptic and Ethiopic versions of the Shepherd. The relevance of another Manichaean fragment from Turfan that mentions ‘Hermas the Shepherd’ (M788) is also briefly addressed. The main part of the article attempts to explain how the text of the Shepherd was transmitted to the Manichaeans in Central Asia and what function this work had in Manichaean church life. I argue that the Manichaean Middle Persian version of the Shepherd played an important, yet hitherto unacknowledged role as a collection of didactic parables, and that its usefulness for homiletics and preaching is analogous to the Manichaean Sogdian Book of Parables (Āzandnāme) derived from Buddhist sources.

Ted Erho and Ralph Lee, “References to the Shepherd of Hermas at the Monastery of Gunda Gundē,” ETL 98.3 (2022) 451-461.

The monastery of Gunda Gundē played a significant historical role in preserving the Ethiopic translation of the Shepherd of Hermas, but its relationship to the book was not simply as a passive guardian. As witnessed through a few locally-produced commentary manuscripts referencing this work, at least some monks actively engaged theologically with it. Their interest in the Shepherd may have been stimulated in part by writings alluding to Hermas authored by the fourteenth-century Ethiopian theologian Retu‘a Hāymānot, copies of which were also held by the monastery.

Massimo Villa, “The Reception of Ignatius of Antioch in Ethiopic Literature: A Survey,” ETL 98.3 (2022) 463-479.

In this contribution I study the presence and circulation of the writings of Ignatius of Antioch in Ethiopic literature. In Ethiopia Ignatius was undoubtedly less popular than other subapostolic authors and his epistles were never translated in their entirety into Ethiopic. However, fragments of his corpus reached the Horn of Africa via Copto-Arabic sources in the form of quotations. As is often the case with patristic literature, the Ignatian legacy was characterized by adaptations and pseudepigraphy. Genuine and spurious quotations are found in Severos of Ašmunayn’s works, translated into Ethiopic no later than the fourteenth century, and two additional pseudo-Ignatian quotations are transmitted in the Hāymānota ʾabaw, or ‘Faith of the Fathers’ (sixteenth century). These fragments were later incorporated into several commentaries and treatises of theological and catechetical contents.

Greg J. Given, “How Coherent is the Ignatian Middle Recension? The View from the Coptic Versions of Letters of Ignatius,” ETL 98.3 (2022) 481-502. [Open Access]

Over the past century and a half, most scholars have presumed that the earliest Greek text of the letters of Ignatius is a seven-letter collection known as the ‘Middle Recension’. This article aims to trouble the three-recension model of the textual transmission of the Ignatian letters, which undergirds this consensus. First, the article presents an overview of the manuscript witnesses to the ‘Middle Recension’, illustrating the diverse texts collected together under the umbrella of this purportedly singular ‘recension’. Then the article takes a close look at the two extant Coptic versions of the letters of Ignatius, which present unique selections and arrangements of the collection unaccounted for by the three-recension model. These versions also contain distinctive textual variants that evince interpretive engagement and further illustrate the model’s heuristic limitations. Instead of interpreting the Coptic versions as mere witnesses to the Greek text, the article argues that the Coptic texts represent valuable evidence for the processes by which the memory of the earliest period of Christianity was re-crafted to constitute a usable past in late antique and medieval Egypt.

Dan Batovici, “Apostolic by Proxy: Corpora, editiones minores, and Networks of Texts,” ETL 98.3 (2022) 503-524.

This article discusses the pre-modern basis for the otherwise modern AF corpus. To that end, it offers an overview of the manuscript witnesses in Greek, Latin, and Syriac, and shows that the AF were already connected in various ways (albeit as a network of texts rather than a closed list), and moreover that the information preserved in paratext often connects the AF with the apostles. Furthermore, it argues that the view from early Christian studies, focusing for the last hundred years mostly on the Greek and adopting what was initially an editio minor as the AF ‘canon’, obscures the understanding of how these texts were perused and associated with other texts in various late antique and medieval Christian contexts.

Material and digital approaches in OA

Brief note to say that I received my contributor copy of this volume the other day.

My chapter deals with “Reading Aids in Early Christian Papyri“. I uploaded my contribution here, but the whole volume is open access; check it out here. There are several articles on similar matters in manuscripts that belong to different religious traditions e.g. the Dead Sea Scrolls, Qur’ān, Medieval Jewish and Christian contexts. The second part of the book present ongoing projects or methodological discussions of digital manuscript projects.

Thank you, Brad, for the invitation.

ZAC thematic issue on digital critical editions

Check out the latest issue of Zeitschrift für Antikes Christentum, which includes a thematic section on digital critical editions, edited by Annette von Stockhausen: “Patristische Editionen im digitalen Zeitalter – Theorie und Praxis Gastherausgeberin“. These are the articles included:

All contributions are of course excellent. Matthieu Cassin’s contribution in particular is a fifty-page, very informed and very useful survey on approaches to critical editions in patristics.

Here goes the abstract:

  • An overview of recent editions of Greek texts from Christian Antiquity is provided, with particular attention to the question of theories and methods of edition. First, we recall the main methods involved: the Lachmannian method, corrected or not by historical approaches, New Philology, etc. In a second step, we go through some large collections of editions of patristic texts, in order to identify their specificities and study their main recent productions; these are successively examined: Athanasius Werke; Gregorii Nysseni Opera; Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte; Patristische Texte und Studien; Corpus christianorum, series graeca; Sources chrétiennes. Some special cases are then considered: single-witness texts; treatment of overabundant traditions and phylogenetic methods; partial editions; anthologies, exegetical catenae and compilations. Finally, we propose a general reflection on the changes introduced in the editing process by the introduction of digital technologies, up to and including electronic edition itself.

AnTrAF bits: Syriac 1 and 2 Clement paper on Youtube

I gave a paper last Thursday (July 2) on 1 and 2 Clement in Syriac, part of the project I just started at KU Leuven on the ancient translations of the Apostolic Father (AnTrAF), focusing on Syriac and Coptic.

This was part of the IGNTP Text-Critical Thursdays series held on Zoom, and hosted by Hugh Houghton—thanks for organising this and for setting the whole thing up, Hugh!

The IGNTP (International Greek New Testament Project) has now a youtube channel and the first paper uploaded from the Text-Critical Thursdays series is mine. Have a quick peek if this of interest to you:

If you’re into New Testament textual criticism know that some great papers will be soon uploaded on the IGNTP channel from this series.

New issues of JEastCS and Le Muséon

Congrats to my Leuven colleagues Bert Jacobs and Jean Fathi for their freshly published articles in the latest issues of respectively Le Muséon and Journal of Eastern Christian Studies. The same goes for the Zaroui Pogossian, the TeTra speaker at the end of May, and the TeTra co-convenor, Andy Hilkens. Below I simply pasted the abstracts for a quick look.

Zaroui Pogossian, “The Armenian Version of Ps.-Hippolytus De Consummatione mundi and its Impact on the Armenian Apocalyptic Tradition,” Le Muséon 133.1-2 (2020).

This article presents for the first time the Armenian version of an eschatological composition known as Ps.-Hippolytus De Consummatione Mundi (BHG 812z, CPG 1910) in comparison with its Greek original, and evaluates its possible impact on other Armenian apocalyptic texts, particularly Agat’angel On the end of the world. It first discusses briefly the textual tradition of the Armenian Ps.-Hippolytus and reveals that it is extant in at least two recensions. Their distinctive features are exposed. Then, the article explores some common themes, the so-called ‘eschatologically sensitive formulae’, that Ps.-Hippolytus and Agat’angel On the end of the world share, emphasising both text’s engagement in anti-Jewish polemic. Such topoi, particularly in relation to the function of the Jews in the eschatological drama and their fate during the Last Judgement, are significant given that they are attested only in very few other texts. This could lead to the hypothesis of a direct dependence between these two texts. However, a more detailed comparison provides grounds to refuse this possibility. Nevertheless, a shared cultural-geographical milieu of the two texts’ redaction may be hypothesised and a possible relative and absolute dating proposed, suggesting a date of the composition of Agat’angel On the end of the world at the time of Emperor Heraclius and the so-called last great conflict of Late Antiquity – the Byzantine-Persian wars.

Andy Hilkens, “Language, Literacy and Historical Apologetics
Hippolytus of Rome’s Lists of Literate Peoples in the Syriac Tradition
,” JEastCS 72.1–2 (2020).

In Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, the Syriac language was part of several debates, including one about the identity of the language of Creation. Not surprisingly, many Syriac authors argued for the primacy of Aramaic over Hebrew. One genre of texts whose contribution to this debate has been neglected until now is that of lists of the literate peoples of the earth, categorized as descendants of Shem, Ham and Japheth. We encounter these lists, which are based on material that stems from the Greek chronicle tradition and that was eagerly appropriated by Syriac historical and exegetical authors, in manuscripts that date from the ninth to the nineteenth century. Sometimes they are transmitted independently, for instance under the name of Eusebius of Caesarea or Epiphanius of Salamis. Sometimes they are part of a larger context where more material on the division of the earth (the Diamerismos) was transmitted into Syriac. This article draws two important conclusions. First, a division can be made in the material between a conservative ‘Greek’ tradition, represented by the Chronicle of Michael the Elder (d. 1199 C.E.), and a progressive Syriac tradition. Several changes can be tracked, not only in the process of transmission from Greek into Syriac, but also an internal Syriac evolution. These lists were often updated, so much so that different traditions within the progressive Syriac tradition emerge. What connects the Syriac tradition, however, and this is the second conclusion that this study offers, is that the progressive Syriac tradition clearly offsets the Syriac language (or at least the written language that was used by the Syrians) against that of the Hebrews and the Greeks. Without explicitly going into the issue of the identity of the primeval language, these lists imply the old age of the Syriac language, similarly to Hebrew and Greek.

Jean Fathi, “D’Orient à L’Orient: Don Élias Fathalla, interprète de Napoléon, et la première Église syrienne-catholique,” JEastCS 72.1–2 (2020).

The documents of the French Campaign in Egypt mention a certain ‘Don Elia Fatalla’ from the city of Diyarbakır, an interpreter heading the Oriental Press and a member of the Commission des Sciences et des Arts. Despite his association with one of the most inspiring adventures of Napoleon, this ancient-Syrian priest turned Catholic, editor of the Syriac breviary in Rome in 1787 and chair of the Syriac and Chaldean languages at the College of Propaganda, has never been the subject of any investigation. Several funds, in particular those of the Archivio Storico di Propaganda Fide in the Vatican and the Syrian Catholic patriarchal monastery of Charfet in Mount Lebanon, reveal his notable role in the history of the early Syrian Catholic church, during the period of the restoration by Patriarch Mīḫāyīl Ğarweh in 1782 of the Uniate patriarchal line, established in the preceding century but interrupted for eighty years. This French-language study is subdivided in four parts; the first three encompass the principal phases in the life of Elias: his upbringing in the East (up to 1771), his career in Rome (1771-1798), and his participation in the Egyptian Campaign in 1798; while the fourth clarifies certain ambiguities regarding his identity, notably the amalgam between him and another cleric named Rabbān Elias Amīrḫān, and the question of his kinship with the family of the deacon Amīršāh Fatḥallah.

Bert Jacobs, “The Rise of Islam According to Dionysius of Tell-Maḥrē: Tentative Reconstruction through Three Dependent Texts,” Le Muséon 133.1-2 (2020).

It is commonly believed that of the two West Syriac chronicles that have preserved large parts of the now lost Chronicle of Dionysius of Tell-Maḥrē (d. 845), the account of the rise of Islam is better preserved in the anonymous Chronicle up to the Year 1234 than it is in the Chronicle of Michael Rabō (d. 1199). In addition to the overall preference for Chron. 1234 over Michael’s Chronicle that has emerged in recent scholarship, this view is based on the assumption that the polemical elements found only in Michael’s version are more likely his own additions than omissions by the Anonymous Chronicler. On the basis of a new dependant, Dionysius bar Ṣalībī (d. 1171), this article argues that Michael, followed by Bar Ṣalībī, rather than the Anonymous Chronicler, have more fully and faithfully preserved the original account on the rise of Islam. This argument is developed in three steps. First, evidence is presented that Bar Ṣalībī borrowed his account of the rise of Islam as narrated in the opening chapter of his Disputation against the Muslims directly from Dionysius of Tell-Maḥrē. Secondly, the redactions by the three dependants are assessed. Having sifted the dependants’ adaptations from what is most likely original, finally a tentative reconstruction of Dionysius’ account in English translation is provided. A synopsis of the three dependent texts in English translation is appended.

TeTra Seminar on Thursday

Last month has started the Text and Transmission Joint Research Seminar hosted by Andy Hilkens (Gent) and myself. The next meeting is this Thursday; the details are in the image below. See some of you there!

TeTra February

The full program for the spring semester 2020 of the TeTra Research Seminar goes as follows, with meeting in Gent and Leuven:

January 16th | Leuven

Marion Pragt (KU Leuven)
Gregory of Nyssa’s Homilies on the Song of Songs and its Syriac Reception

Mircea Duluș (ICUB Bucharest)
New Evidence on the Transmission of Late Antique Polemics in Byzantium: the Monogenes of Makarios Magnes and the Homilies of Philagathos of Cerami

February 27th | Leuven 

Julie Van Pelt (Universiteit Gent)
Miracle or Magic? The Figure of the Magos in Byzantine Hagiography

András Mércz (Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Budapest)
Translating Syriac in the 16th century. Andreas Masius’  translation of the Syriac Anaphora of St. Basil in the light of his correspondence with Moses of Mardin

March 26th | Gent

Giorgia Nicosia (Universiteit Ge​nt)
Prophecies of the pagan philosophers about Christ: Syriac collections and Greek sources 

Bert Jacobs (KU Leuven)
Dionysius Bar Ṣalībī’s Disputation Against the Muslims and the Reception of Qiṣaṣ al-Anbiyāʾ

April 30th | Leuven

Tamara Pataridze (University of Oxford)
Georgian translations of Byzantine texts in relation to Georgian-Byzantine relations

Flavia Ruani (IRHT CNRS Paris)
A Robber in Paradise: Luke 23:43 in Manichaean and Anti-Manichaean Exegesis

May 27th | Gent

Marianna Mazzola (Universiteit Gent)
‘We do not resemble the Gentiles’: Christian-Muslim Relations in Dionysius of Tell Mahre’s Chronicle

Pietro d’Agostino (KU Leuven)
The Notitia de locis sanctis transmitted in the Par. ar. 300: about the first Arabic guide to the Holy Places. A study and edition

June w/c 21st | Leuven

Sarah Parkhouse (Australian Catholic University)
Christian Appropriation and Recontextualisation of the Amphitheatre at Carthage

Nathan Carlig (Université de Liège)
Codex MONB.CP: a codicological reassessment of a late patristic collection from the White Monastery (12th cent.)

You are welcome to get in touch with the convenors at or

Gregory of Nyssa in Syriac and Late Antique Polemics in Byzantium

Quick note to announce a new monthly seminar, with two papers offered later this week, in Leuven. Pop in if you’re around.

Following two preliminary meetings at the end of 2019, a monthly joint seminar hosted by Andy Hilkens (Ghent) and Dan Batovici (Leuven) is set up for 2020. The first meeting will take place in Leuven, this Thursday with the following papers:

Marion Pragt (KU Leuven)
Gregory of Nyssa’s Homilies on the Song of Songs and its Syriac Reception

Mircea Duluș (ICUB Bucharest)
New Evidence on the Transmission of Late Antique Polemics in Byzantium: the Monogenes of Makarios Magnes and the Homilies of Philagathos of Cerami

Thursday, January 16, 10-12 am.
Location: MTC 02.13
(Maria-Theresiacolle​ge, Sint-Michielsstraat 4, Leuven)

Feel free to get in touch with the hosts at or

Apostolic Fathers in ancient translations conference report

Last year in May I organised in Leuven the conference “Versions of the Apostolic Past: Ancient Translations of the Apostolic Fathers.” There is now a report published of it, fresh off the oven, which you can find here.

Put very  briefly, the papers offered a series of updates on various aspects of the Apostolic Fathers transmission in Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Slavonic, Middle Persian, Ethiopic and Arabic and the proceedings—including further invited contributions on Ignatius of Antioch in Slavonic and on the Shepherd of Hermas in indigenous Ethiopian Literature—will be published as a 2021 thematic issue of Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses (ETL), which should be fun.

The report is published in the latest issue of COMSt Bulletin (scroll down their page for all issues in open access).


This particular issue—5.2 (2019)—includes further conference reports, among which one by my colleague here Bert Jacobs, on Preliminary Considerations on the Corpus Coranicum Christianum. The Qur’an in Translation – A Survey of the State of the Art, Berlin, 5–7 December 2018, and that by Jeremiah Coogan, on The Material Gospel Conference, University of Notre Dame, 31 May 2019. Have a look.


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