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Making myself useful

It’s good that the remnants of a classical education that I carry around with me sometimes come in useful for me and other people.

My ever loving wife is winding up her M.A. thesis on Eve and Mary in Irenæus of Lyons, and it’s my privilege to help her as computer and language dogsbody, looking up references on the internet, translating parts of the Latin text (the only complete version extant) of Adversus Hæreses and of the surviving fragments of the Greek original and the French commentary by Rousseau (or is it Massuet or Migne? I get a bit vague about the bibliographical details). I draw the line at Armenian, but I did have a stab at a Syriac fragment a little while ago. Syrian isn’t hard once you decipher the alphabet: you just pretend it’s Aramaic and take it from there. Hey, it worked for Mel Gibson.

My Latin is a whole lot more fluent than my Greek, either because I started learning it two years earlier or because it’s an easier language and with more cognates to English, or just because the Latin translation of AH is very elementary Latin. In Greek I am always running to Liddell and Scott, but in Latin I hardly need a dictionary, which is lucky, because I don’t own one.

Yesterday I even had the chutzpah to express an opinion about the content, and the greater chutzpah to think I knew better than Migne (or, as it might be, Massuet). In AH IV. 33, 4, Irenæus says “… how shall he (man) escape from the generation subject to death, if not by means of a new generation, given in a wonderful and unexpected manner (but as a sign of salvation) by God — [I mean] that regeneration which flows from the virgin through faith?”.

Now, Massuet (or, such as it may be, Migne) says that the “virgin” here must be the Church because only the Church, and not Mary, can be described as giving birth to all believers, but I beg to disagree. The whole thrust of Irenæus’ doctrine of Eve and Mary in the passages I’ve been reading seems to be that Mary replaces Eve as אם כל חי: Eve is only our mother in the flesh, and made us inherit death by her disobedience, but Mary by accepting God’s will in faith becomes the mother of all the human race on a spiritual level and restores us to life — “regeneration which flows from the virgin through faith”.

OK, I’ve got that out of my system, we will now return to the usual blend of Judaism and software internationalisation.