Migne's Patrologia Graeca series and other Very Useful Books

Steven C. Carlson at Hypotyposeis provides links to the places where Mischa Hooker provides links to numerous Very Useful Books for the study of the Bible, Judaism, Christianity via Google Book Search, as well as to Greek and Latin literature generally. Especially nice, from the perspective of this blog, at least, and because I've always had Too Much Trouble locating the volumes I needed, is the convenience provided by the index to Migne's Patrologia Graeca, as well as the several Pseudepigrapha links.

I would like to add . . . links to the full texts of Alexandre's invaluable Excursus ad Sibyllina, and of Geffcken's critical edition of the SibOr.

And many thanks also to Mischa Hooker for the link to Elpenor's elegant pages devoted to texts and translations from Migne's PG.


On the generic diversity of the Sibylline Oracles

The author of the anonymous prologue to the Φ recension of the SibOr writes:

Ἔδοξε . . . κἀμὲ τοὺς ἐπιλεγομένους Σιβυλλιακοὺς χρησμοὺς σποράδην εὑρισκομένους καὶ συγκεχυμένην τὴν τούτων ἀνάγνωσιν καὶ ἐπίγνωσιν ἔχοντας εἰς μίαν συνάφειαν καὶ ἁρμονίαν ἐκθέσθαι τοῦ λόγου, ὡς ἂν εὐσύνοπτοι τοῖς ἀναγιγνώσκουσιν ὄντες τὴν ἐξ αὐτῶν ὠφέλειαν τούτοις ἐπιβραβεύσωσιν.
"Having found them scattered, and reading and knowledge of them in a state of confusion, I was determined to publish the collected Sibylline Oracles in a unified and orderly volume, so that, now that they are readily available to readers, they might get the benefit of them" (SibOr Prologue 8-13).

The unity that the 6th-century CE χρησμολόγος/"oracle-collector" imposed on his σποράδην . . . καὶ συγκεχυμένην/"scattered and confused" materials would seem to consist of little more than his εἰς μίαν συνάφειαν καὶ ἁρμονίαν ἐκθέσθαι τοῦ λόγου/"publishing them in a unified and orderly volume", i.e., (more or less) just as he found them, only now between the two covers of a single codex. At least, (most of) what he archived doesn't appear to be substantially different from what we know Lactantius had been reading nearly two centuries earlier. As Buitenwerf notes, "Each time Lactantius announces that he is going to quote a different Sibyl [than the one(s) he has just previously quoted], the oracle he quotes can indeed be found in another book of the extant [Φ] collection" (Book III, p. 82). Kudos to Φ's nameless Byzantine Christian editor, then, for (evidently) keeping his own finger out of the pie.

Whatever unity the Φ recension of the SibOr might have beyond that, however, it's not generic. Five of its eight constituent λόγοι/"books" (SibOr 3, 4, 5, 7, and 8) could, I suppose, be labeled "oracle collections", but I'm still not convinced that that's a very accurate or helpful descriptor for all of these texts. Some are more coherent and cohesive (and narrative) than others (SibOr 7, little more than a series of not necessarily related fragments, comes closest, IMHO, to deserving the appellation "oracle collection"), and each is at least as different from the others as any five early Jewish and Christian apocalypses, or any five modern American novels, would be from one other. If these are oracle collections, then, like the apocalypse, or the novel, the oracle collection would have to be regarded as an inherently mixed genre, by which I mean both (1) that its incorporation of a variety of genres is basic to its own generic identity, and (2) that any two given examples of the genre may or may not look anything at all like one other. One book in the collection, SibOr 6, is not an oracle collection, but an early Christian hymn. Finally, books 1-2 belong together as a single work, but it isn't an oracle collection either: it's a didactic poem masquerading as a historical review apocalypse disguised as a Sibylline prophecy.

The Φ recension of the SibOr is often mistaken for an oracle collection, but I would argue that it's not . . . in spite of the fact that it was clearly so regarded by its late ancient/early medieval readers . . . rather, it's an anthology that includes oracle collections alongside texts belonging to other genres. (By the same token, are gospels biographies or not? It all depends on what you mean by "biography". It's a similar kind of question about generic classification, here.) Dactylic hexameter verse, figurations of the Sibyl, and archive fever are, inter alia, what hold the gathered materials together, not literary genre.


Moving beyond New Testament Greek

Two new Yahoo! discussion groups that aim to encourage reading Greek outside the New Testament box both look good.

1. From Dr. Jim West I learned of the recent creation of Reading the Apostolic Fathers, whose moderator, David McKay, writes:

This group is for people who would like to expand their facility in reading New Testament Greek by reading through The Apostolic Fathers, whose writings appeared a little after the completion of the New Testament.

And he continues in his inaugural e-mail:

This group is for people who would like to improve their Greek by reading something other than the New Testament, and a few of us hope to read through some of the Apostolic Fathers, commencing with the Didache. I'm up to chapter 3, but the first few chapters are short!

I'm reading from Michael Holmes' Apostolic Fathers: Greek texts and English translations, but you can access the Greek text at ccel.org, with the Didache being available at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/apostolicfathers/.

[But the link appears to be bad; it's actually here.]

Why read The Apostolic Fathers? They are an important source of information about the early days of the church immediately following the New Testament period. Some people think they give us insights on how to interpret the New Testament, while others think they show how quickly the church strayed from the path.

Why read them in Greek? There's something about reading a book in its original language, if you are able. Even if you're a beginner, like me, you will gain something you can't get from a translation.

It is hopefully a way to improve your knowledge of Greek and increase your enjoyment of reading the NT in Greek.

. . . and I found what he had to say next a bit shocking . . .

F F Bruce and J I Packer have pointed out there's something odd about thinking you can read Greek, if you can actually only read one book in Greek! Packer is rather scornful of people who translate the NT who have never read anything else in Greek, but he candidly admitted that most of his ESV translation colleagues are in this boat!

I am shocked! just shocked! Evidently the ghost of the idea of Holy Ghost Greek is still roaming the halls . . .

2. From Brandon Wasson at Novum Testamentum I learned of the commencement of Greek Geeks, moderated by Bryan Cox, who writes:

Greek Geeks is a discussions group for those who have learned or are in the process of learning ancient Greek, classical and/or Koine, and would like a place to discuss various aspects of the language. Discussions of any type of ancient Greek works are welcomed and encouraged.

* * *
If you're new to Greek, ask questions and don't be intimidated. If you've been around Greek forever, share a bit of your knowledge and experience by helping to answer some questions. Have an idea for a topic, project, trivia, game, or whatever, then speak up and let us all hear about it!

Good luck and Godspeed to both groups!