Athanasius of Alexandria (ca. 296–373)

Bp. of Alexandria and Greek author. He became bp. of Alexandria in 328, but spent much of his life in exile due to his vigorous opposition to Arianism. Many of his numerous writings (in Greek) were translated into Syriac, and some of these survive in several recensions. Most of Athanasius’s works in Syriac are only known from early Syr. Orth. or Melkite mss. (in some cases there have been some dogmatic alterations). Timotheos  I, however, in his Letters knew of several works, and the Letter to Epictetus is quoted in both E.- and W.-Syr. dogmatic florilegia. The only work transmitted in a large number of mss. is the Life of Antony, which was later incorporated into ʿEnanishoʿ’s ‘Paradise of the Fathers’. The following are the most important translations which have so far been edited:

1. ‘On the Incarnation’ ( CPG 2091), ed. with ET, R. W. Thomson, Athanasiana Syriaca, vol. 1 (CSCO 257–8; 1965). This represents the short recension of the Greek text.

2. ‘Life of Antony’ ( CPG 2101), ed. with FT, R.  Draguet (CSCO 417–8; 1980); earlier editions by P.  Bedjan in Acta Martyrum et Sanctorum, vol. 5, and E. A. W. Budge in Paradise of the Fathers (1904). Draguet’s view that the very free translation represents a lost earlier form of the Greek text is now discounted.

3. ‘Exposition of the Psalms’ ( CPG 2140), ed. with ET, Thomson, Athanasiana Syriaca, vol. 4 (CSCO 386–7; 1977). There is both a full and an abbreviated form.

4. ‘On Virginity’ ( CPG 2145), ed. with FT, J. Lebon in LM 40 (1927), 205–48; ET in Brakke 1995, 303–9. This is only known in Syriac and Armenian.

5. Homily on Matt. 12:32 ( CPG 2096), ed. with ET, Thomson, Athanasiana Syriaca, vol. 2.

6. Letters:

a. Festal Letters ( CPG 2102), ed. W. Cureton (1848); FT of the Syriac index in A.  Martin and M. Albert, in SC 317 (1985). IT and study in A. Camplani, Atanasio di Alessandria, Lettere Festali; Anonimo, Indice delle Lettere Festale (2003). The Syriac translation is particularly important since most of the Greek originals is lost.

b. The following letters have been edited, with ET, by Thomson: in Athanasiana Syriaca, vol. 1: to Epictetus ( CPG 2095); in Athanasiana Syriaca, vol. 2: to Adelphius ( CPG 2098), (Serapion [ CPG 2096]), the Africans ( CPG 2133), the Antiochenes ( CPG 2134), Maximus ( CPG 2100); in Athanasiana Syriaca, vol. 3: to Jovian ( CPG 2253). The Letter to Epictetus was also published by P. Bedjan, Nestorius, Le livre d’Héraclide (1910), 577–96.

c. To the Virgins ( CPG 2146), ed. with FT, J. Lebon, in LM 41 (1928), 169–216. This is only found in Syriac. Unpublished Syriac translations include Against the Arians ( CPG 2093), in ms. Damascus Patr. 12/24 (beginning and end lost; see S. P. Brock, in LM 86 [1973], 437–42).

A number of writings claiming to be by Athanasius were put out under his name by Apollinarians; some of these were translated into Syriac and have been published: On the Incarnation of God the Word ( CPG 3365), ed. with ET, Thomson, Athanasiana Syriaca, vol. 3; That Christ is one ( CPG 3737), ed. with ET, Thomson, Athanasiana Syriaca, vol. 3. (These were also edited earlier by J. Flemming and H. Lietzmann, 1904).

Other texts wrongly ascribed in Syriac to Athanasius are:

1. ‘On the Cross and the Passion’ ( CPG 2247), ed. with ET, Thomson, Athanasiana Syriaca, vol. 3.

2. ‘Against Apollinarius I’ ( CPG 2231), ed. with ET, Thomson, Athanasiana Syriaca, vol. 3. Three recensions are known.

3. ‘On the Incarnation against the Arians’ ( CPG 2806), ed. with ET, Thomson, Athanasiana Syriaca, vol.  3. This is now attributed to Marcellus of Ancyra.

4. Another treatise on Virginity, ed. with ET, D. Brakke (CSCO 592–3; 2002).

5. A baptismal address, ed. with ET, S. P. Brock in OC 61 (1977), 92–102.

6. An Anaphora, ed. A. Baumstark, in OC 2 (1902), 90–129.

There is a Syriac biography of Athanasius compiled from Theodoret and other Greek sources (edition by M. Hollerich in preparation); this was a source for Barḥadbshabba’s notice on Athanasius in his Ecclesiastical History.

Sources

  • CPG 2090–2309.
  • D.  Brakke, ‘The Greek and Syriac versions of the Life of Antony’, LM 107 (1994), 29–53.
  • D.  Brakke, ‘The authenticity of the ascetic Athanasiana’, Orientalia 63 (1994), 17–56.
  • D.  Brakke, Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism (1995). (for the wider background)
  • A.  Camplani, Le Lettere Festali di Atanasio di Alessandria (1989).
  • M. Hollerich, ‘The sources of Ps. Amphilochius’ Vita Athanasii Syriaca’, in SymSyr V, 273–83.
  • F. Takeda, ‘Monastic theology of the Syriac version of the Life of Antony’, StPatr , vol. 35 (2001), 148–57.
  • R. W.  Thomson, ‘Some remarks on the Syriac version of Athanasius de Incarnatione’, LM 77 (1964), 17–28.
  • P. van Nuffelen, ‘Les lettres festales d’Athanase d’Alexandrie: les “erreurs” chronologiques de l’Index syriaque’, Revue des études augustiniennes 47 (2001), 85–95.


How to Cite This Entry

Sebastian P. Brock, “Athanasius of Alexandria,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay, https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Athanasius-of-Alexandria.

Footnote Style Citation with Date:

Sebastian P. Brock, “Athanasius of Alexandria,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay (Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018), https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Athanasius-of-Alexandria.

Bibliography Entry Citation:

Brock, Sebastian P. “Athanasius of Alexandria.” In Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition. Edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay. Digital edition prepared by David Michelson, Ute Possekel, and Daniel L. Schwartz. Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018. https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Athanasius-of-Alexandria.

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