This blog is devoted to the work that I am doing on Euthymius Zigabenus’ Commentary on the Epistles of Paul and the Universal Epistles.
What is a Commentary
Timeline and Major Players of this Project
Facets of the Project
Beginning of the Project
What is a commentary
A Bible commentary is a written, systematic series of explanations and interpretations of Scripture. Commentaries often analyze or expound on individual books of the Bible, chapter by chapter and verse by verse. Some commentary works provide analysis of the whole of Scripture. (See here for source)
Very little is known about Euthymius Zigabenus, since he was confused with another monk, Zigabenus of Peribleptos. (See here for the source)
Below is a very brief description of what little we know of him followed by descriptions of many of his theological works, among which, though, the Commentary of the Epistles is not mentioned.
Euthymius Zigabenus (Εὐθύμιος Ζιγαβηνός or Ζυγαδηνός) was a learned and able Greek monk of the order of St. Basil in the convent of the Virgin Mary near Constantinople, and enjoyed the marked favor of the emperor Alexius I Comnenus (1081–1118) and his daughter Anna. Being requested by Alexius to refute the Bogomils, who had become alarmingly numerous, he was led to prepare an extensive work upon heresy, entitled The Panoply. Among the heretics, he included the Pantheists, Jews, the Pope, and the Latins. His materials were the decisions of councils and the Greek Fathers and other writers, including some otherwise unknown. In this important work and in separate treatises he imparts much valuable historical information respecting the Bogomils, Massalians, Armenians, Paulicians, and even about the Jews and Mohammedans, although it is evident that he was not well informed about the last, and was much prejudiced against them. Like other Greeks, he finds the Latins heretical upon the procession of the Holy Spirit and upon the bread of the Eucharist. Besides the Panoply, Euthymius wrote commentaries upon the Psalms, much dependent upon Chrysostom, and on the Gospels, more independent and exhibiting exegetical tact which, in the judgment of some, puts him next to Theophylact. (See here for the unedited, original source with footnotes)
Timeline and major players of this Project
St. Paul wrote his Epistles in the 1st c.
⇩ (Centuries passed)
Euthymius Zigabenus, a monk near Constantinople (see above), wrote a new Commentary on the Epistles in the 11th or 12th c.
⇩ (Euthymius’ commentary was passed on through the centuries)
Ἰωάννης Σευῆρος Λακεδαιμόνιος (John Severus Lakedaimonios) copied an existing manuscript of the Commentary on the Epistles to create a new manuscript (the new manuscript is now known as Casanatense 1395) in the 16th c.
⇩ (John Severus’ new copy came to Biblioteca Casanatense after 1701)
Nikiforos Kalogeras, Bishop of Patras and Ilia and professor of theology at the University of Athens (read his biography here), created a printed scholarly edition of John Severus’ manuscript (Casanatense 1395) in 1887.
⇩ (135 years passed)
Nicholas Antzaras (see below) found Nikiforos Kalogeras’ printed edition of Casanatense 1395 and began working on this project in 2022.
Facets of the Project
This project has three parts to it (click on the name of each to go to the respective page for more details and for my progress):
- Critical Edition – Constructing a complete critical edition of the Commentary on the Epistles by collating all 8 known manuscripts.
- Translation – Translating the entire Commentary on the Epistles into English for the first time ever and publishing it.
- Nikiforos Kalogeras – Locating and acquiring
- the digital reproductions of the 3 known portraits/oil paintings of Nikiforos Kalogeras.
- the rights for publication of those 3 portraits/oil paintings.
- his biographical information and translating it into English.
beginning of the project
On April 13, 2022, Wednesday of the sixth week of Great Lent, at 6am (my daughter had kept me up all night), I was reading Archbishop Averky’s “The Four Gospels: Commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the New Testament Volume 1,” specifically the commentary on Matthew 16:21-28 where Christ calls Peter ‘Satan’, and I found this:
The Lord then says to Peter, “You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Euthymios Zigabenos interprets these words to mean that Peter, “by going against Christ’s will, becomes a hindrance to Him if he desires that Christ’s purpose in coming to earth, that which has been determined from before the ages, should not be fulfilled.” (p. 110)
I was struck by the name Euthymios Zigabenos, because I had never heard of him before (the scholarly world uses the Latin spelling of Euthymius Zigabenus, so I too use it, against my personal preference). Looking online for his commentary on the Gospels, I found that it did not exist in an English translation. The only English translation of any of Euthymius’ works available online, or anywhere else that I could see, is his Commentary on the Psalms, which was translated by Father John Raffan.
I continued my research, looking for more information about Euthymius and about Father John (his name was familiar to me from the translations that he had done for a number of Denise Harvey‘s publications, specifically Wounded by Love), and I eventually landed on Roger Pearse’ personal blog, where I found two posts that discussed Euthymius Zigabenus and the work that Father John was doing (here and here). Father John’s own words from the second post state:
“I do not wish to make inflated claims for my edition of the Psalter Commentary, but I think it is more of a ‘first complete edition’ than a ‘fresh edition’. The edition reprinted in Migne 128 was incomplete (it did not include the commentary on the Biblical Canticles) and also thoroughly corrupt, being based on a single manuscript with lacunae and interpolations.“
After reading this post, ideas started forming in my mind. If Father John Raffan can create a “first complete edition” of Euthymius’ Commentary on the Psalms by looking at numerous online digitized manuscripts, then why can’t I do something similar? So I went and looked up Euthymius in Migne‘s PG to find the Commentary on the Gospels. But then I looked back at what Father John had written and I wondered if Migne’s version of the Commentary of the Gospels was also corrupt. I also figured that it might be easier to start working on something smaller than the Commentary on the Gospels, being just over 230,00 words long, so I opted to choose his Commentary on the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians, just over 15,000 words, to get my feet wet.
I was initially interested in creating a first ever translation into English of one of the commentaries (I was leaning towards the one on the Gospels, but slowly was becoming more interested in the one on the Epistles), but I didn’t know which Greek version to pick, having doubts because of what was written in the post above. So I asked Roger Pearse for Father John Raffan’s contact information, which I received from him with Father’s permission, and I sent an email to him explaining what I was thinking of doing and that I was wondering about editions. Father Raffan replied with the following (I am reproducing excerpts from the email):
“The Commentary on the Epistles is a work that has remained largely unknown. It was not included in the Migne series and exists only in the edition made in 1887 by Nicephoros Kalogeras (Bishop of Patra). His edition was made from a single 16th century manuscript from the Biblioteca Casanatense in Rome (nr. 1395). I am sure that this manuscript is in no way as corrupt as so many of the Psalm Commentary manuscripts and that the edition by Kalogeras gives a faithful view of the work. There are, however, earlier manuscripts in the Vatican Library (13th century) which would be well worth consulting for comparison. Unfortunately, these manuscripts are not available online on the Vatican Digital page. They may be available, however, through the Institut für Neutestamentliche Textforschung in Münster. [A full list of manuscripts can be found on the Pinakes site of the Institut de Recherche et d’histoire des textes: pinakes.irht.cnrs.fr]. The first requirement for any translation is to establish a sound Greek text! The importance of the Commentary is not only for the interpretative comments (which in general terms follow John Chrysostom) but also for the establishment of the Byzantine text of the Epistles.“
He gave me Kalogeras’ first volume of the Commentary of the Epistles, available online here. (Everything above happened within the first 24 hours.) We set a date to speak through Skype, and I began working in the meantime on the manuscripts. Using Pinakes’ listing of recorded manuscripts of Euthymius Zigabenus’ Commentary on the Epistles, I managed to locate 6 out of 8 at the Institut für Neutestamentliche Textforschung in Münster in their Virtual Manuscript Room where you can view the digitized manuscripts easily.
Thus began my initial effort to create a critical edition of the Commentary on the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians using those 6 manuscripts. I spent many hours learning how to read Greek Miniscule, the form of Greek writing used from the 9th and 10th century until the 16th century, and compared the writing in the manuscripts with the printed edition of Kalogeras to verify my readings. (It was very slow going at first, but I got a little bit faster as I spent more time reading the miniscule.)
When I spoke with Father John via Skype on May 5, he reassured me that the edition of Kalogeras is probably a faithful representation of the original commentary written by Euthymius himself, so I decided to stop working on the difficult task of creating the critical edition and began instead to work on the English translation of Kalogeras’ edition, for which I knew I had the training and the tools from my undergraduate degree. Though I was rusty at translating Medieval Greek at first, since I had not translated anything for almost a decade, I became much more comfortable with it after about two weeks.
After about 12 days of working (I’m not sure when exactly I started the translation), I decided it would be best to construct a detailed schedule for translating the entire Commentary of the Epistles and for keeping track of my progress. Examining this schedule and filling it in daily holds me accountable to myself (and others, now that I have this blog) for the work I’ve set out to do. See here for both a summary and a detailed look at my progress.
My name is Nicholas Antzaras. I graduated from the University of Windsor with a BA in Classics (minoring in English and German) in 2013 and a BSc in Computer Science in 2015. I have been serving Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church in Windsor, Ontario, Canada in various capacities since 2004.
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