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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

THE ECUMENICAL COUNCILS Preface and Introduction

Edited from a variety of translations (mentioned in the preface) by H. R. Percival

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The work intrusted to me of preparing this volume evidently can be divided into two separate parts. The first, the collecting of the material needed and the setting of it before the reader in the English tongue; the other, the preparation of suitable introductions and notes to the matter thus provided. Now in each of these departments two courses were open to the editor: the one, to be original; the other, to be a copyist. I need hardly say that of these the former offered many temptations. But I could not fail to recognize the fact that such a course would greatly take from the real value of the work, and therefore without any hesitation I have adopted the other alternative, and have endeavoured, so far as was at all possible, to keep myself out of the question altogether; and as a general rule even the translation of the text (as distinguished from the notes) is not mine but that of some scholar of well-established reputation.

In the carrying out of this method of procedure I have availed myself of all the translations which I could find, and where, after comparing them with the original, I have thought them substantially accurate, I have adopted them and reproduced them. Where I have thought that the translation was misleading, I have amended it from some other translation, and, I think, in no case have I ventured a change of translation which rests upon my own judgment alone. A very considerable portion, however, of the matter found in this volume is now translated into English for the first time. For some of this I am indebted to my friends, who have most kindly given me every assistance in their power, but even here no translation has been made from the Greek without careful reference being had to the traditional understanding, as handed down in the Latin versions, and wherever the Latin and Greek texts differ on material points the difference has been noted. I have not thought it necessary nor desirable to specify the source of each particular translation, but I have provided for the use of the reader a list of all the translations which I have used. I should also add that I have not considered any one text sufficiently well established as to command any deference being paid to it, and that I have usually followed (for my own convenience rather than for any other reason) the text contained in Labbe and Cossart's Concilia. No doubt Hardouin and Mansi are in some respects superior, but old prejudices are very strong, and the reader will remember that these differing Concilia gave rise to a hard-fought battle in the history of the Gallican Church. I should add, however, that where more recent students of the subject have detected errors of importance in Labbe's text, I have corrected them, usually noting the variety of reading. With regard then to the text I entirely disclaim any responsibility, and the more so as on such a matter my opinion would be entirely valueless. And with regard to the translation my responsibility goes no further than the certifying the reader that, to all intents and purposes, the meaning of the original is presented to him in the English language and without interpretation being introduced under the specious guise of translation. Some portions are mere literal translations, and some are done into more idiomatic English, but all--so far as I am able to judge--are fair renderings of the original, its ambiguities being duly preserved. I have used as the foundation of the translation of the canons of the first four synods and of the five Provincial Synods that most convenient book, Index Canonum, by the Rev. John Fulton, D.D., D.C.L., in which united to a good translation is a Greek text, very well edited and clearly printed.

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