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March 2, 2016

Prof. Richardson and Dr. Reynolds
Prof. Randy Richardson (left) and Dr. Burnie Reynolds ’70 are collaborating on a new commentary and translation of a work by Gregory of Tours.

WILMORE, Ky. — Asbury University faculty are usually best known for the difference they make in the lives of students. That comes as no surprise — from stimulating classroom discussion to personal mentorship, professors make a lifelong impact. The classroom isn’t the only place professors leave their mark, though. Less remarked upon — but equally valuable — are the contributions Asbury faculty make to scholarship.

Recently, Dr. Burnie Reynolds ‘70 (History) and Prof. Randy Richardson (Ancient Languages) signed a book contract to provide a translation and detailed commentary on an important work by Gregory of Tours, a sixth-century Christian bishop.

To be published by Peeters Publishing of Leuven, Belgium, the book will be the first English translation of “Liber de Miraculis Beati Andreae Apostoli” (Book of the Miracles of the Blessed Apostle Andrew) — the last of Gregory’s significant works still untranslated. 

The book will feature a lengthy introduction by Reynolds describing the role of saints and the miraculous in Gregory’s world, followed by Richardson’s English translation with the original Latin on facing pages.  Appearing in Peeters’ series “The Dallas Medieval Texts in Translation,” the book it is slated for publication in the summer of 2018.

“It has been extremely rewarding to collaborate on this project with my longtime friend and colleague Dr. Reynolds,” Richardson said. “Working with such a highly-respected medievalist as Dr. Reynolds has made my role as translator easier. I find the opportunity of bringing the writing of a sixth-century bishop on the miracles of a first-century saint to a 21st century audience is quite exciting.”  

For Richardson, translating Gregory’s work has been yet another reminder of the power of the liberal arts. Translating an ancient text isn’t just reading, he says — it’s more like interacting with Gregory as an individual. Whether you’re a professor or a student, engaging the minds of the ancient world can be a life-changing experience.

“We spend so much time asking the wrong questions about the liberal arts,” Richardson said. “It’s not so much, ‘What are you going to do when you graduate,’ but ‘Who do you want to become?’ We worry too much about making a better living, and not enough about making a better life. Reading the ancients can vastly expand our outlook.”

Reynolds says the work provides a valuable window into the worldviews of Gregory and “the barbarian West” — a perspective that overflows into his own teaching.

“It is important to continue to enlarge our understanding of the historical periods we treat in order to convey new insights, and hopefully inspiration, to our students,” Reynolds said. “History is an ever-unfolding search for understanding, and that which the professor discovers should be transferred to the classroom.”

One insight Reynolds has gleaned from studying Gregory’s work is an appreciation for wonder. Gregory wrote in a period historians call “Late Antiquity,” situated between the ancient world and first centuries of the early Middle Ages. Religious culture in Late Antiquity took a vastly different approach to miracles than the modern world, Reynolds says — and it’s one we can learn from.

“It’s this idea is that the whole world is miraculous, and those that are tuned to the Lord see the miracles,” Reynolds said. “I’m reminded of the hippies I used to see in the 60s who would pick up a blade of grass and say, ‘Whoa, man! That’s a miracle!’ And it really is. In our Wesleyan context, Gregory can remind us to reawaken the mystery, the wonder at what God has done.”

 

For more information on Asbury’s History Department, click here.

For more information on Asbury’s Ancient and Modern Languages Department, click here.