Sacred Song from the Byzantine Pulpit: Romanos the Melodist

By R. J. Schork | Go to book overview

"The Temptation of Joseph" (44)

Twenty-two stanzas with the acrostic ΕΙΣ ΤΟΝ ΙΩΣΡΦ ΠΩΜΑΝΟΥ ΕΠΟΣ ("a poetic work of/by Romanos about Joseph"). The third koukoulion is bracketed as a later addition.


Monday of Holy Week

Romanos composed two kontakia about Joseph, the son of the patriarch Jacob. One (43) deals with Joseph's entire career, from his earliest envygenerating interpretation of dreams to the reunion with his father and brothers in Egypt. Composed of forty stanzas, this is the Melodist's longest work. The second piece, translated here, focuses on the encounter between Joseph and Potiphar's wife ( Genesis39). It is perhaps the most rhetorically charged and dramatically explosive of all the kontakia. The confrontation scenes caused Romanos' first editor, a cardinal, to apologize for presenting "the blandishments of a shameless hussy in the midst of the hallowed services of the Church's most Holy Week. 1 Another scholar summarized the work as "a detailed description of an assault on chastity." While it is true that few of these details would bring even a faint blush to modern cheeks, it should also be noted that Romanos does not revel in "the spicy suggestiveness" of most of the extrascriptural elaborations found in the haggadic tradition. 2 At any rate, the topic demands a verbal versatility not called for in other kontakia, and in the diction of this work I detect echoes of a roughly contemporary, but definitely classical" epyllion, Musaeus' Hero and Leander. These similarities are not surprising, granted Romanos' emphasis on the Egyptian woman's compulsive, indeed demonic, eroticism -- nor does my choice of the term

-158-

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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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