Nana Mrevlishvili                                                                                                                                                                          # 6



Pseudo-Metrophanes of Smyrna or Pseudo Grigol Akrakanteli

(for about the authorship of one of the texts of the Exegesis of Ecclesiastes)


Abstract: The article deals with the issue of authorship concerning the Translation of Ecclesiastes by Metrophanes of Smyrna dating back to the 13th century. The work by K. Kekelidze listed the work among the monuments, Greek originals of which had been lost. This opinion prevailed in philological circles for a long time. Later they attributed this work to Grigol Akrakanteli. Further, in an article published in a journal of Academy of sciences it is noted: we still deem it unjustified to categorically assert that the text definitely belongs to Grigol Akrakanteli, just because it is given under the name of Akrakanteli in the PG publication. Considering the oldness of the Georgian translation and non-critical publications of PG makes us think also that it is possible that this text of the Exegesis of Ecclesiastes belongs to the very Metrophanes of Smyrna Metropolitan and the correct version about the author of the work is preserved in the Georgian manuscript.

Belgian scholars showed interest towards this issue of authorship as well.


Key words: Metrophanes of Smyrna, definition of Ecclesiastes, Grigol krakanteli, Gelati literary school.


            In 1920 K. Kekelidze published a fundamental work titled “Translation of Ecclesiastes by Metrophanes of Smyrna zmÂrnel Metropolitan”, which contains the Georgian translation and an extensive research of the Exegesis of Ecclesiastes performed according to the standards of the Gelati literary school; in the mentioned work the scientist, along with many other aspects provides information about the author of the monument, provides biographical data about him, an overview of the period this author worked in. The work by K. Kekelidze listed the work of Metrophanes of Smyrna Bishop among the monuments Greek originals of which had been lost. He noted: “superficial review of Georgian literary heritage has made a significant contribution to the history of spiritual literature by the discovery of several works which originals are considered lost. It is further noteworthy that we can gladly offer to scientific world a new exegetical work from the museum of ancient works, the translation from Greek, which the history of spiritual writing knows nothing about; this is the translation of Ecclesiastes, described by Metrophanes, the Smyrna Metropolitan.[1]

            Let us briefly note the manuscript where the mentioned monument is preserved. The manuscript A 61 is the only one that has preserved the indicated text of the Translation of Ecclesiastes. It dates back to the 13th century and in addition to the Translation of Ecclesiastes by Metrophanes of Smyrna, contains also Translation of Ecclesiastes by Olympiodorus of Alexandria Deacon. The works of both of these authors are presented in a certain structural sequence in the manuscript (Ecclesiastes article – translation by Metrophanes of Smyrna – translation by Olympiodorus of Alexandria). This structure is broken just in rare cases.

            The Greek original of the work by Olympiodorus of Alexandria was published twice -- Fr. Ducaeus, Bibliotheca veterum patrum graecolatinorum II, Parisis, 1624, second time, Migne, Patrologia Graecolatina, t. 93. p. 477-628. In both cases the issue of the author of the text is clear and this version is reiterated in the Georgian translation as well.[2] The interest of researchers and the diversity of opinions around the issue of authorship have been caused by the very part of the text which was published by K. Kekelidze in 1920. Since the Greek original of this text was not discovered, K. Kekelidze, as noted, attributed this work to the monuments which originals are regarded lost.  This opinion had long established in the field of philological sciences. In the work published in 1982 “About the history of Georgia-Byzantine Literary Relations” E. Khintibidze noted: “Georgian manuscripts have preserved the translation of such Greek works which originals have still not been discovered. Among such works we can list the Translation of Glorification by Hyppolyte Roman, Translation of the Ecclesiastes by Metrophanes of Smyrna…” (Khintibidze 1982: 41) According to the Georgian version, manuscript A 61 the authors of these comments are Metrophanes of Smyrna and Olympiodorus of Alexandria (Translation of Ecclesiastes related by the Reverend Father Metrophanes of Smyrna zmÂrnel Metroplitan and Olympiodorus the Deacon – this is how the work is titled in the manuscript). This version of authorship did not raise doubt for a long time. In 1996 researcher E. Chelidze published his work “Ancient Georgian Theological Terminology”, in which he notes that “the definition of “Ecclesiastes” which in Georgian translations is attributed to Metrophanes of Smyrna, and which can not be found among Metrophane’s works… in actual fact is the work by Grigol Akrakanteli and its Greek text was published PG. t. 96, 741-1179”(Chelidze 1996: 338).  Therefore, opinion about this text and its author accepted and established in Georgia’s philological sciences is changed and Grigol Akrakanteli is named as an author instead of Metrophanes of Smyrna, since Greek publication of Mini supports this opinion. To a certain extent, we shared this idea as well. In 2005 in an article published in the journal of the Gelati Academy of Sciences we noted: « it is possible that the names of the authors were mixed (to attribute work by Grigol Akrakanteli to Metrophanes Metropolitan) in Greek », and added « but we still deem it unjustified to categorically assert that the text definitely belongs to Grigol Akrakanteli, just because it is given under the name of Akrakanteli in the PG publication. Considering the oldness of the Georgian translation and non-critical publications of PG makes us think also that it is possible that this text of the Exegesis of Ecclesiastes belongs to the very Metrophanes of Smyrna Metropolitan and the correct version about the author of the work is preserved in the Georgian manuscript. Of course, this opinion remains a hypothesis until we identify the original source (if it exists at all), from which the subject of our research was translated »(Mrevlishvili 2006: 4-5)

            Belgian scientists also attempted to investigate the issue of the author of this text. Before they prepared the critical publication of this exegetic work of Ecclesiastes they conducted quite long-term work to investigate the interrelationship among manuscripts, author of the work or other issues. The very Georgian translation appeared to be of principal importance for drawing their findings and the final investigation of the issue of authorship.

            In late 1970, when Dom Dekker, Morris Gerard and Abbot Richard decided to issue Greek series of Corpus Christiabnorum, they commenced the search for interesting works for publication. At the instruction of the team of publishers of the Greek series of Corpus Christianorum, namely, Morris Gerard, Abbot Michele Ostan started to develop the large anonymous text for publication.[3] This text, of which just last, 10th century manuscript was remaining, according to the notes within the manuscript, has apparently been written by an unknown author in 907-908 and it was an anti-Semitic, polemic work. Abbot Ostan compared the text of the subject of research with other anti-Semitic tracts and thus discovered the manuscript which was titled as Theognosia and belonged to Grigol Nosel. Extensive excerpts from this text were used by Eqvtime Zigaden in Panoplia Dogmatic’s Titulus the 8th – Kata Hebraion. The comparison has revealed that in language terms, as well as in terms of ideas this tract curiously resembled the text Ostan was planning going to publish. This Teognosia, which Zigaden had used in 1100, has not been preserved by any of the manuscripts. Morris Gerard still described it among the works by Grigol Noseli under number 3223 and indicated that its author is the same person who wrote St. Johan’s comments published by K. Ansman in Paderborn in 1930. St. Abbot Ostan discovered the incomplete sermon which only one manuscript had been preserved in a library in Britain. In this only source the author’s name had been erased.  Johannes’ comments, too, is the title given in haste, for the work contains the commentary not only by Johanne’s , but those by Matthews Gospel as well. Although, these comments were notable for another reason. In the references the author referred to Theognosia and indicated that he wrote it when in the Crimea (probably while in exile). From language terminology perspective these three works were identical and they were probably written by the same author. It became necessary to establish chronology. The initial text, as indicated, was dated at 907/908. The researchers inquired into whether it was possible to date the sermons to the same years? Sermons 5 and 7 were about innocence. Ansman sees here the reverberation of the dispute which followed the divorce and remarriage of Constantine the 6th; he ultimately dated these sermons to 809. In the opinion of Jacque Nuret, all these difficulties would disappear if they assumed that what was hinted at in the sermons was the well-known case of  tetragamiis of Leon VI : the sermons were about Patriarch Evtime, who was enthroned in February 907 by Leon VI following his fourth marriage and who retained this throne until the death of the emperor – February 912. Thus, there were three works by an unknown author, two of which dated to 907-912.

            During about at the same period New Yorker Jesuit Father J. Etlinger was working on the publication of Commentary to Ecclesiastes preserved under the authorship of Grigol Akrakanteli. Soon it became obvious to the researcher that the text did not belong to Grigol Akrakanteli. Since the references to this version of authorship were made in the manuscripts of the second half of the 17th century. One of the copies of such manuscripts that are currently preserved in Naples was the only source of the publication of the first publisher of this text, St. A. Morseli. The text was published first in 1971 and this edition was later used by Mini. One of the three other manuscripts of the comment is acephalous, an author’s name is not indicated, while two of them list Grigol Nosel as the author. It became clear from just preliminary stage of the study of these manuscripts that the text did not belong to Grigol Noseli, since he criticized the sections cited from his literary heritage. Thus, at the margin of one of the manuscripts preserved in Rome, which was the source of the Naples manuscript and which was used by the original publisher, Grigol Akrakanteli was indicated as an author. This version of authorship repeated in the Naples manuscript was first shared by Mortseli, then Mini and the entire literary world followed suit later.

            As a result of research Belgian scientists came to a conclusion that the subject text of research that is quite voluminous, comprises 113 pages in the large format manuscript of 9th-10th centuries, and it comprises 358 pages in the publication of Corpus Christianorum, ant that it does not belong to Grigol Akrakantel. The issue of authorship remained open. Jacque Nuret jointly with the Father Etlinger researched the language-lexical side of the text, which was distinguished by a number of individual characteristics. They tried to identify parallels between the dictionaries and the TLG online… Following the mentioned research they just concluded that no other work by this author, especially, exegetical one, has not been preserved. They estimated that time period between 530 and 630 was probable time of writing of the text (under the motif that no indication about Muslims was made), and regarded the Alexandria region the place of writing.  Through such research by Etlinger and Nuret in October 2007 this text of Commentary to Ecclesiastes was published critically; Pseudo Grigol Noseli is listed as an author along with pseudo-Grigol Akrakanteli. Nuret and Father Etlinger knew from the very beginning that the conclusion lacked justification and credibility; therefore in the final part of their research they stated that they would be happy to accept all those ideas that would help them to finally investigate the issue.

            They themselves managed to get a clearer idea of the issue in about one month from publishing the text. The researchers focused on the composite term ponhroboulia (the drive to do something evil), which was used in the subject text four times. The researcher Peter Van Den tried to find this term in other monuments, used the newly published Lexison sur Byzantinischen Grazitat and saw that this word, in addition Commentary to Ecclesiastes, was used also in the sermons published by Ansman and the Eulogy to the Archangel, which belongs to Metrophanes of Smyrna. The researched gained a new direction. They soon were convinced that not just this term, but a number of individual characteristics, that they noticed at early stage in the text of the Commentary to Ecclesiastes, were confirmed in the sermons published by Ansmani. The scientists no longer doubted that the pseudo-Grigol Akrakanteli commentary belonged to an anonymous author of 9-10 centuries. They tried to establish the relationship of Metrophanes of Smyrna Metropolitan with this issue. But Metrophanes was an unknown name. To clarify this issue they referred to Beck,[4] who had made references about several well-known works by this author and the Georgian translation of the Commentary to Ecclesiastes. It is about this very translation that is preserved in Georgia, at the National Manuscript Fund (A 61) and which part of Metrophanes was published by K. Kekelidze in 1920. Hence, the points fit. The scientists no longer doubted that the author of the subject text of the Commentary to Ecclesiastes was the very Metrophanes of Smyrna. Clearly, Greek original of the Georgian manuscript, which preserved the correct version of authorship was probably significantly much older that the current Greek manuscripts of this work or the manuscripts that formed the basis for Greek publications. And, probably, the source of the Georgian version was characterized by the same structural composite qualities as the monument preserved in the A 61 manuscript (Churc. Article – Metrophanes – Olymphiodorus).

            Currently the Belgian scientist Peter Van Den is working on a paper that will be published in the coming issue of Byzantion. In his work he will provide a detailed overview about the language-terminology characteristics of Metrophanes’ work and those arguments that formed the basis for the final findings of their research.




Kekelidze 1920: Kekelidze K., Translation of Ecclesiastes by Metrophanea zmÂrnel Metropolitan,  Tbilisi, 1920.

Khintibidze 1982:  Khintibidze E., About the History of Georgian-Byzantine Literary Relations, Tbilisi, 1982.

Chelidze 1996:  Chelidze E., “Ancient Georgian Theological Terminology”, Tbilisi, 1996.

Mrevlishvili 2005: Mrevlishvili N., Gelati translations of Exegesis of Ecclesiastes, Journal Intellect of the Gelati Academy of Sciences, Tbilisi, 2005.

Noret 2008: Jacques Noret: Métrophane, évêque de Smyrne, un grand auteur des années 870-910 retrouvé à l'improviste; 7e JOURNÉE D'ÉTUDE de la SOCIÉTÉ BELGE D'ÉTUDES BYZANTINES;"  Facultés de l’Université Notre Dame de la Paix, Namur, BELGIQUE, 2008.


[1] K. Kekelidze, “Translation of Ecclesiastes by Mitrophane the Smyrn zmÂrnel Metropolitan, Tb. 1920, pg. 197.

[2] K. Kekelidze did not publish the Olimphiodore part of the translation of the Ecclesiastes; he published the Biblical text of the Ecclesiastes and the commentary by Metrophanes. Notably, the Biblical text preserved in this manuscript shows an editorial difference in relation to other Georgian translations of Ecclesiastes (Oshki (the same Athon), Mtskheta, Moscow), which was to be expected given literary traditions of the Gelati School.

[3] In an article we mostly base our narration on the paper delivered by Jac Nuret at the International Symposium of Byzantinologosits held in Belgium on April 28, 2008; the materials about the speech was provided by our colleage, T. Pataridze, whom we thank for provided assistance. "7e JOURNÉE D'ÉTUDE de la SOCIÉTÉ BELGE D'ÉTUDES BYZANTINES;"  Facultés de l’Université Notre Dame de la Paix, Namur, BELGIQUE - Jacques Noret: Métrophane, évêque de Smyrne, un grand auteur des années 870-910 retrouvé à l'improviste.

[4] Beck, Hans-Georg Beck, Kirche und theologische Literatur im byzantinischen Reich ; München, 1959



Volume 4, Issue 2


Rustaveli Institute of Georgian Literature

Georgian Electronic Journal of Literature