Author: Efroymson, David P
Date published: June 1, 2010
HOMILIES ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 1-40. By Augustine, Bishop of Hippo. Edited by Allan D. Fitzgerald, O.S.A. Translated by Edmund Hill, O.P. The Works of St. Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century, Part 3/12. Hyde Park, N.Y.: New City, 2009. Pp. 604. $59; $39.95.
Hill, who has ably translated the Sermons and On the Trinity in the series, provides a polished, readable version in this first of two volumes of Augustine's homilies on John. Fitzgerald's helpful 26-page introduction to the two volumes treats competently, among other issues, the controverted question of the homilies' dating and defends the claim that the last 70 of the 124, significantly shorter than the first 54, may have been preached and not merely dictated. My sole hesitation comes from a sense that F. has overstated the connection between the treatment of Jesus herein and the problem of Donatism.
The lean bibliography's 64 items are nearly all recent and all relevant. The notes, valuable and abundant (averaging more than 20 per homily), most frequently explain a reference or Hill's translation; identify relevant further passages in these homilies, in the Sermons, or in On the Trinity: or provide other apposite biblical passages.
Just two examples for a taste of the translator's skills: At 3.14, Augustine says, typically: "lex minabatur, non opitulabatur; jubebal, non sanebat; languorem ostendebat, non auferebat." Hill translates: "the law threatened, but brought no relief. It gave orders; it did not heal; it manifested frailty; it did not get rid of it" (78). Beyond the nonreproducible Latin assonance, I thought that "manifested frailty" was the only not-quite-successful phrase in a fine rendering. Again, at the end of 26.4, after affirming that a person with a burning desire for God will know exactly what he is talking about, Augustine continues: "Si aulem frigido loquor, nescit quid loquor." Hill: "If, on the other hand, I am talking to some cold-hearted so-and-so, he has not the slightest idea of what I am talking about" (453). A little free, but still right on target. We await the remaining homilies and the promised indexes.
DAVID P. EFROYMSON
La Salle University, Philadelphia