Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Historical Vision of Eusebius of Caesarea

From time to time, I feel like I need to apologize for my interest in Eusebius and the other ecclesiastical historians. I suspect that that is my classics training coming out in a rather unhelpful way because God knows that classicists tend to turn up their noses at these writers. At best, they are mines of information. At worst, they are the worst kind of tendentious historians-inaccurate and self-interested. That is a difficult mindset to shake and, while I dismiss it as entirely unfair, I think that a lot of our problems as Christian historians come from the contortions we try to make in order to appear objective and scholarly to a world view which believes that God has no place in history. Yet, if we believe that God was made man in Jesus Christ at a particular time (c. 4 BC-AD 33)and in a particular place (Judaea), we can't ignore the challenge history has us. If we do, we run the risk of forgetting the Incarnation and all the nasty particularities of being Christian.

So, when I come to Eusebius, I recognize, for all his faults, a historian who is trying to make sense of Christian history. He is, of course, very clear about his agenda. His project is to record church history from the apostles to his own time in such a way as to uphold 'orthodox' faith. As a result, he is concerned with the names of the successors to the apostles, how the Church was formed and governed, those who defended the faith, those who departed from the faith and the persecutions (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History (EH), 1,1.). This very clear apologetic intent to Eusebius' history is, of course, precisely what bothers non-Christian scholars. Since he is so clear about his apologetic intent, how could he be objective? How can we trust that he isn't twisting his evidence?

The obvious answer to that is that we can't. Eusebius was, as he is acutely aware, the first Christian to write this kind of history and he preserves an immense amount of material which has not survived in any other way. Of course, we can do studies on the bits that coincide with surviving documents and those efforts, I believe, have shown that he tends to quote accurately. Yet, he is hardly objective.

Mind you, the obvious answer to that charge is to suggest our hypothetical critics please find an example in modern historiography, much less ancient historiography of objectivity. That is, of course, a post-modern dodge, but, like many post-modern dodges, it has some real validity. If anyone reads ancient historians with any degree of attention, we find that even the best of them, (Thucydides, Tacitus) are hardly objective. They may try hard to be fair, but objectivity is simply not even a concern.

Still, what struck me in my most recent re-reading of Eusebius' passage is his second preface (Eusebius, EH 5,3)in which he states:
Other writers of historical works have confined themselves to the written tradition of victories in wars, of triumphs over enemies, of the exploits of generals and the valour of soldiers, men stained with blood and countless murders for the sake of children and country and other possessions; but it is wars most peaceful waged for the very peace of the soul, and men who therein have been valiant for truth rather than for country, and for piety rather than their dear ones, that our record of those who order their lives according to God will inscribe on everlasting monuments: it is the struggles of the athletes of piety and their valour which braved so much, trophies won from demons, and victories against unseen adversaries, and the crowns at the end of all, that it will proclaim for everlasting remembrance.

On one level, this is Eusebius' answer to traditional historiography. He outlines the interests of the historians of his day and clearly places them as inferior to the struggles he sets out in his ecclesiastical history. In doing this, he is in line with the Gospels which proclaim that the most important thing in life is not what the powers and principalities assume: power and war. Rather it is service to God. Here Eusebius is defending implicitly his rather lengthy exposition of the martyrs of Lyons, but he is also setting out principles about what is and is not important in Christian history. The struggles to gain power in this world are not the primary interest for the Christian historian for the simple reason that these struggles involve the illusion that we can have power without God. The Christian historian may have to acknowledge this illusion as a historical force, but he/she cannot assume that his/her subject matter rests in so confining a direction. Rather we must seek out the hand of God in all the odd places as well as the usual places. If Jesus revealed himself in weakness, can we not expect God hand to be found in obscure and seemingly insignificant places sometimes?

I know, of course, my non-Christian readers will shake their heads at me for those comments. Fair enough, I guess. Yet, I ask for the same forbearance that you give your other apologetically minded (or is that politically-minded?) colleagues. I would suggest that Christian historiography deserves a place in the intellectual life of the post-modern West as any other historiography. Questions of truth remain, of course, but a Christian mind-set does not need to be a hindrance in answering those questions. It may even be a help.


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Patristic Roundup-Dec. 21-27, 2006

Welcome to the second week of the Patristic Roundup!

I noticed a couple of things this week. First, predictably, mentions of the Fathers were frequent this week, largely because of the drearily predictable, if necessary, blog entries (pro and con) about Christmas. Depending on your point of view, the Fathers are either villains of the piece (co opting nice innocent pagan customs) or heroes (pillaging the Egyptians, as Augustine would say).

Second, I've noticed in the little time that I've been posting this roundup that most of these mentions were drive-bys, so I chose not to include them. It seems that we are still at the stage where it is educated to mention the Fathers, but not to have read them. Still, mentioning them is something.

Yet, my hope with this roundup is that more people will be encouraged to read the Fathers at first hand and see how good theologians the Fathers were.

Patristic Articles:

Al Hsu at The Suburban Christian reports on a talk by Martin Marty on the diversity in the ordering of churches in the early Christian period. Not only do we get a good idea of the talk and the discussion which follows, we also get some interesting commentary on the difference between theologians and church historians. I also liked Al's self-identification as an evangelical mutt. Mind you, so am I.

The Gimmie My Bullets blog offers one of the many discussions of the December 25th date for Christmas. I hadn't realized that Julius Africanus had established the date in the late second century AD. I must track that reference.

The Dyspraxic Fundamentalist on his Patristic Page posts a passage from Cyril of Alexandria on the Incarnation. And just in time for Christmas!

Danny Garland on Irish Catholic and Dangerous posts a quote from Saint Aphrahate on Patristic Typology

William Whedon continues to post Patristic Quotes of the Day on Whedon's Blog.

Mike Aquilina on the Way of the Fathers, quotes a review of his book, The Fathers of the Church, by Craig Meyer which includes an excellent discussion on the importance to get our story out in the face of the challege offered by the Da Vinci Code's version of early Christian history. Mike, then, follows up this post with a brilliant post on Christmas and its importance in the Christian life.

albert m on Christian Book Reviews discusses Jaroslav Pelican's The Christian Tradition Volume 3. which starts in the later patristic era and continues into the mediaeval tradition.

John Lyons reports on the conference on the Reception of the Bible in Late Antiquity held at Concordia University, Montreal in October of this year. Enjoy!

Jim Davila on PaleoJudaica posts some sensible comments by Peter Stanford on the whole Gospel of Judas debacle. . On Christmas Day, he helpfully quoted the earliest extant reflection on the star in Matthew's birth story from Ignatius of Antioch

Dim Bulb at The Divine Lamp features a catena of quotations from St. Justin and St. Irenaeus on Mary from The Blessed Virgin in the Fathers of the First Six Centuries by Father Thomas Livy

Prior Peter at the Daily Bread blog favourably reviews Ramsay MacMullin's book on the 4th century ecumenical councils, Voting About God, as one of the best books of 2006.

Patrick O'Hanigan at The Paragraph Farmer, one of the many Catholic bloggers to comment on Pope Benedict's Christmas message, features the link between Papal and Patristic insight.

Brian Leport comments on James, Paul and the prophet Agabus in Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History.

Gentile for Judaism takes on the virgin birth and the patristic argument that it was necessary for Jesus (Yeshua) to be the Messiah.

That is it for this week. If you should encounter an article that I've missed, please pass it along.


Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Christmas Reflection from Mike Aquilina

I just came across this amazing reflection by Mike Aquilina at The Way of the Fathers. Run, don't walk to that reflection, if you want to be reminded in a particularly meaningful way of why we celebrate Christmas Day.

Merry Christmas, again, to all! And to all, a good night!


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas

Well, Christmas is nigh and I doubt if I'm going to post again between then and now. So, to all my readers, Merry Christmas! I should have a suitable patristics quote, but, really, Scripture trumps the Fathers, so...

Isaiah 9,6-7 (NIV)
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David's throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.


Sulpicius Severus, Life of Martin, 1

Here is the second installment of the Life of Martin. In this section, Severus gives us a second introduction to the work. That may strike some readers as odd, but it seems the preface may have been a letter to Desiderius as part of the package including the manuscript. It certainly is written in a epistolary style.
(1)The majority of mortals, vainly dedicated to zeal for worldly glory, seek what they believe will be the eternal memory of their name, if they elucidate the lives of famous men in their writing. (2) In any case, although these things do not bring eternal fruit, they do bring the trifling fruit of the hope they conceived. They preserve their own memory, but to no purpose, since their readers are roused in a great degree to emulate the examples of the great men placed before them. Nevertheless, this concern of theirs in no way pertains to the blessed, eternal life. (3) In what way does the glory of their own writings which will die with the world benefit them? What reward did posterity bring to one who read about Hector fighting and Socrates philosophizing, since it would not only be stupid to imitate them, but madness not to attack them zealously? In truth, those who think that human life depends on present actions give their hopes to fables and their souls to the grave. (4) They believe that they must preserve themselves in the memory of men alone, although it is the duty of people to seek eternal life rather than eternal memory, not by writing or fighting or philosophizing, but by living piously, in a holy manner and religiously. (5) Indeed, that human error which is handed down in literature is so powerful that one would assuredly find many imitators of that useless philosophy or that stupid virtue. (6) Hence, I think I will win the reward for my work, if I write fully about the life of that most blessed man who will certainly become an example to others so that those reading this will surely be aroused to true wisdom, heavenly service and divine virtue. We also make plans for our benefit so that we will not wait for the useless memorials of people, but rather the eternal reward by God. Although we did not live in such a way that we were able to be an example to others, nevertheless, we gave this work so that the person who should be imitated was not concealed. (7) In this way, I shall begin to write about the life of Saint Martin; both what he did before he became bishop and what he did during his episcopacy, even if I was unable to discover everything about him. Those things which he alone knew are not known because he did not seek praise from people, but, as much as he could, he had wished to hide all his virtues. (8) We also omitted many things which we discovered about him because we believed we said enough, if we just noted his superiority. . At the same time, we had to consider our readers so as not to put them off with the mass of details. (9) But I beg those who about to read this book believe what is said and don’t think that I wrote anything unless I researched and proved it. Otherwise, I would have preferred to be silent than to speak lies.


This passage moves away from the self-effacement of the previous passage, but continues to explore the ideas around fame that Severus already alluded to. The contrast between worldly fame and heavenly glory is, of course, a standard one in patristic writers. The reason for that is that they are reacting to the desire of pagan authors for eternal fame which we can see in Thucydides (whose history of the Peloponnesian War (5th century BC) was designed to last forever) for one. Eternal fame belongs, as Severus points out, to the world, so is not a sufficient motivation for doing anything, much less writing.

Severus also nods to the biographical tradition which flourished throughout the Roman period. Biography, of course, emerges as a genre in the course of the Hellenistic Age (c. 330s BC), partly because of the movement to more autocratic political systems and partly because of the greater interest in character engendered by Plato and Aristotle (especially the latter). The genre is relentlessly didactic and moral, even in its pagan form. The intention is serve as a moral example to the presence by highlighting the good, the bad and the ugly in the lives of famous men. The biographies of Plutarch in Greek, and Cornelius Nepos and Suetonius (most of which are lost), are excellent examples of this genre.

Yet, there is something fundamentally different about hagiography (the Christianized version of biography). The didactic tone is retained, clearly, but the values are fundamentally different. There is no longer concern with the 'civic' virtues or the lure of fame, but rather the focus is on the Christian virtues and holy living. The culture clash between Christian and pagan culture can be seen here, especially in Severus' disavowal of worldly values in favour of heavenly ones in his account of Saint Martin.

Yet, despite the bad name that hagiography has received in the last few hundred years, Severus is careful to enunciate his historical principles. He asserts that he has researched his subject and that he has done is level best to make sure that what he has included is based on reliable evidence. A cynical person might say that these protestations are formulaic and perhaps Severus protesteth too much. Yet, we do have to remember that Severus is slightly younger contemporary of Saint Martin, who knew Martin and those who knew Martin intimately. He, certainly, had access to information. That isn't a guarantee for Severus' reliability, but it should cause pause for the cynic.

This is an openly didactic work. Saint Martin is meant to be an example to us of a life of Christian virtue. We'll see how that begins to play out in the next installment in a couple of weeks.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Patristic Roundup- Dec. 6-13

I'm expermenting with a new feature on this blog: a weekly update of who wrote what on a patristic topic. My criterion is that the major part of the article deals with patristics. My aim here is to track what is happening week to week out in blogsophere and see what people are saying about patristics. Perhaps it might even make nominations for future Patristic Carnivals easier, if we know better what is out there.

New Blogs

This week, I've stumbled across the Patristic Quotes of the day provided intermitently by Wheden's blog. Also, in the new (or perhaps, newly discovered) category is The Patristic Page by the Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, who features translations of various passages by patristic authors.

Patristic Articles

Jonathon on Avdat posts some reflections on the Dormition of Mary, sparked by running into the St. Vladimir Press' collection of Orthodox sermons on the topic.

H Kent Craig from Kent's Chroncile, a self-described Gnostic Christian sings the praises of the National Geographic special on the Gospel of Judas. Well, there's always one in a crowd.

Mike Aquilina from Way of the Fathers reports on a revival of Coptic monasticism which, among other things, has given great impetus to the efforts to preserve the Coptic patristic tradition. Mike also recalls the words of the late Pope John Paul II on why we should read the Fathers

D.W Congdon on The Fire and the Rose examines the theology of the Virgin birth through the ages, starting with Ignatius of Antioch.

Molly at Adventures in Mercy has started a series on the Fathers and women. This week, she's posted on Augustine on a Woman's place

Michael Liccione on Sacramentum Vitae denounces theological slogans, most of which have some close patristic parallels.

Ian at Ruminations by the Lake, tries to settle the argument that the Trinity is pagan and only dates from the fourth century by appealing to Ante-Nicine Fathers. In so doing, he provides us with an excellent catena of Ante-Nicene Fathers' comments on the Trinity

Paul Gregory Almes at incarnatus est posts a quotation of Pope Leo I on the incarnation...just in time for Christmas.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Benedict for Babies

My wife likes to tease me about the odd times and places in which I read Church Fathers: Polycarp by the pool (at Palm Springs during March Break one year), John of Damascus among Leibovitchers, or Eusebius while breast feeding. She suggested Origen for oil changes yesterday as I was looking for reading material for my wait at the Mr. Lube near our place (I actually took Eusebius there also). I suspect some satire in this last suggestion.

So, it probably doesn't come as a surprise that I brought a Church Father or two in my bag to the hospital (not, I hasten to add, into the operating room where my baby was delivered). Given the amount of waiting time we had with an attempted induction, lots of tests, a few false alarms and a postponed Caesarian, I was glad to have the reading material.

My choice of books was a little unusual on one level. I found myself gravitating towards monastic works such as Athanasius' Life of Antony and The Rule of St. Benedict. But, really, my book choices do make sense and not only in my mind. There is a small sub-culture out there of families who find inspiration from St. Benedict's Rule, for one, because cenobitic monasteries and families share very similar concerns.

So, when we see St. Benedict announcing that the point of his Rule is
to open a school for God's service, in which we hope nothing harsh or oppressive will be directed. For preserving charity or correcting faults, it may be necessary at times, by reason of justice, to be slightly more severe. Do not fear this and retreat, for the path to salvation is long and the entrance is narrow

As parents, we have to admit that, if we could do half as well, perhaps we will manage to rear our children in the Lord in a positive and attractive manner. The Benedictine monastery is, at the end of the day, interested in nurturing and guiding the members of that community in the faith and virtues necessary to a Christian life. There is a real focus on the formation of the individual monk in Christian virtues, but within a communal setting in which all the members of the community work (wittingly or not) to move everyone else along in virtue. It is, frequently, in communal life that we Christians grow. Amid the messiness, the annoyances and joys of living together, our rough edges can be hewn off and we can start seeing Christ in others.

It is this vision of Christian community which, I think, is what resonates with me. In a sense, what we hope to create as parents is a family in which we can nurture and encourage the development of our children in the faith that we firmly believe will lead to salvation. We hope to present our faith and encourage the growth of Christian in a way that is not oppressive or harsh. To do that, we have to find a manner of living together which we can offer Christian faith as the hope and the support it is.

O course, Benedict offers challenges. How do we balance work, family time and family prayer in our family? Everyone struggles with this, but Benedict doesn't let us off lightly. Our work grounds us in the here and now and is a gift to God. If we would realize that than both our impatience at having to work and our sense that work is more important than anything else can't stand (isn't the one given better than the gift?). Our family time allows us a chance to see Christ in each other, even when we're displeased with each other. Family prayer should bind this all together, but how do we manage that in the face of conflicting schedules and energies? There are no easy answers, but St. Benedict pushes us to finding the balance in our life that we need.

I can't answer any of those questions nor do I think that many Benedictines can in their own lives. Yet, St. Benedict makes an excellent guide for us as we embark on our new adventures as parents.


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sulpicius Severus-Life of St. Martin- Preface

Now that the baby excitement has eased down and that the Patristics Carnival has been posted, it is time for me to get on with my promised series on Sulpicius Severus's Life of Saint Martin, Bishop and Confessor (Yes, that is the full title). Adrian Murdoch on Bread and Circuses has saved me the work of a detailed introduction to Severus, so I won't concentrate on this. A few brief words on the actual work, I think, are warranted.

The Life of St. Martin was probably written shortly before St. Martin's death around AD 397. This saint's life was considered, despite Sulpicius Severus' coy denials, a literary masterpiece and exercised a major influence on the Latin hagiograhic tradition. The subject, St. Martin, Bishop of Tours, is portrayed as being a true man of God, whose faith and holiness is demonstrated by his abundant miracles. Born in the 330s, he belonged a military family and was compelled to serve in the Roman army until AD 356. As bishop and monk, St. Martin found himself heavily involved in promoting monasticism in the West, evangelizing the countryside around Tours and involving himself in the ecclesiastical controversies in the West including Arianism (as a protege of St. Hilary of Poitiers) and the Priscillianist controversy.

The first installment of my translation will be the preface to the whole work. My general procedure will be to post the translation and, then, a brief informal commentary on the passage. Please feel free to criticize or comment on either translation or commentary.

Preface: Severus, to his very dear brother, Desiderius

Truly, my like-minded brother, I had decided to conceal in its own pages this little book which I wrote about the life of Saint Martin and to confine it within my domestic walls. Since I am very weak by nature, I was trying to avoid human judgement so that, as is likely, my rather uncouth style should not displease my readers and I should not be judged worthy of everyone’s reproach because I rashly took up material which ought to have been in justice reserved for skilled writers. But, I cannot deny anything you often ask for. For what is there that I would not bestow on you for the sake of your love, even at cost of my disgrace? (2) Nevertheless, I give this book to you because of your promise on the clear understanding that I think it ought not be shown to anyone Yet, I fear that you will serve as a door for it and what was sent out once cannot be called back. (3) If it should happen that you see it is read by other people, you will demand indulgence from its readers so that they should ponder the subject matter rather than the words and bear it calmly, if its defective style should perhaps injure their ears. (4) After all, the Kingdom of God does not depend on eloquence, but on faith. Let them even recall that salvation for the world was not foretold by orators, but by fishermen, since, if oratory had been useful, certainly our Lord could have excelled in it. (5) For, when I first applied my mind to writing, I considered it a sin to conceal the virtues of so great a man, so I decided in my own mind that I should not blush at my grammatical errors. I had never attained great skill in these matters and, even if I had perhaps once tasted these studies, I would have lost all of my skill through long neglect. (6) But, nevertheless, not to linger on so painful a defence, if it seems good to you, let this book be published with the name suppressed. Erase the title on the front as much as you can so that the page may be silent. It is enough to let it speak to the subject matter, not to the author.


To start with, I should note that I haven't had a chance to nail down who the addressee, Desiderius. I'm not even sure we know, but a search of the PLRE (Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire) might turn something up.

I think the noticable thing here is the very commonly used pretence of literary incompetance which characterizes this preface. In itself, this is not an uncommon introduction to a literary work, partly because, even among pagan writers, excessive eloquence was viewed as being slightly suspect. This connects to the distrust we find in philosophy (especially) to the sophists, who were, among other things, rhetoricians whose concern with the manner of speaking was seen as overriding their concern with truth. Plato's animosity to the sophists is only one example of this.

However, Christian writers are even more susceptible to this distrust of literary eloquence. Part of this is a distrust of pagan arts in general, but also the recognition, which Severus alludes to in section 4, that the earliest Christians were not among the literati, nor did they need to be. Many intellectuals even in the 4th century turned up their noses at the writing style of the New Testament (Augustine for one), but the reaction of many Christian writers to this cricismwas to take pride in and imitate their simple and, perhaps, uncouth (meaning non-literary) style. This is not true of all the Fathers, but this disavowal of literary skill remains an important trope in Christian writing in the age of the Fathers.

Of course, Severus is a better writer than he lets on, but his show of modesty is designed to focus attention away from himself and towards the text.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Patristics Carnival-September-November, 2006

Welcome to the first Patristics Carnival!

As usual, my timing for starting a new project is impeccable, what with becoming a new dad amid report card season, but I've done my best to hit the highlights of patristic blogging over the past few months.

I've decided to organize these entries according to the following categories: Introductions to Patristics, Translation, Projects, Applied Patristics, Christian Apocrypha and Patristic News and Article blogs.

Introductions to Patristics

For anyone who has an interest in patristics or even in patristic blogging, the place to start The place I want to start is the same place that many people get started: Mike Aquillina's blog, The Way of the Fathers. Mike's site is a must see for anyone intersted in patristics, partly because his assiduous efforts to post links to others working in the patristics garden and partly because of his own excellent writing. An especially valuable contribution appeared just this month with this Carnival in mind: Meet the Fathers . This cogent post serves as an excellent introduction to why contemporary Christians should read the Fathers.

Translation and the Fathers

Kevin Edgecomb, on his blog, biblicalia, completed his series translating Jerome's Vulgate Prologues, the short introductions to the books of the Bible which Jerome composed in his Vulgate translation. These prologues give us a precious insight into Jerome's mind at the time of this translation and provide us a good insight into the patristic way of reading Scripture. For those of you interested in Biblical Studies as well, these are valuable documents for your consideration!

Rick Brannan, in his ricoblog, continues his ongoing project of translating and commenting on the Didache. So far, he has finished to the chapter on the Eucharist, but there has been a long hiatus between this entry and an anticpated one on Didache 10. Hopefully, we'll see more from Rick on this in the coming months.

Patristic Projects

Father Z, on his blog, What Does Prayer Really Say?, started and completed the Patristics Rosary Project. This project follows the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary and seeks out patristic passages which relate to the mysteries to which this rosary refers. Father Z deals with each subject by citing patristic parallels as explanations of the scriptural passages central to each mystery and, then, includes his own commentary. This is a tremendously learned series, but well worth reading, even for a Protestant such as myself.

As part of a continuing project started in August, Ben Smith, on the team blog, Thoughts on Antiquity, has been reviewing in detail the canonical lists of the books of the Bible. Starting with the introduction, he has discussed the Marcionite canon, the Muratorian canon, the canon of Origen, part one and part two and part one of the Eusebian canon. This very learned series continues, but is a must read for anyone interested in the development of the canon.

General Patristics
This category are for blog entries which are self-contained entries on blogs which may or may not be full-time patristic blogs. I suspect this category should be much larger and more varied because I think most discussions of patristic authors occur in blogs devoted to theology, Biblical Studies or Church History, but this is what I've managed to find.

Patristic Anglican (who uses the wonderful pseudonym, Death Bredon--shades of Dorothy Sayers!)features an excellent blog entry on Patristic Ecclesiology . His excellent summary of how the Fathers do ecclesiology is illuminating and has many, many applications in the ecclesiastical climate these days. Certainly, the two disputing sides in the Anglican Communion could use a few lessons from the Fathers about ecclesiology!

Phil Harland, in his blog, Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean, has an excellent blog entry on the canon. In Breaking News: Early Christians had no New Testatment, Phil discusses the development of the canon. It is an excellent, short summary of the development of the New Testament.

I hope that it isn't gauche to include yourself in a Carnival, but I'll take that risk. This blog, hyperekperisou, originated as a fairly eclectic Anglican blog, but, since, October of this year (when I overdosed on discussions about the Kigali meeting of African primates in the Anglican Communion), I decided to devote this blog entirely to patristics. Since then, I've been contributing essays which try to make a direct connection between the Father and the theological problems faced by Christians today. An example of this output is my entry on St. John Chrysostom, Headship and the Culture Wars in which I discuss St. John's ideas about marriage with the ongoing ideological debate about headship which continues to rage today.

Roger Pierce, creator of The Tertullian Project website, has joined the team blog, Thoughts on Antiquity. He has contributed several excellent articles to that blog including an excellent review of the scholarship of R.J. Hoffman, who attempts to reconstruct ancient anti-Christian polemical authors such as Porphyry, Celsus and Julian the Apostate. In his entry, Useful books or peddling hate?, Pierce reviews Hoffman's translations of the fragments and raises real questions about the quality of this approach to these lost opponents to Christianity.

Christian Apocrypha

This last quarter saw the launch of the first blog devoted specifically devoted to Apocrypha. This blog, Apocryphicity, focuses especially on gathering information on and discussing Christian Apocrypha, which, thanks to Da Vinci's Code et cetera, has seen such a revival in the last few years. This is an excellent site to keep track of what is happening in this exciting new field.

Jim Davilla's PaleoJudaica site, although devoted primarily to publishing news and information on Ancient Judaism, has also featured several important discussions of Christian Apocrypha. Indeed, Jim caused a bit of a buzz among patristic bloggers with an entry in which when he published the abstract of Louis Painchaud's paper (given at the University of Ottawa, which called into question the National Geographic translation of the Gospel of Judas.

Patristic News and Articles blogs

One of the important elements of creating a sense of community among bloggers who share a common interest is the emergence of one or more blogs which make an effort to keep abrest of what is happening with other bloggers or simply try to disseminate information on the topic. In the emerging patristic blogsphere, we are very lucky to have Mike Aquillina's The Way of the Fathers blog which fulfills this function from a Catholic perspective.

Another useful resource is Rob Bradshaw's blog which publishes both public domain and recent articles (with permission of the authors) on patristics and the early Church. This is an excellent resource for those interested in following the academic study of patristics.

Well, that is about as much as I have been able to manage this Carnival. As I finish, I'm fully aware of the deficiencies of this first effort; not enough theology, not much Orthodox representation, not enough academic connections. Still, I hope this will help those of us interested in patristics and who blog on it to get to know each other a little. I also hope that this little carnvial will encourage others to try their hand at patristic blogging with all its rewards.

Any volunteers for the next Patristic Carnival in March?


Friday, December 01, 2006

Newborn news

I thought I would let my readers know our first born child has finally (!) arrived. His name is Ian Richard and was born today. Prayers would, of course, be welcome, but mother and baby are doing well.

Needless to say, I may be a little late with the Patristics Carnvial, but I'll try to get it up this week.