Tag Archives: Alexander of Alexandria

Quaestiones Melitonianae 2: the fragments on soul and body

round tuitA further response to the questions posed by “Robert” in comments below.

In my recent collection of Melitonian fragments I write:

There is a homily preserved in Coptic under the name of Athanasius, of which another version, attributed to Alexander of Alexandria, is extant in Syriac, which may well be the work of Melito, in whole or in substantial part. Further fragments of this homily are extant in Syriac, with some in Greek and a substantial amount in Georgian. This work would seem to be that On soul and body mentioned by Eusebius Ecclesiastical History 4.26

This is the simplified version! Actually there are no less than three Syriac witnesses to this material, one of which is also extant in Armenian (from Greek?) and (through Coptic) in Arabic and Ethiopic. In addition, attribution is made to a host of individuals apart from Melito (of Attica, says one witness!), such as Chrysostom and Epiphanius. I did not include this complex of fragments principally on grounds of length. To include such a (?complete) work in a book entitled On Pascha would be disproportionate. I did start preparing a version for inclusion, and every now and then I try to get my head round this material. I do believe that Gregor Wurst’s Habilitationsschrift included a synoptic presentation of all this material, but there is no copy in the UK of which I am aware. István Bugár, moreover, gave a paper on this material at the Oxford patristic conference in 2015, which we hope will appear in Studia patristica, in which an attempt is made at presenting a stemma of the versions.

If any reader wants to get an idea of these contents without spending a day trawling the catalogues of a research library, the Syriac version attributed to Alexander and the Coptic version attributed to Athanasius are both to be found in Wallis Budge, Coptic homilies in the dialect of Upper Egypt; edited from the papyrus codex Oriental 5001 in the British museum (London: British Museum trustees, 1910) with English translations. This book may be found on archive.org. S.G. Hall, Melito of Sardis On Pascha and fragments (Oxford: Clarendon, 1979) gives fragment 13 in English (this is one of the Syriac witnesses) and, as “new fragments” English versions of the Georgian.

I fear a deeper study will only be undertaken when I get the object pictured. However, a proper study of this work is surely a desideratum.

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