- Series: Oxford Early Christian Studies
- Hardcover: 544 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (December 1, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199273510
- ISBN-13: 978-0199273515
- Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.4 x 6.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,933,739 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Asketikon of St Basil the Great (Oxford Early Christian Studies) 1st Edition
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The book is adorned with some most useful appendices and contains an exciting and persuasive account, based on first-hand reconnaissance, of the chief geographical loci. The resulting map is excellent. Marcus Plested, Journal of Theological Studies 'This volume will represent a landmark in Basilian studies.' The Downside Review This work should be found in all monasteries and noviciates and it would be of interest to all who are interested in monasticism. Pluscarden Benedictines
About the Author
Anna M. Silvas is Australian Research Council Fellow, Department of Classics, History, and Religion, University of New England, Australia.
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Top Customer Reviews
Basil of Caesarea’s (c.330-1 January 379) literary output is moderately vast: about 310 Letters, 40 Moral Homilies, 9 Homilies on the Hexaemeron, two dogmatic treatises (On the Trinity, On the Holy Spirit), 80 New Testament Moral Rules (MR or Moralia), Small Asketikon (henceforward SA) with 203 Questions-Answers (henceforward Q&A) and Great Asketikon (henceforward GA) with 376 Q&A, 9 Prologs. Although since 1530 there have been partial editions of his works in the Greek original, two major editions followed, both accompanied by a Latin translation, (1) DuDuc-Morel of 1618, and (2), the most complete, Garnier-Maran 1721-30, which today is available in Migne’s Patrologia Graeca, volumes 29-32. Mixed up with the authentic works, in all these editions are found many dubious or spurious works. Now, after long painstaking researches, the whole field has been thouroughly revamped, thanks especially to two major studies, (1), limited to the Ascetica, by the Benedictine monk Jean Gribomont, Histoire du texte des Ascétiques de s. Basile (Bibliothèque du Muséon, 32) (Louvain: Publications universitaires, 1953; xix.348 pages), and (2), the most comprehensive which covers all the works, by Paul J. Fedwick, Bibliotheca Basiliana Vniuersalis. A Study of the Manuscript Tradition, Translations and Editions of the Works by Basil of Caesarea (5-in-8 volumes, each subtitled according to the various works; henceforward BBV) (Corpus Christianorum) (Turnhout: Brepols, 1993-2004; xlii.755+lxiv.1326+xliv.803+xiii.1279+viii.975 pages).
So far only some of the 40 Moral Homilies have not been translated into English. Of the Ascetica there has been only one complete (including the Moralia and GA), by William Kemp Lowther Clarke, The Ascetic Works of Saint Basil (London: SPCK, 1925; 362 pages). Monica Wagner, Saint Basil. Ascetical Works (The Fathers of the Church, 9) (New York: Fathers of the Church, 1950; 525 pages) published only the first 55 Q&A of the GA. Now A.M. Silvas offers us a new translation which excludes the Moralia. On the first 149 pages she touches on the textual issues, Basil’s ascetic community in the two versions of the Asketikons, the geography behind history, the emergence of Christian monasticism in fourth-century Anatolia, Rufinus’ witness of the SA, and Basil and the GA. On pages 453-94 there are 7 Appendixes dealing, 1-3, with the various recensions of the Asketikons, codices and editions of the Regula Basilii, Rufinus’ copy of the SA, the translation of Rufinus’ preface to his translation, and the text and translation of the canons of the Synod of Gangra. The translation of the GA includes 8 Shorter Q&A not found in Migne and it is accompanied by 810 notes.
Silvas undoubtedly makes a very rich and significant contribution to the Basilian studies. Her notes deal mainly with the differences between the texts of the two versions of the Asketikon, but also with some of the issues tied with Basil’s stance on the points raised by the questioners regarding ascetic life. Alas, her work cannot be fullheartedly recommended for those keen on knowing the historical Basil. In her preface (p. ix) she makes the following statement: ‘The present author writes and thinks from “within the tradition” of a confessional Christian faith, indeed of the Church [lege: Roman Catholic Church]’. She goes on to say that she wants nothing to do with those scholars who adopt a neutral, secularist stance in analyzing the works of the church fathers. In her introduction to The Rule of St Basil in Latin and English (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2013; 312 pages), at 40-41, she singles out by name two such scholars, the Benedictine hieromonk Jean Gribomont and Paul J. Fedwick, accusing them of a certain ‘anti-monastic’ reading of Basil. She continues, ‘An anti-institutional animus seems to inspire it [their methods], something that possibly owes more to a certain Zeitgeist of the 1960s and 1970s than evidence of the texts. Misconstruing Basil’s use of generically Christian terminology in his ascetic writings, ...’, etc. To the idea that these two scholars subscribe, as Basil would only tentatively offer advice ‘to casual groups of freelance Christian enthusiasts living in the world, who can take it or leave it as they please...’, she answers Not (her italics of this one word sentence). Since Father Gribomont has passed away (1920-84), I still can confidently answer Dr Silvas also in his name, that our fault if any was to adhere not to the 1960s-1970s Zeitgeist, as she claims, but that our desire and purpose was to respect the historically sound Zeitgeist of the years 330-379, when the historical Basil (not the one victim of pseudo-scholarly distortions) lived and thrived.
Leaving aside a topic that one usually should never come across in sound scholarly writing, Silvas’ new translation suffers from some serious problems. One of the results of all the critical work mentioned above, is that there were about 7 recensions (textual revisions by Basil himself not the copyists) of his GA. Of these recensions the one found in Migne, designated by Fedwick A4 (‘Vulgata’ by Gribomont), despite having a pretty good text, presents from the standpoint of internal criticism an unacceptable arrangement of the Shorter Q&A. Someone, without paying much attention to the contents, has changed the order found in recensions A2 A3 A5 A6 A6b A7, and as a result has destroyed the fluency and integrity of Basil’s style of presentation. It is based on the internal evidence, that for instance A4 No. 287 should be placed immediately after No. 5 because it contains the answer to the second half of the question raised in 5, and that Nos. 235-236 should precede No. 95 because the latter makes allusion to them as containing the already dealt with issue that the questioners are now raising. Aware of these problems Silvas (p. 277 note 40) considers No. 287 to be a duplicate [sic!] of No. 5, and was hence omitted by Rufinus [!]. As for the conundrum of Nos. 95 and 235-236, she only vaguely remarks (p. 326 note 270), ‘if Basil is referring [in 95] to SR 235-236, then the subsequent reordering of the Shorter Responses is obvious’. Had she looked up at the Concordances in BBV iii 655-70 (published in 1997) she would have seen that in A2 Nos. 51 52 are A4 Nos.5 287, and that on p. 667, A4 Nos. 235-236 95 are A2 Nos. 311 312 313, respectively. This clarifies the whole issue and shows how the ‘reordering’ in A4 which she follows is all wrong. All this is not a trifling matter but a very serious issue with momentous consequences for the correct interpretation of Basil’s thought.
Another problem found in Silvas’ translation is, in several instances, the blending into one of the two texts, that of SA with that of the GA. This appears formost in the first 1-11 Q&A of the SA which correspond to the first 23 of the GA. She tries somehow to distinguish the two texts by the employment of different fonts but this obviously cannot always be made clear especially if someone were to read her translation aloud to others; for instance, in some monastic communities there is the custom for someone to read to the community a book at mealtimes. Since obviously Basil’s intention in issuing a new version of his Asketikon was to supersede the earlier one, what Silvas is doing is mixing the text of Basil’s draft with the final version of his work. More correctly, in many other instances, she places all such textual discrepancies in the notes. This is very helpful for someone who wants to follow the evolution of Basil’s thinking and teaching.
Basil’s text is rich in biblical quotations and allusions. Silvas more than any translator before her identifies most of them, but not all, and not all correctly. In general her translation of the Greek is good, although in a few instances one could quibble whether her choice of the various possible English equivalents of the polysemous Greek terms is the one to be preferred. For this one would need to be more thoroughly acquainted with Basil’s vocabulary as a whole. Without mentioning other cases of mistranslation there is one very glaring such instance in Shorter Q&A 79. The translation by Silvas, p. 316, reads, Question: ‘If someone repeatedly accuses himself of treating a brother overbearingly, how shall he be corrected?’ Basil’s Answer, ‘This kind of thing arises, as I gather from a study of it ...’ Then, in note 239, she explains, ‘The question may concern a superior or elder himself in the position of receiving confession or giving direction’. Nothing could be farther from Basil’s Greek text. The question, in Greek, reads as follows, ‘If someone finds himself treating repeatedly a brother harshly, how shall he be corrected?’ Answer, ‘This conduct arises, I conjecture, ...’ Without being by any stretch of imagination ‘anti-monastic’, one cannot accept Silvas’ rendering let alone explanation of this text. First, in this Q&A Basil is not talking about a confession of sins to a superior (there were actually no superiors [hegoumenoi] in Basil’s communities, only ‘leaders’ [proesto*tes]); second, ‘stokhazomai’, is not ‘as I gather from a study of it’, but ‘as I surmise/conjecture/suppose’.
PS: the correct ordering of all the Q&A of Basil’s Asketikons (also in Armenian, Georgian and Syriac) are given in BBV iii 651-71; on pages 672-98 are the captions and distribution of the Q&A (1-44 = Longer, 45-370 Shorter Q&A) found in the best recension, A2. For just A2 and A4, see p. 49-57.