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St Cyril of Alexandria Commentary on Luke (First Part)

Translated by R. Payne Smith

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This Part: 128 Pages

Translator's Preface

When I undertook the task of preparing for the press the Syriac Version of S. Cyril's Commentary upon the Gospel of S. Luke, discovered among the manuscripts lately obtained from Egypt, and deposited in the British Museum, I was aware that my labours would be of little practical benefit, unless I also made it accessible to theologians generally by means of an English translation. In the performance of this duty, my chief assistance has been derived from the Nova Bibliotheca Patrum of Cardinal Mai, published in 1844-58 at Rome: for so miserably defective is even the best Syriac Lexicon, that it has repeatedly happened that I have only been able to arrive with something like certainty at the meaning of a passage, by waiting until I found in some extract in Mai the equivalent in Greek of the word or phrase in question. Wherever this help has failed, I have carefully examined the use of words, in other Semitic dialects, or in the numerous Syriac works which during the last few years have issued from the press, and in which I had been in the habit of noting the occurrence of all new and unusual terms. To have discussed these difficulties in notes, would have been only to crowd my pages with matter not generally interesting, and for which, I trust, I shall hereafter have a more fitting opportunity. I think, however, that I can safely say, that in no case have I come to a conclusion except upon reasonable grounds, and that, after due allowance made for possible errors, my translation will be found to convey a correct and adequate representation of the original work.

Of the value of the Commentary, I shall probably not be considered an impartial judge: still my conviction is, that it can scarcely fail of being regarded as an important addition to our means of forming an accurate judgment of what was the real teaching of one of the most famous schools of thought in the early Church. It has not indeed gained entire acceptance; its philosophy was too deep, its creed too mysterious, its longings too fervently fixed upon the supernatural, for the practical mind of the West readily to assent to doctrines which mock rather than exercise the powers of even the subtlest reason. And while the names of its doctors have become household words with us, and we owe to their labours the establishment of the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity in its main outlines as we hold it at present, still the student of Church History is aware, that in many minor, though still important particulars, the teaching of the Alexandrine school was in excess of what we at present hold. The Athanasian Creed does not embody the actual tenets of Athanasius, nor of the other great masters of Alexandria, except in the form in which they were modified and altered by the influence of rival schools: and in like manner S. Cyril, the inheritor at once of Athanasius' throne, and of his views, often uses arguments which the Monophysites could fairly claim as giving a colour to their belief, that after the union of the two natures in Christ it was no longer lawful to distinguish their separate limits.

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