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*Romanos* and the TR?

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  • William L. Petersen
    Regarding Matthew Johnson s two recent posts on Romanos and the TR (the ... Both of your corrections are empirically wrong. I refer you to my *Tatian s
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 13, 1997
      Regarding Matthew Johnson's two recent posts on Romanos and the TR (the
      post, and then his correction of his own post):

      >A couple of corrections here: 1) the DIatessaron is a different text: it
      >is (of course), the text of the DIatessaron, not of the Canonical Gospels.
      >2) According to the historians of the Syrian Church I have read, the
      >history of Western Syria (sphere of influence of Antioch) and Eastern
      >Syria (sphere of influence of Edessa) are somewhat distinct: it is in
      >Eastern Syria that the Diatessaron enjoyed such popularity.

      >If you are aware of more recent work that has overturned this version of
      >history, please feel free to make reference to it in your reply.

      Both of your "corrections" are empirically wrong. I refer you to my
      *Tatian's Diatessaron. Its Creation, Dissemination, History, and
      Significance in Scholarship*, SuppVigChr 25 (Leiden: Brill 1994). I'm sure
      its 500+ pages of textual evidence and history of research on precisely
      these problems will shed light on how you err. Both of your "corrections"
      have been discounted for over a century (since the time of Theodore Zahn
      [1881]; one could even argue that de Beausobre [1730s] implicitly
      understood this). (Whence are you getting this bad information???)

      >This is an interesting point, I am glad you mentioned it. But there is an
      >important distinction you have still not mentioned: when you counted these
      >citations and allusions, did you take into account which of them were in
      >hymns that have never been widely used in the Church vs. which found an
      >established place? There might be a dramatic difference in text-type.

      Your reasoning here is very odd, especially if you are well informed. (1)
      Romanos' hymns were extremely popular *during his lifetime.* The
      *menologion* states that Romanos wrote "more than a thousand" *knotakia.*
      We have about fifty *kontakia* preserved in MSS which are considered
      "genuina" by Mass/Trypanis (Oxford edition, 1963) or Grosdidier de Matons
      (SC edition, 1964-81). Since these are well-preserved in their MS
      tradition--as opposed to the 950 (!!) lost hymns--it is usually assumed that
      these fifty included the "cream" of his output. (Note: Romanos died post
      553/554, was a "hanger-on" at Justinian's court, and is a Saint in the RC
      tradition: we are not talking about a persecuted church, or a feeble early
      church here: the tradition was established, and during his lifetime,
      Romanos was understood to be "the greatest church poets of all time"
      [Krumbacher]). A consideration of the preserved hymns suggests this is so.
      (2) The Diatessaronic quotations are found throughout his hymns, but group
      most tightly in three areas: the Nativity, the Passion, and the Hymn on the
      Bleeding Woman. And it is precisely for the Nativity and Passion hymns that
      Romanos is best known. Also, recall that the Diatessaron apparently was the
      text of the Syrian chruch and of the Judaic Christians--it was their
      Vulgate. (3) *All* of Romanos' preserved hymns were, as far as we know,
      widely used in public worship in Constantinople at his time and thereafter;
      they were widely appreciated elsewhere, as well. Their popularity is
      attested independently, and their texts demonstrate through internal
      evidence that they were used in public worship ("Now that we have heard the
      gospel story,/ Let us inquire...", etc.). I refer you to the definitive
      work on Romanos and his hymns: Jose Grosdidier de Matons, *Romanos le
      Melode et les origines de la poesie religieuse a Byzance* (Paris:
      Beauchesne/Cerf 1977).

      >> What is your evidence for your assertions?
      >1 - The comments of Rostovcev [Johnson corrected this to Vasiliev in his
      "errata" post] "The History of the Byzantine >Empire" (I know, o-l-d, which
      is why I didn't realize Romanos had been published)
      >concerning the explosion of religious poetry in the Byzantine empire -
      >poetry written by Syrian Orthodox Christians.

      Three comments: (1) Vasiliev is neither a specialist in this area
      (Byzantine hymnography) nor in textual studies, so he simply can't serve as
      an authority. If you are familiar with the literature, the experts on
      Romanos and the *kontakion* are: Christ, Paranikas, Maas, Trypanis,
      Krumbacher, Meyer. There are other great names who have worked in the area,
      but their work is faulty, either because their logic, evidence, or breadth
      of knowledge was defective. These include: Pitra, Emereau, and, yes,
      Grosdidier de Matons (that he is still the expert on Romanos and his hymns
      remains, despite his errors on certain points). (2) I use works far older
      than Vasiliev (cp. my citation of de Beausobre, above), who is very good on
      history. Only a fool would criticise something *simply* because it is old.
      But he is very much behind the times here, in an area in which he has *no*
      expertise, and he does *not* give any specifics to back up his generalities.
      (3) Your statement "I didn't realize Romanos had been published" is the
      problem in this entire discussion, from start to finish. My dear sir,
      Romanos was published in 1963--almost 35 years ago! And much literature has
      been generated since. See the bibliography in my CSCO volume. To be frank,
      this discussion is rather like a physician talking cardiac care with someone
      who hasn't read any of the literature in the last 35 years: it is really
      rather pointless, isn't it?

      >2 - Amphoux's "An Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticsim" p 95
      >"but this sophisticated kind of coded writing is not suitable for the
      >general circulation. For wider distribution, the text had to be adapted
      >to the mentatlity of the people who werer going to receive it".

      >True, he had in mind the Western text, but why should this process have
      >stopped then?

      [Johnson augments this quotation with a second one in his "errata" post:

      the much more appropriate citation from AMphoux is p 115 " all that is
      certain is that this type of text [the syro-byzantine] spread very
      rapidly throughout the Greek-speaking world when John Chrysostom and
      other Syrians had occupied the patriarchal see at Constantinople"]

      Both of these statements are so vague as to be worthless. Read the precise
      textual evidence presented in the half dozen titles I have given you, and
      then see what you think. I am not interested in generalities, or "may have
      beens." We are talking about a specific author (Romanos) and a specific
      text (the TR). Amphoux is writing (1) in broad generalities (Romanos is not
      cited here), and is (2) pushing his own particular textual theories. Both
      are irrelevant to this discussion. But, lest one more error survive: I
      repeat what I said above: *ANYONE* who has read the antique sources about
      Romanos, or read his hymns, will immediately see why he was called "le
      Melode" and why his hymns were so popular both during and after his
      lifetime. Some have attributed the *Akathistos* to him--probably
      erroneously--but it nevertheless suggests his stature. Further, *ANYONE*
      who has read his hymns will see that they are exquisitely constructed works,
      multi-layered, but still immediately accessible to the simplest among us.
      That is why they have been considered the genesis of chancel drama (see A.C.
      Mahr). Romanos' hymns *can* be read at a very profound, deep, mystical
      level; but their brilliance is that they can also be read at a superficial
      level--and be equally significant for either audience.

      And finally:

      >As for holiness being subjective, if so, then remember that the book all
      >of us devote so much effort to studying commands us in quite unequivocal
      >terms to be subjective: "be holy, for I am Holy".

      Quite so. Which is why some Southern Baptists (and other "good" Christians)
      thought owning slaves was consistent with "holiness," while other
      Protestants did not. Which is why some German Lutherans thought killing
      Jews was equal to "holiness," while others did not. Which is why some Roman
      Catholics went off on bloody crusades, to "be Holy," while others did not.
      Which is why some Christians permit remarriage after divorce, while others
      do not. Why some require celibacy for their clergy and others can have
      "holy" clergy who are not celibate. Why some Christians are pacifists, and
      others are not.

      What is so difficult about church history? It's all pretty straightforward
      isn't it?

      --Petersen, Penn State University.
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