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The Latest from Ancient Rome!

There’s a hailstorm of patristic activity in Berkeley, California. Kevin at Biblicalia — who earlier today got our attention by posting the wisdom of Father Georges Florovsky — has just released his fresh translation of the first three chapters of St. Clement of Rome’s First Letter to the Corinthians. If you accept the arguments of John A.T. Robinson, Joseph Ratzinger, and Thomas Herron (out of print, but soon to be republished), you’re looking at a text written before 70 A.D.

Kevin commented here that we should be reading more of the Fathers and maybe less about them. And he’s right, of course — though some of us do need a longer ramp than others, and most of us need a much longer ramp than Kevin! But he’s going to make the reading as easy for us as he can. Never let it be said of Mr. Edgecomb and Biblicalia: “They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger” (Mt 23:4). Kevin’s moving ten fingers, for our sake, and at a rapid clip.

UPDATE: Kevin’s on a tear and has posted chapters 4-6 as well. Remember, it was a group of Californians who wrote “Life in the Fast Lane.”

11 thoughts on “The Latest from Ancient Rome!

  1. Aw, shucks! Thank you for the compliments!

  2. Could someone recommend a collection of writings of the church fathers that is reasonably thorough but not overwhelming? I’ve been pondering buying one of the many-volume “complete” sets of the fathers but sense that one would be overkill for me as a reader new to Patristics. I don’t want to try diving in too deep and end up junking the whole project.

    I’m thinking a collection that has maybe 20 key works from the church Doctors and others. Maybe someone has done a multi-volume collection grouped by era, something like the one-volume “Apostolic Fathers” collection?

    I admit the the more mystically-leaning writings I’ve read have left me unsatisfied (I recently read some Bonaventure and found it slow and too mysterious.) Justin Martyr, though: very clear to me, and I learned much.

    Related question: What is the best work by Augustine to start with in understanding his theology? I’ve read enough about him as a person, but I want to start reading his works.

    Sorry for the long post. Thanks to any advice anyone can provide.

    (I’m not a scholar, obviously, but an educated and interested layman … and LCMS Lutheran)

  3. I’d be silly if I didn’t recommend my own book, The Fathers of the Church, since it’s exactly the book you describe. The expanded edition will be out in the Fall. I like Bettenson’s anthologies, too. As for Augustine: Have you read his Confessions? I know it’s an autobiography, but the concluding books are really the best introduction to his theology. I’m extremely fond of the Penguin translation by Pine-Coffin. Other possibilities: Instructing Beginners in Faith (De Catechizandis Rudibus) and On Christian Teaching (De Doctrina Christiana). You can’t go wrong with this stuff. (And nothing too mysty.)

  4. Mark,
    I found a book in the used section of a bookstore called Introduction to St. Augustine The City of God with translation and commentary by R.H. Barrow. It was published in 1950. As a non scholar myself, I found the commentary very helpful, and I felt like I got to know St. Augustine a lot better even though it was just an introduction to The City of God.

  5. Might I add a recommendation or two? Whatever one may think of Bart Ehrman’s popular books, he has done great service by assembling two readers: “After the New Testament” and “Christianity in Late Antiquity”. Now these contain more than just “the fathers”, but I found the breadth of their coverage useful in discerning which complete works were worth pursuing in depth.

    There’s also Jurgens’ three volume (but inexpensive) “The Faith of the Early Fathers”, which concentrates on short extracts focused on doctrinal issues. Again, a useful sampler and very useful if you’re trying to trace the course of doctrinal issues through the Fathers.


  6. I love the blogosphere. Thank you all for the guidance… I’ll be checking those titles out.

  7. You got a Cliffs Notes version of that early dating of Clement stuff?

  8. God forgive me for the violence I’m about to do to Msgr. Herron’s argument … Herron finds 11 instances where Clement’s letter sheds light on the dating question and he analyzes each in detail. Clement seems to assume a close proximity to the lives of Peter and Paul, that there are a goodly number of people still alive who knew them. He assumes that the Jerusalem Temple is still standing. The recent calamities he describes fit the early date better than the later. Also there’s external evidence. The ancient Roman catalogues of popes name Clement as the third pope, after Peter and Linus (Augustine too follows this sequence). Jerome seems to place Clement earlier in history than Eusebius does. Eusebius is the primary authority for placing Clement around 96. Herron shows why Eusebius might have got his wires crossed. I’ll put up an announcement once Herron’s book is nearing re-publication. In the meantime, start with Robinson.

  9. Sweet. Cheers.

  10. I see that there is an expanded eidtion of “The Fathers of the Church” coming in “the Fall.” I plan on using this book to teach an adult education class beginning in September. Is there any chance it willb e out by then? Any comments would be very much appreciated. Please reply off-list to if possible.

    Also, does anyone know of VHS or DVD’s on the Fathers of the Church other than the one by Dr. D’Ambrosio? I bought it, but it is rather disappointing since the individual “episodes” are so short.

    Thanks for your help.

    Jerry Michels

  11. Jerry,
    The publisher says the book should be out in time for your class in September. If you make arrangements with the folks at OSV, they can have the books shipped directly from the printer.

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