The Introduction to the Ascetical Homilies explains which manuscripts and printed editions we used more fully than can explained here; here we provide more illustrations of them than could be provided there.
The first drafts of our translation of the The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian were made from the Greek edition printed by Nikephoros Theotokis in Leipzig in 1770.
Despite the many obscurities and faults that compelled us to examine older Greek MSS and then the Syriac, this edition, being a printed book that could be distributed in far greater numbers than manuscripts, provided the invaluable service of introducing St. Isaac to generations of Christians who might otherwise never have been able to read him, including the Elders Joseph the Cave-dweller of Mt. Athos and Ieronymos of Aegina. Through this edition the senior Fathers of our monastery also came to know St. Isaac’s writings and were inspired to translate him into English.
A discussion of this edition is provided on pp. 81–92 and 103 of the Introduction. Some reprints of it that brought an even greater readership to St. Isaac can be seen here.
At left is the title page of Theotokis’s edition of the Ascetical Homilies. It reads:
The Ascetical works of our Righteous Father Isaac the Syrian, Bishop of Nineveh, commissioned by the Most Blessed, Divine, and Wise Kyr Kyr Ephraim, Patriarch of the Holy City Jerusalem and all Palestine, by the labors of Hieromonk Nikephoros Theotokis. First Printed Edition. Leipzig in Saxony, Breitkopf Printing House, 1770.
The first page of the Homilies; the title reads:
The Ascetical Homilies of our Father among the Saints Abba Isaac the Syrian, the Ascetic and Anchorite, Sometime Bishop of the Christ-loving City of Nineveh, Written by him in his own tongue and translated by our righteous Fathers Abba Patrick and Abba Abramius, philosophers and hesychasts who practised stillness in the Lavra of our Father among the Saints Sabbas.
This same Homily is placed first in all editions we know of, including our own (see Appendix D, the Table of Homily Equivalences). After that, differences abound in the ordering of the Homilies.
Examining the older Greek manuscripts not only resolved some of the textual obscurities in the Theotokis text, it also revealed a radically different order, which proved to be the order of the homilies in Syriac. It is this order that our edition follows, rather than that of the Theotokis text or the later Greek MSS resembling it. The order of the Homilies in Syriac is discussed on p. 80 of the Introduction, and that of the Theotokis text, and the reasons its ordering is not to be preferred, on pp. 87–8.