Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas

As I'm off to Winnipeg for the holidays, I wanted to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I hope that all of you will spend a wonderful holiday with family and friends.

There will, of course, be a blogging hiatus for the holiday break until I get back. I'll be able to monitor the blog from the Paris on the Prairies, but I won't be writing anything notable. We'll be back next year with Patristics Carnival VII.

Christus natus est!


P.S. We often go along this stretch of the highway to see relatives. I hope that it isn't this bad when we do!

Patristics Carnival VII

Patristics Carnival VI will be right here back at hyperekperissou. So...

The guidelines remains the same as Modest Proposal entry back in November, 2006 and my additions in August, 2007.

The last day of submission will be December 31st and the postings will be up later by the week of January 7th. .

Remember you can offer submissions on the carnival site or the dedicated e-mail (


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christian Reconciliation Carnival 10

Welcome to the 10th Christian Reconciliation Carnival! I've enjoyed hosting and hope you enjoyed the topic for this month.

For those of you who don't remember it or who need a reminder, the question I posted was:

How does our understanding of Early Christianity (here defined as the apostolic period to the end of the patristic age c. 750 AD)help or hinder our efforts at Christian Reconciliation?

I'm afraid I didn't see many answers, but the two that I did see I thought were excellent ones. My own take on the subject appears here.

Mark Olsen on the Pseudo-Polymath blog writes an excellent critique of the question and my optimism. His points about the barriers to the use of patristics for ecumenical purposes are well-taken, but I hope there may still be some room movement. Certainly, Protestants, especially evangelicals, have moved quite a bit towards hearing the patristic voice in a way that they've never done.

Weekend Fisher on the Heart, Mind, Soul and Strength blog sees the use of patristics in ecumenical circles as a way to de-bug the code of our common faith, both to work out how we got here and what may have gone wrong in how did. This is an interesting metaphor, although I would characterize patristics, at its best, as a running commentary on Scripture. But, then, I was a classicist in a former life, so am more comfortable with commentaries than computer code. Same idea though, I think.

General Reconciliation links.

Mike Olsen on the Pseudo-Polymath blog analyses modern attempts at reform and makes suggestions about avoiding the mistakes of past reformers.

Weekend Fisher on the Heart, Mind, Soul and Strength blog discusses Luther's view of Real Prescence and its connection to the omniprescence of God.

Darrel Pursiful on the Dr. Platypus blog discusses the Taize community and a reflection of Brother Roger, the founder of the community, about the need for all Christians to exchange the gifts of our traditions.

T.M. Moore on the First Things blog offers the results of his study of Mary with the Evangelical and Catholics Together project. In this entry, Moore discusses the blessedness of Mary.

David Moore on the JollyBlogger blog discusses the common devotion to infighting in blogsphere.

John on the Notes from a Common-Place Book blog calls our attention to Ethiopian Orthodoxy.

Wei-Hsien Wan on the Bumi Dipijak blog discusses St. Maximos the Confessor's attitude to theological controversy and his attempt to be as charitable to his opponents as possible as an example of how we should also conduct our own theological controversies.

Bird on The Thinklings blog declares his commitment to ecumenism and his refusal to believe on Christian group has a monopoly on truth.

Well, that's it for this 10th Christian Reconciliation Carnival!


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Patristics and Christian Reconciliation

Today's entry is my attempt to answer my own question for the Christian Reconciliation Carnival, namely:

How does our understanding of Early Christianity (here defined as the apostolic period to the end of the patristic age c. 750 AD)help or hinder our efforts at Christian Reconciliation?

To some degree, part of my project on this blog has been to try to answer this question and I don't think I've quite solved the problem (surprisingly, since no one else since the Reformation has either), but here are my current thoughts on the issue.

First, I have to concede that the use of the Fathers and of Early Christianity has not been the source of Christian unity for a very long time. One of the running polemical battles in and since the Reformation has been the conflicting vision of what the Early Church was as a way of justifying either the status quo or justifying the reforms suggested by the Reformers. Sometimes Catholics are surprised to hear the degree to which the Protestant Reformers were concerned with the Fathers and the degree to which they quoted them. Luther and Calvin were particularly active in this patristic interest. Certainly, Luther was, at heart, an Augustinian, although he tended to stress rather different aspects of Augustine's program than the Catholics did. Similarly, Calvin was well able to quote the Fathers at length. Catholics, of course, exploited the catholic language of the Fathers and the clear respect for the Roman church which most Fathers displayed.

These polemics, of course, continue. Protestants are accustomed to assume some kind of breaking point in the early Church, when the 'Romish' error really took root and corrupted the pure Church (which looks, unsurprisingly, like the Protestant church). Those breaking points are things like the introduction of philosophy into theology with Origen, the Constantinian revolution and such things. Before this period, Protestants could take the practices and the writings of the period seriously. After that period, all was lost.

Catholics are accustomed to assume that everything said in the patristic era backs them up. That means, all too often, the assumption that the references to the catholic church are, actually, references to the Roman Catholic Church. It also tends to mean an assumption that the respect granted to Rome translated into some kind of ecclesiastical jurisdiction.

Now, if we added the Eastern Orthodoxy, of course, we'd have another polemical vision of the early Church; one that wouldn't be far from the Roman Catholic one, but differing largely in the degree of respect that the church should give to Rome. Yet, we have to recognize that all of these polemics retain both truth and distortions. Indeed, if we are to move to reconciling Christians in a real sense, we need to have a second look at these visions, return to the sources and figure out where we have been right and where we've misconstrued in our hope to score points off each other.

This means that the answer is ressourcement , that French word which signials a return to sources. Of course, this term was first used by Roman Catholic theologians from the middle of the last century to mark a return to the sources of the Roman Catholic faith, most notably, the Fathers. Much of the vigour both in patristic study and in the Roman Catholic faith over the last fifty years has been due to this ressourcement.

What is more there are distinct signs of a Protestant, especially evangelical, ressourcement from the 1990s. The efforts of such Protestant theologians as D.H. Williams, Thomas Oden, Robert Wilken and many others have created what could only be called the rise of a breed of catholic evangelicals; evangelicals who retain all the marks of the evangelical tradition, but who are influenced by the ecclesiology, christology and theology of the Early Church and, directly or indirectly, the Fathers. The efforts of these theologians have led to such projects as The Ancient Commentary on Scripture series and the Evangelical Ressourcement series from Baker Academic.

More encouragingly, these efforts at ressourcement among evangelicals (and Protestants, in general) have gone hand in hand with an ecumenical interest which has sought to bridge the divides between Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions. One of the products of this interest is the 'Emerging' Church movement which has been catching the interest of younger evangelicals and which has sought to apply a catholic ecclesiology and understanding of the Christian past to an evangelical setting. Now, there are problems with the Emerging Church model, of course, but its use of the Christian past to unite, rather than divide is a positive model for how we might use the Christian past for those interested in Christian Reconciliation.

Ultimately, we can't know how this ressourcement will affect all of the great traditions of Christianity. What is encouraging in this movement is that there has been an equal interest in the Fathers and the Christian past and in making sure that, this time, the past unites us. There is, of course, no question of papering over our differences or pretending that we don't have much to divide us. However, we share a past together and it is in understanding this past that gives us a chance to come together again, accepting our differences, but celebrating our similarities.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

An Interesting Proposal from Logos Software

Mike Aubrey has passed on some interesting news that Logos Software is thinking about digitizing Migne's Patrologia Graecia. For those who don't know it, Migne's PG is, arguably, the most comprehensive attempt to pull together all the Greek Fathers and remains the best text for many patristics texts. Even if new editions are out, the Migne text remains an important resource. Needless to say, digitizing Migne would be a helpful resource for patricists, even if amateurs, I suspect, will find the price for the product steep, especially because it seems targetted to libraries and institutions.

Anyways, more information at Mike's blog en epheso


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christian Reconciliation Carnival 10

I've agreed to host another carnival for this month, the Christian Reconciliation Carnival; a carnival devoted to ecumenical questions and our prayers for the (re-)unification of the Christian Church. The deadline I'm proposing for submissions is December 19th (that, I know is a bit tight, but I'm going away on the 23rd, so need time to put this together).

My proposed topic is:

How does our understanding of Early Christianity (here defined as the apostolic period to the end of the patristic age c. 750 AD)help or hinder our efforts at Christian Reconciliation?

Please submit entries or nominations to by December 19th and I expect to post by the end of the week.


Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sulpicius Severus, Life of St. Martin, 16

Here is the new installment of the St. Martin story by Sulpicius Severus.


Truly, he had the gift of curing people so that almost no sick person came to him who did not immediately receive back his health. This is apparent in the following example: (2) A certain girl from Treveris (Treves) suffered from a serious paralysis so that, for a long time, she did not make use of her body at all. Half-dead in all parts of her body, she trembled with scarcely a tenuous breath. (3) Her relatives were standing near in only the expectation of her funeral, when suddenly it was announced that Martin had come to that city. When the father of the girl found this out, he rushed about to breathlessly beg for (the life of) his child. (4) By chance, Martin was in the entrance of the church. There, with the people and many of the other bishops looking on, the old man, howled and embraced Martin's knees, saying "My daughter is dying from a miserable illness and because that death is very cruel, she lives only by her spirit, now her body is almost dead. I ask that you come to her and bless her: For I am confident that her health must be recovered through you. (5)Martin, dumbfounded by that speech, was struck dumb and retreated, saying that this was not something of which he was worthy, that the old man erred in his judgement, that he (Martin) was not worthy to be the sign through whom the Lord would show his power.

Weeping, the father vehemently pressed Martin and begged that he visit his dying daughter. (6) He, forced to go by the surrounding bishops, descended into the house of the girl. A huge crowd awaited him before the doors to see what the slave of God would do. (7) First, he took up those familiar arms of his in this type of situation, he stretched out and prayed alone. Then, gazing on the sick girl, he asked for olive oil to be given him. When he blessed her, he poured the force of the holy liquid on the girl's face and immediately her voice returned. (8) Then, gradually, each of her limbs began to live through the contact with him (it?). Finally, she got up with firm steps as the people bore witness.


This is the opening of a new section about St. Martin's cures and miracles as opposed to his successful and somewhat miraculous campaign against rural paganism in his region. In this section, the parallels we should be seeking are the biblical ones, especially of Jesus' own healings and miracles. This is in keeping with the stress with any saint's imitation of Christ in that, by their imitation of Christ, these saints share some of the power of Christ for healings and miracles.

I think the pattern we're using here for this miracle is the daughter of Jairus story found in both Mark, 7, 21-43 and Luke 8, 41-56, of course without the encounter with the woman with the issue of blood which is woven into this story by the Gospel writers. The parallels are striking:
1. Both Martin and Jesus come to town and are immediately accosted by a desperate father asking for a cure for his dying daughter
2. Both girls are very near death and past the ability of doctors to save
3. Both Martin and Jesus pray in the room with the girl who is miraculous raised to full health.

Of course, there are significant differences, but these differences are, I think, instructive. First, Martin hesitates to go because he doesn't believe he has the power to effect the cure. He only goes because he is pressed by the various bishops with whom he was meeting in the city. This hesitation, of course, is to show Martin's humility and recognition of the limits of his own power. This humility is the mark of a saint and it is very important that Martin not too closely emulate Jesus. At least, if he emulated Jesus' clear confidence in healing, we would think St. Martin arrogant enough to equate himself with Jesus, with God. Furthermore, we know from the Desert Fathers that humility is the very thing that demons and devils cannot endure, so St. Martin's humility is the mark of his sanctity.

Second, the girl in the St. Martin healing isn't dead just yet. While raisings from the dead are a tradition in hagiographical writings, they are usually the culmination of one's healing career, not the beginning of it. If Sulpicius should have introduced such a healing at this point, all the other cures would seem rather an anti-climax. So, as far as composition goes, we have a rather less spectacular healing to start with.

Third, Sulpicius is rather more sensationalistic here than the Gospel Writers. This is in keeping with the rhetoric of the age, but it does put the lie into Sulpicius' claim to be a not particularly polished writer. Perhaps the pathos in this and other scenes might strike one as a little garish and gruesome at times, but that was the style of the age.

Fourth, Sulpicius clearly portrays in this episode the ancient practice of using annointing with oil in healing. Indeed, while Jesus prayed and brought Jairus' daughter to life, Martin prays only as a preparation for the annointing of the sick. Sulpicius describes this procedure as being St. Martin's accustomed arms to battle illness. The military metaphor is, of course, striking for this former soldier-saint, but also indicates the importance of this practice of annointing the sick. Note especially that the healing seems to follow the flow of the oil over the body of the girl.

A last translation note for the Latinists in my readership. The following clause gave me pause when translating:

tunc paulatim singula contactu eius membra vivescere,

I translated this passage as
Then, gradually, each of her limbs began to live through the contact with him

This would suggest that the healing is following St. Martin's touch. I wonder, however, if the contactu eius should be understood as referring to the oil. Grammatically, I think, both would work, but which works better, I wonder.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Patristics Carnival VI

December 3rd: Edited because this is Patristics Carnival VI!
Happy Advent! And welcome to Patristics Carnival VI (without a fancy graphic: just couldn't work out how to transform God Fearin's graphic from PC V!)! It's been a couple of months since I last posted (for which I thank the two previous hosts, especially because I was in a bit of sleep-deprived haze!), so it is nice to be back. I'm going to recover my old structure (for fun). So here we are: Patristics Carnival VI

Front Gate: Introductions to the Fathers

Nothing in this category this month.

The Midway: Articles on the Fathers

Mike Aquilina on The Way of the Fathers blog reports on Pope Benedict's address on St. Maximus of Turin, St. Jerome, St. John Chyrosthom, St. Martin of Tours, St. Jerome again, Jerome again, St Ephrem Syrus.

First Apostle on the First Apostle blog features an article on Gregory of Nyssa and how his view of the Trinity argues against the current liturgical practice of naming the Trinity: Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer.

Carl Olson on The Insight Scoop (from Ignatius Press) features a report on Pope Benedict's address on St. John Chyrosthom.

John on the Ancient Hebrew Poetry blog reports on Pope Benedict's address on St. Jerome.

Father Chadius on the Hermeneia blog featurs a discussion on St. Gregory the Great and patience.

Scrape on the
Legendary Truth Blog discusses the interplay of patristic exegesis and theology as presented by Donald Fairbourn in an article in the Westminister Theological Journal.

Scott Carson on the An Examined Life Blog features a discussion of Christianity and Platonism. . This is a response to Taylor Marshall on the Canterbury Tales Blog which suggested that Neo-Platonism has a Christian origin Hmm. I wonder.

Rob Bradshaw on the Early Church blog posts G.L. Prestige's Bampton Lecture on Origen.

God-Fearin Fiddler on the God Fearin' Forum features excellent discussions of St. Irenaeus as the bridge between East and West, St. Irenaeus' doctrines in his own words and early Christians and the Sacrifice of the Mass.

I also offer some thoughts on the Church Fathers and Judaism at hyperekperissou

The Rodeo: Patristic catenae

Veritas on the Is the Catholic Church the One True Church? blog gives a mostly patristic catena on the question of the authority of the Catholic Church as opposed to Protestantism.

Exhibition Place: Biographies of the Fathers

Nothing in this category this month.

The Marketplace: Book Reviews
Rick Brannon on ricoblog features a series on Hubertus Drobner's book, The Fathers of the Church. Part one has been finished. I look forward to future reflections on this book.

Steve Ray on Steve Ray's Blog reviews Brian Litfin's Getting to Know the Church Fathers. I'm not sure if I quite agree with his conclusions about the new evangelical/Protestant interest in the Fathers. This trend has longer legs than I thought it would.

Paul Smith Jr. on the Gazizza blog continues this discussion of Litfin's book.

Well, someone liked Litfin's book. Mike Aubrey on the ev epheso blog gives an extensive and favourable review of Litfin's book.

This blog, hyperekperissou, featured two reviews: Ronald Heine's book on the Church Fathes and the Old Testament and Bart Ehrmann's Misquoting Jesus.

The Foreign Exchange Tent: Translations

I continue my series on Sulpicius Severus' Life of St. Martin at hyperekperissou.

The Apocryphal Aisle: Christian Apocrypha

Tony Chartrand-Burke on the Apocryphicity blog features a pre-SBL discussion of modern heresy hunters at the Society of Biblical Literature meeting this year, a SBL report and a discussion of Apocrypha anti-Gospels.

April DeConick on The Forbidden Gospels blog discusses whether scholars should write for a popular audience (as she did in her new book on the Gospel of Judas), her reactions to the Judas book panel at the SBL, her contribution to this same panel and her bemused reaction to being called a conservative.

I hope you enjoy this month's offerings. If there is anyone wanting to host December, let me know. If not, I'll be hunting down new hosts for the new year!