Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Book of the Elders: Sayings of the Desert Fathers. the Systematic Collection

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Book of the Elders: Sayings of the Desert Fathers. the Systematic Collection

Article excerpt

The Book of the Elders: Sayings of the Desert Fathers. The Systematic Collection. Translated byJohnWortley. [Cistercian Studies Series, No. 240.] (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press. 2012. Pp. xxix, 386. $49 95. ISBN 978-0-87907-201-8. $27.35 Kindle edition ebook ISBN 978-0-87907-770-9.)

Interest in the early desert fathers and mothers who expressed their inner spiritual experiences in the form of sayings and short stories has endured for centuries.Their sayings were written down by their disciples, possibly at first in the Coptic language in which they were uttered, but certainly in Greek by the fifth and sixth centuries.They were then translated into Latin and Syriac followed by other languages. This collection of sayings was preserved in many recensions. The West preserved a Latin translation of the systematic collection, reprinted in Patrología Latina, volume 73. Portions of the Latin recension were translated by Owen Chadwick in Western Asceticism (Philadelphia, 1958), which was followed by Benedicata Ward's translation of the same Latin text under the title The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks (New York, 2003).These translations of the systematic collection from Latin became classics to the English reader.

A Greek text of the systematic sayings, published by François Nau in Revue de l'Orient chrétien from 1907 to 1913, was translated in two separate volumes: Columba Stewart, The World of the Desert Fathers (Oxford, 1986), and Benedicta Ward, The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers (Oxford, 1986). Jean-Claude Guy began working on the Greek recensions of the sys- tematic collection from the early 1960s, incorporating the Nau collection. The culmination of his work was published in three volumes in Sources Chrétiennes (387 [1993], 474 [2003], and 498 [2005]) under the title Les Apophthegmata des Pères: collection systématique. Wortley's translation is based on the Greek systematic collection edited by Guy. It is the first English translation of the whole corpus of the Greek systematic collection of the Apophthegmata Patrum.

The English reader is so accustomed to Ward's lucid translation that it will take some time to become accustomed to Wortley's more literal style. …

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