Sacred Song from the Byzantine Pulpit: Romanos the Melodist

By R. J. Schork | Go to book overview

"The First Humans"

Twenty-four stanzas with the alphabetic acrostic A-Ω. 1 (I have created an approximation of this acrostic, using the English alphabet, in my translation). 2


Sunday of the first week of Lent

The biblical source of this brief, anonymous work is Genesis 1:26-4:12. Its simple metrical scheme, poorly integrated refrain, and lack of any extrascriptural dialogue mark this work as an early, pre-Romanos kontakion. In fact, throughout this verse re-creation of the primary Edenic events, the few "lyric" echoes from the Bible may be stock homiletic phrases. There are, however, two exegetical points worth noting: (1) Stanzas 1-2 may reflect an apocryphal tradition in which jealousy over the honor given to humans is the cause of the revolt of the angels; (2) Cain's guilt is not evident to his parents (19) in Genesis nor does he bury Abel in a pit (18.2-4) for which Adam and Eve seek in vain (20-21). Perhaps the "pit" (bothunō) is extrapolated from Yahweh's accusation that "The sound of the blood of your brother cries to me from out of the ground" ( Gn. 4:10).

On the other hand, the unknown author of this proto-kontakion is fairly sensitive to the poetic and rhetorical possibilities of his genre and topic. He obviously enjoys the callidae iuncturae of root meanings and the sound effects of his carefully selected diction, both of which are difficult to reproduce in translation. 3 Even in the grammatically independent refrain I detect a clever ploy: the exploitation of the precise ambiguity of the word that I have ambiguously translated as "premium." The Greek noun timē, depending on the context, can mean "honor" or "pun-

-43-

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Sacred Song from the Byzantine Pulpit: Romanos the Melodist
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Citations and Abbreviation xv
  • Concordance of Kontakion Numbers xvii
  • Part I - Introduction 1
  • Notes 36
  • Part 2 - The Sung Sermons 41
  • "The First Humans" 43
  • Notes 44
  • "The Nativity I" (1) 49
  • Notes 50
  • "The Presentation in the Temple" (4) 60
  • Note 61
  • Healing the Leper" (8) 69
  • Notes 70
  • "The Sinful Woman" (10) 77
  • "The Man Possessed by Demons" (11) 86
  • Notes 87
  • "Judas" (17) 96
  • Notes 97
  • "Mary at the Cross" (19) 106
  • Note 107
  • "The Passion of Christ" (20) 115
  • Note 116
  • "The Victory of the Cross (22)" 125
  • Notes 126
  • "The Resurrection Vi" (29) 135
  • "Abraham and Isaac" (41) 148
  • Notes 149
  • "The Temptation of Joseph" (44) 158
  • Notes 162
  • "Repentance: Jonah and Nineveh" (52) 176
  • Note 177
  • "Earthquakes and Fires" (54) 184
  • Notes 185
  • "The Forty Martyrs of Sebasteia I" (57) 196
  • Notes 198
  • "The Akathistos Hymn" 207
  • Notes 208
  • Bibliography 221
  • Index 227
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