Cassingena-Trevedy provides excellent French translations of Paschal hymns (madrashe) by Ephrem the Syrian (d. 373): 21 hymns on the Unleavened Bread [= de Azymis], nine on the Crucifixion, and five on the Resurrection, based for the most part on Edmund Beck's critical texts (Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium 248--49, Scriptores Syri 108-9). The hymns are important and edifying for their imaginative typological exegesis especially of the Paschal Lamb. Unfortunately, however, for current liturgical and spiritual enrichment, they are deeply embedded in trenchant anti-Judaic polemics, thus giving rise to an ambivalence similar to that evoked by Melito of Sardis's On the Pasch (both emerged from a fading Quartodeciman liturgical environment). Besides his surveying anti-Judaistic and other essential matters, C.-T. also situates the hymns in relation both to Ephrem's oeuvre and to the collecting of his hymns following his death--the latter process yielding two extant manuscripts, dated to the sixth and seventh centuries, upon which Beck's edition and this translation are based. There are also short introductory paragraphs for each hymn and helpful indexes; the bibliography and notes will lead to fuller scholarly discussions (e.g., Sebastian Brock's review in Journal of Theological Studies 58  283-84).
A significant innovation is C.-T.'s invocation of the broader Near Eastern context for the Paschal celebration as a "rite of spring" 126-28). He notes, for example, the pairing of Passover with fertility themes in de Azymis 9. Here Miriam's song is elaborated through the emerging flowers of spring paired with infants emerging both from their mothers' wombs and from the fear that had led to the infant Moses' being hidden in the reeds. C.-T.'s translations well display Ephrem's artistry (e.g., de Az 9:9-10; C.-T. 96-97). The hymns have appeared previously in French and Italian translations, but only a few are in English (28, 31-32); the beauty of this translation coupled with its critical approach make it a valuable acquisition for scholars and students.
KATHLEEN E. MCVEY
Princeton Theological Seminary, N.J.
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|Title Annotation:||SHORTER NOTICES|
|Author:||McVey, Kathleen E.|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2009|
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