Christian Literature

To meet the immediate needs of the Armenian Church, to reinforce its doctrinal and liturgical activities, translations from Greek and Syriac were a conscious plan of cultural transmission. This plan called for the translation of the entire corpus of Christian knowledge.

The writings of the following church fathers were translated into Armenian, which not only speaks eloquently of the whole intellectual and spiritual vitality of the Armenian Church, but also serves as an indicator of its orientation: Ignatius of Antioch, C.35-C.107; Aristides the Apologist, about second century; Irenaeus of Lyons, c.200; Hippolytus of Rome, C.170-C.236; Dionysius of Alexandria, d. c.264; Gregory the Wonderworker, C.213-C.270; Eusebius of Caesarea, C.260-C.340; Athanasius of Alexandria, c.296-389; Gregory of Nazianzus, 329-89; Gregory of Nyssa, c.330-c.395; Basil of Caesarea, c.330-c.379; Cyril of Jerusalem, c.315-86; John Chrysostom, c.347-407; Epiphanius of Salamis, c.315-403; Evagrius Ponticus, 346-99; Aphraates, fourth century; Ephrem the Syrian, c.306-73; Cyril of Alexandria, d. 444. These writings are of great importance for the study of Greek and Syriac works whose originals are now lost, but have been preserved in Armenian translation.

Among these works must be mentioned the Chronicon, in two parts, by Eusebius of Caesarea (d. 339), which has come down to us through a fifth-century Armenian translation of the original Greek. The critical edition of the Armenian Chronicon, with Latin translation and excerpts preserved in later Greek sources was published by Fr. Mkrtitch Avgerian (pseud. Aucher) in 1818. In the 420s, another work by Eusebius of Caesarea, the Ecclesiastical History, was translated into Armenian. This is also of scholarly value, since large sections are now missing from the Syriac version from which it was translated. These lacunae have been filled with the aid of the Armenian translation.

Another important work among the early Armenian translations is The Demonstration of the Apostolic Teaching by Irenaeus of Lyons (d. 203), discovered in an Armenian version in 1907 by Karapet Ter Mkrttchian and published in 1913 as Armenische Ire-naeusfragmente; it was recognized as the most important discovery in patristics of that year. The fourth and fifth books of Irenaeus' Adversus Haereses survive in Armenian, and these are significant for the study of his literary legacy. Because of their value the Armenian versions of Irenaeus' works have been translated and published in German, French, Russian, and English.

A considerable part of the literary legacy of the renowned first-century Jewish philosopher and theologian Philo of Alexandria has been preserved thanks to Armenian translations. The Greek originals of eight of the fifteen Philonic treatises that survive in Armenian are lost. These include: the commentaries on the books of Genesis and Exodus, two treatises on providence, as well as the homilies, On Animals, On Samson, On Jonas and On God. The commentaries on the books of Genesis and Exodus are among the more important Armenian translations and have been translated into Latin, English and French.

In Armenian literature the work of John Chrysostom (d. 407), much of it known only from Armenian translations, is second only to the Bible in the number of manuscripts produced. Among Chrysostom's Armenian translations, the Commentary on Isaiah - of which only the first and eighth chapters are extant in the original Greek, the remaining fifty-six existing only in Armenian - was put into circulation through a Latin translation. The Commentary on Job by Hesychius of Jerusalem (d. after 450), another important Byzantine exegetical work, is preserved in Armenian manuscripts. In the 1980s the Armenian version of Hesychius of Jerusalem's treatise On St John was discovered. The Greek original of this work is also lost.

To this day the Greek text of the Refutation of the Articles of the Council of Chalcedon by Timothy Aelurus (d. 477) has not been found. This important monument of the fifth-century Christological controversy has reached us through Armenian and Syriac, the latter being a condensed version of Timothy's work, while the Armenian has preserved the complete text in its original state. Timothy Aelurus' Refutation had a major impact on Armenia dogma. At the beginning of the seventh century Catholicos Komitas (615-18) composed a catena based on it called Knik' Hawatoy (Seal of Faith), and in the thirteenth century Vardan Aygektsi compiled another catena called Armat Hawatoy (Root of Faith). These anti-Chalcedonian works played an important role in the struggle for independence by the Armenian Church and in the forging of its national identity.

The significance of Armenian translation is not limited to Greek works. The greatest contribution of Armenian literature to the field of patristics, are the ancient Armenian translations of the works of Ephrem the Syrian (d. 373). Since 1836, when the four volumes of Ephrem's works in Armenian were published, a great deal of research has been done in the West. These works of Ephrem were made available to the western public in translations from the Armenian into Latin or into modern western languages. For example, the Commentary on Tatian's Diatessaron was translated twice into Latin and into French. Based on the 1836 Armenian edition, a Latin translation of the Commentary on the Epistles of Paul appeared in 1893. Latin and English translations were made of the Commentary on the Acts (1926). The Hymns have been published three times, the third time in 1966 with a Latin translation facing the Armenian. The Elegies on Nicomedia have two editions, the second of which is accompanied by a French translation.

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