- The Funerary Speech for John Chrysostom trans. by Timothy D. Barnes and George Bevan
As the first translation into English of a work in Greek available to scholars in edited form only in 2007 (and then in an obscure Italian series)—a work until the 1970s dismissed as late and derivative, now acknowledged as the earliest source for the life of the influential early-fifth-century bishop John Chrysostom—this is an essential resource for students and scholars alike. Add in the status of the translators and annotators—the eminent emeritus classicist, Timothy Barnes, and his former student, George Bevan, now exciting interest in his own right for his application of new technologies to numismatics and archaeology—and one gains some idea of the importance and impact of this seemingly unassuming volume.
Although the core of the volume brings to life the funeral oration composed by a supporter on receipt of news of the death of John in exile in late 407, the translators have enriched the text further not just with the detailed introduction and notes typical of this series but also with the translation of thirty letters composed by John from exile and a further three related texts of historical significance (appendices A–C). The latter are the acts of the Council of the Oak (403) preserved by the ninth-century bishop of Constantinople, Photius (A); the summary of five lost orations by Theodoret of Cyrrhus on John, likewise preserved by Photius (B); and the neglected segments on John in the tenth-century Constantinopolitan synaxary (C). Of these texts, only a single letter has been published previously in an English translation. The letters, selected from those addressed to persons of status at Constantinople and to prominent Western bishops, are prefaced by their own detailed introduction. Because of the confusing history of a number of these key sources, resulting in a variety of citations by scholars, Barnes and Bevan supply additional tools (appendices D–F). The first (D) is a concordance between the chief manuscript of the funeral oration (Parisinus Graecus 1519, available in a preliminary edition in a doctoral thesis in 1974), the 2007 edition by Martin Wallraff, and the small portion of the text published by Migne in PG 47. The second (E) is a concordance [End Page 805] between the two editions of the other chief witness to John’s life, Palladius’s Dialogue, and the sole English translation (in the series Ancient Christian Writers) by Robert Meyer. The latter appeared prior to the more recent edition. The third (F) is a concordance between the Malingrey edition of the first seventeen letters written by John in exile (to Olympias) and the order in which these same letters were published (in PG 52) by Migne, supplemented by Roland Delmaire’s conclusions regarding their probable date and place of composition. An equally useful chronology of John’s life and rehabilitation prefaces the volume, supplemented at the volume’s close by a map of Asia Minor showing John’s route in exile.
Although one could quibble about the certainty of some of the facts and dates asserted in the introductions and notes across the volume, in the case of the funeral oration the translators make good sense of a not always elegant or clear text. This unique and unashamedly partisan witness to John’s life provides snippets of information unattested elsewhere. By providing such a richly contextualized translation in a readily available, affordable, and respected series, Barnes and Bevan have taken the next step toward ensuring that this largely neglected historical source receives the attention it deserves.