Wednesday, July 10, 2024

More on a rediscovered treatise of Porphyry

ROGER PEARSE: A lost Greek philosophical text rediscovered in Syriac: Porphyry’s “On Principles and Matter.”
The discovery of a lost text from ancient times is not something that happens every day. Obviously it’s exciting when it does! Strangely a recent discovery seems to have passed mostly unnoticed.

The text in question is On Principles and Matter, a text written by none other than the famous Porphyry, the late 3rd century neoplatonist philosopher. He was a disciple of Plotinus, whose Isagoge (Introduction to Logic) was translated into every ancient language. He is also known as the author of a lost text against the Christians.


I noted the publication of this previously lost treatise a few years ago. But in this post Roger Pearse fills out the background and details of this discovery. He also finds another fairly early reference (by the Nestorian patriarch Timothy I) to the Syriac translation of the treatise here.

Porphyry comes up now and then at PaleoJudaica, notably regarding his mention of once lost Old Testamement pseudepigrapha (sort of) that were rediscovered in Coptic versions in the Nag Hammadi Library. He also was the first to advance arguments for the Book of Daniel being composed during the Maccabean revolt.

The patriarch Timothy I is also known to PaleoJudaica from his letter that appears to recount the discovery of some Dead Sea Scrolls in his time. See here and here. Again, regrettably, key links have rotted. Not my doing. But Roger Pearse quotes a translation of the letter here.

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