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Is the Didache One Document or Three?

I have been discussing the interesting and important early Christian document called the Didache.  Yesterday I gave a translation of its first part, the “two ways” or the “two paths” section.  After that the topic and tone of the book changes, as it starts to talk about how Christian baptism and eucharist should be celebrated.  It ends on a completely different note, with a one-chapter description of the coming apocalypse.  Scholars have asked whether the book as we now have it was actually created by someone who took several disparate texts and cut and pasted them together. Here is what I say about the matter in my edition of the Apostolic Fathers in the Loeb Classical Library (Harvard University Press, 2003). ****************************************************** The Didache obviously addresses several discrete topics: the two paths, the “church order” (which may comprise two distinct units, one on liturgical practices and the other on the treatment of itinerant “apostles and prophets”), and the apocalyptic discourse.  Moreover, there is no necessary connection between them, except that provided perhaps by an editor, [...]

The Loeb Apostolic Fathers: The Challenges (Again)

This will be the last of my three blasts from past discussions of my translation of the Apostolic Fathers; in it I explain the difficulties involved in producing a "facing page translation" edition of ancient texts ("facing page" means you have the original language text -- in this case Greek -- on one page and then across from it, on the other page, your English translation) ************************************************************************* To continue my thread about translating the Apostolic Fathers for the Loebs…. So, the editor at Harvard Press, Peg Fulton, asked me if I would be interested in taking on the task of doing a new edition of the Apostolic Fathers for the Loebs. She wasn’t offering me the opportunity then and there. She was suggesting that I write up a prospectus that she could take to the board of the Loebs, in which I described the need for a new edition and explained how I would go about making one. After I thought about it for a while, and got advice from my friends, I decided to [...]

The Apostolic Fathers: Serendipity Strikes

In my previous post I blasted from the past about my translation of the Apostolic Fathers for the Loeb Classsical Library.  That was actually the first of a few posts on the topic, and since I referred to the next ones, I thought I should give them -- at least the one that followed.  Here it is.  As I point out, in a way it's about how, in a concrete way, life is a series of chances..... ************************************************************** It seems that much that has happened in my professional life has been because of serendipity.  Back when I was a believer, we called it Providence.  (!)   It’s how I got my first job at Rutgers in 1984; how I got my current position at UNC in 1988; how I got asked to write something other than a technical study involving the Greek manuscript tradition of the New Testament – a textbook for undergraduates (in the early 1990s), and thus, in a sense, started my publishing career; how I had my first bestselling book (Misquoting Jesus) become [...]

Translating the Apostolic Fathers: A Blast from the Past

In my last post I answered a question about whether I would ever publish a translation of the New Testament. (Short answer: almost certainly not!). But I want to take a couple of posts to talk about the work of translation. There is a very big difference between being able to read an ancient text in its ancient language (Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Coptic, whatever) and producing a translation of it for publication. You might think that it’s all basically the same thing: if you can read it, you can publish a translation of it. But as it turns out, it’s not that simple. I didn’t realize this for years and years, until I started publishing translations of ancient texts. My first experience was about fifteen years ago now, when I was asked to do a new edition of the Apostolic Fathers for the Loeb Classical Library. Here I’ll give some background on that project and the series it appeared in, and in the next post I’ll talk about the difficulties of producing a translation. FOR [...]

The Difficulties of Publishing a Translation

In my last post, en route to discussing my latest attempt at publishing both a scholarly and a trade book on the same topic, I talked about how I took on the task of doing a new Greek-English edition of the Apostolic Fathers for the Loeb Classical Library.  At the end of the post I indicated that doing that edition was one of the hardest things I have ever done.   There were lots of things that made it very difficult – deciding which form of the Greek text to use for each of the writings included (i.e. what to do in the many places where the manuscripts differed from one another), doing all the research in order to write up competent and relatively complete Introductions to each text, studying the history of research into various problems posed by the Apostolic Fathers, from the 17th century until today, and so on. But the hardest part was the translation itself.   The Greek of the Apostolic Fathers is not incredibly difficult, as far as Greek goes.  It is [...]

2020-04-03T16:37:16-04:00August 21st, 2014|Book Discussions|

My Apostolic Fathers Seminar/Syllabus

I am preparing for classes, now as we speak.  In the Fall term, which begins (moan and groan) in next week, I’ll be teaching two classes, my “first-year seminar” called “Jesus in Scholarship and Film,” and my PhD seminar on “The Apostolic Fathers.”   My Jesus course will be pretty much like last year’s, with a few tweaks (including a full showing of the Life of Brian!); if you’re interested in the basic layout, I posted my syllabus from last year on August 24, 2013. The Apostolic Fathers is a course I have not taught for about three years.  The term “Apostolic Fathers” is a technical one, referring to specific corpus of ten proto-orthodox authors writing just after the New Testament period (actually, a couple of the books were probably written before the final books of the NT).   If you’re wondering who these authors were, refer back to posts I made starting November 19, 17, etc. in 2012. I’ve been interested in the Apostolic Fathers for years; it’s been one of my regular PhD offerings since [...]

Modern Interest in the Apostolic Fathers

An interest in the "church Fathers" emerged in Western Europe among humanists of the Renaissance, many of whom saw in the golden age of patristics their own forebears -- cultured scholars imbued with the classics of Western Civilization, concerned with deep religious and philosophical problems. No wonder, then, that the humanists focused their attention on the writings of the "great" Fathers of the church such as Chrysostom, Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, the Cappadocians, and the like, while showing virtually no interest in their comparatively "primitive" and "uncultured" predecessors, such as Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Rome, Barnabas, and Hermas, who on no reckoning were cultured scholars or brilliant thinkers. When a “most ancient” church Father like Irenaeus was mentioned, it was usually in order to show the unrefined nature of his theology and to censure his aberrant doctrinal views, which failed to reflect the more mature and nuanced statements of later times. The Reformation provided some impetus for the study of Christian writings immediately after the New Testament period, but even then few scholars evinced an [...]

The Collection: Apostolic Fathers

About a week or so ago I talked about translating the Apostolic Fathers for the Loeb Classical Library. Some people have asked me to say more about the Apostolic Fathers. It may be useful to devote a couple of posts to this collection: when were these authors first gathered together? Who decides which books should be included in the corpus? On what grounds? Etc. For much of this I draw from the Introduction in my edition. The term “apostolic father” first occurs in the Hogedos of Anastasius, the seventh-century anti-monophysite abbot of St. Catherine’s monastery on Mount Sinai, who spoke of “the apostolic  father Dionysius the Areopagite.”  Somewhat ironically, the works of Dionysius the Areopagite, allegedly the convert of the apostle Paul (Acts 17:34), have never been included in modern collections of the Apostolic Fathers: since the sixteenth century they have been recognized as forgeries of later times (possibly the early sixth century).   (They are still fascinating reading: but they are not writings by someone from the generation after the apostles.)  In any event, neither Anastasius [...]

A Stranger Problem with Lake’s Translation

Other problems with the edition of the Apostolic Fathers done by Kirsopp Lake relate to the period when he produced it. This is scarcely an avoidable problem, of course; but the reality is that his time is not ours. Lake was born in 1872 and was given, then, a solid Victorian education in the classics in Oxford. And there are passages in his translation where his cultural milieu shines through, none more clearly than in Barnabas 10, where Barnabas is discussing some of the food laws of the Old Testament in order to show that Jews have misconstrued them in a literal way -- misled as they were by an evil angel -- when in fact God meant them to be taken figuratively as indications of how one was to live. And so, for Barnabas, the commandment not to eat pork, for example, does not literally mean not to eat pork; it is a command not to live like or associate with people who are like pigs -- who grunt loudly when hungry but are [...]

Problems with Lake’s Translation of the Apostolic Fathers

Some people have asked if I could give some examples of the problems with the translations of the Apostolic Fathers in the original edition done by Kirsopp Lake. It’s a fair enough question – although I do want to stress for the 29th time that I think on the whole he made a very fine translation indeed. But there are some serious and widely recognized problems with it. As one might expect, the translations are dated in places. No longer do we use intentionally archaizing language in translations to indicate their sacrality or antiquity. Lake did do that. It’s like speaking King James English, though, when talking about religion, instead of just talking as one normally talks. Technically it’s not wrong, but it’s a bit strange. Even the authors of the Bible (not to mention the Apostolic Fathers) spoke in the language of their day, not stilted language of 400 years earlier (despite what you hear from the people who still think the King James Version is the one and only inspired translation of the [...]

Lake’s Apostolic Fathers

I mentioned that the first edition of the Loeb Apostolic Fathers was done by Kirsopp Lake and that I think he was a great scholar and that it was a great edition.  I’ve always looked up to him, as a brilliant scholar of an earlier generation with very many interests closely parallel to mine.   Our backgrounds could not be more different.  He grew up in England and went to Oxford; I grew up in Kansas and went to Moody Bible Institute.  J Born in 1872, as a young man Lake experienced a serious illness that affected his health for life, and that at the time kept him from pursuing the rigors of the legal profession (he wanted to practice law).  His physicians evidently thought that the study of theology would be a tame enough pursuit for his frail frame, and he took his degree from Lincoln College, Oxford.   Lake was musically inclined -- as a young curate in Durham England he conducted the Mikado -- and was early in his career concerned principally with modern social [...]

Textual Problems in the Apostolic Fathers 2

In my previous post I discussed a textual problem in the writings of Ignatius, simply as a way of illustrating the kinds of textual decisions that need to be made when one publishes a new edition of any ancient text. There are lots and lots of textual variants in the various writings of the apostolic fathers. As with the New Testament (where there are thousands more manuscripts and hundreds of thousands more variants), most of the variant readings do not matter for much. But some of them are of real importance. Another important textual problem is found in the Martyrdom of Polycarp, our earliest surviving Christian martyrology – that is, the first account, outside the New Testament, of a Christian being martyred for his faith. It is a fascinating account – required reading for anyone interested in early Christianity! In it, the old man Polycarp, Christian bishop of Smyrna, is tracked down and arrested by the local officials, who take him to the arena for public judgment. When he refuses to renounce his faith, he [...]

Textual Problems in the Apostolic Fathers 1

In my previous two posts I discussed how I was asked to do a new edition of the Apostolic Fathers for the Loeb Classical Library. In the previous post I mentioned several difficulties confronting anyone doing a bi-lingual edition of a text. Among other things, there is the problem of knowing what to print as the text to be translated. The problem is that (a) we do not have the original texts of any of the Apostolic Fathers (just as we do not have the originals of any book of the New Testament, or of the Hebrew Bible, or, well, of any book from the ancient world) and (b) the copies we have all differ from one another. And so which copies do we trust? For each of the apostolic fathers there are different sets of problems along these lines, because these writings were not circulated, before the 17th century, as a group, but separately, for the most part. And so, manuscripts that have the Letters of Ignatius do not also have the Martyrdom of [...]

The Apostolic Fathers: Serendipity Strikes

It seems that much that has happened in my professional life has been because of serendipity.  Back when I was a believer, we called it Providence.  (!)   It’s how I got my first job at Rutgers in 1984; how I got my current position at UNC in 1988; how I got asked to write something other than a technical study involving the Greek manuscript tradition of the New Testament – a textbook for undergraduates (in the early 1990s), and thus, in a sense, started my publishing career; how I had my first bestselling book (Misquoting Jesus) become a NY Times bestseller in 2005; and, as it turns out, how I came to undertake my first major translation project, a new edition of the Apostolic Fathers for the Loeb Classical Library (starting in 1999; published in 2003). I may tell the other stories at some point (I think I’ve told the first one already on the blog; I’ll have to look to see). For now, the Loebs. So in 1999 (I *think* that was the year [...]

2020-04-03T19:16:22-04:00October 28th, 2012|Bart’s Biography, Book Discussions, Proto-Orthodox Writers|

Translating the Apostolic Fathers

In my last post I answered a question about whether I would ever publish a translation of the New Testament. (Short answer: almost certainly not!). But I want to take a couple of posts to talk about the work of translation. There is a very big difference between being able to read an ancient text in its ancient language (Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Coptic, whatever) and producing a translation of it for publication. You might think that it’s all basically the same thing: if you can read it, you can publish a translation of it. But as it turns out, it’s not that simple. I didn’t realize this for years and years, until I started publishing translations of ancient texts. My first experience was about fifteen years ago now, when I was asked to do a new edition of the Apostolic Fathers for the Loeb Classical Library. Here I’ll give some background on that project and the series it appeared in, and in the next post I’ll talk about the difficulties of producing a translation. FOR [...]

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