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Didymus and De Trinitate

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  • James Snapp, Jr.
    I ve acquired Hanson s Search for the Christian Doctrine of God. (Now if only someone else would track down Alasdair Heron s 1989 essay for comparison.)
    Message 1 of 10 , Aug 21, 2007
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      I've acquired Hanson's "Search for the Christian Doctrine of God."
      (Now if only someone else would track down Alasdair Heron's 1989
      essay for comparison.) Here are the problems with a Didymian
      (Didymite? Didymusian?) authorship of De Trinitate, which are
      mentioned on pp. 653-658 (most of which seem to have been formulated
      by a Franch-writing scholar named Doutreleau; Hanson sums up
      Doutreleau's points), accompanied by some thoughts about possible
      problems with the problems.

      (1) The author of De Trinitate III:16, when commenting on I Tim.
      5:6, refers to his previous work on the Holy Spirit, but in
      Didymus' "On the Holy Spirit," as preserved and translated by Jerome,
      there is no exposition of I Tim. 5:6.

      (I Tim. 5:6 says, "But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she
      lives." Does the author of De Trinitate explicitly say that he
      commented on I Tim. 5:6 in his work on the Holy Spirit, or does he
      just say something like, "For my earlier comments about this sort of
      thing, see my comments in my treatise on the Holy Spirit"? Is there
      anything in Didymus' "On the Holy Spirit" that, while not explicitly
      quoting I Tim. 5:6, could be considered to be thematically related to
      it? And, did Jerome translate the entire work?)

      (2) The author of De Trinitate refers to the "Macedonians," but
      in "On the Holy Spirit," Didymus refers to this group of heretics as
      the "Pneumatomachians."

      (Could Jerome have taken slight liberties with the text of "On the
      Holy Spirit" so as to refer to this group by a name which he
      considered more appropriate than "Macedonians"? -- Also, the
      nomenclature by which some heretics were described back then may have
      drifted similarly to such nomenclature today ("Mormons" vs.
      LDS; "Jehovah's Witnesses" vs. Watchtower Society). An author may
      arbitrarily use either one on different occasions.)

      (3) "Jerome in his account of Didymus does not mention a work on the
      Trinity by him, though De Trinitate must have been written fairly
      soon after 381 and Jerome visited Didymus in 386."

      (In ch. 109 of Viris Illustribus is, Jerome, after naming several of
      Didymus' commentaries and books, finishes the list by saying, "and
      many other things, to give an account of which would be a work of
      itself. He is still living, and has already passed his eighty-third
      year." Since Jerome stated explicitly that he did not mention "many
      other" works by Didymus, this objection is extremely light.)

      (4) "De Trinitate enumerates Zechariah as the last of the Minor
      Prophets, whereas Didymus Comm. on Zechariah counts him as the
      eleventh (before Malachi)."

      (Okay. I'd like to see the contexts of the two listings. Is one a
      chronological listing, and the other a list in order of appearance in
      a canon-list? Is one a shortest-to-longest list? Or are we looking
      at two canon-lists, and if so, is that a big deal in 381?)

      (5) "The explanation of the candelabra in Zech. 3:8-4:10 is utterly
      different in every detail in De Trinitate and Comm. on Zechariah, and
      the latter does not refer to the treatment of the passage in the De
      Trinitate."

      (Okay; this is a significant difference. But an author approaching
      that passage in search of allegorical insights could probably squeeze
      two very different allegorical insights out of it, depending on what
      themes he wished to emphasized, or what points he wished to make, on
      different occasions.)

      (6) De Trinitate "deploys a full technical vocabulary in dealing
      with Trinitarian themes," while in the undisputed works of Didymus,
      he "uses almost no technical terms at all."

      (Okay; I'll consider this a significant difference. On the other
      hand, topics can greatly affect style. Even text-critics don't often
      employ text-critical jargon unless they are writing something related
      to textual criticism. Also, Hanson does mention that
      Didymus "applies homoousios twice to the Son but never to the
      Spirit." Just because Didymus didn't typically employ terms
      like "homoousois" and "theotokos" and "isotimia" in works that were
      not about the Trinity does not mean that they were not in his verbal
      arsenal.)

      (7) Didymus never quotes pagan poets, but the author of De
      Trinitate "frequently quotes Homer and the classic Greek poets."

      (Okay; this is a significant point.)

      (8) Didymus is "fond of arithmology, i.e. playing around with the
      significance of numbers," but De Trinitate "has only two brief
      excursions into arithmology."

      (This is a pretty light objection! An author can't be expected to
      use numerically-based illustrations in every single work. And then,
      when we see that the author of De Trinitate does this, well, two such
      uses is just not enough?!?)

      (9) Didymus relies on Origen for a lot of his theology, but De
      Trinitate "shows no influence from Origen."

      (Since Didymus had been appointed to lead the school of Alexandria by
      Athanasius, it would come as no surprise to see that despite admiring
      Origen's erudition, and despite learning from Origen's works, Didymus
      did not rely on Origen when writing about the Trinity, but took his
      stand on ground taken by more recent, and more orthodox, movers-and-
      shakers in the church.)

      (10) The author of De Trinitate states, in III:1 (784), "I go
      forward to the next task, trusting that even before I speak I shall
      receive grace along with the children whom (God) has given to me and
      the children of those children, through whom as long as we live we
      labor, and indeed also all whom (God) knows." Didymus was a monk,
      and the idea that he had children and grandchildren is unlikely.

      (Hanson wrote, "These 'children' could refer to the writer's
      disciples, but to call disciples of a later generation or disciples
      of one's disciples would be odd." Why? To a writer such as Didymus,
      fond of allegories and such, it seems entirely natural. This
      evidence may be easily converted into evidence in favor of Didymusian
      authorship: the author says that he is speaking -- i.e., dictating,
      as Didymus (and others) did -- and by the 380's, Didymus had worked
      long enough to see the disciples of his disciples mature. Didymus
      was old. The author of De Trinitate, if he here refers to students
      of his students, was old.)

      (11) In De Trinitate II:11 (660), the author writes, "But John too
      is obvious, as they say, even to a blind man." It is unlikely that
      Didymus the Blind would have used this expression.

      (Why? That Didymus could make an occasional self-referential
      statement like this does not seem unlikely to me.)

      (12) In De Trinitate II:27 (768), the author "urges his readers or
      disciples to 'live among books,'" and this, according to Hanson,
      is "not a likely piece of advice for a blind man to give."

      (Why not? Are we to imagine that Didymus did not realize the
      advantages that the acquisition of books could provide? As the
      author of many books -- which Didymus wanted people to read --
      Didymus would be entirely capable of encouraging people to live in
      the company of books.) (tangent: didn't Chrysostom also say this
      somewhere?)

      (13) "And at one point [III:2 (825)], quoting Aquila's version, the
      author transliterates the Hebrew word into Greek letters. We have to
      ask ourselves whether a blind man is likely to have learnt even the
      letters of the Hebrew alphabet."

      Didymus the Blind's career is one unlikely accomplishment after
      another. Is it likely that a blind man would learn geometry? Yet
      the record that he did so is there, along with a report that he
      learned to read by the use of carved wooden letters. There is
      nothing in the way of the view that Didymus knew enough Hebrew to be
      able, with the help of his assistants, to transliterate one Hebrew
      word into Greek. A commentator on several OT books (including
      Psalms) whose erudition was saluted by Jerome would almost inevitably
      have an awareness of the Hebrew alphabet.

      +++++++

      Out of the 13 objections that Hanson presented, #9-13 seem
      inconsequential, #2, #3, and #8 seem feathery, #1 and #4 are possibly
      significant but more info is needed, and only #5, #6, and #7
      obviously carry real and firm weight, such as it is. Focusing on
      these points, the case that Didymus is not the author of De Trinitate
      seems, for the moment, to rest on three points:

      The author of De Trinitate and Didymus interpret Zech. 3:8-4:10 in
      two very different ways.
      The author of De Trinitate uses technical jargon about the Trinity,
      but Didymus hardly ever uses such terms.
      The author of De Trinitate frequently quotes Homer and other pagan
      poets, but Didymus never does so.

      I wonder how Alasdair Heron tackled these objections.

      In related news: at
      http://papyrology.blogspot.com/2007/04/rc-hill-tr-didymus-blind-
      commentary-on.html
      there's a mention of R.C. Hill's new English translation of Didymus'
      commentary on Zechariah, and Emanuela Prinzivalli's Italian
      translation of Didymus' commentary on the Psalms.

      Yours in Christ,

      James Snapp, Jr.
      Minister, Curtisville Christian Church
      Tipton, Indiana (USA)
      www.curtisvillechristian.org/BasicTC.html
    • Benjamin Pehrson
      In Peter Williams (2004) Early Syriac Translation Technique and the Textual Criticism of the Greek Gospels, he argues (p. 2) that too often an omission in the
      Message 2 of 10 , Aug 27, 2007
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        In Peter Williams (2004) Early Syriac Translation Technique and the Textual Criticism of the Greek Gospels, he argues (p. 2) that too often an omission in the Syriac has been used to support an assumed Greek Vorlage, and the possibility of formal alterations during the translation process have been explored too little. In his discussion (pp. 163-64) of the adverb ETI ‘still’, he discusses a possible ‘tendency’ of Syriac to omit this adverb (5 of 37 occurrences in the Gospels). In support of Williams’ general argument, I draw your attention to a blog post (http://agaphseis.blogspot.com/2007/08/early-syriac-translation-technique.html) that discusses some translation factors that may have influenced two of the instances where the Syriac omission goes against the entire extant Greek tradition (Lk. 8:49 and Lk. 9:42) and two instances where the Syriac omission might be used to support one Greek reading over another (Jn. 4:35 and Jn. 11:30). Could the apparent redundancy of ETI in the Greek text explain the Syriac omission in all four of these passages?

         

        Benjamin Pehrson

        Aitape West Translation Project

        Papua New Guinea

      • David Robert Palmer
        Hello Benjamin! Are you working with SIL? What is the mame of the language into which you are translating? I m thinking Aitape is a name of a region or
        Message 3 of 10 , Aug 30, 2007
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          Hello Benjamin!
           
          Are you working with SIL?  What is the mame of the language into which you are translating?  I'm thinking Aitape is a name of a region or district, not a language.
           
          What I really want to get at is, what Greek text do you use as the source text for the New Testament you are working on?
           
          Thanks.
           
          David Robert Palmer
           
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