Origen on Speaking and Interpreting

Origen's head plugged into a smart phone and a note saying retrieving data

A journey that delves deeply into Greek grammar, etymology, and the politics behind the translation of Origen’s comments of I Corinthians 14:13–14.

This article covers the great third century Church Father, theologian and writer, Origen, regarding his commentary on the above passage in Greek. The coverage here is technical and produces by a step-by-step process in producing an English version. By doing so, the system reveals problems that plague the translation of ancient Christian texts.

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St. Paul’s Final Hurrah

Enrique Simonet, Painter, Decapitation of St. Paul
Enrique Simonet (1866-1927). The Beheading of Saint Paul

Paul was executed in 51 AD under the rule of Nero according to the third-century Christian author, Ammonius of Alexandria, and two other writers.

A deeper look into this text and a translation.

Ammonius was trying to dispel a misunderstanding of the Herod dynasty about the timelines of Christ and Paul. Both are interesting but the history he ascribes to Paul is especially intriguing. By doing so, he gave the above information.

Few know about Ammonius, and less about his writings. Ammonius lived in Alexandria and was a noted Biblical scholar.1 Unfortunately, only remnants of his writings are available today.

An interesting person along with important historical texts. His persona beckons an English translation so that his contribution is more widely known. So, this is what the rest of this article intends to do.

The following translation has a little crossover of John Chrysostom and some influence by the eleventh century writer, Theophylacti of Bulgaria. It appears from a very informal look that most of this is penned by the hand of Ammonius.

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Believer/Unbeliever, Faithful/Infidel, What is best?

A question of properly translating πιστός and ἄπιστος in Byzantine Greek Church literature.

Should they be translated as believer/unbeliever, or faithful/infidel?

The translation of believer is not difficult to accept, though it is a tad ambiguous in today’s English, but unbeliever is too neutral. It does not reflect the intensity ascribed to by the majority of the original writers. Infidel may be better suited. It is a strong word that has near racist implications based on religious grounds, and has especially been propagated by media coverage of radical Islamic actions against those who do not share their beliefs. In reference to some Byzantine Church writings, infidel feels closer to the writer’s intent.

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Origen on Knowledge

A helpful guide for anyone reading Origen and getting stumped over his semantically diverse theories of knowledge.

Many historians and academics rank the third-century Christian theologian and thinker, Origen, as one of the best earlier Christian writers. He was steeped in Greek literature, structure and thought. Not only this, but his zeal for knowledge was wrapped in sincere piety. These characteristics were reflected in his writings.

This combination is especially found in the catena ascribed to him on I Corinthians.1 One is hard-pressed to comprehend the semantics of his knowledge words. This applies to the majority of his other works as well.

As a reader and translator of Origen, one must have a precise understanding of the Greek system of knowledge. There are a number of words for knowledge in Greek and have different applications. Understanding these words in the original context is a gateway to Origen’s mind.

This article attempts to unlock the words of knowledge in order to better understand Origen’s text. The beginning is difficult and complex for the English reader to understand but the end is rather simple. Origen wanted to know things in such a way that changed his worldview and his interaction with it. Studying was not simply for the sake of knowledge but becoming a better, more complete person.

Anyways, we will get into the details of his concept of knowledge starting now.

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Antisemitism in the Ancient Church

A look into the earlier Church, its treatment of outsiders of the faith, and Jews.

If anyone begins to read ecclesiastical writings with keen interest, it will be inevitable that one has to struggle with the antisemitic remarks in ancient Christian literature. Antisemitism is an over-simplification. This was a small part of a much larger problem. The church viewed anyone outside of the Christian community as less-than-human especially Scythians (Russian type of peoples). The political and military aspirations of Christianity in some epochs sought to annihilate any person or populations that that did not embrace its message. Jews were lucky, due to their theological history, and were often spared. Although they got to live, they were second class citizens. At least they could tell their story of oppression. The many other pagans and whole unclassified communities who refused to convert have stories that will never be told.

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Is Tyrannius Rufinus a Reliable Translator?

A closer look at the reliability of Tyrannius Rufinus’ Latin translation of Gregory Nazianzus’ Greek work On Pentecost.

In a number of scholarly circles, the translations of Rufinus have been under careful scrutiny, and the consensus was that Rufinus’ translations were not reliable. However, this attitude is changing. In my case, the importance of Rufinus lies in his translation of Gregory Nazianzus Greek works, especially the section relating to Pentecost. A controversial text in the Greek, and even moreso in the Latin because of Rufinus’ translation or mistranslation into Latin. So here we go looking for clues to see if he was a reliable translator, so-so, or hit and miss.

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How to read a Greek Minuscule Text

Gregory Nazianzus On Pentecost

This article is for those who wish to read and translate Greek manuscripts as close to the original as possible.

Sometimes a thousand years is closest to the original, which means the copy was written somewhere between the tenth and thirteenth centuries. If this is the case, the copy was written in the Greek minuscule format.

Greek minuscule is a handwriting format that was much more efficient than its earlier counterpart. It used a smaller, and much more rounder style, and ligatures — that is the combining of letter combinations into one symbol; symbols for inflectional word endings, and abbreviations. Think of it as traditional handwriting combined with a shorthand texting format.

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The Language of Ecclesiastical Greek

This article is intended to help beginners in Ecclesiastical Greek develop a strategy to translate a wide range of Church writings.

The Church fathers used the common written language in use during their time. This was Attic Greek.

There are two caveats though: first there are many sub-dialects in Attic Greek that the translator has to be conscious of. Secondly, many manuscripts were modified by medieval copyists and are mixed-bag of old and newer constructs.

Greek in the ancient world was much like the contemporary English language. There is koine English, which is a base form of English which many countries and regions share very similar commonalities. For example the United States south, British, and Australians can communicate with only a few problems. However, each one does have some distinct words and pronunciations that each party quickly recognizes and makes adjustments. Ecclesiastical Greek has many authors that wrote in their own sub-dialect similar to the slight differences found between British, American and Australian literature.

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More on the Historical Rejection of Patristics

The controversy of magic and miracles in the Reformation, how both sides used Patristics for their own conveniences, and the rise of the word ceased in the Christian religious vocabulary.

The fifteenth to nineteenth centuries were focused on the Church tradition of miracles. The Church, which controlled the civil, and religious laws, established its authority and decision making through the works of miracles. It could not easily be questioned. As was previously written, this mysticism influenced every sphere of life; from politics, to health, taxes, and the natural sciences. It did not allow for dialogue, external accountability, or encourage scientific exploration.

The Medieval and Reformation supernaturalists had a greater propensity towards mysticism and overstated the ancient writers to propel their positions. It makes the modern reader think the Patristic writers were more deeply into the supernatural, magic, and miracles than they really were.

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The Historical Rejection of Patristics and its Legacy

How the overemphasis on Christian mysticism from the sixteenth century onwards, and the reaction to it, removed Patristic literature from the public conscience.

Contemporary study of ecclesiastical literature has delegated most records to the realm of myths and legends; it is not reliable for any historical pursuit. Therefore, any serious study of the subject has been popularly abandoned.

How did this happen?

The story begins with the emergence of the Renaissance era, especially so in Italy. The Renaissance is a fundamental movement that started in fourteenth-century Europe and spread throughout the western world. Indeed, it is the framework we live by today. The revitalization sparked a renewed interest in classical learning, languages1, science, and literature.

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