BMCR 2004.08.04

Saint Grégoire de Nazianze, Oeuvres poétiques. Tome I. Partie 1. Poèmes personnels II, 1, 1-11. Collection Budé

, , , , Oeuvres poétiques. Collection des universités de France. Série grecque, v. 433. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2004. volumes ; 20 cm.. ISBN 2251005161 €60.00 (pb).

This first volume inaugurates the critical edition of the complete poetical work of Gregory of Nazianzus (except for the epigrams, already partially published by P. Waltz: Anthologie Palatine, tome VI [Livre VIII]. Collection Budé. Paris, 1960). Once completed, this edition will replace that of the Maurists (published in 1840, reproduced in Patrologia Graeca, vol. 37, col. 397-1600). The project of a critical edition of Gregory’s poems had been undertaken long ago by a team of scholars under the direction of M. Sicherl (Muenster), but, it was André Tuilier, Guillaume Bady and Jean Bernardi who have succeeded first in giving a complete survey of the manuscript tradition and a critical edition of Carmina II, 1, 1-11.

The Greek text has certainly improved compared with the Maurists’ edition and even compared with Jungck’s edition of Carm. II, 1, 11: C. Jungck (ed.), Gregor von Nazianz, De vita sua (Heidelberg, 1974). The classification of manuscripts (27 mss from the Xth to the XIVth cent.) seems now quite certain, and an extensive use of the Syriac translations (Vth-Vth cent.) and of the indirect tradition, mainly represented by florilegia (the most important is the Doctrina Patrum), Kosmas of Jerusalem (VIIIth cent.) and Nicetas David (IXth cent.), contributes to confirm the text. It is not infrequent that the Syriac translation (prior to the division of the tradition into the two medieval families) confirms a reading that is preserved in L only, one of the oldest manuscripts, belonging to the family Ψ ( Laurentianus VII, 10). About the indirect tradition, I should like to add two small details. First, another manuscript (Xth cent., Southern Italy) of the Byzantine lexica of the poems (p. CLXX-CLXXI) has been discovered (C. Macé, “Les Histoires mythologiques du Pseudo-Nonnos et la tradition des Discours de Grégoire de Nazianze. A propos du manuscrit Sélestat, Bibliothèque municipale, 105”, Byzantion 71, 2001, 110-130). Second, an edition of definitions, partially based on the Doctrina Patrum, which preserves several verses of the Carm. I, 2, 34, has been recently published (C. Furrer-Pilliod, Horoi kai hypographai. Collections alphabétiques de définitions profanes et sacrées. Studi e Testi 395, Città del Vaticano, 2000). In addition to the 27 oldest manuscripts, the editors also take into consideration a more recent (XVIth cent.) but extremely interesting witness, Vindobonensis theol. gr. 43 (W). The editors state that this manuscript belongs to the branch called ζ (depending upon Ω), but it also shows readings from the other family Ψ, as well as good readings which do not appear (any more) in the remaining manuscript tradition.

The apparatus, pseudo-positive most of the time (reading1 codd.: reading2 ABCD is often cluttered with insignificant readings. The lack of an apparatus fontium is detrimental as well to the reader. Although Gregory’s text is full of allusions to the Bible and Greek literature, only a few have been recognized and noted in the complementary notes. To finish with formal remarks, to print the number of the poem in the current title on the top of the page, instead of or in addition to the Greek title, would have made the book easier to consult.

A short chapter on the old editions of the text would have been useful and it would have been useful to quote them, at least PG and Jungck, in the apparatus. Generally speaking, the bibliography is neither up to date nor very large. I will take only a few among many examples of this deficiency. The manuscript Laurentianus Conv. soppr. 177 (p. ξ which contains a complete collection of Gregory’s homilies, is described in J. Mossay, Repertorium Nazianzenum. Orationes. Textus Graecus, Tome VI (Paderborn, 1998), 135-138, and V. Somers, Histoire des collections complètes des Discours de Grégoire de Nazianze. Publications de l’Institut Orientaliste de Louvain 48 (Louvain-la-Neuve, 1997), 542-549; neither of these books is cited. For the Vita of Gregory (p. LXXVI, n. 51), one should use the critical edition of X. Lequeux, Gregorii Presbyteri Vita Sancti Gregorii Theologi. Corpus Christianorum Series Graeca 44 (Turnhout – Leuven, 2001). There is also a previous translation into French of the Carm. II, 1, 11, by A. Lukinovich and C. Martingay, published in 1997. To supplement the bibliography, see the website of the Centre d’Etudes sur Grégoire de Nazianze.

On a few occasions, one could question the reading of the editors.

Carm. II, 1, 11, v. 12: the editors chose ὄνομα, preserved in most manuscripts rather than ὄμμα, which can be found in three witnesses: one manuscript of the family Ψ, in W before correction and in the Syriac translation (which is favoured most of the time, rightly). Jungck had chosen the reading ὄμμα, even though he ignored the Syriac translation, giving good reasons for that. The choice of this reading by the Budé editors deserved at least a discussion in the notes, giving parallel texts (for example, the variant κλεινὸν ὄμμα or κλεινὸν ὄνομα is to be found in Euripides, IT 905 as well).

Carm. II, 1, 11, v. 460: the reading ψυχρὰ πρόφασις, given by a manuscript of the family ζ (B) and by the Syriac translation, is without doubt much better than ψυχαὶ πρόφασις. Yet, why not follow the Syriac translation more precisely and write ψυχραὶ πρόφασεις ?

Carm. II, 1, 11, v. 39: this is one of the very rare places where the editors do not follow the Syriac translation, although the reading τρόπους (instead of βίους) is supported by W also. In this case again, it is not clear why the reading of the Syriac translation should not be followed.

Carm. II, 1, 11, v. 1285: the editors have chosen the reading Σπανῶν (Spanish people), of the family Ψ and of W, instead of σπλάγχνων, which is indeed difficult to understand (there is no Syriac translation of this passage). But Σπανῶν does not make much more sense, in spite of the French translation and the note refering to Theodosius, who was of Spanish origin. It is difficult to accept that Gregory would talk about the Trinity as Σπανῶν λόγος. In addition, he never uses the word Σπανός.

The French translation is clear and helpful. On a few occasions, though, it evades real difficulties in the text.

Carm. II, 1, 7, v. 2: ἑῴα τε λήξει καὶ δύσει is translated “le levant cèdera et se couchera”. But how can the Levant give up and set (as the sun does). It should be ἑῴᾳ λήξει καὶ δύσει, i.e. the dative of the substantives: “to the Orient and to the Occident” ( τε is an addition of L alone). Cf. Carm. II, 1, 11, v. 1560, where ἑῴα λῆξις means the Orient, in opposition to δύσις. Verses 2-3 here are not correctly translated: “Le levant cèdera et se couchera, et de même l’envie que me portent ennemis et amis”. φθόνος τ’ ἐμὸς ἐχθροῖς, φίλοις can not mean “the ill will that my enemies and friends bear towards me”, but the other way around: “my ill-will towards enemies and friends”. ἑῴᾳ λήξει καὶ δύσει has the same grammatical function as ἐχθροῖς, φίλοις. So, the correct translation should be something like: “Envers l’orient comme l’occident, envers mes ennemis et mes amis, j’éprouve de la rancune”.

The collection of poems written and organized by Gregory of Nazianzus — this is probably the most interesting part of the introduction: the constitution of the original collection — is exceptional and deserves a few pages and bibliographic references about Christian poetry and poetry in general in late Antiquity and early Byzantium. Instead, the authors give a summary of Gregory’s life (one more!), mostly based on information that he himself left in his works, and this with an hagiographic tone.

The same lack of a critical view is obvious when the editors consider authentic a few works that have been rejected by many scholars, without even trying to give the status quaestionis and the arguments pro and contra. This is the case for the Christus Patiens (p. LX and n. 4) and for the Carm. II, 1, 29 (p. LXI, n. 7). About this last poem, the most important contribution against its authenticity is not cited: M. Sicherl, “Ein neuplatonischer Hymnus unter den Gedichten Gregors von Nazianz”, in Gonimos. Neoplatonic and Byzantine Studies Presented to L.G. Westerink (Buffalo – New York, 1988), 61-83.

It is regrettable that there are several points on which this book does not reach the level of a modern scholarly work. In that respect, the introduction and commentary of Jungck, for example, remain indispensable. As a matter of fact, the weakest point is the complementary notes. These notes are peculiar to the editions published in the Collection Budé and are intended to provide the reader with explanations of difficult words or expressions, parallel texts and contexts, litterary or rhetorical study, not with pious paraphrases of Gregory’s words. Many good works have been published over the last few decades on several aspects of Gregory’s work. Some of them could have been consulted with profit by the authors. One cannot really write a scholarly commentary on Gregory’s poems without referring to the book of K. Demoen (called “Demoens” twice, while quoting one of his articles: p. CIV n. 80 and p. CLXIX n. 193), Pagan and biblical exempla in Gregory Nazianzen. A study in rhetoric and hermeneutics. Corpus Christianorum. Lingua Patrum 2 (Turnhout, 1996). On several occasions, the explanations are misleading or inaccurate. For example, in Carm. II, 1, 1, v. 100, the expression μεγὰ θεός is the subject of what is probably the longest note of the whole book (n. 31, pp. 138-140). The authors show that this expression appears very often in Gregory’s poems and is not common in the Bible, nor in the other Cappadocians, aside from quotations of the Epistula ad Titum (2, 13), where this expression is applied to the Christ. But it is not right to say that Basil is using it only in quotations of this biblical passage. One can find it as well in his second Homilia in Hexaemeron, ch. 2, p. 146, l. 13 (ed. S. Giet, Paris, 1968), where it has nothing to do with Paul’s text. This evidence further weakens the already weak argument of the authors: they infer from the frequency of this expression in Gregory an influence of the Oracula sibyllina on him and a link between the Oracula sibyllina and the sect of the “Hypsistarii”, to which Gregory’s father belonged. The fact that we know almost nothing about the so-called “Hypsistarii” makes any conjecture easy.