26 January 2009

The Precious Pearl

Some time ago, on the Feast of St John of Damascus, I called attention to an English edition of his Lives of Ss Barlaam and Ioasaph called, The Precious Pearl: The Lives of Ss Barlaam and Ioasaph, trans. Fr Asterios Gerostergios, et al., notes and comments by Bishop Augoustinos (Kantiotes) of Florina (Belmont, MA: Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 1997)—which can be ordered here. I mentioned that I thought I remember Fr Gerostergios writing in the ‘Preface’ that he would use the book for catechesis at his parish, but not having my copy handy, I was unable to relate it with precision. Well, thanks be to God, my copy of the book has only just today come back to me, and I am happy to report that I can quote Fr Gerostergios’s own words. He writes:

Working as a pastor at Ss Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I wished to offer spiritual nourishment to certain members of my community, other communities, and students of the neighboring universities. These individuals desired to know more about the Orthodox faith and I therefore decided to use 'The Precious Pearl' as the standard text in our weekly Bible classes and discussions. I thought to myself that in previous years we had spoken about the Gospel and Apostolic Sunday readings and about each book of the Holy Bible, the Old and New Testaments. Now was the opportunity to offer a summary of the teaching of our Church in a very special and pleasant way. This would be accomplished with the study of this book becausse it provides a popularized and accurate instruction of Christian doctrine. (pp. v-vi)

Although it is not entirely clear to me, Fr Gerostergios’s comments, together with the credits on the title page and the wording of the copyright, suggest that this edition represents a revision of the Loeb Classical Library translation by G.R. Woodward and H. Mattingly, a revision based on the LCL edition of the Greek text as well as the Modern Greek translation by Bishop Augoustinos. Fr Gerostergios also uses Bishop Augoustinos’s textual divisions and his title, The Precious Pearl. Once again, if you have not read the original post, I highly recommend this book.


Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

As an extra treat, I've got a scan of another of Rallis Kopsidis' beautiful drawings linked to here. It is Η Ναυς της Εκκλησιας, the Ship of the Church. Click on the picture and save the expanded version, which is at such a resolution that you can see Kopsidis' skill at wielding the pen.

It seems to me, from the preface to The Precious Pearl, that Fr Gerostergios merely used the Greek text of Woodward and Mattingly and only referred to the English translation, which he terms "very archaic" with "a great number of misinterpretations, done wittingly [!] or unwitingly, the result being that the original Greek text has been altered" (p. vii). Use of the Woodward and Mattingly critical (?) text would require copyright release and notice even in a translation, because it is essentially a new work dated to only 1967.

I am tempted to drop everything and dive back into The Precious Pearl now!

aaronandbrighid said...

Very nice image! And I'm sure you're right about the text. I didn't realise one would have to have a copyright release merely to publish a translation of someone's critical edition.

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

I like it too! I'm tempted to train in this kind of neo-Byzantine line-drawing, I enjoy it so much. It'll just take practice. Here is one, Η Σταυρωσις, from Kontoglu. Powerful!

Out-of-copyright texts are perfectly free for translation, which is why Migne's PG is such a fantastic resource. There are so many unlocked treasures there.

Ryan said...

"It seems to me, from the preface to The Precious Pearl, that Fr Gerostergios merely used the Greek text of Woodward and Mattingly"

Unfortunately, this is somewhat misleading. Fr. Asterios has simply taken the Woodward and Mattingly translation and superficially "updated" some of the language (e.g., replacing "thou" and "thee" with "you"). I'm sure he emended some passages but does not say where- most of the translation is simply identical with the Woodward and Mattingly version, including plenty of archaic diction and syntax (e.g., the use of "leech" as a synonym for "doctor").
You can compare the old translation online here and see what I mean: http://omacl.org/Barlaam/

So Fr. Asterios wasn't, IMO, very successful in taking away the archaic flavor of the text. Besides, stylistically, the old translation is lovely and any high school graduate should have no problem with it. The fact of the matter is, these patristic texts have an inherently "archaic" flavor because they are so distant from our contemporary worldly mindset.

I don't know any Greek, so I can't say how much Fr. Asterios' translation improves on the old one, but I suspect the differences are very minor. The only substantial advantages I see to it are the commentary by Bishop Augoustinos and the beautiful iconographic line drawings by Rallis Kopsidis. Aside from that, the Loeb edition is slightly cheaper, easier to handle, and contains the Greek text for those who want it.

Sofia Kopsidou said...

Rallis Kopsidis
St.Paul, chambesy Geneve