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The Paradise Of The Holy Fathers Volumes 1 and 2 by Saint Athanasius Of Alexandria

DURING the winter of 1888 the Vicar of the Chaldean Patriarch at Môsul (Nineveh) was so kind as to shew me some of the Syriac manuscripts in his possession, and among them was a thick oblong quarto volume containing the Lives of the Holy Men by Palladius and St. Jerome. I was familiar with the Syriac MSS. of the Paradise of Palladius in the British Museum, but I had never before seen so lengthy a copy of the work. The manuscript was old, that is to say, it was written probably in the thirteenth or fourteenth century, and as it was impossible to buy the volume, it being Church property, I asked permission to have a copy of it made. To this the Vicar assented, and a copy was made in due course and sent to England. On examination it was found to contain the Life of St. Anthony, by Athanasius, Archbishop of Alexandria, the Book of Paradise, by Palladius, the Askêtikon, or History of the Monks of Tabenna, the Histories of the Solitaries of the Desert of Egypt, attributed to St. Jerome, the Sayings of the Fathers, and the Questions and Answers of the Holy Men. In fact the manuscript contained a collection of works which were of the highest importance for the history of the rise and growth of Christian monasticism in Egypt.

In 1893 I published a full description of the contents of the manuscript (see Thomas of Margâ, The Book of Governors, Vol. II, pp. 192–206), and several extracts from it, and it was generally recognized that it contained a copy of the famous Redaction of the Book of Paradise which was made by Ânân-Îshô when he was a monk in the monastery of Bêth Âbhê, probably early in the seventh century. In 1898 my friend Dom Cuthbert Butler published the Prolegomena of his edition of the Greek text of the Paradise of Palladius, and in this work he discussed at length the critical value of my manuscript copy of the Syriac version. Soon after this I made translations of the five works contained in the manuscript, and these appeared, together with the Syriac texts, in two volumes in 1904. The work was not available for the public, being printed for private circulation only.

The number of those who are interested in the history of the Christian monastic movement in Egypt has increased considerably in recent years, and in answer to many requests it was decided to publish a popular edition of the translation of Ânan-Îshô’s great work in a handy form, and at a price which would place it within the reach of every reader. I therefore revised my translation, which had appeared in 1904, by the light of recently acquired manuscripts, and was able to fill up several gaps in the text: the present work is the result. An entirely new introduction has been prepared for this edition, and in it an attempt has been made to indicate the great value and importance of Ânân-Îshô’s Syriac Recension for the study of Christian monasticism in Egypt. It is hoped that this edition may add to the deserved popularity of the Book of Paradise and increase the reputation of Palladius.

E. A. WALLIS BUDGE.

British Museum, June 5, 1907.








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