patristics | manuscripts



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.


Multiple-Text Manuscripts, in OA

There is a new volume out: The Emergence of Multiple-Text Manuscripts, edited by A. Bausi, M. Friedrich and M. Maniaci. As most volumes in the series (Studies in Manuscript Cultures) this too is open access.

MTM Em.jpg

It seems to be a follow-up of the 2016 programmatic volume One-Volume Libraries: Composite and Multiple-Text Manuscripts (ed. by M. Friedrich and C. Schwarke), which proposed a more rigorous terminology for what were (and still are) usually called ‘miscellaneous’ manuscripts and applied it in a number of cultures.

The current volume offers further case studies on the topic and, much like the previous one, keeps a comparative approach across languages and cultures by putting together contributions on Latin, Greek, Coptic, and Arabic manuscripts, as well as manuscripts from medieval China and from the languages of Jain traditions.

Particularly interesting is the article by Patrick Andrist, “Concepts and Vocabulary for the Analysis of Thematic Codices: The Example of Greek Adversus Iudaeos Books,” which closes the volume and offers further terminological discussion and basically applies in depth and develops upon the theoretical background of the volume La syntaxe du codex: Essai de codicologie structurale, co-authored with P. Canart and M. Maniaci (which I reviewed here).

Have a look!

Manuscripts and Rare Books at KU Leuven

There is a new volume out about the manuscripts and rare books held in Leuven at the Maurits Sabbe Library, which is the research library of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, KU Leuven. (The more general university library of KU Leuven is Artes University Library, which has its own holdings for manuscripts in its Special Collections.) Back to the new volume:

acover mic

Wim François, Lieve Watteeuw, and Leo Kenis (eds.), Manuscripts & Precious Books in the Maurits Sabbe Library – KU Leuven (Leuven: Peeters, 2019).

It contains brief introductions, illustrations and select bibliography for 45 peculiar books and manuscripts hosted in the Maurits Sabbe Library. The images are great, especially when zoomed-in details are offered.


Apart from Hildegard’s manuscript in the image above, featured in is the so-called ‘Anjou Bible,’ the illuminated Latin Bible produced in the 14th century in Naples for Robert of Anjou; an autograph manuscript with various works of Pope Adrian VI—successively former student, professor, rector, vice-chancellor in Leuven—of which some exegetical, written around the turn of the 16th century; a printed response to Luther by a Leuven professor of the 16th century, Jacobus Latomus; also, very interestingly, the lecture notes on the Pentateuch of Cornelius Jansenius, delivered in Leuven in 1631 and 1632, that later lead to the publication of his commentary on the Pentateuch.

Overall, the volume sits well with the notion of the history of the book, as a very nicely illustrated chapter of how the composition of a book repository is determined by, and intertwined with the latter’s history on the one hand, and on the other with its past and present aims and self-representations. Very nice.  Continue reading “Manuscripts and Rare Books at KU Leuven”

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