Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke. Preface to the online edition
Among the manuscripts brought back to the British Library from the Nitrian desert in Egypt by Archdeacon Tattam in 1842, were two volumes containing the Commentary on Luke of Cyril of Alexandria. This text consisted of a compilation of 156 sermons, although some had suffered damage. The text had not survived in Greek, although long quotations existed in Byzantine catena-commentaries -- chains of quotations of the Fathers, which had been published by Angelo Mai and by Cramer.
Robert Payne-Smith produced an edition of the Syriac text: Cyrilli Alexandriae Archiepiscopi Commentarii in Lucae Evangelium; quae supersunt Syriace e Manuscriptis apud Museum Britannicum. Ed. R. Payne Smith, pp. 447, 4to. Oxonii: e typographeo academico. 1858. In 1859 he produced an English translation, supplemented from the catenas, and this is the text that appears here.
The gospel text at the head of each sermon forms part of the Syriac text.
In 2005 the volumes of the translation stood on the shelves of Cambridge university library. I made a photocopy of them. In February 2006 I scanned them in, using my 25-page sheet feeder, and created 13 directories each of around 60 pages. I then began to convert the images into text using Finereader OCR. The marginal notes and footnotes made this a slow business, even though I omitted much. I laboured for some months, into 2007, completing most of the first volume. Then I halted. I found that the first volume had appeared on archive.org in PDF form, thereby rendering my labour useless.
I resumed work during 2008. In the interval I had received the occasional enquiry about it, and I did not like leaving the work incomplete. But this time I took a different approach. There was no need for the footnotes or marginalia. In addition, I decided to modernise the text in the remainder of the sermons. The original was in mock-Jacobean English, full of Thee's and Thou's. This means that in order to use the book the reader must translate mentally into modern English as he goes along. Not everyone can do this, and it is wearing even for those of us to whom it is no obstacle. Naturally this renders the text less useful to the academic; but I take it that the academic will consult the copies on archive.org. I hope that the easier reading of the later sermons will encourage people to make use of them.
4th April 2008
This text was written by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2008. This file and all material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
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